Cuban Common Sense


An interesting take on Cuba's recent spate of repression and various responses to it from Raul Dimas at Brainwash. Here's a snippet:

Let?s retire one particularly tired and self-contradictory ?argument? against U.S. policy toward Cuba: The embargo is a convenient ?excuse? for the Castro regime?s failures.

At the minimal risk that a generalization like this creates, nobody who believes in (or at the very least understands) capitalism still holds that Cuba is an economic sinkhole because of U.S. foreign policy. As such, it is foolish to claim that the embargo is an ?excuse? for the Castro regime?s economic failure. This argument shifts blame to the Cuban people, for their implied stupidity. No ?migr? I?ve ever met believes their hardship resulted from U.S. policy. The embargo is an ?excuse? only to the Left, for whose intellectual shortcomings I make no defense.

Everyone in Havana knows they receive one bar of soap per month because of decisions made by Castro, not Washington. To argue otherwise is to deny the Cuban people an ?insight? most Americans take as common sense.

[Link via]

Here's a smattering of Reason's Cuba coverage over the past decade or so:

Viva La Evolution! Does a Taste of Free Enterprise Mean the End of Fidel's Cuba?

Foul Ball: How a communist dictatorship and a U.S. embargo has silenced a Cuban historian

Northern Lites: Naively idealistic students ignore the dark side of Cuba

Orphans of Trade: How to Help All of Cuba's Children

Reading Elian: The camera doesn?t lie. But it will confess to just about anything.


NEXT: Slugging It In

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  1. The point about the words “excuse” and “embargo” is that Castro *uses* it as an excuse, every day, to the Cuban people. Raul Dimas may possess the startling omniscience that “everyone in Havana knows” this excuse is bullshit, but that certainly doesn’t jibe with my personal experience there five years ago, when roughly half of the people I met asked me, with some anguish, why America was strangling the island with the “bloqueo.” It is entirely possible, and maybe even logical, to believe simultaneously that the disastrous economy is primarily Castro’s responsibility, that the embargo is bad public policy, and that the bearded one is able to use it, with some degree of effectiveness, as an excuse. This is no insult whatsoever to the Cuban people, who live in one of the worst environments for obtaining true information in the entire world.

  2. Why do some “people” insist on using “quotation” marks where they do not “belong?”

  3. If the embargo *isn’t* devestating the Cuban economy, then what the hell is it good for in the first place?

  4. Well, only one nation is really embargoing Cuba – the US. China, all of Europe (to my knowledge), etc. all trade with Cuba. But Cuba has the same problem all these little Caribbean islands have had – their early booming economy was based on one product (sugar), and when that product failed (because commodity prices sank, or because the soil was exhausted, etc.), so did their economy. The Caribbean is littered with such sad stories – Jamaica, Haiti, etc. – of fabulous good times and the busts that followed. In fact, chronologically you can trace the boom and bust of sugar economies all the way back to the Crusader kingdoms of the levant. Sugar like oil is a curse. Anyway, I don’t think suddenly changing to capitalism will do Cuba much short-term good, as they have very little other than beaches and sugar to sell.

  5. Warren,

    To show that we can hold our breath longer than Fidel can!!!

    Actually, that’s a good point, and it underlines the basic paradox and probably futility of boycotting an entire nation to protest the actions of its leader(s).

  6. Warren,

    I’ve seen some commentators claim that the embargo should remain in place as long as the property, etc. approproriated by the Cuban state remains, well, in the hands of the appropriators.
    Given that this occurred so many years ago, I think its a rather stupid argument.

  7. How do Nick or Raul expect people who have lived under a Communist regime for 40 years to understand capitalism? Re: “No ?migr? I?ve ever met believes their hardship resulted from U.S. policy,” well, maybe that’s not a representative sample, as it pre-selects those who have had the good sense to leave Cuba? And just because they don’t all believe it doesn’t contradict the possibility that Castro has used it to sow enough doubt in enough people’s minds that it helps him stay in power. Maybe it’s true that no one there believes it, but I’d need more evidence of that than is offered here.

    Anyway, if that were the only reason not to have the embargo, it could probably be easily counterbalanced by reasons in favor of it. Personally, I’m skeptical that the embargo does anyone any good, even though I’m well aware of the brutatlity of Castro’s rule and the impoverishing nature of a command economy.

  8. Croesus Wrote:

    “Anyway, I don’t think suddenly changing to capitalism will do Cuba much short-term good, as they have very little other than beaches and sugar to sell.”

    Hong Kong was a rock with nothing to sell except for fish. A very minimal state capitalism type environment produced an affluent high tech wonderland. Highest living standard in Asia. Capitalism equals the human brain plus freedom. The possibilities are endless and unforseen. Ending the embargo would probably endanger that murdering dictator. Its worth a try.

  9. Rick Barton,

    I knew some blockhead would would say “look at Hong Kong,” etc. Read what I wrote. To qoute myself, I wrote “short-term.” Whether free-markets will benefit Cuba in the long-run is a different matter.

  10. Joe,
    Also, a good case can be made that ending the embargo will hasten the murdering dictator’s demise. A little more free enterprise could mean alot more freedom for the Cubans. There are some on the right who favor this approach.

  11. We would definitely lose face for lifting it, but it could be gradually reduced. If we need any evidence that economic sanctions don’t work, look at Iraq, or for that matter, at Cuba itself over the last 40+ years. It will make Castro richer to lift it, but he’s already rich. Does it seriously matter to us if Castro and his closest friends have 100 billion dollars, or 1 trillion dollars? They’re made either way. We should lift this for the few bucks that the average guy can get basically under the table from sending his kids out to sell trinkets to tourists, and who can therefore make a better life for them. Castro will always have his palaces, but not every Cuban will own shoes.

  12. Croesus,
    So then, how long is this “short term” for which you claim capitalism will not do Cuba “much good” ? History is replete with examples of very rapid improvment under this senario. For Cuba, with a very entrepreneurial ex-patriot population only nintey miles away, I think it would be damn near istantaneous. I can see goods marked “made in Cuba” in the markets with in a few months. I sure hope its soon that we could have a chance to see if I’m right.

  13. So let me make sure I understand…

    The right wing line is that interference with the market harms the economy, except for the trade embargo on Cuba, which has nothing at all to do with the shabbiness of its economy.

    We need to keep the embargo, because it puts pressure on the Castro government by harming the Cuban economy, but the fact that they can’t buy enough milk for their children is entirely Castro’s fault.

  14. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/20/2004 07:45:29
    It’s safer to play with a man’s wife than with his cliches.

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