Friday, April 18, 2014

US reality in socialist Cuba

US reality in socialist Cuba
Story Created: Apr 17, 2014 at 9:12 PM ECT

I never miss reading a Rickey Singh column on purpose. His takes on
Caribbean politics and geopolitics are incisive and usually on target,
with one exception: his take on Cuba.
It is in dealing with that socialist state that his steely analyses turn
mushier than yesterday's pablum. His recent (April 16, 2014) piece
arguing that Cuba's new foreign investments law is intended to "combat
the destructive effects" of the US "blockade," is a case in point. Its
"core dimension," he insists, is intended "to finally overcome
persistent consequences of America's crippling economic blockade." This
blockade, he says, also involves US "acts of terrorism."
Mr Singh should be a little more precise in his terminology if he is to
understand what the changes in Cuba's economic direction are intended to
achieve. Several points: First, a "blockade" is what President Kennedy
put around Cuba during the Missile Crisis of 1962, i.e., nothing enters
or leaves Cuba without being boarded by US ships. No such action is in
place. What is in place is an embargo which is onerous enough but not
fatal. Not unlike Radio and TV Martí, which hardly anyone in Cuba pays
any attention to, its main purpose is to mollify the die-hard
recalcitrant Cuban-American lobbies in Miami and New Jersey. After five
decades of failure to achieve "regime change", the embargo is being
overtaken by events.
Consider the following: Some 450,000 Cuban-Americans travel to Cuba
every year and they, and the remittances of an estimated 75 per cent of
the other Cuban-Americans, are now the second major source of hard
currency after the Venezuelan oil and payments for services. Second,
investigate the expansion of cuentapropista paladares (restaurants)
which have become such an integral part of tourism in the island, and
you will find Miami money. The sirloin steak you ordered? Most surely
from Florida since the US is now the single most important supplier of
food in Cuba. Even the mix for the very Cuban daiquiri comes from Miami.
The reason behind the new law on foreign investments is the total
failure of the socialist command economy to generate growth and
especially its inability to absorb into cuentapropismo (small
enterprises) the estimated 500,000 state workers now made redundant.
Raul Castro himself has repeatedly argued that there is need for foreign
investment and foreign know-how—call it private enterprise. This
explains why the new law specifies that those who "live abroad and have
capital" are welcome. This includes Cuban-Americans.
But there is a fly in the ointment of this new initiative. Once again
the Cuban reforms leave out just what would put a real dent in the
embargo—allowing native Cubans to expand their enterprises beyond the
incipient and puny cuentapropista dimensions.
This responds to the idée fixe that doing otherwise would encourage
"capitalism." Foreign capitalism, yes; domestic capitalism, no. And, Mr
Singh, please note that this detrimental streak of ideological
intransigence has nothing to do with the US embargo. Fortunately, as
China and Vietnam demonstrate, this too will soon pass.

Anthony P Maingot
Professor Emeritus
Florida International University

Source: US reality in socialist Cuba | Trinidad Express Newspaper |
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