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Cuba takes a step from the shadows

Here’s this gem from Reuters:

Cuba seeks more user-friendly socialism

There is something almost pathetic about the following paragraph from Reuters, as if the ability of people to trade with one another is some sort of wonderful present given by Father Christmas, rather than an extension of the basic right of every human to sustain life and flourish happily:

Bans on the sale of computers, DVD players and other products have been lifted, and Cubans who can afford it can now stay at tourist hotels and buy a cellphone.

Agriculture is being decentralized, farmers can decide for themselves what supplies they need and the prices paid to them are rising to boost food production.

Seriously, these steps represent real progress. If the reforms are real, it clearly makes sense for the US and other countries to lift sanctions against the country. A sharp dose of free trade should put a stake in the heart of the failed Marxist experiment in that island for good.

Meanwhile, let’s hope sanity eventually returns across the Atlantic in Zimbabwe. Surely, one of the great lessons of the 20th century, continuing to this day in Cuba, Zimbabwe or for that matter, Venezuela, is that state central planning is a disaster, whether applied to agriculture or anything else.

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37 comments to Cuba takes a step from the shadows

  • Andy H

    Surely, one of the great lessons of the 20th century, continuing to this day in Cuba, Zimbabwe or for that matter, Venezuela, is that state central planning is a disaster, whether applied to agriculture or anything else.

    But Jonathon, it hasn’t been done right.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “Farmers can decide for themselves what supplies they need”.

    Sheesh.

    When men first emerged from caves, did they not decide for themselves what supplies they needed?

    Still I suppose for Socialism, that counts as progress.

  • Whilst not forgiving censorship etc., let’s not forget that Cuba has effectively been living under wartime conditions for almost 50 years.
    I’ve just come back from there and the improvements due to increased international trade are tremendous.
    If the US really wanted to help the people of Cuba they would drop the farcical embargo.

  • Sunfish

    I just had a brilliant idea.

    (They always seem to come shortly before sunrise after a sleep-deprived night, at a blood-EtOH content of about .10 g/dL. Scientists should study this.)

    What if we convinced the socialist planners that they needed to generate a plan for their planning process? After all, everything needs to be planned. Why should planning be any different? And while they’re planning to plan their planning process, they’ll be so busy running in circles that the rest of the world will have a chance to get rich and have fun.

    Well, except for me. I’d probably be too busy chasing my dog who’d be trying to herd all of the socialists suffering from vertigo.

    But I think there was a serious suggestion in there, somewhere. Maybe someone could translate Miley Cyrus into Spanish, and the prepubescent girls will have Raul Castro swinging from a lamppost by suppertime. Hell hath no fury like a ‘tween who’s been told that the Revolution will not include Hannah Montana.

  • it clearly makes sense for the US and other countries to lift sanctions against the country.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that the US was the only country which had imposed sanctions.

    Cuba is free to trade with anyone, if it can start producing something others want.

    It should have a surplus of rum, surely.

  • let’s not forget that Cuba has effectively been living under wartime conditions for almost 50 years.

    Crap.

    Cuba has been living under a (badly mis)planned economy for fifty years. The poverty is absolutely and without any question the responsibility of the incompetent liars, cheats, thugs and murders who have been screwing the country from internal positions of misused authority for all that time.

    To suggest Cuba’s problems can be laid at the door of the United States is nothing more than ignorant, bigoted and baseless hatemongering.

  • Andy H

    To suggest Cuba’s problems can be laid at the door of the United States is nothing more than ignorant, bigoted and baseless hatemongering.

    I don’t know if I entirely agree, having a convenient scapegoat didn’t seem to hurt Castro’s chances of staying in power.

  • WalterBowsell

    The Montana will be revolutionised.

    I don’t understand why Reuters is so riddled with agenda pushers and incompetents. Was it not once considered a bastion of journalistic integrity?

    As to blaming the old US of A for Cuba’s failings, I don’t buy that. Fidel needed the embargo and the image of Cuba as a victim of US to keep himself afloat. All real monsters need their imaginary monsters.

  • RRS

    Other sources have reported that cellphones are to be made available in Cuba from Government run stores only.

    We might wonder if they are pre-hacked for surveilance?

    Why all the fuss now about Socialism? It has always had the objective of sharing poverty – and has succeeded!

  • Stef, compare Cuba to Israel. I do agree that the embargo should be lifted, though.

  • Jacob

    Warning: OT
    What Alisa meant, for those not knowing, is that Israel has been living under a total embargo imposed by all it’s neighbors and all Arab countries.
    The embargo or boycott, imposed by the Arab League was total until a few years ago. Since peace pacts were signed with Egypt and Jordan, those countries were supposed to lift the embargo, still there is not much trade with them, as they somehow don’t feel like buying anything made in Israel.
    The boycott by the Arad League also stipulated that Arabs boycott any Western companies trading with Israel, and indeed, many companies refused to trade with Israel.

    My uninformed opinion is that the Arabs were far more harmed by this boycott than Israel.

  • TomB

    The average salary in Cuba is what 20 dollars a month? I am having trouble seeing how allowing people to buy things they can’t afford is progress. It’s a start I suppose but I think I’ll hold off the celibration.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    The average salary in Cuba is what 20 dollars a month? I am having trouble seeing how allowing people to buy things they can’t afford is progress. It’s a start I suppose but I think I’ll hold off the celibration.

    Encouraging free markets will lift those monthly salaries in the medium term, as they have everywhere else. Of course, allowing Cubans to sell their produce to the rest of the world would be a major step in driving this process forward.

  • Ken

    but, but, when 10% of a nations people hold 90% of that nations wealth there can be NO ‘social justice’-
    numbers from the same Reuters report heard on NPR-oh wait, it was an April fools joke,ok, never mind.

  • David Beatty

    “Cuba seeks more user-friendly socialism”

    Sorry, Reuters, there is no such thing as user-friendly socialism.

  • Jack Olson

    If Cuba has been living under wartime conditions for fifty years, that is primarily the fault of Cuba. She is the most heavily militarized country of her size in the Western Hemisphere.

    Against what threat do the Cubans arm themselves so heavily? Surely not the United States, which would have little difficulty invading Cuba yet has shown no inclination to do so. The USA gave the Bay of Pigs invasion only feeble support. The USA threatened to invade Cuba to forestall the threat of Soviet missiles there, even if that meant war with the USSR. Yet, the USA didn’t attack Cuba after she lost Soviet sponsorship 20 years ago. Around the same time, Cuba gave up her foreign military adventures like the Angola intervention.

    The only reason I can see why such a poor country would need such a large army is to control its own population. It’s the same reason the DDR needed such a large police force. Not because East Germans were more criminal than other people, but to keep the dictator in power. Cuba doesn’t need a larger army to fend off invasion since no country with the means has shown the inclination. Their guns are aimed at other Cubans.

  • RAB

    Is there any private property in Cuba?
    Surely the basis of a progressive capitalist society?
    If not, then recovery will take quite a while.

    I have never understood the logic of the American embargo. Surely flooding the place with WMarts would have collapsed the regime in no time at all.

    All the embargo did was force Castro into the arms of Soviet Russia, and subsistance on their oil shipments.
    As far as Russia was concerned, they were happy to keep Cuba in the limbo of 1961, and more than happy for them to be an irritant to America, so close to home.

  • RAB

    PS much like the Muslim countries have done to the Palestinians.

    We dont want your problems solved.
    We like you to be an open sore
    on the face of our enemies.

  • Jacob, I was actually referring to the ‘war time conditions’ Stef brought up, but of course you have a point too, as does RAB.

  • Sam Duncan

    Is there any private property in Cuba?

    The Castro family probably has quite a bit.

    Re the embargo: As others have said, it’s ludicrous to suggest it’s to blame for Cuba’s problems. Cuba has been trading quite successfully with other countries for years, especially since the collapse of the USSR (I believe it has a successful industry manufacturing advanced medical equipment – denied, of course, to its own citizens). But that’s not to say I support it. For one thing, governments have no business telling their citizens who they can and can’t trade with (with the possible exception of times of declared war). But also, it gave meat to Castro’s propaganda. The fact that people do blame it, rather than Cuba’s boneheaded murderous dictatorship, for the country’s ills shows how counterproductive it has been.

  • MikeG

    Rab, I always thought that the US embargo against Cuba was to get the votes of all the Cuban exiles in Miami.

  • RAB

    You didn’t think long then.
    For Whom?
    The Bay of Pigs was a Democrat lash up.
    That was supposed to turn all the Cuban exiles into Republicans?
    No the USA could have taken Cuba in ten minutes if they had wanted to.
    Sheesh Guantanamo is IN Cuba. They have a large military base that has been tolerated by the Cuban govt all this time.
    Why?
    I dunno it’s Alice in Wonderland to me!

  • MikeG

    The treaty governing Guantanamo requires both the US and Cuba to agree any changes, and so far the US doesn’t want to close the base. Both Democrats and Republicans campaign in Miami and elsewhere with a large Cuban minority to keep the embargo, I agree with you, lift the embargo and watch the Cuban government crumble.

  • Linda Morgan

    RAB:

    I have never understood the logic of the American embargo. Surely flooding the place with WMarts would have collapsed the regime in no time at all.

    As Jonathan posted from the Reuters piece:

    Bans on the sale of computers, DVD players and other products have been lifted, and Cubans who can afford it can now stay at tourist hotels and buy a cellphone.

    Cuban people have been without computers, DVD players, cellphones and all the power they bring not for want of WalMarts, but because the purchase of these goods was banned, and not by the US or any other foreign government.

    People tend to grouse about the US embargo of Cuba as though the goods, services and freedoms available to the Cuban people were matters determined by forces outside the Castro regime.

    Not so. Castro’s regime called those shots all along, and even Cuba’s trading partners were not permitted much at all in the way of influence on the lives of ordinary Cubans.

    The tourist hotels mentioned in the Reuters piece, for instance, are just now opening to Cuban citizens. That Cubans were long barred from these establishments is just one indication of how little impact Castro ever allowed foreign trade to have on the lives of his subjects.

    But if the US government had stayed on board with Castro’s plans — even after he seized billions of dollars of Americans’ assets — the regime would have withered away? I don’t think so.

    Now that Castro lies dying and the human rights reforms that will kill his regime are finally coming about, I suspect the embargo will soon end. Blaming it for Cuba’s suffering under Castro, though, shortchanges the ruthlessness of an evil and cunning despot.

  • RAB

    the regime would have withered away? I don’t think so.

    Well I have to hope it would, and a lot faster than the big daddy Soviet Union.

    Which we now all know withered for exactly the same reason.

    Yes the place is a dictatorship fantasyland, but if the Americans had encouraged a bit of the enterprize they love to believe in, then I’m sure a new generation of Francis Drakes and John Hawkins would be running laptops and lcd tvs to isolated spots around Cuba (it’s a big island).
    A bit of smuggling does no-one any harm but the Government.
    And who would we like to see harmed?
    Yes well…..

  • Linda Morgan

    Sam Duncan:

    The fact that people do blame [the US embargo], rather than Cuba’s boneheaded murderous dictatorship, for the country’s ills shows how counterproductive it has been.

    I can’t fault the US embargo on the grounds that it helped to foster inability on the part of some people to trace Cuba’s ills straight to Castro’s tyranny. People too stupid to make that obvious connection would fail to do so even in the absense of any US sanction of Castro’s regime. I suspect in fact that they would have blamed the US all the more for having done nothing to impede the more furious and farther-reaching assault on human rights that a richer and better connected Castro could have got up to.

  • Linda Morgan

    RAB on whether Castro’s regime would have withered away absent a US embargo:

    Well I have to hope it would, and a lot faster than the big daddy Soviet Union.

    Which we now all know withered for exactly the same reason.

    I like the idea that trade sets in motion processes that get away from tyrants, but where’s the evidence that the considerable foreign trade Castro did oversee ever loosened his grip on the Cuban populace? Where for that matter is the evidence that free trade brought down the USSR?

    Only now that Fidel is on his death bed is his thumb finally being pried a millimeter or two off the backs of the Cuban people. Gorbachev, on the other hand, presided over significant, sweeping reforms that did open doors to increased trade – but did not halt the breakdown of a system stretched past its limits by an ever-escalating arms race.

  • Bill

    logic of the American embargo

    I disagree with the embargo, but whole story is somewhat complicated.

    Firstly, I think it stemmed from the USSR method of dealing with foreign dictatorships vs. the China method, but by now I think embargo-as-punishing-dictators argument is just lip service on the part of the government.

    1. As someone previously mentioned, most Cuban refugees support the embargo (although they’re softening). They make up an important voting bloc in Florida. See Florida re: U.S. Presidential Elections 2000 & 2004 to guess how that pans out.

    2. The main export advantage Cuba has is agriculture. America is positively leftist in its agricultural policy (see O’Rourke’s Parliment of Whores for starters). I imagine Big Sugar and Big Tobacco account for 75% of the motivation for the government to keep the embargo.

    Politcally speaking, for the U.S. to move to a byzantine system of tariffs and duties is probably the best we can hope for. It really has nothing to do with Cuba per se; it’s all internal politics.

  • guy herbert

    RRS

    We might wonder if they are pre-hacked for surveilance?

    No. No need. This is just a clumsy way of insuring that the sim card and phone ID are registered to a particular person. Knowing these makes surveillance no problem, assuming the cell network itself is accessible to the govt. The British Home Office is sneaking up on this problem in different way, by suggesting people ought to provide “identification” and the retailers record it, when they buy a mobile.

  • The average salary in Cuba is what 20 dollars a month?
    You can’t really equate their currency to any in the rest of the world as there is no exchange, going to a baseball game there costs a local 0.08 Pesos – about 8 US cents, or 1/28th of that if you take the CUC/CUP gearing into account…
    As for bad planning and corruption – can the US or UK claim any better?
    Health and education is certainly better, shortages aside.

  • Sunfish

    Health and education is certainly better, shortages aside.

    If I experience a grabber in the next ten minutes and call 911, I’ll have a paramedic hitting me with MONA five minutes after that, and will have my coronary arteries imaged and roto-rootered 6:30AM.

    If I’m woken out of a sound sleep by a sharp paroxysmal headache and experience left-sided facial droop, within 25 minutes of my calling 911 I’ll have an E-doc evaluating me, and a neurologist deciding whether to administer tPA half an hour after that.

    A close family member was diagnosed with a severe form of cancer. She was not a member of any political party, and had only a private-purchase high-deductible health insurance plan. The tumor was imaged within a week of the lump being found, and chemotherapy[1] combined with surgery and palliative care began less than two weeks after that.

    If Cuba can beat any of that, I’d be a little surprised.0

    [1] Using a combination of drugs available for the relatively-free part of the US market, but which the UK NHS and the Canadian version will not provide for this form of cancer and especially not in this combination, due to cost reasons.

  • Health and education is certainly better, shortages aside.

    snigger,

    Are you so ignorant that you really believe this? Or are you a propaganda plant?

  • Roger Clague

    Linda asks

    Where for that matter is the evidence that free trade brought down the USSR?

    THe evidence is later in post.

    a system stretched past its limits by an ever-escalating arms race.

    the USA could afford the arms race because it traded freely with the whole world. The USSR could not because it traded less freely with only the socialist countries.

  • Health and education is certainly better, shortages aside.

    snigger,

    Are you so ignorant that you really believe this? Or are you a propaganda plant?

    I’ve actually been there – you?
    Or have you just been smoking propaganda plants?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I’ve actually been there – you?
    Or have you just been smoking propaganda plants?

    Your personal experience of health care in Cuba, Stef, may have been quite good compared with say, the disease-ridden, delayed, surly service one hears about in the UK’s National Health Service – run on essentially Soviet lines – or the litigation-driven, regulated “private” healthcare system of the US, but I doubt it is all that good. And since we are comparing personal experiences, I keep meeting people who have been to Cuba and return with terrible food poisoning.

    I am not going there until it is full of rampant capitalism. Not a day before.

  • Andy H

    Your personal experience of health care in Cuba, Stef, may have been quite good compared with say, the disease-ridden, delayed, surly service one hears about in the UK’s National Health Service – run on essentially Soviet lines – or the litigation-driven, regulated “private” healthcare system of the US, but I doubt it is all that good.

    It also won’t be remotely similar to what the Cubans get.

  • cubanbob

    The US is a sovereign nation. It is not obligated to do business with any country. Nor is having commercial relations with one country impose on it the obligation to have diplomatic and or commercial relations with another. Cuban can buy what ever it needs from the rest of the world, but to do that it needs cash, tourist cash. And the best source of that is American tourists. If the Castro brothers want the American tourist dollar that badly it is up to them to make worthwhile to the US, not the other way around. Then again, the Cuban Army could get patriotic all of the sudden and give the Castro brothers the 9 gram solution and make the rests of the island’s communist good communist by hanging them from every tree and lamppost on the island.

    One point foreigners ought to keep in mind while investing in Cuba today,the concept of odious debt was first developed in Cuba. Who is to say the post communist government will honor the debts and contracts and land/property sales and or leases of the criminal communist regime?

    In the meantime, if Europeans and Canadians want to exploit the Cuban people no one can stop them. But please spare us your sanctimonious piety. American have plenty of friendly places in the Caribbean to spend their tourist dollars, starting with our own, Puerto Rico and the US VI followed by our friendly without resorting to spending it on our enemies.