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Posted April 09, 2010 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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Miami Herald | OUR OPINION: Political, economic challenges hard to surmount

Raúl Castro is feeling the heat.

He flew into an insane rage a few days ago, claiming Cuba is the target of unfair condemnation around the world prompted by the death of political dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo from a hunger strike. Recalling the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, he vowed that Cuba would sooner ``disappear’’ than submit to pressure from abroad and ``blackmail’’ from other hunger strikers who have taken up Zapata Tamayo’s cause.

These are not the words of a cool and assured leader but rather someone who sees the walls closing in. The crisis, as he admitted in the more-rational part of his speech to the Young Communist Union, is not only political but also economic. He said roughly one out of four workers in Cuba’s state-run economy is superfluous and that Cuba must ``update the economic model’’ or face disaster.

One million unemployed

The problem is that this tired and aging tiger cannot change its stripes. Finding a real job for one million idle workers in state-run enterprises is impossible for a country that can’t attract investment, doesn’t believe in free markets and doesn’t have the money to compensate for money-losing enterprises. ``To spend more than we take in puts the survival of the revolution at risk,’’ Castro warned.

It is likewise impossible for the regime to act sensibly to resolve the political crisis sparked by hunger strikes.

Dissident leaders offered Castro a lifeline of sorts Thursday by proposing that hunger striker Guillermo Fariñas would end his protest if the government would agree to hold a public referendum over the release of political prisoners.

Fat chance. Ending the hunger strike would defuse the immediate crisis, but totalitarian governments don’t dare hold referendums. Next thing you know, those ``uppity’’ dissidents would demand free elections, and there goes the revolution.

Maintain the pressure

While Cuba’s courageous dissidents face down the government, others can help by keeping the pressure on.

• Mr. Fariñas has asked the human-rights court of the Organization of American States to acknowledge the absence of human rights in Cuba, particularly his own mistreatment. This should be a no-brainer, given the years of documented abuses by international organizations like Americas Watch. How about it?

• Some lawmakers in Spain have suggested opening talks with Cuba with the objective of securing the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience held by the regime. Other European countries should do the same. If Raúl Castro wants better relations with the European Union, here’s his chance to make it happen.

If he refuses to budge on the issue of releasing those political prisoners who remain in jail even though they are ill—which is all Mr. Fariñas is asking—the European Union should hold fast to a tough stance on Cuba.

Easing the policy toward Cuba makes no sense when the regime’s hard-line leaders refuse to soften their own grip.

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  1. Follow up post #1 added on April 09, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    1. One million unemployed? That’s 10%. That’s high and we know how that feels but I’d say there are probably FIVE million underemployed in Cuba and the only thing Raul could do to fix that would be to get out of the way and let a free market develop.

    2. I DO NOT agree with the last sentence “Easing the policy toward Cuba makes no sense when the regime’s hard-line leaders refuse to soften their own grip.”

    Easing the policy against Cuba hasn’t “made sense” for fifty years according to the old Cuban exiles. How about my freedom as an American to travel where I wish?

    One million tourists from the US is bound to shake things up in Cuba and Raul is most afraid of that.



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  2. Follow up post #2 added on April 09, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    The unemployment and subemployment in Cuba is higher than that, there are no oficial numbers but in my opinion is around 20 - 25 %.


  3. Follow up post #3 added on April 09, 2010 by Gringo Cubano with 42 total posts

    The fastest way to improve the Cuban economy is to open up the island to USA tourism… unfortunately for Raul, many of those Americans would be Cuban-American and would bring not just money into Cuba but also their ideas and opinions which would be shared much more freely among la familia Cubana than between Gringo tourists and native Cubans.  Fortunately for Raul & Fidel, the old “Cuba Lobby” in the US continues to think that “loosening the grip” of the embargo will somehow empower the Castros to stay in power… the truth is that more openness - i.e. glastnost in old Soviet Union accelerated the crash of Communism. 

    ISOLATION is the friend of dictators & oppressors (look at N.Korea).


  4. Follow up post #4 added on April 09, 2010 by Gringo Cubano with 42 total posts

    Our own true unemployment # in the USA is closer to 18% if you count the people who are going back to school, took early retirement, or who had to take part-time jobs instead of a full-time position (Part-time workers are NOT counted as unemployed!).  If you count the # of “Under-employed” as those making less than they used to and/or in jobs well below their skill levels, the # would have to be in the 20-30% range, if not higher.

    Cuban “under-employment” is around 99% as the only people who really earn reasonable wages are the top government officals (although it’s debatable if they are really earning what they are worth as they add Negative value to the Cuban economy by their blundering decisions and state monopoly control.


  5. Follow up post #5 added on April 12, 2010 by gallofino with 20 total posts

    If I may, I submit that Cuba’s unemployment is impossible to quantify.  There are scores of Cubans working “off the books” all over the place.  This would vary from gray to black market activities to the robust service industry.  A Cuban looking for a mason, a carpenter or a plumber will fulfill his need in the gray market, not with the State Unidades.  The materials have to be accounted for and receipts shown for new or expanded construction.  The inspectors are knowledgeable in how to perform a take-off for materials such as concrete and fines are imposed or entire homes confiscated (in blatant theft circumstances) for lack of proof of legitimate purchases for the materials.

    One million unemployed out of 5-6 million working age Cubans is an astounding number.  Basically what is happening in Spain, Portugal, Greece, et al (of the “PIGS”).  I know people in those places that do not declare income, work under the table and some that complain that they have no social net as a result.

    In Cuba, when looking at the “illegal” immigrants, most from the impoverished Eastern Provinces, one must take account that the majority are there illegally, which means they have no rights to the libreta.  Meaning all of them, and there must be hundreds of thousands are somehow surviving without this essential stipend.  As a result, those back home have the benefit of the rations of the absent Cuban.  However, one must understand that these people are, despite being “unemployable” due to their legal status, still surviving and in some cases, thriving.  Many I know personally send or deliver money back home at regular intervals or when they experience a windfall.

    Cuba really needs to stop the rhetoric and acknowledge that their own laws have and do now bite them on the ass at every turn.  This is merely an example of the State attempting to explain and protest the untenable circumstances that they themselves have created for the Cuban people.  And the more they resist, the more they will bleed as the gray-black market is exists almost entirely at the cost of the state, as they “own” just about everything.


  6. Follow up post #6 added on April 12, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Fidel is not around anymore to tell everyone that everything will be alright.

    Raul is trying to fix a broken system but only freedom can fix Cuba.

    The best thing he can do is step aside and let the free market fix Cuba.

    Let the Cuban people work for themselves and you’ll see how great Cuba can be.



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