Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Vacation In Cuba

Sonia-Belle recently packed her bags, put on some clothes, and spent some time in the former island paradise known as Cuba. The account of her trip is a very worthwhile read.

Although the Cuban economy is a basket case, the people manage to make it quite well, all thing considered. According to Sonia, the people are socialist two weeks out of the month, and capitalist the other half. The official currency, the standard Cuban Peso, is almost worthless. Two hundred fifty of them is worth roughly ten dollars. What actually keeps the economy afloat is the tourism industry, which is the most popular and sought after career goal there. It's easy to see why. Workers get paid by the government in pesos, but what makes the tourism industry so attractive is the tips, paid in the international Peso known as the CUC. One of them is roughly the equivalent of one dollar. So if a worker makes 250 Cuban pesos, plus 250 CUC's in tips, he or she is making roughly the equivalent of 260 dollars a month, which provides a fairly good standard of living, for Cuba.

This by the way puts paid to the lie that the American embargo of trade with Cuba is harming the economy. Tourists come to Cuba from all over the world (Sonia is not from the US), and any country in the world that wishes to trade with Cuba can do so. The US embargo does not affect that, nor does it attempt to do so. No, the problem with Cuba is simple-its called socialist malfeasance and incompetence, the usual story anywhere and anytime socialism is implemented.

Sonia in her post also rips apart the myth of free Cuban health care and education. According to her, only a consultation with a physician is free (provided you can find one that hasn't left for greener pastures-otherwise known as Miami). Anything past that consultation is dependent on your ability to bribe a doctor for extended services.

As for politics and the future, the outlook might not be as grim as some might envision, but its going to be a hard slog. The systemic poisoning of the overall culture and climate in Cuba is going to take a long time to eradicate. Following is Sonia's take on the outlook of a significant portion of the Cuban people-

If you ask a Cuban about socialism, he will give you the same look a gangsta rapper would give you when asked about 17th century Gregorian chants. But it doesn`t mean that most Cubans are necessarily anti-Castro. Mention United States of America, and the attitudes are often very hostile. Mention the Cuban community in Miami and the hostility reaches a boiling point. The education system is free for a reason. Every Cuban is taught intense hatred towards Americans in general and Cuban-Americans in particular. Imagine what Germans were taught about Jews under Adolf Hitler, multiply it by a hundred and you still won`t get nowhere near what Cuban are taught about “imperialismo yankee”.

That of course is surface reaction which may not have as much meaning as Sonia ascribes to it. Like all communist systems that oppress their people, most Cubans are going to be wary of expressing their true sentiments to an outsider, who for all they know might be spending the rest of her evening in the arms of a well-connected government apparatchik with access to the finest luxuries the island has to offer, albeit to a very limited few.

But there can be no doubt that, as Castro approaches his long-overdue, hopefully agonizing demise, and as Raoul himself looks starkly toward the long-feared end of days, the road ahead will be difficult. Civil war could loom between those who want freedom and those who will be intent on carrying on with the system as is.

And what will the United State's position be during this coming time of travail? Will we have a policy of aid to these our neighbors so close to our coast? Will we do what is necessary to put down any attempts to bolster the old repressive regime? We will help the Cuban people rebuild their shattered economy and lives with the understanding that to do so is in our own national security interests? Or will we accept a secondary role while others of the "international community", many of whom do not have the best interests of the US in mind, step in and initiate a trade regime aimed at raping the Cubans further of their natural resources and talents under the facade of the implementation of parliamentary democracy while inculcating dependency through the IMF, and in the meantime establishing a beachhead with the potential of undermining US economic and national security?

It is high time we awoke from our slumber and recognized the likely potential that awaits a troubled future in regards to this island nation of Cuba. You can rest assured that if we do not, there are others who are ready, willing, and planning as I write these words to step into any vacuum we leave untended.