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Posted May 29, 2007 by publisher in Business In Cuba

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By Mike Williams

Palm Beach Post-Cox News Service

It’s nothing but a simple shed with a counter stuck in the front yard under a shade tree. The menu, a tiny chalkboard hung from a rusty nail on the wall, offers only two items: pizza and ice cream.

But the small food stand Esperanza Perez has owned and operated in Communist Cuba for the past 13 years has been life changing for her.

“Before this, my life was very difficult,” she said. “My husband died and I had to face life. I had my disabled mother and my daughter to support. This business is not making us rich, but we are surviving.”

Perez was part of a new wave of Cubans allowed to open private businesses in the 1990s, when Cuba’s economy was devastated by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of about $6 billion a year in subsidies.

The decision to allow privately owned enterprises was a dramatic departure from Cuba’s long commitment to socialism, a doctrine adopted by Fidel Castro after his 1959 revolution.

But as Cuba’s post-Soviet crisis eased in the late 1990s, Castro became uncomfortable with the threat posed by private profit in a state where riches are considered a sin.

Cuban officials in recent years have clamped down on the tiny private sector, raising fees, cutting back the number of licenses issued and increasing inspections.

The number of private entrepreneurs - called “cuenta propistas,” or “people working on their own account” - dropped from around 200,000 in 1996 to about 150,000 today, according to news reports.

The question on many minds is whether Cuba will continue to rein in private opportunity or open its economy further.

Although Castro remains firmly committed to socialism, the 80-year-old leader has been sidelined the past nine months by a serious illness. He officially turned over power to his 75-year-old brother, Raul, in July.

Raul, head of Cuba’s military, is said to be a pragmatist open to the idea of limited private enterprise. Cuban officials also are candid about the need to improve the living conditions of the Cuban people, most of whom earn only $12 to $15 a month.

The cuenta propistas will be a part of Cuba’s future, Economics Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez insisted insisted during a recent press briefing.

“There is not a policy to destroy private businesses,” he said. “Legally, people are allowed to do this. The state never thought of private business as a menace.”

That is good news to the business owners, many of whom say they enjoy the challenge of running their own enterprise.

“It’s a good business that enables me to maintain my house, to sometimes drink a beer and to maintain my cars,” said Miguel Gonzales-Carbajal, a Cuban physician who has run a “casa particular,” renting rooms to tourists, for seven years.

“With just my salary, it was hard to make ends meet,” he said.

He charges $25 for a small room and $35 for a larger room that are clean, air-conditioned and have private bathrooms. For this privilege, he pays the state the equivalent of about $325 a month.

“There is risk because if I have no customers, I still have to pay the license fee,” he said. “But if we have a month we believe will be slow, we don’t have to pay the fee but then we cannot rent the rooms.”

The concept of risk is new to many Cubans, but some of the business owners seem to thrive on it. “I really enjoy it,” said Lazaro Ordonez, 44, who with his mother Elisa, 62, has run Los Amigos, a tiny paladar or private restaurant, out of their home for 12 years. “You have to work more, but in the end, you have a compensation, a better life.”

Cuban law allows the businesses to hire only family members. The cost of the licenses varies. Perez, who charges the equivalent of about 30 cents for a small pizza and 13 cents for an ice cream cone, pays the equivalent of about $116 each month for her license and two family workers.

Entrepreneurs also pay 10 percent of their profits in yearly income tax.

Cubans are loath to speak of how much they earn, but a Cuban professional who researched the private sector with thoughts of opening a business estimated that a stand such as Perez’s might earn $200 a month in profit.

Also thriving are private markets, where farm cooperatives and individuals pay fees to sell goods and produce. The private markets often have higher-quality produce than state-run markets, although prices are also higher.

“The vendors pay 5 percent of sales in taxes and 5 percent to rent their stalls,” said Orlando Valdez, manager of a market in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood. “The prices are set by supply and demand, but if a vendor is charging very high prices, we try to convince them to lower them.”

Prices seem cheap by American standards, with a pound of tomatoes costing the equivalent of about 20 cents, while chicken and pork sold for about $1 a pound in Cuban pesos.

Other vendors sell at a street fair that takes place once a month in Vedado.

“I buy this stuff from the state and pay 10 percent of each sale in taxes,” said Roberto Garcia, 28, who sold mops, brooms and detergent at the fair. “I do OK because my prices are cheaper than in the state stores. I sell soap for 5 pesos (about 20 cents), while in the state stores, it’s 15. I’m not getting rich, but I’m surviving.”

Most of the Cuban entrepreneurs say the same thing. But most also say they would never go back to their state jobs because they would miss the pride of running their own affairs.

At the Ordonez family’s paladar, there is almost always a long line outside waiting for a chance to eat a typical Cuban meal of pork or chicken, rice and beans. With a beer or two, the meal costs the equivalent of about $7, or roughly half the average Cuban’s monthly wage.

But the place is wildly popular and filled mostly with Cubans, not tourists.

“This is good for us and good for the country,” said Lazaro Ordonez. “We support our economic system, but we hope they will allow more of these private businesses.”

Find Vedado on Amazon

  1. Follow up post #1 added on May 29, 2007 by Cuban American

    The funny thing is that riches are considered a sin, yet the great comandante himself has an estimated worth of around $900,000,000(US).  I guess that would make him the devil.

  2. Follow up post #2 added on May 29, 2007 by abh

    Cuban American:
    He may command a country and thus be in charge of a great deal of wealth, and I have many, many problems with the man, but I am growing very tired of the propaganda that people continue to dish out on this site.  I truly believe that if you study the history of Cuba you will come to the conclusion that he has not enriched himself to any extravagant end, especially in comparison with any other world leader.  The article that came out a bit ago in Forbes or whatever was proven to be quite misleading; they basically took into account all of Cuba’s assets as if he had them all literally in a bank account.  No analisis of life in this country would support arriving at such a conclusion.  Do you really believe that he has 9 billion dollars?  I recognize that you say he is “worth” that much; I assume that you are taking into account all that he controls, which, one could argue, is everything in that country.  I feel this is a flagrant attempt at miscategorizing and destroying any and all progress made in the last 48 years.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on May 29, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I think his wealth is somewhere in between $0 and $9billion. One cannot be the leader of a closed economic system for 48 years and not have a vast fortune.

    But, abh, let’s not kid ourselves. Fidel is VERY selfish and I would think that he has been skimming off the top for decades.

    Cuba consulting services

  4. Follow up post #4 added on May 29, 2007 by abh

    Is he selfish?  Has he been “skimming off the top for decades”?  I hate to be the apologist, and I also hate to rekindle the “have you been there?” debate, but, as I say, although I have many times uttered his name in a way that I would not broadcast to the CDR, and I am sure he has some money tucked away, I do not believe that his wealth could compare to any other world leader.  Maybe Evo Morales.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on May 29, 2007 by Pete Chavez

    “I feel this is a flagrant attempt at miscategorizing and destroying any and all progress made in the last 48 years”

    Oh yeah, everso progressive!!
    I just packed up 10 brazieres and 10 women’s underpants this mornig to send to my cousin (living in ever progressive Cuba) who is a doctor and cannot afford to buy underclothes for her and her daughter.  I also included benadryl topical cream and tablets (her daughter has major allergies).  Oh and this can’t be conventionally mailed because it will be looted in the Cuban postal system. 
    So abh, so you know why postal workers loot mail and Cuban doctors can’t afford to buy underwear?  I’ll tell you, becasue Fidel Castro has all their money in his hands, all nine hundred million dollars, if that’s in fact the latest estimates.
    Oh yeah, everso progressive!!

  6. Follow up post #6 added on May 29, 2007 by abh

    I knew this was gonna happen.  I refuse to be an apologist, so I will not write any more on this post unless someone gives me a legitamite reason.

    AGAIN: I know very well of what you speak, Mr. Chavez.  I empathize with the material needs of all Cubans; scarcity is a way of life over there and things need to be changed, the sooner the better.  I do not argue that the comandante has trouble finding underclothes. 

    HOWEVER: One must study the history of a country to understand what is happening, both in the foreground and background.  I submit that a thorough review of the time since ‘59 will not uncover any examples of this leader pilfering his country’s bank accounts.  I think that distinction in said country belongs to the leader he deposed and the many in the upper class who left, taking their immense monetary holdings with them.

    FURTHERMORE: Your tone indicates that you have lost respect and belief in the leader.  Clearly, you are not alone.  In fact, if you and I were talking face to face, you might be surprised how much our viewpoints intersect.  In the end I think many of us are working hard to aid our loved ones in their daily fight over there, and how could we not resent the one leader most of them had ever known, while conditions are so bad? 
    My fear is that people who read this blog will end up going along with the right-wing Cuban exile clic, which I believe is the opposite of the expressed mission of the website.  For this reason I am time to time baited into these mostly semantic exercises.  I don’t think they accomplish much, but I know one thing: I am committed passionately to the fight for freedom in this country, and some advances have been made in the last 48 years.  We must always remember this, especially in this time of transition, when it would be very harmful if we forgot the lessons history has taught us.  We must always look forward and take both the failures and the accomplishments into account while contructing the new reality.
    I think that charaterizing the Cuban leader as an extremely rich man (and yes I realize that I misread the figure as 9 billion when it was originally written as 900 million) shows a disregard for history and thus does not serve the discussion honorably and functions in breaking down what is a crucial dialogue at a crucial time. 

    EXAMPLE: Hillary Clinton just came out and said she does not support ending the embargo right now.  Her reason?  Clearly it’s Fidel.  I always thought that Bill was down with ending the embargo; his excuses for not moving faster always, in my opinion, stemmed from what I characterized as him seemingly taking personal offense by the Brothers to the Rescue fiasco.  But Hillary is still clearly in the Cold War mindset, which desperately failed, I think all would agree. 

    MY POINT: Every piece of disinformation serves to keep this failed policy in place.  Do you agree?  I put your statement in this category when you link your family’s material needs to Fidel “skimming off the top”.  There is tons of corruption in Cuba, and I feel the economic reality has turned everyone into a hustler who operates mostly in the informal economy.  I also think if the comandante lived like this for one day, we would see some immediate changes.  However, I fault his strict adherance to fierce patriotism and his own quasi-invented ideology for the daily reality more than I charge him personally for corruption.  Maybe some of his family, maybe some of his generals.  But the disinformation campaign trying to label him as an obscenely rich man: I just don’t buy it.  I think it’s the worlds’ capitalists (aka Forbes) making a pathetic swing at discrediting him as his sun sets.

  7. Follow up post #7 added on May 29, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts


    You make some good points but I have some comments…you said

    “I submit that a thorough review of the time since ‘59 will not uncover any examples of this leader pilfering his country’s bank accounts”

    Good luck finding Castro’s bank accounts. Good luck with that “thorough review”. I don’t know why you think anyone could get that information.

    You say…

    “My fear is that people who read this blog will end up going along with the right-wing Cuban exile clic, which I believe is the opposite of the expressed mission of the website.”

    I wouldn’t worry about people coming away with extreme right wing thoughts by reading this site.

    You say…

    “Every piece of disinformation serves to keep this failed policy in place.  Do you agree?”

    Yes. I agree.

    You say…

    “I think it’s the worlds’ capitalists (aka Forbes) making a pathetic swing at discrediting him as his sun sets.”

    This report of Castro’s wealth came out in May 2006 well before his announced surgery.

    Now, let’s get back to the struggle of the cuenta propistas.

    Anyone know someone in Cuba living this life?

    Cuba consulting services

  8. Follow up post #8 added on May 29, 2007 by abh

    Yes, I know people in Cuba living that life.

    And, just for the record: I am not saying that I could uncover his bank accounts.  What I am saying is that while he may be found guilty of many things, I don’t think nationalizing large properties (for example) counts as him personally making money.  I also recall that his families ranch was the first nationalized.

    And I do worry that the right-wing exile point of view does attract some followers on these posts.  One does not necessarily have to be a right-winger to read a seemingly factual account that Cuba’s leader has $900 million and start believing that the embargo is a good idea.

    I did not mean to say that the Forbes article came out after he fell ill.  I was just saying that they’re trying to demean his achievements as historians debate his legacy; one way or another his era is coming to an end.

  9. Follow up post #9 added on May 29, 2007 by Pete Chavez

    “I empathize with the material needs of all Cubans; scarcity is a way of life over there and things need”

    You don’t seem to know the difference from Levi Jeans or red lipstick to the basic necessities of life.  I would hardly qualify undergarments and over the counter medications as “material needs”.  Cuba is a part of the greater umbrella of Western Civilization and within that realm women wear brazieres and 13 year old girls begin to wear them.  When you look at a society at it’s very grass roots level and you see that the most common and effectively inexpensive cultural rites of passage (like a trainer bra for a teenage girl) is a dilemma to find and virtually unaffordable by the salaries of professional parents, then one can assess that as a hell of a marker for what progress a society has been able to make in it’s nearly half century of existence after revolution!  All you you to do to is go live in Cuba for 5 days with an “unconnected family” (meaning to Miami or the Communist Party) and your fantasy of progress will disapear in as much as 5 minutes.

  10. Follow up post #10 added on May 29, 2007 by abh

    Mr. Chavez,
    I really don’t have any desire to get into my personal experience, but I can assure you that I have spent many more than 5 days with an “unconnected family”.  I know a little—not all—about how difficult things are over there.  For this reason I try to make clear that I am not an apologist.  Instead, I am firmly committed to working towards a brighter future on the island.
    I also do not intend to get into a semantic argument regarding my use of the term “material needs”.  If this is an incorrect term, please feel free to substitue a word that would be more applicable.  I was not trying to downplay the seriousness of how tough it is to find affordable necessities; I know this first hand.
    What bothers me is that many Cuba critics wish to call the entire last 48 years a failure.  To do so in my opinion is a dangerous mistake.  We must take both the positive and the negative experiences from this revolution and learn from them.  Daily life in Cuba can be frustrating, agonizing, and depressing.  I have also had many fabulous moments there that I wouldn’t trade for anything.  I believe the country’s most valuable resource is it’s people, and their struggles are very close to my heart.  For this reason I want to see their lives protected.  Their lives have been protected in one way or another under the current system for 48 years, and I hope the next 48 will be even better. 
    I am living under no fantasies, unlike the groups who are so consumed by their hatred of the Cuban leader that they will invent any story or manipulate any set of data that serves their purposes.  Cuba is suffering, of this I am sure.  What I am not sure of is how we are helping end their suffering by claiming their leader is rich.  Clearly, his 80 years have not been motivated by an obsession with making himself obscenely wealthy.  Let’s focus on the real day to day problems (such as your example of lack of underwear) and ignore the propaganda.

  11. Follow up post #11 added on May 29, 2007 by Pete Chavez

    Castro is not obscenely wealthy because he wants to drive a Mazerati or hangout with Paris Hilton.  He is obscenely wealthy because that is what third world dictators happen to do.  They have paranoid natures (and right fully so, when you consider that they are aware of all the people they’ve wronged) and these stashes that they amass are for that rainy day (that is always in the back of their heads) where they have to beg some country to take them and their families in .  How else do you think corrupt leaders recieve asylum in other nations, because they are popular?  No, they pay off whole governments and still have enough left over to be able to live protected and insulated from the struggles of every day life.  And if these reasons aren’t reason enough, have you ever heard of the term megalomania?  Look it up, I believe you’ll find Fidels picture there.  Not only are you an absoloute apologist for one of the most horrendous leaders and governments in 20th and 21st Century era of the Western world, your also incredibly naive to think that therein that regime lies anything noble .

  12. Follow up post #12 added on May 29, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    abh and Pete,

    I think we’ll just have to say that you are both right and both wrong. There are no absolutes in this argument and we can’t prove any of Fidel’s finances.

    What’s the joke? Fidel’s successes are healthcare, education and sports but his failures are breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    There is plenty of good and bad in Cuba. Depends how you look at it.

    Cuba consulting services

  13. Follow up post #13 added on May 30, 2007 by MiamiCuban


    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts and I certainly hope you stick around to offer more of your views with respect to Cuba.  I sincerely believe they are educational, intelligent, unbiased, and replete with hope, and especially insightful for those who are so consumed by hatred for Castro that they are unable to see the good things the revolution has produced.  True, there have been failures, but then what government in history hasn’t had them?  Our own democracy in the U.S. is still a work-in-progress and we’re the richest nation on earth!  I think Cuba is learning from the past, and if left alone to chart its own course it will undoubtedly move ahead into what perhaps could become the most efficient socialist-democratic government known yet.  That is why I think it is vital that more people such as yourself speak up with such honesty and integrity.  Constant discussion over the past mistakes is a lost cause, so it’s refreshing to come across those who look ahead with optimism.

  14. Follow up post #14 added on May 30, 2007 by Pete Chavez

    Dear abh,
    I promise you the posting above is more about me than about you (gosh, so infanitile.)

    I am not interested in right or wrong.  I am interested in REALITY!  Listening to all this leftist (in the most EXTREME) denial and sugar coating is tantamount to listening to rightwingers arguing that the war in Iraq is going well!  If people in a country that they love, are invading foreign embassies with the express desire to just be let out thus causing an exodus of one hundred thousand people then something is really wrong.  If women and small children are getting on make shift rafts (let’s not even say rafts, innertubes) and throwing themselves into the high seas just to be able to get out then there is something really wrong with that society.  I would be more than happy to recomend books for reading (especially about the age of enlightenment’s philosiphers that really get into what a just and civilized society should look and sound like) for some of the posters on this site that find it so easy to excuse and erase the process undertaken in the past 70 years to destroy what was once a fabulous and quite unique culture.

  15. Follow up post #15 added on May 30, 2007 by abh

    Mr. Chavez:
    Cuba is in trouble economically and has been in dire straights since the fall of the Soviet Union.  Many people are miserable and can’t afford basic goods.  I’m trying to demonstrate here that I agree we must admit the reality. 
    What I am also trying to demonstrate is that we need to keep our eyes on the prize, which is a brighter future in this island nation.  After all, even if we personally don’t want to live there, we’ve got loved ones who will not be leaving anytime soon.  For this reason, I come to this discussion with the assumption that we’ve all got an interest in improving conditions, rather than just repeating the same old complaints until we’re blue in the face.  I remember constantly being frustrated by hearing the same old mantras repeated by the party-liniers in Cuba; I felt they were apologists who were refusing to admit reality.  I often feel the same about the anti-Cuban groups here.  It’s why I usually don’t get involved in these posts because I question if we’re really accomplishing anything.  But I think it’s an important topic in this case: What will the future be for Cuba?  Will it be continued isolation from the U.S.?  I don’t know many people who hope that the current dynamics continue for much longer.  We need change, and the U.S. needs to act.  One only needs to read 1 article in the Miami Herald to realize that the current administration in the U.S. has done much to stifle any positive movement towards normalizing relations, and this directly affects me and my loved ones.  I’m not happy with the status quo, and I don’t know many Cubans who are.  I’m trying to get everybody on the same train here, and there’s room if you want to hop on.

  16. Follow up post #16 added on May 30, 2007 by Cuban American

    This issue of Fidels wealth I brought up for one reason, the fact that the writer of the article mentioned that in Cuba riches are viewed as sinful…. so then why is the leader so rich?  Wouldn’t you consider that to be a huge hypocracy.  That is the point I am trying to get at, Castro has had a 48 year term of lies and hypocracy.  I understand that politicians in general including that of the US, have there fair share of lies and hypocracy.  However, this man took a vulnerable nation who was eager to dump there dictator in hopes for democracy…. he then promised democracy… and did the exact opposite.  Taking away the basic human rights of ownership, the right to speak and think freely.  If you consider this to be progress over his term, you need to re-read the definition of progress.

    Progress: developmental activity in science, technology, etc., esp. with reference to the commercial opportunities created thereby or to the promotion of the material well-being of the public through the goods, techniques, or facilities created.

    If you think that sounds like Cuba, you are sadly mistaken.  If you are going to argue that healthcare, and education are free just stop.  How free is education in Cuba?  Sure it is of no cost to the Cuban citizen, but does that necessarily make it free?  What about the right to educate oneself without bound and to be educated without restriction from resources such as literature, media, and internet?  There are some great publishings to read on how strict the state mandated education is.  The lack of basic freedoms of students to gather and exchange ideas are considered anti-revolutionary in Cuba and can be punished with jail time.  So yes the education is free financially, but the education is definately not free.  As for healthcare you have doctors that make $15 a month and must drive a cab or sell things in illegal markets just to put food on the table.  The goverment provides you with enough rations to put about 10 days worth of food on the table every month, after that your on your own to purchase what you need.  The only stores who carry common necessities are those that accept the dollar (which most of the time Cubans can’t even go to whether they have dollars or not), so you are forced to give 25% or even 50% of your monthly salary to buy simple necessities like toilet paper.  You either buy toilet paper and don’t eat or buy food but have no toilet paper.  Then these doctors get sent off to other countries to treat ill, during which they are not allowed any communication or visits with there family just to make sure they return.  There is nothing “Free” about Cuba.

  17. Follow up post #17 added on May 30, 2007 by Cuban American


    I agree with what you are saying in the sense that we all want a bright future for the nation.  However how we view that future might be where we differ.  I want a free and sovereign Cuba who democratically elects there leaders with a system of checks and balances to make sure that another dictator doesn’t surface.  I want to be able to travel freely to Cuba, however, I want Cubans to be able to travel freely to the US and other nations.  I don’t think any of this can happen under Fidel or Raul, or any other socialist leader.

  18. Follow up post #18 added on May 30, 2007 by MiamiCuban

    Cuban American,
    Allow me to interject here….I don’t know where you got the notion that Cuban doctors sent abroad are not allowed to communicate with their family.  This is a complete lie and one which, unfortunately, keeps being told over and over again and creates a false picture of Cuban society.  I know because I have relatives in Cuba who are doctors.  Not only do they call home, but they communicate via email and return to Cuba when a family member falls ill or gets married, etc.  Many of them actually volunteer on these missions (In all fairness, I’m only speaking for the ones I know, not all of the doctors).

    The point here, as abh puts it, is to look forward, not backward, with respect to solving Cuba’s problems.  Lies and fabrications only hurt Cuba and its people, and only slow down whatever progress could be made.

  19. Follow up post #19 added on May 30, 2007 by Cuban American

    Miami Cuban,

    You answered your own question.  You said “(In all fairness, I’m only speaking for the ones I know, not all of the doctors).” As you are speaking for the ones you know so am I.  So before you jump to the gun and accuse me of fabricating lies, you better have all your ends covered.  Just as I am sure some doctors don’t have to go throught that, personal friends and family of mine who experience it have shown me diferently.

    The issue is beyond healthcare, I just brought that up, because all the Castro apologist always cry out “free” healthcare and “free” (financially speaking) education.

  20. Follow up post #20 added on May 30, 2007 by Cuban American

    Oh and to edit my earlier post I looked up the forbes articles that gave the estimated Net Worths of some world leaders and Castro’s was $100 million not $900 million.  You can see the website here: http://www.forbes.com/2002/03/04/royalsphotoshow.html

  21. Follow up post #21 added on May 30, 2007 by Cuban American

    I am sorry that was an old article Forbes updated that amount to $900 million last year :

    and there are other reports of his worth being even more:

    (Granted this was from 1997) so the values could be incorrect
    however it gives you a good idea of all the avenues of which he makes money

  22. Follow up post #22 added on May 30, 2007 by Pete Chavez

    It’s a problem of extremism.  Communist and their groupies,  like fascist right wingers and religious fanatics, can’t stand TRUTH.  That’s what makes them so scary.  And when faced with truth then that is somehow magically counter productive to success or always someone elses fault or better yet conspiratorial lies (ie. abh and MiamiCubans posts up above).  Thank goodness extremism is mostly always a minority and a waste of anyone’s breath.

  23. Follow up post #23 added on May 31, 2007 by MiamiCuban

    Interesting articles, but let’s face it, the media has been spending the last 48 years trying to discredit the revolution every way it can.  Bottom line:  the fact that Castro has “trustee-like” control over the state-owned companies doesn’t mean they are his personally.  Furthermore, when challenged, Forbes was unable to prove anything.  You can go on and believe everything you read in magazines and newspapers, but if you don’t use discernment you’ll always be fooled.  I still recall reading in the papers about the “proof” there were WMD’s in Iraq and look where we are now.  I guess some people will always believe everything that goes in print even if it goes against logic.

  24. Follow up post #24 added on May 31, 2007 by Cuban from Havana

    I think guys, the point of the discussion is blured.

    You cannot compare a communist dictator (Stalin, Castro, Honecker, Mao, etc..) with a “standard”  one (Pinochet, Salazar, Stroessner, Mobutu, Marcos, Saddam, etc), less with a monarch or, God forbids, a private entrepreneur. And that is the mistake in Forbes and the source of all confusion.

    When they count the dollars in a bank account of Suharto, the Queen and Gates this comparison reveals indeed similarity.. this is money on their private bank accounts and is therefore transferable, exchangeable and, very important, can be   inherited by law.

    “Standard” dictators, monarchs and entrepreneurs have to pay for everything they use, with their private money or state budgets. And when they can they are bankrupt. They cannot take money from any other part of the society other than by force. As such they are part of an economic equation of need-money-satisfaction. No money no satisfaction.

    Communist dictators in reverse are way outside this equation. They are absolute trustees of the good of the common. And this marvelous concept nullifies any economic or wealth based reasoning. Within the wealth of the whole nation Castro doesn’t need to negotiate. He takes whatever he thinks he may need or not and posses unlimited control and “use” rights over the total BNP.

    What do you need private ownership for ???? What is the point of owning if you have a life time lease on all of Cuba at zero levels ?

    Well, there is a point.. a solid one. And it is in the inheritance question….He cannot pass this money or usage right or perennial lease to his 7 children, neither they have any entitlements on them.

    Castro, Honecker, Mao and other communist ganglords do not belong into Forbes category.

  25. Follow up post #25 added on May 31, 2007 by Pete Chavez

    Ganglords, yep!

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