Latin America

Letter from Castro's Cuba

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Via Arts & Letters Daily comes this depressing report on Cuba from Bella Thomas in the British Prospect, who writes, "Those who must see Cuba before it "all gets washed away" by the Americans need not worry. The current impasse will outlast Fidel, and may outlast Raúl for a few years-to the great cost of the Cuban people, and the architecture and resources of this remarkable island."

[Cubans] are far poorer than their eastern European counterparts were in 1989: the average wage, at $20 a month, can barely feed a single person for a couple of weeks. You cannot spend any length of time in Havana without noticing the lack of food for the majority of Cubans. The mother of a friend, an old lady who lived in one tiny rotting room in a former brothel with her son, gets by selling matchboxes to her neighbours, having stolen them from the factory where she worked. Another acquaintance keeps pigs on her balcony and sells pork to a few locals. The luckier ones sell cigars or taxi rides to foreigners. An elite work in hotels.

When the Soviets pulled out, the government reluctantly turned to tourism to stave off bankruptcy. The business started in enclaves in a few prescribed zones, on the basis that foreign influences might be quarantined. But tourists were always going to be drawn to the city centres. And the presence of tourists has inevitably revealed to Cubans the depths of their poverty and repression. Tourism has enriched some Cubans and given others decent jobs, but it has also undermined the status of those in less lucrative but better qualified professions.

More here.

Our March cover story revealed "Fidel's Favorite Propagandist." In 2003, Damien Cave toured Cuba's disturbing gray market economy. Reason against the trade embargo, circa 2000.

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  1. It’s fairly obvious that the embargo has nothing to do with Castro. The embargo has everything to do with the fact that the Cuban refugees more or less control which way the vote goes in Florida, and Florida controls the country. It’s fairly likely that the Elian Gonzalez saga cost Gore the 2000 election.

    My office overlooks downtown Miami. I guarantee there’d be rioting if there was ever an end to the embargo. As stupid as it is, the embargo’s going to stick around for that very reason.

  2. “Tourism has enriched some Cubans and given others decent jobs, but it has also undermined the status of those in less lucrative but better qualified professions.”

    So the head astrophysicist at Havana Community College dreams of some day landing a job as a towel boy at the Hilton?

  3. P Brooks,

    You’d be surprised at how much mathematical calculation goes into folding towels.

  4. “Socialism is so much better than capitalism. Now, if we can just figure out how to get it to work…”

  5. I guarantee there’d be rioting if there was ever an end to the embargo.

    Really? Actual rioting. As in, bricks through store windows, cops batons and teargas, streets running red with blood, rioting?

    While I agree in principal with your point, I’m skeptical that there are that many people willing to commit that much, to keeping certain brands of cigars out of American retail and New York stockbrokers out of Havana hotels and casinos.

  6. so re: breaking the embargo – how big is the crazy nutbag presence? (i.e. the people who thought elian was saved by dolphins to slay castro?)

  7. To Dan T.:

    One issue with life expectancy measurements. Here in the US, we’ll use extraordinary means to try to save stillborn or premature births. If these measures are unsuccessful, we report that as both a birth and a death. In areas where they do not take those means, it is reported as a lost pregnancy, not as a birth and a death.

    Nephilium

  8. Nephilum,

    Well, even more to the point, even if they were measured exactly the same, etc. in Cuba one can apparently expect just as long but far poorer life (materially speaking) than is the case in the U.S. (for the vast majority).

  9. “…the average wage, at $20 a month, can barely feed a single person for a couple of weeks. You cannot spend any length of time in Havana without noticing the lack of food for the majority of Cubans.”

    Well, yeah, but they do get free health care.

  10. Ironchef,

    The article you linked is excellent. I love this quote:

    Here’s a cold-blooded murderer (Che Guevara) who executed thousands without trial, who claimed that judicial evidence was an “unnecessary bourgeois detail.”

  11. Dan T.

    Cuba has a high rate of abortion. Also, the refugees that flee the country are recorded at birth but their death is not. This contributes to the high life expectancy figure.

  12. When farmers in the central highlands revolted in the early ’60’s, Castro had to fight them for nearly a decade, and his strategy included the traditional system of segregating troublemakers into certain villages.

    These concentration camps contained tens of thousands of people, and received little, if any, state assistance. I wonder if those people are being included in the statistics since the Cuban government habitually denied the villages even existed.

    Certainly, given the poor nutrition and equipment in most Cuban hospitals the statistics have to have been massaged. Or perhaps Pasteur’s Germ theory is wrong.

  13. Dan T.,

    Can you describe for me your ideology?

  14. Ironchef,

    That’s not what the article says. It says that Cuba ranked higher in global rankings in 1957-58 than it does today. Which is to say, the European and east Asian countries that were still recovering from World War 2 fell behind Cuba briefly, and then re-emerged.

    “Well, in 1958 Cuba had double Taiwan’s per capita income. Cuba had one much higher than Japan’s too, higher than Austria’s, than Italy’s – hell, higher than half of Europe’s”

    “In fact, Cuba’s heath care has worsened relative to the rest of the world since 1958. To wit: Cuba’s infant mortality rate in 1957 was the lowest in Latin America and the 13th lowest in the world. This according to U.N statistics. Cuba ranked ahead of France, Belgium, West Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal in this department.”

    See?

    And the only reference to unionization is this: “In the 1950s Cuba’s workers were more unionized as a percentage of population than U.S. workers. Cuban labor got a higher percentage of the national GDP than Switzerland’s and France’s at the time.” There is no comparison provided to contemporary Cuba.

    In aboslute terms, the only figure provided that we can use for comparison is the 1958 literacy rate of 84%, which compares unfavorably with the modern rate of 99%.

    Your argument needs to be about the rate of improvement being lower under Castro than it otherwise would have been, not that those measures have gotten worse in real terms. Otherwise, you end up making claims unsupported by the evidence, and undermine your position.

  15. Despite all this, Cubans have the exact same life expectancy as Americans.

    North Korea has a higher life expectancy than the United States as well. I mean, since we are taking the unconfirmed propoganda of Communist dictators at their word now.

    I mean, it is not like Cuba arrest foreigners who try to reveal Cuba’s social problems. Oh, wait:
    http://www.praguepost.com/P03/2006/Art/0216/tempo1.php

  16. “…the average wage, at $20 a month, can barely feed a single person for a couple of weeks. You cannot spend any length of time in Havana without noticing the lack of food for the majority of Cubans.”

    These are the immigrants we should be importing instead of those overpaid, lazy Nicaraguans!

  17. tarran,

    Homosexuals were also sent to camps for re-education.

  18. Warren –

    Yes, actual rioting. On a level of the McDuffie riots in 1980 and riots just before the Super Bowl in 1989 down here.

    I guess you have to be in or around Miami to understand. There’s been violence threatened against people who even propose doing away with the embargo. Heck, there’s been violence threatened against people who have said Castro isn’t that bad a guy. There were nearly riots in 2000 when Elian was sent back to Cuba.

    There’s some in the Cuban refugee community who want to do away with the embargo, mostly because it stops them from being able support and see family and friends. But that’s a minority.

  19. Or, Ironchef, you could just avoid economic comparisons between 1958 and 2007 entirely, and stick with the political repression, which is an area in which the case against Castro is much more clearcut.

  20. Well, yeah, but they do get free health care.

    And worth every penny.

  21. Andrew,

    Have you ever talked to someone who supports the embargo? If so, what do they tend to say in support of it?

  22. In aboslute terms, the only figure provided that we can use for comparison is the 1958 literacy rate of 84%, which compares unfavorably with the modern rate of 99%.

    Not when one considers that most other Latin American countries started with much lower literacy rates and have made much greater relative gains.

    It is quite likely that Cuba would have 99% literacy today with or without Fidel.

    It is also worth considering Rex Rhino’s caveat about the propaganda of Communist dictators.

  23. Dan T: “Despite all this, Cubans have the exact same life expectancy as Americans.”

    Well how absolutely wonderful for them. Not only do they have to endure a putrid life of repression and poverty, but they get to do so for a really long time.

    I am sure that makes them feel MUCH better about it.

  24. You cannot spend any length of time in Havana without noticing the lack of food for the majority of Cubans.

    Typical bourgeois thinking: when you live in a socialist paradise, with free health care and monthly Rage Against The Machine concerts, who the hell needs food?

  25. Isaac,

    “Not when one considers that most other Latin American countries started with much lower literacy rates and have made much greater relative gains.”

    What does the phrase “in absolute terms” mean to you?

    Your argument is about comparisons in the rate of change, and is a valid one. It’s the one that anti-Castro people should be making.

    Nonetheless, in absolute terms, Cuba has improved in this, and many other, measures since 1958. So has pretty much every place on earth. There has been no absolute decline in Cuba, just a shoddy rate of improvement, and the numbers show it.

    When you make easily disproven arguments because you overstate your case, you don’t help your case.

  26. Despite all this, Cubans have the exact same life expectancy as Americans.

    Well, maybe there really is something to that restricted-calorie fad.

    Life expectancy probably is fairly high in Cuba – it shows how costly improvements in medical care are only effective on the margins – if you control the spread of infectious disease, take some measure to prevent infant mortality and crack down on violent crime (all things Haiti, for example, can’t seem to accomplish), you’ve done 90% of the work. Also Cubans (and North Koreans) don’t have to worry about many of the things that kill people in more advanced countries, such as dying in car crashes (very few cars), cancer from industrial pollution (there is little industry left in either country), accidents with farm machinery (there isn’t any)or heart disease or strokes caused by diets rich in fat and cholesterol. So touting the glories of socialist medical care seem beside the point.

  27. Dan T.,

    Can you describe for me your ideology?

    I don’t know if I have one, aside from being open-minded about things.

  28. As a Cuban American with many family here since the take-over by Castro, I do not know a single Cuban who wants the embargo to continue. All of my family, most of which are Republican (not myself, however), thinks that the embargo only hurts the Cuban people, not the government in Cuba of course. There will be only festivities when the embargo ends.

  29. I believe in one Troll, the Urkobold Almighty, creater of Urkobold.com and various looney comments, of all that is snarky and punitive, and in Viking Moose, his #1 homey, our ruminant, who was conceived by two other moose, born to the moose-mommy, often munches on furniture, was confused, kicked a pebble, and wandered off. On the next thread, he posted again, because we think he’s really funny, and sits staring at Lake Michigan. He will come again in Reason to judge the snarky and the lame, and his humor will have no end.

    I believe in one snarky and fractuous Hit & Run community. I acknowledge one round of Santorum-bashing to keep us on the same page, and look for someone to write, “For a magazine called Reason…,” and much shouting during the election to come. Boo-yah!

  30. Oh c’mon, Dan T. You’re one of the most doctrinaire statists I’ve seen around these parts. Your ideology pretty much boils down to “Anything people can do, will be done better if we just put the State in charge.”

  31. May I point out that the high literacy rates and life expectancies quoted for Cuba are provided by the Cuban government?

    One fact that seems lost on Castros admirers – cf Michael Moore – is that totalitarian regimes are very good at Potempkin Villages.

  32. There’s some saying about keeping one’s mind open. Something about not so open that…that…Aw, geez, I forget the rest.

  33. Come on, we just needed a good excuse to drop the embargo, and now we’ve found it.

  34. Dan T. | June 6, 2007, 10:58am | #

    “I don’t know if I have one, aside from being open-minded about things.”

    LMAO!

  35. Your ideology pretty much boils down to “Anything people can do, will be done better if we just put the State in charge.”

    Actually, I’m pretty sure it boils down to “Whatever people here are likely to say, I’ll say the opposite.” The fact that he usually comes across as a statist is more a reflection of our own beliefs than his.

  36. No kidding, Davebo. That ought to make things interesting.

  37. Oh c’mon, Dan T. You’re one of the most doctrinaire statists I’ve seen around these parts. Your ideology pretty much boils down to “Anything people can do, will be done better if we just put the State in charge.”

    I think perhaps it comes across that way because I think that the government does some things well, whereas libertarian dogma says that government never does anything well.

  38. The only thing that matters is how long a repressive government with no free press acting as a fact-checker claims you live, so Cuba’s glorious socialism is just as good as America’s quasi-capitalism. Living in a cramped, rotting apartment with little food = the anxiety of trying to pay the mortgage on your McMansion and endlessly failing at diets. Long live … uh … oh, that’s right, we’re not allowed to discuss our glorious leader’s health.

  39. Dan T.,

    I just thought I would ask in light of this conversation.

  40. Well, I support the embargo, but just barely. If it is lifted there will be no thrill left in smoking Cuban cigars. Otherwise, I think it is a generally stupid thing.

    Not to all of you folks who want to start feeding these folks. Over-fed women do not look good in Spandex. Those hotties need Spandex long before they need burgers.

  41. “Oh c’mon, Dan T. You’re one of the most doctrinaire statists I’ve seen around these parts. Your ideology pretty much boils down to “Anything people can do, will be done better if we just put the State in charge.”

    I think perhaps it comes across that way because I think that the government does some things well, whereas libertarian dogma says that government never does anything well.”

    Like, they’re really good at allowing the First Amendment right of people whose minds are so open you can hear the breeze whistling through their skull to post contrarian trolls to get a rise out of people who emphatically don’t suffer fools gladly.

    And, love those inner-city public schools!

  42. There will always be a thrill in smoking a Cuban cigar. Cuban cigars are thrilling all by themselves.

  43. Guy,

    “Not to all of you folks who want to start feeding these folks. Over-fed women do not look good in Spandex. Those hotties need Spandex long before they need burgers.”

    Those poor, curvy little Cuban girls are just being exploited by old, white, european males. They could join the obesity epidemic and watch Opra to see how to kick their food habit, and gosh darn, life would be wonderful for them.

  44. The problem with inner city schools is poverty and broken families.

  45. Libertydog:

    Dan T: “Despite all this, Cubans have the exact same life expectancy as Americans.”

    Heh, I have him filtered, but if you guys don’t see this as a troll attempt, and a really bad one at that, you guys need to go back to AOL.

  46. I don’t know if I have one, aside from being open-minded about things.

    Possible translation: statist troll

  47. When you make easily disproven arguments because you overstate your case, you don’t help your case.

    I agree completely.

    And notwithstanding teh quibble in my post, you made some good points in yours.

    My point was that Cuba already had the highest literacy rate, life expectancy and living standards in Latin America pre-Castro. Since then the gains in literacy have been modest at best and tne declines in living standards have been dramatic.

    Frankly Battista as a dictator was a pussy. A true totalitarian would never have allowed someone like Castro to survive the jail term after his first revolt let alone release him early.

  48. Isaac,

    They would have either shot him upon capture or had a show trial (depending on the nature of the situation).

  49. Cuban cigars were probably all that back in the day, but these days the non-Cuban makers (often headed up by Cuban expats) have closed the gap, IMO.

  50. R.C. Dean,

    Yeah, but the embargo seems to give them something of a mystique.

  51. R.C. Dean,

    At least that is my perspective as a non-cigar smoker.

  52. so does this mean support on the ground for the embargo is largely on “but he’s evil!” terms?

    are people even remotely swayed by the argument that the embargo has helped keep castro in power?

  53. Regular cigar smokers that I know agree with R C Dean.
    On the other hand, the only cigar I ever smoked that I really enjoyed and smoked to the end was a Cuban. That doesn’t prove much though.

  54. URKOBOLD ACKNOWLEDGES JOE’S FEALTY.

  55. Cuban cigars were probably all that back in the day, but these days the non-Cuban makers (often headed up by Cuban expats) have closed the gap, IMO.

    Like the Dominicans.

    Unfortunately the Dominicans haven’t succeeded in crepe rolling. They still roll them too tightly.

  56. **Breaking news!!** Mexican farmers are burning agave fields to grow corn for ethanol! Tequila supply threatened! highnumber suicide watch commencing!

    Oh, the imbiberty!

  57. are people even remotely swayed by the argument that the embargo has helped keep castro in power?

    dhex

    I have always been convinced of exactly that: 1) It has provided Castro with a convenient scapegoat for his failures & 2) It provides him with a credible threat to rally the Cuban people to his side.

    The best reason I can think of for ending the embargo is that doing so would probably end the current regime within 5 years.

  58. I am not a cigar expert but my experience has been that a really good Dominican is better than the Cubans I have smoked in Mexico or Canada. Maybe I have just gotten bad Cubans, but it is certainly believable that Castro has managed to fuck up that industry as well.

    It kills me the way people argue about the measure of this or that level of misery of the Cuban people. The bottom-line is that majority of Cubans are so poor they are willing to risk their lives to get off the island and the desire immigrate away from the Island is so great that Castro has to hand out 20 year prison sentences to anyone caught trying to leave the island to deter people from leaving. That says it all. Whatever the state of literacy and healthcare in Cuba, the people who actually experience it are routinely willing to risk their lives and the possibility of decades in prison to escape it. That fact ends any argument over whether the government there is in any way moral or desirable.

  59. Dominican cigars are now the equal of the Cubans in many cases. Though it’s very difficult to accurately compare them with so many counterfeit Cubans in circulation. I’ve seen fake Cohibas with bands printed on a color copier and trimmed (badly) with scissors. I had a real Cohiba once and it was the best ever, until I had a (Dominican) Opus X. Fuente rules.

  60. Whatever Castro’s goods or ills, can anyone argue that the embargo has done anything but strengthen him? I’ve long held that the way to spark a revolution would be to air-drop consumer goods (many made in china) all over the country, and then remove all trade and travel restrictions whatsoever. Within about a year there’d be so many Americans there and so much money around that people would start to demand some of the things that come with wealth, such as the freedom to buy things and keep what they earn. Possibly the freedom to invest in their own businesses. To keep control, the Communists would have to institute their own restrictions, so it would no longer be the bad old US keeping uncle Fidel down, but Uncle Raul keeping Cubans down and keeping them from doing business with the US.

  61. Grotius | June 6, 2007, 12:01pm | #

    R.C. Dean,

    Yeah, but the embargo seems to give them something of a mystique.

    Yea, what he said.

    I shall also add, until ther is an embargo on the DR then Dominicans will not be as fun to smoke as Cubans. It is like burning Castro’s crops!*

    *Kinky Friedman said that to Bill Clinton at the White House, after handing the President an authentic Cuban cigar. I think he said it long before I thought of saying it, but I was unaware he said it first.

  62. I prefer a good swisher sweet, personally.

  63. Whatever Castro’s goods or ills, can anyone argue that the embargo has done anything but strengthen him?

    I don’t believe that in the slightest. There is no embargo in Venezuela but that crackpot keeps telling his people that it is our fault that they are in poverty too.

    The effect of our embargo on Cuba has no effect on them in the slightest. Every good they produce can and does go on the world market. If it impacts anybody it is us.

    Now, if some wackjob media types (like everybody at the Pacifica network) would be honest about this, or at least be realistic about it, then this rumor will die.

  64. Of course that mystique may have faded some since the end of the Cold War.

  65. Guy,

    True about Venezuela, but uncle Hugo’s only been in charge for about 1/5th as long as Castro et al. The two aren’t entirely comparable. It’s possible that things would play out as you describe, but certainly the embargo hasn’t weakened him, except possibly to contain him a little bit.

  66. What Castro propagandists don’t tell you is that almost all Latin American countries have a 99% literacy rate and about the same life expectancy as Cuba.

    Latin America is not Africa, folks.

  67. It is like burning Castro’s crops

    Actually, it is funding Castro’s regime.

    Which is why I wuit buying Cuban cigars. That, and they’re not worth the money.

  68. lunchstealer,

    The only thing that contained Cuba was the USSR’s collapse. Before then Cuba had military operations in many areas of the globe.

  69. There will always be a thrill in smoking a Cuban cigar. Cuban cigars are thrilling all by themselves.

    I hear they’re even better if you smoke one with your intern.

  70. Cuba is free to trade with the rest of the world yet is still desparately poor. Given that, it is difficult to blame their poverty on the embargo or think that ending the embargo would end the regime. If Canadian and European captial won’t end the regime, why will US captial do so?

  71. I read in some authoritative journal (probably Maxim) that these days Cuban cigars tend to be rolled either too tightly or too loosely — typical shoddy Commie workmanship — and therefore aren’t as good as they are cracked up to be. However, they are still snapped up by Yanquis drawn by the thrill of the forbidden.

  72. So the head astrophysicist at Havana Community College dreams of some day landing a job as a towel boy at the Hilton?

    From the history books of the future:

    As we now know, innumerable tightly looped cosmic strings give space-time a complex structure resembling multidimensional terrycloth. The fundamental enabling principle behind the Martinez Hyperdive — which allows starships to cross vast distances instaneously by “folding” space — came to Cuban physicist Roberto Martinez as he was folding towels …

  73. Ending the embargo will certainly help everyday Cubans. Before Castro, Cuba was made up of the haves and the have-nots. If you were rich, you could live a nice life. Otherwise you’d be condemned to a life of violent struggle. I’m not sure much has changed for the everyday Cuban. They’ll still labor all day for a few beans. Just don’t try to sell me this bag of goods that Batista was a helluva guy.

  74. The only thing that contained Cuba was the USSR’s collapse. Before then Cuba had military operations in many areas of the globe.

    I was under the impression that military training and sport was still one of their big exports. Perhaps I am stuck in the past as I have not read much about that lately.

  75. Nick, that can’t possibly be true. Jimmah Carter just lectured us all on the wonders of Cuba, particularly the medical care. Redford just called as well. He says you’re full of chit, man.

  76. John

    I don’t think the access to American capital or an influx of American tourists will make a damn bit of difference in the way the Castro regime treats the Cuban people.

    The difference will be that Castro will no longer have the US Embargo as a scapegoat.

  77. I’ve heard that Cuban cigars are not what they once were. In this tale, all the really good cigar makers fled to nearby Islands where they produce what used to be Cubans. I could be wrong cuz I don’t smoke cigars.

  78. Just don’t try to sell me this bag of goods that Batista was a helluva guy.

    I guess everything is relative (like incest, for example). The question you have to ask is whether Cubans had better lives under the old regime then they do now. Then you have to ask why or why not.

    Cuba is a perfect illustration of why it is not a good idea to overthrow the bastards in DC. What you’ll end up with won’t be anything remotely resembling a libertarian paradise. Or even a moderately functioning Jeffersonian democracy.

    Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Or, be careful what a few people wish for, they just might impose it on you.

  79. John,

    You have written in this thread that:

    1) the majority – the majority – of Cubans are willing to risk their lives to leave. “The bottom-line is that majority of Cubans are so poor they are willing to risk their lives to get off the island”

    2) the economic system in Cuba, as opposed to the political repression, explains the entirety of the desire to emigrate from there, “The bottom-line is that majority of Cubans are so poor they are willing to risk their lives to get off the island”

    3) a country 90 miles away from the United States, which is the subject of an American trade embargoe, can simply trade with the rest of the world, and make up the lost markets and suppliers without a major impact on its economy. “Cuba is free to trade with the rest of the world yet is still desparately poor. Given that, it is difficult to blame their poverty on the embargo or think that ending the embargo would end the regime. If Canadian and European captial won’t end the regime, why will US captial do so?”

    Do you actually believe any of those things?

  80. I have to agree that in the overall context the embargo of Cuba makes little sense. It obviously hasn’t changed anything and from a morality perspective free people should be able to travel where they want to.

    Maybe we should have just kept Cuba like we did Puerto Rico. In the long run it would have solved a lot of problems.

  81. American capital won’t go to Cuba even if it was legal. Too risky. Would you buy a used car from Castro? How about a used state-owned telephone company or a formerly luxurious seaside hotel?

  82. The U.S. embargo isn’t Cuba’s problem. The Cuban government is Cuba’s problem.

    Of the many billions poured into Cuba by the U.S.S.R., I wonder how many of them got past Castro into the Cuban economy? And, given Cuba’s agricultural and tourism potential, how messed up does that make their political and economic systems to be such a disaster, despite decades of massive subsidies?

    Save highnumber!

  83. Highnumber suicide watch? Sure, I’ll watch.

  84. Lamar,

    Okay, everyone save highnumber but Lamar!

  85. Cuba is free to trade with the rest of the world yet is still desparately poor. Given that, it is difficult to blame their poverty on the embargo or think that ending the embargo would end the regime. If Canadian and European captial won’t end the regime, why will US captial do so?

    John, the lack of access to a close market like the US is a big difference, but not the biggest difference. Cuba has had the US to blame for everything for nigh on 50 years. If the US suddenly says “Hey, anyone that wants to can come to the US, anyone that wants to can buy from the US, anyone that wants to can visit Cuba,” this will immediately put an end to all of the Castro regime’s “American Imperialists’ Embargo” excuses. When people ask “Why am I poor as dirt?” the answer will not be “American embargo.” That will go a long way to undermining the Communist regime right there.

  86. Cuba is free to trade with the rest of the world yet is still desparately poor. Given that, it is difficult to blame their poverty on the embargo or think that ending the embargo would end the regime. If Canadian and European captial won’t end the regime, why will US captial do so?

    In principle I agree with your point. However, I’d like to add that due to US regulations, any foreign company that has the slightest presence in the US is also banned from dealing with Cuba. So large multinationals, faced with the choice of losing access to the US or Cuban markets will invariably drop the Cuban.

    For example, Castro wanted a new presidential jet, but couldn’t buy from Airbus despite them being a European company due to the fact that many components are made in the US and hence prohibited under the sanctions. Cuba ended up buying from Russia.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4793048.stm

  87. “Cuba is free to trade with the rest of the world yet is still desparately poor. Given that, it is difficult to blame their poverty on the embargo or think that ending the embargo would end the regime. If Canadian and European captial won’t end the regime, why will US captial do so?”

    Just to play devil’s advocate, there are aspects of the embargo that dissuade foreign companies from trading with Cuba by stating that if they do, they can’t do business with the US. It’s probable that if the embargo were lifted there would be more US and European capital invested in the island. Whether this money would actually make it past the government bureacracy is another matter.

  88. The Cuban government is Cuba’s problem.

    Which is why ending the embargo won’t do much to help the Cuban people. Kind of like how our lack of an embargo on [insert African hellhole here] hasn’t really helped those poor bastards, either.

    When people ask “Why am I poor as dirt?” the answer will not be “American embargo.” That will go a long way to undermining the Communist regime right there.

    Which explains why the Chavez regime is teetering on the brink of collapse, instead of tightening its grip.

  89. Patience, RC.

    Heck, it took the majority of Americans 5 years to realize that Bush was a bad president, and we’ve got cable.

    “Tightening its grip?” You mean, “facing massive street protests and a loss of popularity?”

  90. Joe,

    Do you actually beleive that Cuba is not desparately poor? What do you think the reports of people living on $20 a month are lies spread by Batista stooges? Yes, the US is the most logical trading partner, but it is not the only trading partner. Perhaps, if Cuba did not have insane economic policies the embargo might prevent them from becoming the next Japan, but if the U.S. were to blame for all of Cuba’s problems people would do a little bit better than $20 a month.

    The bottomline is communism produces mass poverty and in most cases starvation wherever it is practiced. That is what it produced in China before the economic reforms under Deng, Russia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Eastern Europe and everywhere else it has been practiced. Yet, Cuba, one of the last communist countries on earth, is poor because of the U.S. embargo, not the fact that it is communist. I guess Cuba is some kind of magic island. The only place on earth where communism could produce anything but grinding poverty for people caught in its grip.

    Perhaps there is an argument that ending the embargo would emblolden the Cubans to rebel. Maybe, but I doubt it. Perhaps the only reason the people don’t rebel is because Castro has convinved them that all of their problems are because of the embargo. It seems more likely to me that people don’t rebel because Castro is an evil murderous thug and the regime will kill and imprison anyone who so much as thinks of rebelling.

    If you ended the embargo tommorow, Cuba will still be a communist country. It is the communism that causes the poverty. Only a moonbat like Joe would think otherwise.

  91. “Tightening its grip?” You mean, “facing massive street protests and a loss of popularity?”

    Yes Joe and Cavez will just meekly do what is right for the country and leave power peacefully. He won’t start elections and throwing people in prison and shooting them if necessary to stay in power. It is too late for Venezuala. It doesn’t matter how popular Chavez is. He has the guns and the levers of power. The only way he will leave power is on the end of a rope or in a box. Until that time the people of Venezuala can look forward to Cuba as a future.

  92. I can’t believe we’re arguing over whether Cuba is poor. It is wretchedly poor. Part of it is the embargo, part of it is a corrupt government and part of it is the communist structure. A quick look at Cuba’s neighbors (other than the US) suggests that Cuba would stay a poor capitalist country.

    Pro Lib: I’ve been on my own s-watch: moving back to FL. Thankfully, I think the humidity will kill me before I lose vigor.

  93. Key difference between Chavez and Castro – Cuba has no counterpart to the Venezuelan oil industry. Although it’s increasingly badly run, Chavez has the resources to cover a multitude of sins for years to come. If Cuba had oil, the embargo would make little difference.

    Of course if Cuba had oil, Castro would never have been allowed to take power.

  94. “I can’t believe we’re arguing over whether Cuba is poor.”

    Lamar “we” are not really arguing over it. We are just making the mistake of trying to convince Joe of the reality of a communist country. I guess I should be happy that he will at least admit Cuba is an oppressive regime. I will bet dollar to doughnuts that at at least some point in his life he wouldn’t even agree to that.

  95. Just Sayin,

    Oil is overrrated. Lots of countries have oil yet still managed to be shit holes. Cuba was only 90 miles from the US. It is gorgous and has a great culture. The place could have been paradise had Batista been overthrown by someone, anyone, other than Castro. Even if they had gotten a right wing thug like Pinochet, they would have been the richest country in the Western Hemisphere south of the US. Instead, they go Castro, one of the worst leaders of the 20th Century. The tragedy for Cuba is not just what it is, a destitute prison island, it is what it could have been.

  96. In this tale, all the really good cigar makers fled to nearby Islands where they produce what used to be Cubans. I could be wrong cuz I don’t smoke cigars.

    You are correct, TWC. And they took their prize Cuban tobacco seeds with them.

  97. John,

    I don’t know where you get some of this crap.

    Yes, I believe Cuba is poor. Not a single word I wrote can be interpretted otherwise.

    I’d be bitchy if I was asked to defend the absurd statements you made, too.

    As for Venezuela, remind me again, how well have your predictions about the path of democracy in foreign countries turned out over the past five years? Maybe the Venezuelan people will be inspired by the shining model of Iraq!

    I don’t trust Chavez, either – that was why it was such a stupid idea for the Bush administration to weaken the belittle the country’s democratic process, instead of using international support for that process to put Chavez in a straight jacket.

  98. Lamar,

    “I can’t believe we’re arguing over whether Cuba is poor.”

    We’re not. John’s whacking away at a straw man again. The rest of us are arguing over why Cuba’s poor, how much economics vs. political repression are driving Cuban immigration, and how much of an effect the embargo is having on the country’s economic and political system.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go surrender to some terrorists.

  99. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go surrender to some terrorists.

    Now I feel sorry for the terrorists.

    ;P

  100. Yea Joe,

    Chavez is a horible totalitarian dicator but his being that way is all George Bush’s fault for weekening the democratic process. Not like Chavez had anything to do with that. Is it possible for you to see the world through any lense other then your bizare obsession with Bush? Nevermind, you prove daily that you can’t.

    Cuba is a communist country. Every communist country in history has been a complete disaster and ended up desparately poor. Yet, there is some question in your mind why Cuba is poor? Like I said above, either Cuba is poor because it is communist or it is some magical island and the one place on earth where communism would have produced anything but poverty if it hadn’t been for the oppressive government, like there is any other kind of communist government and the evil American embargo.

  101. Now I feel sorry for the terrorists.

    Don’t worry Arsen, like the North Koreans with Frank Burns, they will send him back.

  102. “Chavez is a horible totalitarian dicator…” No, he’s a moderately-repressive strongman with one foot in democracy and the other in autocracy.

    “but his being that way is all George Bush’s fault for weekening the democratic process” No, his being like that is his nature. The weakening of the democratic process, which the Bush administration helped weaken, is an issue of institutional power and political norms. You know the old phrase “a nation of laws, not men,” John? No, you probably don’t. You really have no concept of the difference between the political structure and the personalities holding positions within it, as your incapacity to dicuss democracy in Venezuela except by commenting on Chavez’s character demonstrates.

    Is is possible for you to think about any political issue other than as an opportunity to defend your guy, or trash the guy you dislike? Clearly not, as your incapacity to even recognize that this discussion is not about how good or bad certain political figures are demonstrates.

    “Yet, there is some question in your mind why Cuba is poor?” There is some question in my mind about how much of Cuba’s poverty results from its political system, and how much from our deliberate attempts to harm its economy, yes.

    You still haven’t even attempted to defend your three foolish assertions, I notice. That’s probably a good idea.

  103. If China cut off trade with the United States, would our economy suffer, John?

    Of course it would.

    Then why is it so hard for you to admit that it hurts a country’s economy when its largest trading partner puts an embargo on it.

    See if you can come up with an answer that doesn’t involve saying what a terrible person somebody is.

  104. There is nothing foolish about them Joe. You apparently just are smart enough to understand what I am saying.

    1. the majority – the majority – of Cubans are willing to risk their lives to leave. “The bottom-line is that majority of Cubans are so poor they are willing to risk their lives to get off the island”

    I don’t write the newspapers Joe, I just read them. People risk their lives nearly every day to get off of that Island. The fact that people do and the fact that Castro rountinely sentences people to long prison terms for trying to leave puts lie to the old “but they have great healthcare and literacy” canard. Clearly, the healthcare isn’t as good as it is made out to be or the place is so bad it doesn’t matter or perhaps both. What is so hard about that for you to understand?

    “the economic system in Cuba, as opposed to the political repression, explains the entirety of the desire to emigrate from there, “The bottom-line is that majority of Cubans are so poor they are willing to risk their lives to get off the island”

    It doesn’t explain all just most of it. If Cuba were a rich but oppressive country, a lot more people would be willing to stay or at least have enough to loose to make a prison sentence or death a deterrence. The average German wasn’t trying to get out of Germany, even though the place was horribly oppressive. Of course oppression and poverty are tied together because one does contribute to the other. Again, I don’t see what you find so hard to understand about that. Poverty clearly drives the migration. Oppression does to some degree but its mostly poverty.

    a country 90 miles away from the United States, which is the subject of an American trade embargoe, can simply trade with the rest of the world, and make up the lost markets and suppliers without a major impact on its economy. “Cuba is free to trade with the rest of the world yet is still desparately poor. Given that, it is difficult to blame their poverty on the embargo or think that ending the embargo would end the regime. If Canadian and European captial won’t end the regime, why will US captial do so?”

    Again see my points above about poverty Joe. it is the communism that causes the poverty. If Cuba wasn’t communist, it would be a lot less poor even if it still couldn’t trade with the US.

    I don’t see what is so hard to understand about those things Joe. Maybe you are just not very bright.

  105. …with one foot in democracy…

    Right now he doesn’t seem to be putting to much weight on that foot.

    joe, you may be right (and I do hope you are) that Venezuelan democracy will survive. It’s been a fragile thing historically but I believe their experience has been better that most in the region.

    But I agree the US has played some very bad cards in this game. Here’s hoping cooler heads prevail.

  106. If China cut off trade with the United States, would our economy suffer, John?

    Of course it would.

    Yea, but it would hurt China worse and the U.S. still wouldn’t beliving on 20 dollars a month. It would take Castro style communism to do that. Why is it so hard for you to admit that communist countries are poor? Would Cuba be less poor if the US traded with it? probably, but it would still be desparately poor. Maybe people would live on $30 a month rather than $20

    “Then why is it so hard for you to admit that it hurts a country’s economy when its largest trading partner puts an embargo on it.”

    When the country in question is communist. Communist countries even when they can trade withe US still end up poor.

    I thnk you are a terrible person Joe, i just think you are thinking very much about what you are saying.

  107. Which explains why the Chavez regime is teetering on the brink of collapse, instead of tightening its grip.

    Probably doesn’t help that we provided funding and communications support during the attempted coup five years ago. Doesn’t quite work when we’ve been just as meddlesome in different ways.

  108. John,

    1. “People” are not “the majority.” I realize that “people” want to emigrate from Cuba, but you went beyond that. Seriously, do you want to walk back “the majority?” That’s a rather extraordinary statement about a country not undergoing famine, genocide, or some other mega-disaster.

    2. “It doesn’t explain all just most of it.” OK, that’s better that laying it all on the economics. Still, asserting that most Cubans are economic rather than political refugees is pretty extraordinary, too. It is a rather unpleasant political situation, I understand.

    3. “it is the communism that causes the poverty.” Well, I think you’re crazy. I think both contribute. Given how you go on about the terrible Europeans starving Africans by the thousands by banning GMO crops or putting tarrifs on selected imports, I don’t think you even believe this argument.

    BTW, none of your points are evenly remotely difficult to understand. I didn’t ask to to explain them; I just didn’t find them believable. And to tell you the truth, you didn’t mount a very compelling defense of even the two you decided to stick with.

  109. “Why is it so hard for you to admit that communist countries are poor?”

    You mean like this? Communist countries are poor. Had you taken fewer blow to the head as a child, you would realize that that isn’t being argued. Rather, the question is whether being denied the opportunity to trade with the US, and whoever we can scare off, is making them poorer.

    ‘”Then why is it so hard for you to admit that it hurts a country’s economy when its largest trading partner puts an embargo on it.”

    When the country in question is communist.’ is quite possibly the dumbest argument I’ve ever seen, even on the internet. Having your access to markets, goods, and resources curtailed drastically ceases to be harmful to a nation’s economy when it has a communist government?

    Good Lord, that’s stupid! You’re not a very bright guy, John, but even you cannot believe that.

  110. Isaac,

    “Right now he doesn’t seem to be putting to much weight on that foot.”

    Clearly not, but I don’t think this is over. The protests over this censorship, and the government’s response, are going to be an important milestone, one way or the other.

    This might be the first time that Chavez has ever seriously contemplated the idea that he could be on the wrong side of the public.

  111. joe said:

    “Your argument needs to be about the rate of improvement being lower under Castro than it otherwise would have been, not that those measures have gotten worse in real terms. Otherwise, you end up making claims unsupported by the evidence, and undermine your position.”

    Whaaa?

    From the article ironchef posted earlier in the thread:

    “In fact, in 1957 more Cubans vacationed in the U.S. than Americans in Cuba!”

    “People used to jump on rafts – primarily from Jamaica and Haiti – in order to get into Cuba. Now, not only do people risk their lives to flee (2 million as of 1992), but half-starved Haitians a mere 60 miles away turn up their noses at the place.”

    From the first paragraph posted by Nick Gillespie:

    “the average wage, at $20 a month, can barely feed a single person for a couple of weeks. You cannot spend any length of time in Havana without noticing the lack of food for the majority of Cubans.”

    Huh. So it hasn’t gotten worse in absolute terms, it’s just that its economic growth slowed down quite a bit? Methinks you are not observing the evidence.

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