Cuba: The Exodus and Those Responsible

By Pedro Campos

How many of these senior high school students will still be in Cuba come five years from now?
How many of these senior high school students will still be in Cuba come five or six years from now?  Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — The number of young Cubans leaving for the United States through any means possible has been rising dramatically of late. Thousands of Cuban families experience the anxiety of waiting to receive information about their children, who took to the sea or the jungles and borders of Central and South America. The phenomenon stems from both current and long-lasting circumstances.

The more circumstantial reasons may include recent declarations by several US congress people and analysts of Cuban-American issues, dealing with the need to re-evaluate or eliminate the Cuban Adjustment Act in view of the US government’s new policy towards Cuba.

Another factor that may have contributed to this situation is that, almost a year after the re-establishment of relations between Cuba and the United States was announced (on December 17, 2014), the expectations regarding improvements in the quality of life of Cubans haven’t been satisfied anywhere.

The governing elite accuses the United States of refusing to lift the blockade/embargo, while the Obama administration has issued a series of decrees aimed at modifying restrictions which, if taken advantage of by Cuba, could benefit broad sectors of the private and cooperative economy – sectors which the island’s bureaucratic state-command philosophy, against history and all economic and social sense, considers “enemies and Trojan horses of imperialism.”

The only true Trojan horse that has destroyed Cuba’s economy and has brought the people countless problems and privations is the centralized, bureaucratic economic and political model Cuba maintains, devoid of any democratic spaces.

This is the most enduring and significant reason for the endless exodus of Cubans, which saw its most dramatic moments during the mass migrations of Camarioca, Mariel and the rafters crisis of the early 90s. Young people are quite simply leaving the country because they have no prospects in their own country, owing to the obsolete, marginalizing, discouraging and monopolistic State wage system that hoards the wealth produced by all Cubans and lays it in the hands of a bureaucratic and military elite, to the detriment of economic and social development in general.

A number of analysts have also pointed out the drop in oil prices, the reduction in Venezuelan crude imports, the payment of the foreign debt and decreasing nickel prices have also had an impact on the Cuban economy.

One factor very few people discuss, even though we are already nearing the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, is the failure of Raul Castro’s government in terms of implementing the Guidelines approved by the Party in 2011, a document which generated positive expectations among many Cubans, who then believed self-employment would be developed broadly and people would be permitted to prosper, open up their own businesses and practice their professions privately – that cooperatives independent of the State would be opened, as they are elsewhere in the world, where they can freely produce, sell, purchase and secure credits.

There was also hope that an increase in foreign investment would generate new, well-paid jobs and that the autonomy promised companies (as well as the linking of wages to their performance) would improve the standard of living of workers – as these awaited the elimination of Cuba’s two-currency monetary system.

None of that ever materialized, however. No new legislation was ever drawn up to impel these proposals and it all ended up as a series of incomplete measures which, rather than push the Guidelines forward, ended up castrating them.

In short, Cuba’s economic situation has continued to worsen and the only solution people continue to find is to leave the country.

There appears to be no other solution to this problem other than to change the State-centered political and economic system, a system that has failed throughout the planet, imposed in the name of socialism in Cuba – the one true cause of all the ills we’ve endured.

33 thoughts on “Cuba: The Exodus and Those Responsible

  • Meant Caribbean not captive.

  • Yeah true but even at the low level of free markets currently, don’t people see the better standard of living enjoyed by the micro- entropenures? (Spell checks not working). I would think Cuba will follow the Eastern Europe model of transition. Cuba has limited resources and nickle just is not in an upward trajectory. They’re pretty much looking at tourism and agriculture. Why not model out on a upscale resorts and organic produce? Higher return on investment all though both are fickle in cash flow. I believe Raul is more pragmatic than Fidel and neither are going to be around in 10 year (no harm meant my Dad just died and he’s two month older than Fidel) I would think they must have transition plans because based on my western propaganda news, all hells gonna break out between their successors when they’re gone if things are not carefully planned. I don’t see a plan and I think that is why no one will invest there. Hell no one will invest real money anywhere in the captives including the more stable places. I enjoyed the conversation Moses it don’t necessarily agree-wish we could meet over a drink someday. Maybe in Havana??

  • To “partner” with the small guy would empower that small guy. Power-sharing with the people is LAST thing the Castros want to do.

  • “Republic” is the type of democracy. We have a representative democracy. But DEMOCRACY just the same.

  • It is at best, difficult, to defend US actions that took place more than 60 years ago. That’s one of the things that makes the US ‘exceptional’. As a country, we make mistakes but more than any other place on the planet, we are self-critical. We are willing to make changes where necessary in order “to form a more perfect union”. These changes are for the most part, brought about peacefully. The annual UN show vote condemning US/Cuban policy is hardly a reflection of “shame”. But I do agree with you that it is readily dismissed.

  • Except, Moses, when it comes to Cuba the U. S. doesn’t act like a democracy, does it? In 1952 the U. S. should have supported the majority peasants on the island but instead supported Batista, Luciano, Lansky, Trafficante, etc. In 1959 when an amazing revolution chased those criminals off the island, neither they nor their offspring should have been allowed to dictate Cuban policy on U. S. soil. Yes, the U. S. is a democracy. But even America’s best friends around the world, as evidenced by the UN vote each October, are ashamed of the U. S. when it comes to Cuba. Of course, Moses, ignoring the UN world opinion vote is readily dismissed if it doesn’t comport with your propaganda.

  • Moses, the US is a Republic.

  • I would strongly agree with your closing sentence “Until agricultural and manufacturing production increases, Cuba will remain dependent on foreign handouts.” Contrary to the idea of mega corporations running the US economy, most jobs and wealth is created by small business owners, sole proprietors to business with 10 or less employees. To be a successful entrepreneur, one must be willing to work twice the hours, risk one’s current wealth (no matter how meager) and understand that all might be lost at anytime. Almost all successful business, started in humble means. But the basis of capitalism is risk/reward. The Cuban government seems more interested in partnering with multi-nationals rather than the small guy who will bring his blood, sweat and dreams.

  • I vote far more frequently than every 4 years. Capitalism is apolitical. My Christian faith likewise is above political designation. Socialist and capitalist alike are welcome to worship God. Finally, I am not ashamed to be Head-of-Household in my home. I make all the decisions that my wife tells me to make.

  • I have read the Killing Hope introduction and I do not agree with the so-called evidence. The embargo has been kept in place, not because it works, but because in its absence, the Castros would have been able to expand their venomous brand of socialism.

  • The Castros call themselves socialist. On this point, I take them at their word. You choose to reject the Castros self-named form of government and replace socialism with your own term. It is you John that is the historical revisionist.

  • The US is a democracy.

  • Yes Moses, I do know the meaning of democracy and I notice that you dared not answer my question.
    Democracy is BY DEFINITION one person-one vote, majority rule.
    Switzerland has an elected government in which all laws passed by it must be ratified by popular vote before taking effect
    That alone probably makes it more democratic than anything you could tolerate.
    Let’s YOU define democracy and tell us all where it , as you misunderstand it, exists in the world.

  • As Fidel said long, long ago , you can neither foment a revolution when the people are not ready for it nor can you stop a revolution when the people are ready for it. This was in response to Reagan’s claim of Cuban aid to the Sandinistas and the rebels in El Salvador in the 80s.
    The Cubans never financed revolutions in Latin America .
    Further and to repeat because you can’t learn, Cuba is a state capitalist economy and has always been so.
    You don’t understand economics. You are a historical revisionist and are necessarily in deep denial of reality. .

  • Again, the fact that the people in charge of U.S. foreign policy under both parties which are the people who, unlike you , know what works and doesn’t work in imperial tactics have, for over 50 years, ALL decided that the embargo does work to impoverish Cuba .
    Evidently you know something that these top people in their field do not.
    You yourself wish to strengthen it to push the poverty over the line that is acceptable to all Cubans so as to foment a counter revolution and at the same time are denying that is has worked.
    You should know by now that for about 100 years U.S. foreign policy has always been centered on preventing or overthrowing alternatives to free-enterprise capitalism with well over 70 interventions in that time period to achieve this end.
    But then it is not in your capability to either read the evidence of this ( see ‘Killing Hope” website and read the introduction to the book ) or to be able to admit the truth of it.

  • Again you preach what you have never practiced and that is democracy.
    You practice and promote capitalism , so-called Christianity, oligarchy and likely the male-dominated nuclear family structure; all of which control your life in a totalitarian manner . There is no democratic input in any of these four of your beliefs set/way of life.
    None of these four pillars on which your life is centered are democratic in any manner and thus your public proclamations of a desire for democracy are not based on any personal experience and are highly suspect .
    Like most Americans you are in denial about your life in a totalitarian system and believe that five minutes in a voting both every four years equals democracy.
    Just pointing out the obvious here.

  • The argument is a valid one as to what has caused the most damage to the Cuban economy: the top-down managed Castro dictatorship or the easily-averted US embargo. If you like the Castros, you will blame the embargo. If you want democracy for Cuba, as I do, you see the totalitarian Castro rule as the primary culprit. What is clear is that the embargo alone did not cause Cuba’s economic problems. On the other hand, totalitarianism alone can very well stifle economic progress. The bad guys here are Cuban productivity and government inefficiency. Embargo or no, if Cubans don’t grow, build or manufacture more than they consume, they will continue to be a beggar nation.

  • How does the embargo make Cuba “poorer”? Keep in mind why a country is rich or poor. How does the embargo affect Cuban export capacity? How does the embargo affect Cuban productivity? Parroting Castro talking points is silly John. Time to talk facts.

  • Nothing fantastic at all. The three countries you highlighted have positive trade balances. Maybe you don’t understand what that means to a national economy. A country needs to sell more than it buys. Citizens need to earn more than they consume. In both of these Cuba comes up short.

  • Please read my comment carefully. I have NEVER written that the US embargo was not effective. On the contrary, I believe that the embargo is the principal reason that the Castros were unable to effectively export their brand of socialism beyond Latin America. The embargo hampered their ability to finance revolutions. I did write and absolutely believe that Castro-style socialism is the primary reason for the moribund Cuban economy.

  • ….and you do? Please enlighten me. But before you share your definition, please be sure to say where your “democracy” exists in the real world.

  • Fantastic rationale, even from you, Moses. Now tell your choir if the U. S. embargo and militancy aimed at Cuba since the 1950s had been aimed at Britain, Mexico, Canada, etc., it would not have adversely affected those nations. You propagandize like the Information Minister of a Banana Republic, which is a job you should apply for considering the Banana Republic on U. S. soil since 1959.

  • Pedro Campos writes: “The only true Trojan horse that has destroyed Cuba’s economy and brought people countless problems is…” And, of course, he is says Cuba itself is to blame — 100%, case close. Such blatant lies should not be possible in a democracy but the U. S. democracy has taken on a Banana Republic air since 1952, when the U. S. teamed with the Mafia to support the Batista dictatorship in Cuba, and especially since 1959 when the Cuban Revolution chased the Batistianos/Mafiosi to U. S. soil. Special U. S. laws that benefit Cubans and encourage them to defect, buttressed by immediate welfare starting when they touch U. S. soil, while discriminating against everyone else, is about as undemocratic as a nation can get. There are people all over the world trying to get to the U. S. but only Cubans have such special “legal” incentives to do so. For example, Puerto Rico — which, like Cuba, came under U. S. domination after the 1898 Spanish-American War — is a U. S. Territory; Puerto Ricans are U. S. citizens and are represented in the U. S. Congress. So, write about how many Puerto Ricans are still leaving their bankrupt island to join their relatives in South Florida and New York City. For an article such as this to blame Cuba’s economic problems solely on Cuba is sheer propaganda. There is no nation in this world, let alone a small one, that would not have been severely affected if the world’s economic and military power had imposed an economic embargo against it for half-a-century. And remember, the U. S. embargo against Cuba, in effect since 1962, has been buttressed by assassination attempts, the Bay of Pigs military attack in 1961, terrorists attacks such as unchecked and unpunished hotel bombings and the bombing of a child-laden civilian airplane in 1976, etc., etc. I challenge the anti-Cuban propagandists/benefactors in this forum to point out to me one nation — Russia?, Britain? Australia? Canada? — that would not have been drastically hurt, economically and otherwise, if the strongest military power and the most influential economic power had waged legalized mayhem against it since the 1950s. I’m waiting, Moses!!!

  • What percentage of the 40% or so of the Third World capitalist nation’s poor who barely survive on US$2.00 a day do you figure would give up their right to live in your-so-called democracy were they guaranteed food, education, healthcare, shelter and freedom from crime; all human rights that you deny are human rights. ?
    Your democracy amounts to five minutes in a voting booth every few years and that’s it.
    You don’t know the meaning of democracy.

  • The fact that the very informed people in various administrations that run U.S. foreign policy insist on maintaining the embargo and regardless of party affiliation, points out how effective it has been for the 54 years it has been in effect.
    It also points out how wrong you are in placing the blame mainly on Cuba’s state capitalism.
    Were the embargo ineffective, they would have dropped it years ago.

  • As long as the U.S. embargo continues, Cuba will be far poorer than it would be .
    Cuba’s state capitalism is no better or worse than the economies in similar free-enterprise Third World countries.
    It is the embargo that makes Cuba less prosperous than free-enterprise economies.
    Absent the embargo, Cuba, with its socialist-style means of distributing essentials, will shine in comparison to its free-enterprise peer nations.
    There is a very good reason the embargo is still in place at this late date; it works to create and maintain a poorer Cuba and the fear of a successful alternative to free enterprise is what has always driven U.S. foreign policy.
    Ergo, Cuba must not be allowed to be successful.

  • N.J., I agree with you but I think that this “embedded bureaucracy” is not just fearful but also woefully out of touch. I know a retired ex-Cuban ambassador to Nicaragua who lives in Vedado. He fully believes that his Marxist-Leninist views will prevail over capitalism. He justifies his ‘go slow ‘ approach because he believes capitalism will implode. He is in his late 70’s and hates the internet because he BELIEVES that it’s a tool of US intelligence to spy on the world. He sleeps on an expensive Postur-pedic brand mattress and has a 50 inch flat screen TV but rails against American consumerism. I am sure that there are many others think and live as he does among the oligarchy that runs Cuba. He will keep his perspective until the day he dies. I think that this is the case for many in his generation.

  • It is said that Hitler made the trains in Germany run on time. Does that justify his Third Reich? The Castros success in eliminating illiteracy and expanding health care, while noteworthy, is poor justification for more than 3 generations of tyranny.

  • Progress has been painfully slow since 2011, but incremtal progress has been made. The impediment is the fear of the imbedded buracracy has to losing power. Even Chinese have been advising them to move faster. With Venezuela imploding, they don’t have a lot of time to diversify economy.

  • The system is broke, that’s for sure, and the mass exodus makes that front center to reality! I’m a capitalist and believe in free enterprise and personal responsibility. I understand, to a certain degree, how Cuba got to where it is today so the question remains, if there was a democratic election where upon it was free and fair, how would the present group in power perform? I like your article Pedro!

  • socialism cannot be blamed for any failure , Jesus was socialist
    I was educated in a school adjacent to the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem Palestine , a Franciscan Catholic school we were taught that it’s unchristian to sleep well your neighbor is hungry , it is unchristian to have two sets of clothes while your neighbor needs one , American did their best to make sure that socialism will fail , the rotten rich capitalist fear socialism more than anything else .
    how could it be wrong to care about your fellow human being ? how could it be wrong to make sure everyone have a fair chance of education and health progress ?

  • Moses, this is an area that you and I agree 100%. And I believe many Cubans, including ones who support the government overall, agree. I think like them that the current socio-political-economic model cannot be viewed as either totally bad or totally good but has aspects of both and can be improved.

  • Pedro’s last paragraph is correct. There are those who would blame the US embargo but the failure of the Castro revolution to deliver as promised is the real culprit behind the failed economy in Cuba. The math is very simple. The Cuban people will need to grow or build things they can sell to somebody else in order to improve their economy. Until agricultural and manufacturing production increases, Cuba will remain dependent on foreign handouts.

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