Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cuba "Experts" at the Hilton Miami Downtown

This is a response to the meeting of Cuba "experts" at the Hilton Miami Downtown.

Of course Cuba is facing a difficult economic situation. Twenty years ago, the collapse of its trading partners, a loss of about 90% of its trade, was devastating. Everyone on the planet is aware of this. Contrary to its biggest adversaries' predictions, it survived. Part of the survival mode included a tightening of society which supplied adversaries ammunition in their attempts to discredit the revolution. Despite the island's adversaries public confidence in Cuba's demise, their uncertainty lead them to push through the Torricelli Act and subsequently the Helms-Burton act in order to stack the deck against Cuba's survival. They failed.

Fast forward 20 years and the Cuban revolution continues. In the mean time, the ties with Latin America have strengthened as population after population has elected governments which are rejecting the idea of being the backyard of the United States. All over Latin America, people and leaders never miss an opportunity to praise Cuba for its steadfast determination not to return to its neo-colonial status. No longer do the nations of the world make up excuses to support the embargo that the US chooses to maintain against Cuba, so much so that the policy itself has become one of the main points of contention in the hemisphere which could end up being the end of regional organizations and alternative organizations have already been created without the participation of the United States. The isolation of Cuba is actually becoming the isolation of the United States. (To be clear, I'm not saying that countries are going to embargo the US, but that they are much less concerned with the hypocritical positions that it takes. The diplomatic influence is at an all time low and is likely to remain that way.)

The reason these "experts" must compare Cuba with China or Vietnam is that they have a need to analyze Cuba simplistically. They aren't involved in the process, they haven't much influence over it, and they have a dogmatic opposition to Cuba's political establishment. Many of the "revelations" of these "experts" have already been spoken about in Cuba and they are merely regurgitating them. They seem unable to imagine other possibilities for Cuba's future. Why must it be only this or that?

The need for Cuba to adjust itself to today's realities is a given. Why wouldn't Cuba maintain a high level of control over its major industries? Why would it need to micro manage the tiniest parts of its economy? Why wouldn't Cuba determine the rules for foreign investments and partnerships in the country? Cuba's transition from its former model to whatever it becomes doesn't have to be prescribed from outside. Should Cuba hasten its transition? Some may believe so. But I believe that the caution that Cuba is proceeding with is partially due to its knowledge as a witness to the terrible disaster that occurred in the former Soviet Republics thanks to a shock therapy.

Oscar Espinosa Chepe is correct when he says that the situation is "delicate and difficult". He cites the lack of materials as a problem. Isn't the extra-territorial nature of US laws a large factor in obtaining many materials? Of course it is, but that's the point of the laws, make it difficult for Cuba.

Joaquin Pujol says that many of the self-employed were not working in state jobs, were possibly students, or were already self-employed but illegally. Quite possible. But he fails to take in to account the people who are not self-employed but are employed now in the private sector. Who are they? If they had been unemployed before, they now aren't. If the had state jobs before, they are probably earning more now than before. And if they were students, well they have now joined the workforce. What's his point other than to downplay the positive aspects of the reforms?

As for Vegard Bye, he simply thinks in the China or Vietnam scenario showing his lack of depth for Cuba analysis.

If this article is meant to be about the economic model, it is strange how it ends up talking about the political one. The idea that solid economic situations are directly due to "liberal democracies" seems to be oblivious to the crisis in Europe and the United States, both considered meccas of liberal democracies, both suffering from near economic implosions within the capitalist system, and both suffering from discontent among workers that dwarfs the examples of discontent that we are supposed to imagine are on the verge of a "Cuban Spring" on the island.

This is in response to the following article:

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