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    Are Cuba’s Economic Reforms For Real?

    Are Cuba’s Economic Reforms For Real?
    Cuba has started making concessions to capitalism, but not out of necessity.
    Rob Montz | December 9, 2014

    Over the summer, the proletariat paradise dispatched a fleet of
    state-trained doctors to West Africa to care for Ebola patients as part
    of its long-standing “global medical diplomacy” division. Regime
    officials framed the work as a natural extension of the selflessness
    animating the country’s socialism. Fidel Castro himself called it “the
    greatest example of solidarity a human being can offer.” And that spin
    was dutifully lapped up by the American media.

    But, as is so often the case in Cuba, there’s corrupt autocracy lurking
    under all that romantic sloganeering. The country’s medical missionaries
    aren’t working voluntarily—they have their passports confiscated and are
    kept under constant surveillance. Havana gets paid directly by foreign
    governments for their services and, instead of fairly compensating
    doctors, simply pockets most of the money to the tune of about $8
    billion every year.

    So Cuba successfully sold a cash grab as medical heroism. Nice.

    Despite the undeniable failures and fascist abuses of Castro’s
    revolution, Cuba still retains a sacred space in the imagination of the
    fashionable Left. Indeed, The Nation recently announced it had secured a
    special travel license from the Treasury Department to host a week-long
    “cultural exchange” cruise to Cuba early next year.

    But what’s most interesting about the country these days is that it has
    actually started making concessions to capitalism that would have been
    denounced and suppressed as anti-revolutionary not too long ago.

    These are not concessions of choice; they’re forced by extenuating
    circumstances. After the implosion of the Soviet Union, Venezuela
    stepped in as Cuba’s chief enabler, supplying the island with up to
    100,000 barrels of heavily-subsidized oil every day—a haul that
    constitutes fully 15 percent of Cuba’s GDP. But the political and
    economic turmoil now wrecking Venezuela has put this patronage in
    jeopardy. Reporter Ann Louise Bardach—author of Without Fidel: A Death
    Foretold in Miami, Havana, and Washington—told me the spigot could get
    shut off entirely as early as next year.

    Cuba’s other major source of income is tourism. From an international
    commerce perspective, the country is basically a decaying museum that
    has successfully diversified into the underage prostitution space.
    However, its tourist operations don’t generate enough money to ward off
    economic disaster.

    A few years ago, President Raul Castro (who took over for his older
    brother in 2008) announced a “311 point” plan for liberalizing the rules
    governing private business. The average Cuban can now buy and sell a
    cell phone, car, or house. And there is a limited entrepreneurial class,
    mostly in the form of independent cab drivers, hairdressers, and
    restaurateurs, according to my friend and Guardian contributor Michael
    Paarlberg, who’s done extensive reporting in the country.

    But economic liberalization hasn’t been coupled with social reform. The
    Cuban government still jails dissidents and journalists. It still bans
    non-state newspapers and TV stations. Eleven million people are still
    forced to live in the spiritually-deadening atmosphere created by
    constant state surveillance, a struggle beautifully exhibited in
    filmmaker Nick Brennan’s soon-to-be-released documentary chronicling
    Cuba’s most popular hard rock band.

    This year, 25,000 Cubans illegally fled for America. That’s a 20-year
    high. Many made the 90-mile voyage by sea in homemade vessels powered by
    car engines. It’s unclear how many more tried and failed. Would it spoil
    the fun of the The Nation’s “cultural exchange” cruise for attendees to
    know they’re traversing waters dotted with floating corpses, the last
    evidence of desperate attempts at a better life?

    It’s great to see the Cuban economy getting less insane. But
    those bodies are sufficient evidence to prove Raul’s reforms aren’t enough.

    Source: Are Cuba’s Economic Reforms For Real? – Reason.com –
    http://reason.com/archives/2014/12/09/are-cubas-reforms-for-real

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