Will Elian Gonzalez Become the Next Bill Gates?

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Hit & Run stalwart Paul Wilbert sends news of the latest get-rich-slow scheme from Castro's Cuba: developing a cutting-edge, "formidable software industry."

There's only one hitch–and it's a doozy. Cuba doesn't allow its citizens to access the Internet:

At a March ceremony in Havana marking the 15th anniversary of a national computer education center, Castro said Cuba needs to get used to a "new world that keeps changing around us." At the same event he promoted the idea of grooming software developers at the University of Computer Sciences, a campus about 50 miles south of Havana that aims to attract the country's brightest tech students and teachers….

The computer literacy campaign is part of Cuba's "long-term strategy for development to take advantage of its well-educated workforce," said William LeoGrande, a Cuba expert and dean of American University's School of Public Affairs. If the effort is successful, he said, the government could possibly develop a software industry along the lines of its advanced biotechnology sector. However, the lack of Internet access "puts a crimp in that strategy, because so much cutting-edge information appears first on the Internet," he said.

Whole bit here.

Hey, at least Cubans aren't burning up bandwidth with arguments about net neutrality!

In a great 2003 Reason piece, Damien Cave looked at the likely future of capitalism in Cuba and walked away more than a little disturbed. Read all about it here (and, alas, not in Havana).

Reason discussed the fate of Little Elian here and here.

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  1. Earlier it was send everyone to a sugarcane field in the 1970s and now it is this. *shakes head*

  2. Well I, for one, would get a lot more done if I didn’t have internet access 🙂

  3. This would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

  4. If Cuba does start producing a lot of software, it’s only a matter of time before angry programmers are camped out on Florida beachers, reporting any illegal programmers who try to swim here and violate our sovereignty, and complaining about cheap Cuban programmers who just come here to steal programming jobs.

  5. Actually I laughed out loud when I read the intro, but I’m rather insensitive at times.

  6. “Castro said Cuba needs to get used to a “new world that keeps changing around us.”

    Nothing quite like a dictator who’s been in power since the 1950’s telling his people that the world keeps changing.

  7. I suspect that the first thing most Cubans would do if they had internet access would be to book tickets (one way) and hotel rooms, for a nice long vacation in Miami.

  8. Booking the tickets is easy.
    Being shot down is a bitch.

  9. Reasonites, how do I deal with such a person?

    Force them to compare Cuba’s GDP with that of the former communist countries ineastern Europe.

    Then force them to compare Cuba’s GDP with all of the countries of Latin America, including the Caribean.

    I believe their per capita GDP (PPP) is bigger than only Haiti among the countries I listed.

    Then ask them to explain why a policy that delivers poverty to all is better than one which has more inequality but lower poverty.

    Oh yeah, throw in China as an example if you want.

    The South Korea/ North Korea comparison is always a pretty good way to stymie a commie lover. Both countries were dirt poor 50 years ago. Same geography, same gene pool, same cultural heritage. Now South Korea’s economy is comparable to southern European economies like Portugal and Greece while North Korea is still dirt poor. In fact North Korea’s economy is arguably worse off now than it was 50 years ago. Were they eating bark 50 years ago?

  10. Unfortunately, for the most hardcore True Believers, all of that can be “explained” by a) the embargoes and manipulation of the capitalist imperialist west trying to keep down the Workers’ Paradises, and/or b) said Workers’ Paradises aren’t True Communism.

    PS — it’s actually fun to go read a Red board once in a while. Check out http://soviet-empire.politicsforum.org/ussr/

  11. Honest advice: based on personal experience, I’m thinking there’s a good chance your Cuba-loving friends have mentioned how wonderfully green and eco-friendly Cuba is; they use SOOOO much less energy per capita than the US! And when the Soviet Union collapsed and Cuba stopped getting all those energy subsidies, the country did a woooooonderful job making the transition to a less energy-intensive economy.

    When an acquaintance of mine made this gushing commentary, I asked her how many Cubans she thought would die in one month if the country were not in the tropics, but in a latitude that requires indoor heating in the winter.

  12. Don’t forget literacy! Oh, Cuba has such a wonderful literacy rate! It really comes in handy for all those books/newspapers/magazines/web pages you aren’t allowed to read.
    I never understood this argument when used as a “they’re better than the USA” line. How often do you run into Americans who don’t know how to read?

  13. How often do you run into Americans who don’t know how to read?

    Every time I go to the DMV or the Post Office.

  14. Living under a communist regime AND having Clippy keep popping up on your screen. That really sucks.

  15. But sometimes it’s fun being the token capitalist.

    Dunno about that, but its always fun being a tokin’ capitalist!

  16. Sorry to burst your bubble, but Cubans do have Internet access. I spent several weeks in Havana back in 2001 and collected a number of email addresses from people I met. Some I continue to correspond with to this day.

    The lesson here is that if a story sounds too go to be true…

  17. If Joe RTFA, he would know that access to the internet is not blocked, just heavily regulated:

    For most Cubans, however, the ambitious tech plans stop at the Internet. Cubans are allowed to use e-mail and an intranet of government Web sites on topics from the weather to literature, but access is expensive for the average worker. Typically the government approves Internet access only for foreigners and a select group of Cubans. These include certain officials, academics, journalists and employees of foreign companies — though some people use the accounts of friends or relatives.

  18. Don’t forget literacy! Oh, Cuba has such a wonderful literacy rate! It really comes in handy for all those books/newspapers/magazines/web pages you aren’t allowed to read.

    Not to mention the fact that Cuba already had nearly universal literacy before Castro took over. Any progress since then has been trivial while almost every other Latin American country has seen huge gains.

    And before Castro came to power Cuba had the highest standard of living in the region while now only Haiti is a worse basket case economically.

    I love the way leftists romanticize Fidel. I have a few of them in my own family. When I have to spend any time with them it is major eye-rolling time.

  19. You might want to point your relatives to this funny yet insightful travelogue on Cuba.

    Excerpt from the article:
    Apart from the usual menacing abstractions (“dignity,” “truth,” “liberty”) the only claims one reads and reads again in the country pertain to the Cuban health and education systems. Cuban schools are good and all children attend them, the visitor is constantly reminded. And life expectancy is supposedly at first-world levels.
    It is hard to assess how well the medical system works; the people seem healthy enough, although Pyongyang’s ban on cripples is a simpler way to achieve this. As for the schools, many Cubans speak immaculate English, unlike some of their Florida relatives. And yet. The country can hardly have been poorer before the revolution; the same share of the Cuban workforce is engaged in miserable manual labor, especially as sugar-cane-chopping machetistas, as before; and staple foods are rationed luxuries. Remember that life expectancy was supposed to be at first-world levels in the third-world Soviet Union, and “plummeted” after it collapsed. All that plummeted, of course, was the ability to falsify statistics.

    Be sure to check out the account of his trip to North Korea.

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