What’s Looming for Cuba?

By Yasser Castellanos
SPECIAL THREAT.  By Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES —For the last five years Cuba embarked on a mild economic reform program that Raul Castro repeats will be implemented gradually without haste. Some indicators are up, others are down. Tourism and family remittances are up, food and most industrial production stagnate, the price of the main exports remain average to low.

One of the big question marks for the Cuban economy is whether the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, Cuba’s source of oil under very favorable conditions, is able to remain in power.  If the opposition succeeds in forcing a recall referendum this year, few analysts believe that Maduro can survive, as his government is blamed by even past supporters as being responsible for the economic debacle facing the oil rich country.

Will the prolonged energy crisis of the 1990s and early 2000’s return to the island? This is an illustration by Yasser Castellanos on how he sees such a threat for Cuba in the coming period.


18 thoughts on “What’s Looming for Cuba?

  • You misunderstood the nature and purpose of Obama’s declaration of Venezuela as a national security threat. The text of the statement referred specifically to the rapidly declining economic, political and social institutions in Venezuela. The concern in the US government is that when the economy in Venezuela hits rock bottom, when the Maduro government fully collapses, and various antagonistic groups take to fighting it out in the streets, there will be a flood of refugees leaving the country. This will have a domino effect on the stability of neighbouring countries, such as Colombia, Panama, Cuba, Ecuador Guyana & etc.

    You are correct, the economic & political situations between Turkey & Venezuela are very different. But the option for using a crisis to attack opposition members is similar, and is well under way in Venezuela.

    You can point to one small rally a few months ago, but last week the opposition held a rally in Caracas which drew over 1 million people in support of the recall referendum. https://twitter.com/TomBurridgebbc/status/771400828544516096?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

    At another rally, the people chased Maduro away when he attempted to speak his usual bullshit to them.

    I am as concerned about the safety of Cuban medical staff as anybody is. They should leave the country as soon as possible. Likewise, the thousands of Cuban MININT agents in Venezuela should also leave.

  • New protests against Maduro are now happening (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-37243191) — if Maduro keeps acting like a slowpoke in allowing the recall referendum to occur, then the protestors could take over government buildings like mobs and they hijack the accounts of Maduro’s advisors. And if Maduro gets thrown out of power, and the remaining oil shipments to Cuba will be terminated, then Raul Castro will hand over power to Miguel Diaz Canel.

  • Your problem Alex Munger is that the views of the increasingly hungry people of Venezuela differ from yours, that is why they held mass demonstration on August 31st in Caracas.
    Get with it!
    Maduro is obviously complacent about the plight of Venezuelans when he is able to take time to use his regime’s jet to fly to Cuba in order to attend the birthday party of his mentor and guide, Fidel Castro.

  • You are so right we have a German chainsaw manufacturer give us a list of what was needed along other small items from India to bring 100,000 acres back in to production in the next 3 years and to have that used for milk, fruit and meat. At peak harvest times their a big shortage of working equipment and transport. The current regime does not seem to get the development done. The people can only do so much.

  • I so hope that I have it backwards for the sake of the Cuban people. I would so happy in nine to say I was wrong and would say I am sorry.

  • The violent, right-wing, and anti-poor tendencies of the Venezuelan opposition have been long documented. The ousting of Maduro would be a catastrophic event for the people of both Venezuela and Cuba.

    For context, here are some links detailing opposition attacks on Cuban doctors in the humanitarian Barrio Adentro missions in Venezuela:

    Their crimes against the noble efforts of Cuban doctors are downright chilling.

  • “It’s exceedingly unlikely President Obama…would even consider backing a coup in Venezuela.”

    This is demonstrably false. Obama’s 2015 announcement that Venezuela poses a “extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” offers little wiggle room in the interpretation of his motives as anything less than a precursor to soliciting regime change.

    It follows from Obama’s refusal to expand on the specifics of the ‘threat’ that he really means “a threat to US hegemony and decades of concerted efforts to supplant leftist democratically-elected leaders with autocratic US puppets”. I’m not sure how, given the wealth of leaked telegrams exposing the US’s continued effort to undermine Venezuela, you could conclude that this is “exceedingly unlikely”. Obama’s decision to renew the sanctions this year shows he has not changed his stance.

    OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro’s open sympathies with Leopoldo Lopez (source: http://www.oas.org/fpdb/press/OSG-441.pdf), who has continually attempted to destablize Venezuelan democracy, further this point.

    Your further assertions that a “radical Bolivarian” coup is more likely is not, to my knowledge, based on any objective reports whatsoever. If you do have sources on this possibility, please share them; I’m not pretending to know everything about the situation.

    The subsequent analogy with Turkey is pure abstraction, as the political and economic situations in these countries are entirely different. Venezuela suffers from a commodity shortage, driven by a failure to diversify the economy as well as exchange rate mismanagement. These facts have driven some organic, organized neoliberal dissent amongst wealthier Venezuelans, I am not denying this. The opposition’s strategy of invoking a referendum on Maduro’s recall is far more reminiscent of the Brazilian impeachment strategy than Turkey.

    It should be noted that there was an attempted US-backed coup against Chavez in 2002. It failed. Chavez could have gone the Erdogan route by purging dissidents and arresting thousands of teachers, but he absolutely did not do this. There is no good reason to assume that Maduro would act any differently: if anything he is less ‘iron-fisted’ than Chavez.

    There are two other areas of your analysis which I find deeply concerning. Firstly, your assumption that holding a referendum and passing it is the “Venezuelan people’s will” is completely unsubstantiated. To illustrate this, opposition leader Henrique Capriles planned a large protest for May 24 in downtown Caracas, but only 500 people showed up. The opposition also expected to get the minimum signatures for a referendum long before it actually got them. That should tell you something. Mind you, I’m not asserting that a referendum wouldn’t pass for certain, but your assumption that it would is strange.

    Second, numerous sources have shown the opposition ‘protests’ being far from peaceful, as they have set bus stations on fire, attacked ‘Chavista’ journalists, and gone into Bolivarian healthcare missions and attacked Cuban doctors. To date, 162 registered attacks on Cuban doctors have been reported. I’m not accusing you of backing the opposition in the slightest, but any analysis of the situation that covers Maduro’s corruption and accuses Raul of fostering a violent coup without any mention of the opposition’s terrible crimes against Cuban doctors and others is very disturbing.

  • Have you thought about what the Castro regime is doing with all that fertile land that previously produced sugar cane? Have you looked? do you approve?
    The reality is Vahe Demirjian that the agricultural production of Cuba has been in steep decline since 1990.
    Cuba is a country blessed with much good agricultural land, much opportunity for irrigation (look at the annual rainfall figures), a huge number of under-employed people and an 80% importation of food.Those factors combined present a huge opportunity for economic development.
    The reason that that potential for development is not utilized is the incompetence of the ‘socialismo’ system and the Castro regime who administer it.

  • Vale,

    Sugar is a limited part of Cuba’s food production. Dairy, eggs, poultry, vegetables, fruit, beans, pork: these are the staples Cuba has a hard time producing in reliable quantities. Rice, wheat and meat are already imported in significant quantities.

    I’ll take Steve Webster’s observations as reliable, given his personal experience helping Cuban farmers.

  • You have this prediction backwards. We all know from the pre-1959 records that in 1957 Cuba produced over 5 million tons of sugar (see http://havana.biz/Pre-Castro-Cuba-Business.html) but remember that Cuba produced almost 8 million tons of sugar in 1989 (see http://economics.fiu.edu/research/working-papers/2013/1306/1306.pdf), not to mention the Ten Million ton sugar harvest that fell 1.5 million tons short of the intended 10 million ton goal (which Fidel Castro blamed on economic mismanagement rather than trade sanctions). If you dare think that diminishing Venezuela oil supplies to Cuba will trigger a repeat of the food shortages during the Special Period, think again because neither Raul Castro nor Miguel Diaz-Canel have spoken fondly of Cuban workers making sacrifices, and Cuba’s sugar production today is lower than during the years Cuba was a Soviet client state (Cuban sugar production has hovered around 1 million tons since the early 2000s; see sugar production chart at http://thecubaneconomy.com/articles/2011/09/can-cuba-recover-from-its-de-industrialization-i-characteristics-and-causes/).

  • To answer the question “What’s looming for Cuba?”, one must first answer, “What’s looking for Venezuela?”

    The security service of the Maduro government has arrested 2 leading opposition leaders in the past week. The opposition is calling for a national strike and protest in the next few days. Maduro has warned that the US is planning a coup on September 1st.

    It’s exceedingly unlikely President Obama, who has been exceptionally accommodating of Raul Castro’s demands, and has refrained from acting in the interest of the people in Syria or Iran, would even consider backing a coup in Venezuela. It’s not at all clear anybody in the Venezuelan military would attempt to overthrow Maduro, as Chavez & Maduro have filled the officer corp with their supporters. The corruption Maduro has fostered has enriched these officers, who have everything to lose from a coup.

    A more likely prospect is a “self-coup” led by radical Bolivarians in the military, nudging Maduro aside and taking power in Caracas, all at the direction of Raul Castro and his MININT agents installed in Venezuela’s intelligence apparatus.
    The alleged US coup will be used as an excuse for a radical coup, much in the way that Erdogan has used the failed Gulenist coup as an excuse to purge Turkish institutions of all opposition members.

    If Cuba can keep hold of Venezuela, they will continue to milk it dry. On the other hand, if somehow the Venezuelan people manage to assert their will, hold a recall referendum and put an end to the subsidies Maduro has paid to Cuba, then Cuba might indeed face another Special Period.

  • There will be food shortages as at this time there is a lack of power and diesel fuel. The reports I am getting say that a big reduction in food supplies before spring. (I hope they are wrong). The farmer coops tell me that it is going to be worst next year.

  • Vahe Denirjian I advise you to watch and wait to see if the Cuban people are to be subjected to further reduction in supplies of food.
    As you claim that Raul Castro “knows that you can’t depend on a single country for energy needs” please list those additional to Venezuela who have been supplying energy to Cuba since he assumed the presidency eight years ago?

  • Changes need to happen but very carefully as we do not want to see what happened in Russia in the nineties you hadthe worst of free market and still had many of old rules no food on the selves and the goverment had no money to wages and the money became worthless twice in 5 years. Many of us from other countries would like to make sure a repeat the special period does not happen and safequards in place for the old , sick and everybody has enough to eat and live as the market is rebalanced.

  • The dependency on Venezuela needs to end. Living off generosity of other nations is not a long term strategy. A lesson from the failures of extreme socialism is that it does not work. Cuba like other nations needs a market sector with legal structure, regulations and taxes. The current situation of disfunctional over sized state companies, large black market and small under evolved market sector needs to be rebalanced.

  • The most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it begins to reform itself. Alexis Tocqueville.

  • A potential economic crises has loomed over Cuba since the inception of the Castro regime which having pretended that the purpose of the revolution which they led was according to Fidel Castro to:
    “to do what Cubans want, if we provide social practice and solve the substantial social problems of all Cubans of LIBERTY, OF RESPECT FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS, OF FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND THOUGHT, OF DEMOCRACY, OF LIBERTY TO SELECT THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT.”
    Having reneged on every single one of those conditions which he recognised as the wish of the Cuban people and then declaring that his regime was communist, Fidel Castro made his economy dependent initially upon Soviet aid and when the Soviet Empire imploded and following the ‘Special Period’ upon aid from Venezuela with the purpose of eventual unification.
    The only answer to the alternative of finding another ‘Sugar Daddy’ to replace the succour of the failed state of Venezuela and yet another ‘Special Period’ is to fulfil the requirements which Fidel Castro correctly recognized were the wishes of the people of Cuba.
    Castro could have gone down in history as the saviour of the people of Cuba from repression and the person who introduced those conditions which he himself described. But having got a taste for power and control, he chose to replace one dictatorship with another and to deny Cubans the opportunity to obtain the conditions he described.
    Little brother Raul, has merely followed in the footsteps of Big Brother but in doing so, has demonstrated able political manipulation and street smarts by persuading many in the outside world that undefined ‘change’ is taking place in Cuba when in reality that is a myth.
    Those who talk of such ‘change’ and think it is occurring ought to describe it exactly or recognize that they have been fooled. What are the changes for the average Cuban?

  • Raul Castro has rejected the notion of a new Special period coming to the island nation in the face of dwindling oil supplies from Venezuela, noting that Cuba’s economy is more diversified than in 1991. He clearly knows that you can’t depend on a single country for energy needs.

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