February 20, 2008


Tyrant of Cuba will suffer in history (Luis Garcia, February 21, 2008, The Australian)

IT was never meant to end this way. Those of us who have waited years (no, make that decades) for Fidel Castro to finally step down as Cuba's undisputed Lider Maximo always thought the Castro era would end with a bang. After all, the old dictator has always said that his "revolutionary duty" was to stay at the helm until death. No golfing retirement for him. Instead, the Castro era appears to have ended, formally at least, not with a bang but a whimper. [...]

The most pressing problem, however, is the economy. This has always been one of the most visible failure of the Castro era. From the beginning, Fidel Castro set about transforming one of the strongest economies in the western hemisphere into a tropical version of an eastern European economic basket case. As a result, the Cuban economy remains a mess, despite billions of dollars worth of aid from Moscow between 1960 and 1990, and more recently from Venezuela and China.

Even by the regime's own reckoning, public transport is in permanent crisis, housing is abysmal (residential buildings in Havana crumble every second week), wages are low (the equivalent of $16.40 a month) and prices, which are set by the state, are outrageously high for most goods.

Most galling of all for ordinary Cubans is the two-currency system, originally invented by Castro to fleece tourists. It means that while Cubans get paid by the state in ordinary pesos, goods deemed to be luxuries by the regime - such as soap, toothpaste, toilet paper and clothing - must be purchased in state-controlled shops that accept only foreign currency or the second national currency, the convertible peso, which is worth about 25 ordinary pesos.

While we did the people of Cuba a terrible moral injustice by not regime-changing them and blockading them instead, by any realpolitik standard the economic war was a tremendous success. Cuba's GDP per capita is $4,500. Puerto Rico's is $19,600. Thus was a regime that once imagined it could punch at our weight rendered a nullity in international affairs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 20, 2008 7:46 PM

Heh, they may have bad teeth and smelly but they have universal "literacy" and "health care". What more can you ask?

Posted by: ic at February 20, 2008 8:34 PM

Economic war? Can't Cuba produce whatever it wants and trade same with.... about 191 of the 192 nations in the world? (Please. US laws like Helms-Burton designed to interfere with Cuba's trade with third parties have been utterly toothless and not worth the paper they were printed on.)

Methinks there might be reasons for the low per capita income in Cuba that have nothing whatsoever to do with any "economic war".

But I just can't imagine what they might be.

Posted by: Andrew X at February 21, 2008 10:40 AM