Monday, June 13, 2011

Part 3: Response to Freedom House Cuba Report

   In the subsection of this report called "Daily Needs"  The report begins by pointing out that Cubans are preoccupied by their economic situation.  Cubans in the survey described their situations as "tight."  The fact that the Cuban economy has intentionally been obstructed by the policies of the United States is totally ignored as emphasis is given to salaries from jobs are usually supplemented by black market earnings.  Just as in the United States, many people have had to find jobs unrelated to their degrees.  This could be due to the fact that the U.S. would not serve as a market which would allow certain sectors to flourish leaving for example, an engineer who rents rooms in two houses for a living.  If there is limited ability to apply his engineering skills he must obviously look for something else to do.  But unlike the situation in the U.S., jobs are not outsourced for cheaper labor, they are simply not yet in demand.  With a growth in the economy, it would be logical to conclude that there are many educated and prepared people to fill the necessary positions.  Since tourism at this point is one of the more lucrative sectors of the economy it makes sense that now people are earning livings within this sector.  The problem of the black market stems from more than one reason and it is a difficult cycle to break.  Low level workers steal from their workplaces only to create scarcity and then cause the price of goods to be higher on the black market.  Some people certainly justify their actions as a way to make more money without realizing the negative effects that their actions have on the rest of their society.  Althought the wages are relatively low, the personal economic situations are made even "tighter" due to the black market.  By legalizing some of the goods and services that formerly were part of the black market, the society will be in a better position to prevent the values of goods and services from spiraling upwards in relation to salaries.  Scarcity will lessen as people are more personally tied to the goods that they aren't expected to steal. 
   One man commented that it is easy for foreigners to defend the revolution when one doesn't have to endure life within it.  To an extent that's true.  What is also true is that many foreigners are defending priciples that they share with the revolution.  By living outside of Cuba, one is able to see positive aspects of the acheivements in comparison to what they have in their own countries.  A Cuban has a tight situation, yet never has the fear of losing their home or medical insurance. 
   The report cites a musician who complains that some imported goods must be paid for in CUC while he receives a salary in national pesos.  These can easily be exchanged, but the inconvenience of a dual currecy system is not the actual problem he faces.  The problem is that whether he has national pesos or CUC he still doesn't have enough to make his puchase of instruments.  A currency exchange may be inconvenient but the value of the purchase remains the same.  If he had enough money in national pesos then the only problem was one of having to go to a currency exchange place (Cadeca). 
   Some respondents said that they had concerns about the ability to have a family if they have a tough time supporting themselves.  I would venture to guess, although not scientifically(!) that this is a concern for people in any country.  Having children is more costly than not, but many of the expenses that people face such as doctor bills and such are not at all of concern in the free universal medical system in Cuba.  Certainly it is responsible to think of how able one is to support a family, but there are babies being born in Cuba and they are being fed.
   Complaints about the transportation system are common among  the respondents are high and suggestions that this impedes the ability to take advantage of the healthcare system.  Though this is true in certain situations, neighbors with cars are usually willing to help out in an emergency.  There are medical clinics all over the island availible to anyone and most times are within walking didtance.  Besides that, I have personally witnessed doctors going to the peoples's houses to give medical attention to patients, all of which are free.  That is probably why healthcare (along with free education and low crime rates) are frequently mentioned as a main source of happiness.  The report felt it necessary to include concerns about recent spikes in crime but apparently it didn't detract from the sentiment of happiness for the low crime rates.  Nor did the suggested uselessness of the educational degrees the were mentioned earlier detract from the happiness of having free education.  Almost half responded that their families were their greatest source of happiness and which Freedom House has decided that by being happier with family than free medical, education, and low crime rates there must be a shift in people's attitudes (suggestively towards worse) since the last survey.  Quite an assumption! As if people being happier with their families than social services is a symptom of a problem in Cuban society!

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