The energy that Castroism is stifling
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 21 de Febrero de 2017 - 09:05 CET.
In recent weeks the regime of General Raúl Castro has "spooked," and is
now galloping in the wrong direction, in defiance of time and history.
The economic crisis is compounded daily, and the dictator and his
military junta, far from taking steps to unshackle Cuba's productive
forces, are restricting and choking them more and more.
Price caps on taxi drivers, prohibitions against street vendors hawking
fruits and vegetables, the nationalization of agricultural markets based
on supply and demand, and bans on the self employed in Varadero, are
just some of the Stalinist measures exacerbating the severe economic crisis.
Turning its back on the people, the Government is thus recklessly
staving off the emergence of a massive and vibrant private sector, the
only force that can rescue the country from this crisis, and that will
be, necessarily, that which rebuilds the devastated Cuban economy.
Meanwhile, poverty, despair and unhappiness grow amongst Cubans. The
economic, social, political, moral and even anthropological cataclysm
caused by Castroism is now of such a magnitude that it is difficult to
assess the disaster. Yet, this diagnosis is the first thing that must be
done to rebuild the country.
It is a historical shame that Cuba is the only Western country that is
actually less advanced than it was in the mid 20th century. The same
cannot even be said of Haiti. Many Cubans on the island would be happy
if the country enjoyed the same standard of living it did 60 years ago
today, when it was one of the highest in Latin America.
So, although it seems a Kafkaesque absurdity, Cuba today is
socioeconomically below zero, which it needs to get back to, going on to
build a future. The situation is that serious.
The Castroist higher-ups are trying to ignore the fact that it was
European entrepreneurs in the 16th through the 18th century who made
possible the emergence of a large private sector based on free
enterprise. Private property and economic liberalism were what brought
and end to the ancien régime; that is, the absolute monarchies like
those under Louis XIV, and the enlightened despotism embodied by
Catherine the Great of Russia, with her policy of "everything for the
people but without the people," which, by quashing individual liberties,
prevented the development of productive forces and the creation of
widespread wealth, leading to uprisings like the French Revolution.
Entrepreneurs paved the way to modernity
It was the sector of entrepreneurs that rapidly grew and shaped the
modern world we know today. Traders, artisans, innovators, investors and
enterprising people in multiple activities, in a spirit of laissez faire
(live and let live), encouraged by French physiocrats and English
liberalism, took the baton of capitalism and changed the face of the planet.
This possibility is what the Castro dictatorship is denying the Cuban
people. These are freedoms and rights enshrined in the UN's Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in Paris in 1948, and instituted
through a series of political, civil, social, cultural and labor rights,
none of which are respected in Cuba.
It is no coincidence that the 35 most developed countries in the world,
members of the OECD, enjoy all of these individual economic freedoms and
democratic systems. Nor is it a coincidence that these freedoms do not
exist in any of the 41 poorest countries (according to the UN), or in
dozens of other Third World nations.
General Castro and those who maintain him in power must be aware of two
The more they tighten the political screws on Cuba, and hound the
private sector, the less able they will be to resolve the national
crisis in a humanitarian fashion.
The more restrictions there are on the self-employed, the more poverty
and shortages there will be throughout the country, and the longer, more
difficult, and more expensive will be its economic reconstruction.
A secret source of funding?
Hence, it is scandalous, and suspicious, that in response to the near
collapse of the Venezuelan economy, and all its political tribulations;
the lack of subsidies from Brazil, Beijing's and Moscow's refusals to
send aid to Havana, and a new administration in Washington that is not
leftist or pro-Castro, the regime is not only refusing to promote
economic freedom, but is increasingly curtailing it. Is the regime
concealing some source of financial support that it cannot divulge?
After not paying a penny for the servicing of its foreign debt for 30
years, the regime announced recently that in 2016 it paid the enormous
sum of 5.299 billion dollars to its short and long- term creditors. And
it is surprising, to say the least, that the payment of such a sum of
money, so disproportionate to the small size of the Cuban economy, came
precisely during the year in which, for the first time, the Government
admitted to a drop in the GDP and a deteriorating economic crisis.
Is it possible that the Castro regime has links to high-ranking members
of the Venezuelan government who are, effectively, drug kingpins? Is it
receiving "donations" from the FARC in Colombia in exchange for the
peace agreement, favorable to it, forged in Havana?
The military and younger members of the dictator's leadership are
determined to remain in power and to establish, starting next year, a
kind of neo-Castroist model of authoritarian and militarized capitalism
under which only they, the military, the Castro family, and some
civilian members of the Communist Party (PCC) will be able to do serious
business and make big money.
A right of all
The struggle of the Cuban people, political dissidents and human rights
activists, journalists and independent trade unionists, the
self-employed, and all democrats and anti-Castro elements inside and
outside Cuba, necessarily hinges on preventing the perpetuation of the
dictatorship. Opposing this is a natural right of all Cubans.
Cuba also needs international support, particularly from the US, as the
policy of former President Barack Obama politically fortified the Castro
regime and opened to it the doors of the world.
From the existential point of view, that of daily subsistence, everyday
Cubans need the dictatorship to loosen its grip over economic matters
and to let the self-employed off their leash. Economic freedom is
essential to save the people from their appalling poverty.
Raúl Castro and his military junta must legally recognize private
property, and Cubans' right to hold it, and to invest and create their
own businesses. They cannot continue to limit and even strangle the
private sector, the only economic force that the nation can count on.
If they fail to do this everything will be increasingly difficult, not
only for the people they claim to represent, but for them too.
Source: The energy that Castroism is stifling | Diario de Cuba -