Cuba: A Normal Country

January 7, 2014 | Print Print |

Armando Chaguaceda

Street of Centro Habana. Foto: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — From time to time, a friend, acquaintance or taxi driver in Mexico will tell me that they want to travel to Cuba and get to know the country. The myths surrounding the revolution, the stories about sizzling sex with local women, tourism or health offers or quite simply the wish to tour Old Havana and go for a dip in Varadero prompt them to ask me what time of the year is best for visiting my native country. For a while now, my laconic answer has been: “go before Cuba becomes a normal country.”

The problem is that normality – living under a capitalist economy, without the generous social policies which characterized Cuban socialism for several decades – is slowly encroaching upon people’s daily lives like a bitter certainty.

I am not referring to the lives of those who pay for expensive meals at lavish Christmas dinners or buy the latest in fashion and gadgets, but to the majority of the population, overwhelmed by years of under-consumption, depressed by indecent salaries and, to make matters even worse, unfit – both in terms of qualifications and material possessions – for any successful inclusion in the market reform process currently underway in the country.

This reform process, as Daron Acemoglu and J.A. Robinson teach us in their recent book Why Countries Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, reveal how, under an authoritarian government, political and economic institutions mutually reinforce their extractive character, in a vicious circle that wards off any possibility of inclusive, just and democratic change.

This is the financial logic behind the latest liberalizing – and formally positive – measure authorizing the sale of cars in Cuba. I say formally positive because any measure which serves to broaden the comfort of sectors of the population while eroding the power of the bureaucracy to assign consumer goods – directly and at its own discretion – has, in my opinion, a positive human impact and the potential to broaden plurality in the country.

The ways in which the measure is being implemented, however, reveal a deeper extractivist logic, which is evident even in the figures announced by the government.

Havana car delearship. Photo: cubadebate.cu

According to preliminary estimates (made on the basis of the announced prices), the cars currently offered in Cuba are being sold, cash down and without credit options, at 800 % their market price in the United States and Mexico – countries where salaries are much higher and road and service infrastructures infinitely superior.

Without a doubt, the island’s gerontocracy is applying a hybrid commercial policy, reminiscent of the Bantustans and Arab emirates: it pays its workers and consumers as though they lived in a Bantustan and charges them for goods and services as though they lived in an emirate.

Though profit rates – to invoke old Marx – are currently astronomical with these price policies, at one point the government, forced to move its unsold stock and after having swallowed up a mountain of money, may announce financing plans (with presumably onerous rates) and a gradual lowering of vehicle prices (perhaps down to 400 % of market price)

Some domesticated spirits will likely applaud such measures, calling them the result of “popular participation and demands” within a reform process that is advancing “slowly but surely.” In the meantime, the sale and purchase of old Russian Ladas and vintage American cars will continue to be a kind of rebellious and subversive practice undermining State monopolies, the option accessible to those who, with their meager earnings, seek to move about through their own means.

It remains to be seen whether the revenues amassed through such a feral price policy will lead to the announced improvement in public transportation, through the special fund to be created for this purpose. As there is no independent control mechanism, the State can decide to use these revenues as it sees fit – for political functions, homes for the military or police operations.

We can only hope this money will go to strengthening the material infrastructure, improving salaries and consolidating urban transportation cooperatives, where workers can manage their own affairs and see an increase in their earnings, to be able to offer services that meet the demands of citizens.

Looking out at the street. Photo: Juan Suarez

Changes such as authorizing the sale of vehicles, though beneficial for a given sector of Cuba’s population, not only reproduce the prevailing conditions of poverty and inequality but also benefit concrete actors and classes (the State bureaucracy, technocrats of emerging economic sectors and the petite bourgeoisie), interested in maintaining their positions of power or in securing greater participation in the reform process, so as to have greater access to the consumer market (in exchange for political support or loyalty).

When this does not go hand in hand with a redefinition of social spending – capable of combatting the noxious effects of two and a half decades of a nationwide crisis – or with a broadening of political rights, such market spaces do not lead to the empowerment of people. At the most, they lead to a recycling of the alliance between the dominant classes that have traditionally decided the fate of  the country.

This is why, when I urge my friends to hurry and visit Cuba before it becomes yet another normal country, I feel I am projecting onto the present my good (and perhaps idealized) memories of a Cuba that is no longer, a Cuba whose architects – our parents, grandparents and relatives – continue to live and survive on the island after having given their all for the construction of a better future.

The truth of the matter is that the social achievements that once defined the Cuban revolution and benefited the working majority are retreating to oblivion, and that we are witnessing the transition towards a form of State capitalism grounded in an extractive, monopolistic and rapacious growth model, where it is virtually impossible to lay the groundwork for an authentic, legally constituted State and inclusive forms of development.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    I hear the same admonition expressed by many others who have lived in Cuba or even visited extensively. The sentiment shared by most is that a visit to Cuba should take place sooner rather than later before Cuba “changes”. What does that really mean? Does it imply that somehow when Cuba becomes a democratic country with an independent media and no dictatorship, it will be less inviting? Will the freedom to speak your mind on any street corner ruin the salsa rhythms? Will the fact that Cubans will earn a living wage make Cubans less friendly? I suspect that change in Cuba will be positive. How can it be anything else? When that happens, everything that is good about Cuba can only get better.

  • Mark Williams

    I really wish Moses Patterson was right. I want Cubans to have a little more money and better housing and computers… the trappings of modern life throughout most of the rest of the world. But I fear that opening the door to capitalism will lead to a worsening of social conditions for the many to the benefit of the few. Will Cuba maintain its health system (which gives it better life expectancy than the USA)? Will Cuba keep up its programme of education (which gives it a higher literacy rate than the USA)?
    The capitalist world is living its own lie at the moment, trillions in debt and pretending everything is OK. If China’s line of credit closes, so does the whole sorry system. Be careful what you wish for….

    • Griffin

      Statistics on the Cuban healthcare and literacy have been provided only by the Cuban government and are unverified by any independent study. In short, they cannot be believed.

      If you look closely at the capitalist countries most suffering under economic troubles today, these are mostly the countries which embraced far too much socialism. The countries which maintained higher degrees of economic freedom are doing fine.

      • Walter Teague

        I usually don’t waste time replying to unsourced nonsense, but Mr. Griffin, after making such a categorical assertion, as if to argue that pure capitalist countries are better off than ones with social benefits, you must give examples or just admit you made up a nonsensical argument. Turns out poverty is worse in the less socially protective societies. Compare Denmark and the US or any others. Where there is a high minimum wage and high taxes, people don’t suffer as much. In the countries without those social protections, the poor not only suffer, while the rich prosper, but the poor don’t even count. Here in the US wages are going down and the unemployed are blamed for being lazy. We have the most expensive health care which doesn’t cover all and provides unequal care. So lets here your evidence Mr. Griffin.

        • Griffin

          I did not say “pure capitalist” countries. I wrote, “mostly the countries which embraced far too much socialism” have suffered the most.

          You should note the qualifiers “mostly” “most” and “higher”.

          When comparing Denmark to the US, one must keep in mind the much smaller size of Denmark as a member state in the larger EU, and Denmark’s much higher demographic homogeneity. The Danish parliamentary system is also much more conducive to compromise than is the dysfunctional US system. Those factors all have a big effect on the economy.

          Incidentally, if you are pointing to Denmark as a democratic socialist country which faired better during the financial crisis of 2008 and it’s aftermath, the Danish government at the time was lead by the conservative Venstre Party. In 2011, a left-of-centre coalition was elected lead by Helle Thorning-Schmidt, she of the Obama selfie moment in South Africa. Rather than ideology, I would say the Danish government has better managed their economy because of the strong tradition of coalition and compromise and the relatively small size of their economy. It’s easier to turn about a rowboat than it is a supertanker. Unlike France whihc has attempted to deal with the recession by raising tax rates which resulted in capital flight and a deeper recession, the Danish government has avoided that trap:

          “During the first year in office her government has rolled back anti-immigration legislation enacted by the previous government,[25] and passed a tax-reform with support from the liberal-conservative opposition.[26] The tax reform raised the top tax threshold, effectively lowering tax rates for high income earners.[27] The aim of the tax reform has been to increase labour output to fend off a projected shortage within the next decades. The stated goal is to entice Danes to work more in order to compensate for the decreasing workforce, by lowering tax on wages and gradually lowering welfare payments to those outside of the labour market to increase the economic benefit of working relative to receiving welfare.”

          Did you see that? The Danish socialists have actually lowered the the top tax rates as a spur to economic growth! Now, if only Obama would take a tip from his photo-buddy.

      • John Goodrich

        You cannot simultaneously be capitalist, which is totalitarian and socialist which is democratic .
        By socialism you of course are erroneously referring to the amelioration of the social ills caused by capitalism by progressive capitalist governments such as in Scandinavia and other countries not in thrall to feral capitalism as is the USA.
        Unless the workers in these countries control their workplaces, the country and its economic system cannot be said to be socialist.
        If you check with any independent body such as the World Health Organization you’d see that people in countries where they have high taxes on businesses and the wealthy to take care of the multitudes of poor that are the natural outfall of capitalist economy, have a much higher standard of living than do the poor in the U.S.
        You’re blowing smoke and haven’t done your homework
        Shoot your radio.

        • Griffin

          Taxes are more complicated issue than simply an choice between higher or lower rates. Obviously, governments need to used taxes to generate revenue. But it is perfectly clear that overly high tax rates depress the economy, shrink the tax base and ultimately reduce tax revenue.

          As it happens, the US currently has the highest corporate tax rate in the G8, which is why large corporations are shipping jobs overseas. Canada has been steadily lowering our corporate tax rates, which has improved our productivity, maintained domestic job creation (we have a much lower unemployment rate that the US). This has happened while tax revenue has increased, because the tax base has grown.

          Oh, and we also have a universal single-payer healthcare system which works a damn sight better than the disaster called Obamacare.

          • John Goodrich

            Universal single-payer healthcare is socialism or communism as defined by the moron right in the U.S.
            It’s nice to see you exhibit eminent sense on this one issue.
            OOPS! I just read what you wrote about the high U.S corporate tax rate driving jobs overseas …tsk tsk tsk .
            The EFFECTIVE corporate tax rate : the rate at which those taxes are actually paid is the lowest in decades at 14% while the official rate is 35% and NO corporation pays that.
            Second: Even were U.S. manufacturers to pay NO taxes , they could not compete with Chinese workers who are paid far, far less than what even minimum wage workers MUST be paid in the U.S. .
            67% of all new jobs created in the U.S ARE minimum wage jobs .
            The only logical next step would be a return to slavery except in those days they had to provide the slaves with food and shelter to keep them healthy enough to work which the wealthy of today are unwilling to do.

          • Griffin

            I dispute your statistics. If 4.7% of all wage earners are paid the minimum wage, it seems highly unlikely that 67% of all new jobs are minimum wage.

            “In 2012, there were 3.6 million hourly paid workers in the United States with wages at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. These workers made up 4.7 percent of the 75.3 million workers age 16 and over who were paid at hourly rates. In 2012, 6 percent of women who were paid hourly rates had wages at or below the prevailing federal minimum, compared with about 3 percent of men.”

            http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2013/ted_20130325.htm

            You are correct about the difference between the base corporate tax rate and the effective corporate tax rate. That’s the root of the problem. Big corporations like Apple can afford to outsource their manufacturing to China and avoid paying taxes on that activity. They can also afford large departments full of tax lawyers and accountants who’s job it is to find ways to avoid paying taxes. THis activity increase the corporation’s profits, but does little to increase overall wealth creation in the USA.

            Meanwhile, small businesses like, such as a light manufacturer, restaurants or a construction trade, cannot outsource their labour overseas. They cannot afford tax lawyers and accounting departments to lower their effective tax rates. That’s why the majority of corporate taxes are paid by small business while the big corporations pay very little. This imbalance is a product of the high corporate tax rates.

            Canada has been lowering the corporate tax rates, which has reduced the number of jobs shipped overseas while increasing the average salaries of Canadian workers and increasing tax revenues for the government.

      • Mark Williams

        US debt is at a higher ratio than at any time since the Great Depression and higher than just after WWII. And as for literacy rates being provided by the Cuban government, the US figure is provided by the CIA. I guess that represents statistical vigour, does it?

        • Moses Patterson

          The CIA website does not do their own sourcing. Cuban data is self-reported. Read the fine print. Cuba’s data must be ‘taken with a grain of salt’.

          • John Goodrich

            Right!
            Cuban sources lie and the CIA tells the truth as regards a nation which the United States has been trying to crush for 54 years .
            I take the “facts” in your posts with a truckload of salt.

          • Griffin

            You need to make up your mind whether you dismiss the statistics on the CIA website or whether you cite them as valid data. You keep going back and forth on that.

    • Fez Fernandez

      Leave it to the cubans to decide.

  • John Goodrich

    An excellent analysis of the Cuban situation.
    The totalitarian leadership is making moves it feels will placate the Cuban people who have lived under onerous conditions due largely to the U.S war n the people of Cuba and in lesser part to the Leninist / elitist operation of the economy and government .
    Once the U.S war is ended , there needs to be a return to the highly democratic elements of Poder Popular which also include a democratic economy and not a return to totalitarian capitalism .
    An independent media would be a part of this since all elements of the economy are governed by Poder Popular which, in true socialist fashion, is operated from the bottom-up ( municipal level)
    The solutions to Cuba’s problems are to be found in democracy, rule of the people or in practical terms, majority rule .
    A bottom-up operation of both the government and economy based on decisions made by the majority and not by the present Leninist-minded cadre elitist minority is what is needed.
    Those calling for a return to feral capitalism are calling for a continuation of a totalitarian system but with a less equitable distribution of life’s necessities.
    Yes , I mean you Moses.

    • Griffin

      John wrote, “there needs to be a return to the highly democratic elements of Poder Popular which also include a democratic economy…”

      A “return”? There has never been such a system in Cuba to return to.

      • John Goodrich

        Poder Popular operated as intended in parts of Cuba for a very short time during the hard times following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of its aid.
        The entire country needs to follow Poder Popular’s precepts once the U.S stops its debilitating economic war and those thoroughly democratic precepts will solve most of Cuba’s economic problems .
        That is, unless you feel that a totalitarian system would be preferable .
        And you do, don’t you ? if you want a return to capitalism as you do.
        Capitalism, remember, is the antithesis of democracy.
        Personally, I am an anarchist and oppose the operation of the Cuban government for that reason and for the same reason oppose capitalism which at its core is totalitarian.
        Which side are YOU on.

        • Moses Patterson

          The functioning of Cuba’s National Assembly, or the lack thereof, has NOTHING to do with the US embargo. Please stop using this forum to promote your obscure political views. Let’s assume that only you and your ilk know the TRUE meaning of socialism/communism. Do you feel better? Whatever the type of system the Castros have forced upon the Cuban people, it is clear that it is not working, and never will. Fidel Castro said so himself. You can also assume that EVERYONE wants the US embargo to end. The only difference is under what conditions. I want the Castros to leave town, I want political prisoners released. I want open and independent elections and I was a free press. (Notice that I didn’t say I require capitalism). I want Cubans to decide that for themselves. This is exactly what the US did in Iraq (OK, bad example!) The point is we toppled a tyrant and then we let Iraq write their own rules. We are trying to do the same thing in Cuba without using war to get it done. Your comments reflect a hypocritical hatred of the US more than a genuine love for Cuba. And finally, enough with the high school quiz questions!

          • John Goodrich

            Due to your ignorance or willful ignorance of things like the definition of socialism, U.S foreign policy history, it is necessary for me to debate you at that high-school level that deals only with the basics .
            What you deem my “obscure political views” are what 99% of academia teaches as fact .
            That you attempt to fog the issues by mislabeling systems like socialism and capitalism and now by calling my academic approach “obscure” only because it does not fit your tiny minority ( in academia) view of the world does not make your arguments any less ignorant of fact.
            In addressing your post I need only point out the the U.S has no legal or moral right to enforce its will on Cuba or any other nation as it has done for at least the past 100 years and in more than 75 instances.
            Your position demanding that Cuba do this or that to end U.S hostilities is flat out immoral and manifests supreme imperialist arrogance.
            For you to simultaneously say that the U.S is trying to cram things down the throats of Cubans who have resisted such attempts for 50 + years and then say you want the Cuban people to decide their own fate goes beyond hypocritical and into the nonsensical .
            What’s worse is that you are unable to see the contradictions in your own argument.
            .

          • Moses Patterson

            Once again, I concede to you whatever definition of socialism you desire. Since what you call socialism has never existed, you can call if ‘chocolate cake’ if you wish, it is your utopia, not mine. As far as the 99% of academia agreeing with you, if you feel better saying that, you can have that too. This is HT and the subject country of this blog, Cuba, calls themselves ‘socialist’ so for the sake of consistency with the subject country, I will call them socialist as well. But fret not, your version of socialism is the “True Scotsman” as you wish. The US embargo sets guidelines for the conditions that Cuba must meet in order to do business with the US or with companies that choose to do business the US. It also governs the use of US currency. These are sovereign decisions any country may make. Cuba is well within its right to ignore these conditions and continue to bypass US commerce. There is no “force” in this policy let alone “war’ as you often write. The US appropriates $20M annually to promote democracy in Cuba. By contrast, we spend at least that much per month in Afghanistan. Cuba is hardly a priority.

          • John Goodrich

            You can stick that left-handed admission of ignorance where the sun s doesn’t shine .
            It does not matter how I feel about the definitions of socialism and communism. They are what the founders of these philosophies say they are and not totalitarians like the “Castros” .
            That you choose to agree with the “Castros” on this point only demonstrates your lack of principles when it suits your purposes.
            Second,
            Do you mean to say that the U.S 54 year embargo ( war on the entire Cuban population) is NOT part of the lomg-standing U.S. policy to prevent and overturn democratic economies ( socialism/communism ) that began with their invasion of the Soviet Union in 1918 and which continues today with the Cuban embargo ?
            Third: (your words) ” The U.S. appropriates $20M annually to promote democracy in Cuba” .
            Please do this: Go to the “Killing Hope” website and review the 54 instances of U.S interventions listed since the end of WWII and show where,, in any of these, they had the intention of promoting democracy rather than the direct opposite .
            Then tell me and everyone how Cuba is the one exception to this decades long and consistent U.S foreign policy mandate of fighting democracy around the world.
            I never claimed Cuba is the priority but Cuba is certainly still in the gunsights of the United States government
            and that 100-year old foreign policy which never involved installing democracies but almost always the support of totalitarian institutions.
            Answer the question:
            In how many of the 54 U.S interventions since WWII and as listed in “Killing Hope” was establishing democracy the intent ?

          • John Goodrich

            I also need to deal with your use of the phrase “hatred of the U.S. ”
            That lie-of-omission filled phrase is used by you in lieu of the truth which is, that as a democrat (one who believes in democracy ) and an anti-imperialist I have a visceral and principled opposition to the policies of the GOVERNMENT government of the U.S and have no negative feelings about the United States in general .
            The policies of the GOUSA are set in place without the consent of the majority of Americans and for the benefit of the ruling wealthy individuals and corporations.
            It is the oligarchy I have problems with .
            You favor totalitarian capitalism, the imperialist ( forcing the will of these wealthy upon weaker nations) foreign policy and the (also) undemocratic oligarchic government of the USA.
            In other words, if you are criticizing my dislike for these undemocratic things you are saying you like them .
            Care to deny this? .

          • Dan

            Why should the Cubans “make the Castros” leave town to prove a point to you and other capitalists ? Who says the Cuban people don’t identify and support their government at least as much as the Spanish, Greek and American people do. In the 80’s the US spent millions, engaged in terrorism and sabotage and killed thousands, in a successful bid to overthrow the Sandinistas and “allow the Nicaraguan people the opportunity to chose their own destiny”. How did that end up? After a very short period, and a taste of Armando Aleman and neoliberalism the people chose…….. the FSLN. What a tragic waste of lives for those who suffered through the US/Contra war.

          • Moses Patterson

            Why should the US allow Cuba do business with American companies? Getting rid of the ‘Beasts from Biran’ is not to prove a point to me or other capitalists. It is to give Cubans a chance to be governed by someone other than a Castro after 55 years. Talk to a Cuban and ask them what they want.

  • Griffin

    Armando wrote:

    “The truth of the matter is that the social achievements that once defined the Cuban revolution and benefited the working majority are retreating to oblivion, and that we are witnessing the transition towards a form of State capitalism grounded in an extractive, monopolistic and rapacious growth model, where it is virtually impossible to lay the groundwork for an authentic, legally constituted State and inclusive forms of development.”

    Yes, and no.

    “No” because, the items claimed as achievements of the Cuban revolution were possible only because of funds derived from the seized property of foreign corporations and Cuban nationals, and the vast subsidies provided by the Soviet Union. Once the looted wealth was frittered away and the Russian sugar daddy cut her off, the Cuban economy soon collapsed. The ultimate decay and ruin of the so-called “achievements of the revolution” was inevitable because the Cuban system is unsustainable without external subsidization.

    “Yes” because the regime today sees the writing on the wall and are positioning themselves to hold onto their wealth and power by introducing economic reforms which will enable them to hold onto their wealth and power when the last vestiges of socialism vanish. What they are aiming for is not a democratic Cuba with a free economic system, but an extension of the authoritarian oligarchy, with the economy run by their preferred corporate monopolies, such as GAESA.

    The future of Cuba under Raul Castro is not capitalism and certainly not democracy. It’s beginning to look an awful lot like fascism, and that is certainly not “normal”.

    • John Goodrich

      Could you define fascism for us ?
      Can you define democracy for that matter ?
      Do you really consider capitalism to be a democratic economic form? and if so, please explain.
      Do you happen to know the rate of growth for the Cuban GDP in relation to the growth of GDP in other capitalist countries in Latin America and the Caribbean ?
      Just a few questions to show that you don’t have a clue as to reality. .

      • Moses Patterson

        Given the dual monetary system in Cuba as well as the complete lack of credibility with regards to the self-reported data coming out of Cuba, GDP as a measure used to compare countries is useless for Cuba. Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) is a much better tool to compare progress in Cuba with other economies.

        • John Goodrich

          I looked up a bit of data on PPP and it was compiled by the CIA . Cuba was on a par or well head of comparably resourced capitalist countries not under economic attack by the USA.
          The well-used lie that Cuban and Soviet state economies with socialist-style distribution of the goods and services do not work would hold water were the U.S to stop its economic war on Cuba and LET IT FAIL OF ITS OWN SHORTCOMINGS.
          The fact that the U.S. government has to continue its economic war on Cuban society in order to lower the living conditions to where they are proves my point that undemocratic as Cuba is, in both its economy and government,, it is doing as well as or better than comparable capitalist countries .

          • Moses Patterson

            Cuba’s data is never to be fully trusted. Using PPP is a better gauge of economic growth and well-being but is only as good as the self-reported data used to compute the results. You seem to justify Cuba’s failed system by comparing Cuba to other failed systems. Hungry kids in Haiti don’t make being hungry in Cuba any less debilitating. Likewise, equating an embargo to war does not make it go away any faster. Your word choices, however, do betray the desperate ends you will go to in order to make your points.

          • John Goodrich

            You are also being disingenuous in comparing Haiti, the hemisphere’s poorest nation with Cuba which I never do or suggest doing.
            I always ask that people compare nations with similar resources and which are capitalist, with Cuba .
            BTW-Cuba alone in Latin America has NO child malnutrition so how does that fit into your intimation of widespread hunger in Cuba ?
            You have no room to criticize me for empty rhetoric.
            Your previous post suggested using PPP instead of GNP.
            I did and it showed me to be correct because I used accepted statistics (CIA provided) while you are the one grasping at rhetorical straws.

          • Moses Patterson

            OK, Johnnie, I’ll take the bait. If not Haiti, what two or three countries in your opinion should be compared to Cuba?

          • John Goodrich

            Do your own homework.
            I can give you a fish but then you won’t learn how to fish.
            Hint: use the W.H.O.’s Human Development Index to begin your research.
            Cuba is about 54th on the list.
            Look at all the capitalist countries of equal resources that fall below Cuba’s level for your answers.
            Because you think Cuba has a socialist economy which cannot work, the other 150 capitalist countries or so below Cuba’s HDI levels must have erroneous data submitted by their governments to place below a “failed socialist” economy such as Cuba has. .

          • Moses Patterson

            Faulty logic. Your ‘fatherland’ USSR had one of the world’s largest economies yet clearly based on idiotic principles. Cuba’s mid-level rankings on a list based on their self-reported self-serving statistics does not negate the overwhelming hard evidence that most young people in Cuba today want to live somewhere else. I will make it real simple for you to understand. Here are two of many examples: Cuba counts medical facilities in the WHO index that are closed or underutilized due to lack of maintenance. Cuban statistics count doctors who have left the profession to drive taxis. Cuba, for lack of working birth weight measuring scales, undercounts low birth weight babies. Doctors simply ‘eyeball’ newborns and release them as healthy. Other third world countries have a tendency to OVERSTATE their failings so as to qualify for greater UN funding and other available NGO assistance. Cuba, on the other hand, chooses to obscure their real weaknesses out of political arrogance.

          • Griffin

            Two practices common in Cuba help them to achieve lower infant mortality statistics. One, the state-run medical system will abort any and all fetuses detected to have birth defects. Cuba has the highest abortion rate outside of China. Babies born with severe birth defects will be left to die in the first few days, but these deaths are recorded as still-births, thus removing their deaths from the infant mortality data.

            In the 1990’s, Dr. Elias Biscet wrote a letter to Fidel Castro decrying this deplorable and inhuman practice. For his pains, he was fired from his job as a physician and given a 25 year prison sentence.

          • John Goodrich

            20 year old anecdotal testimony is hardly convincing proof of anything.

          • John Goodrich

            And… YOUR valid/reliable sources for the information you posted are..????
            Sure, the Miami Herald and other counter-revolutionary sources who also accused Fidel Castro of drug-dealing are more reliable than the United Nation’s objective World Health Organization .
            Sure.

          • Griffin

            The HDI data on Cuba comes straight from the Cuban government. It is not reliable as we know for a fact the Cuban government routinely lies about their economic and social data as a matter of policy. To reveal real data without gov’t permission is a serious crime punishable by severe prison sentences.

      • Griffin

        Fascism is a single-party authoritarian form of government, hyper-nationalistic in style (sometimes expressed in religious or racial terms). All individuals and organizations are subordinate to the State, which is dominated by the military. The typical fascist economy is based on monopolies in a State-corporate alliance.

        That describes Raul Castro’s vision of Cuba pretty well, actually.

        Democracy means rule by the people, and in practice there are many other forms of “democracy”.

        The US system is more accurately called a republic, in which free democratic multi-party elections are periodically held to form a representative and responsible legislature and executive.

        The democratic system followed in Canada, (my country) is a constitutional monarchy. Free multi-party democratic elections are held periodically to form a representative and responsible legislature from which the executive branch is formed. Elections can be called at anytime in Canada, in contrast to the US where elections are scheduled every 4 years.

        Capitalism is an economic system, ideally, although not entirely, based upon time proven economic laws. It can be practiced by democratic governments or by authoritarian dictatorships. In practice, dictatorships prefer to follow the economic systems of either fascism or Marxism. Inevitably, the socialist and fascist economic systems tend to run into the brick wall of reality when their policies contradict economic laws and common sense. When democratic countries attempt to employ those policies for political reasons, they too eventually run into the heavy smackdown of economic reality.

        I do not believe any Cuban gov’t statistics on their GDP. You can look up the data on the rest of Latin America as well as anybody.

        And finally, I have a very good clue as to reality. I also have a very good clue as to the academic ideological drivel you spout, which is as far from reality as one can get.

        • John Goodrich

          Thank you for that cut and paste from your high-school civics textbook.
          For now I will just deal with the reality missing from the quote below.
          “The U.S system is more accurately called a republic in which free multi-party democratic elections are periodically held to form a representative and responsible legislature and executive”
          That’s the textbook version of reality you wish me to believe .
          This is the reality.
          In the U.S. no one can run successfully for national office without the financial s.upport of the .0001% of the population which can afford to donate the billion+ required for election to the presidency and the hundreds of millions needed for the Senate and often the House.
          This is fact.
          Each of the candidates for these offices is vetted by that .0001% and only the ones who promise to serve their purposes, once elected, receive the financial support necessary and without which their opponents have no chance of election.
          This is fact.
          Those selections are made known to the respective party leaderships who have absolutely no choice but to nominate these pre-selected choices of the wealthy because if they did , the candidates they chose would soon run out of money for the TV , radio and newspaper ads that win all the election. Besides, both parties already support these very wealthy contributors and lobbyists and accepting the choices off the .0001% is just business as usual and going along to get along
          This is fact .
          Therefore, those elected in this exclusive fashion are NOT ” representative” of the electorate but only represent the interests of the wealthy when there is a conflict between the interests of the electorate and the .0001% .
          Neither are they “responsible” to anyone but those holding their campaign funding purse strings .
          This is fact .
          When a country is ruled by the wealthy and/or powerful it cannot be called a democracy since democracy IS the rule of the people or majority rule and not rule by the few rich and powerful.
          Such a government run by and for the benefit of the rich and powerful is called either an oligarchy or a plutocracy .
          That the government of the U.S is an oligarchy/plutocracy ( money is power ) is pure fact.
          Lastly, you should try to be more consistent in that you readily accept the textbook/academic definitions of socio-political systems in your post but consistently deny the textbook/academic definitions of socialism and communism and accept the word of the totalitarian leaderships of such countries as the Soviet Union and China as to those definitions.

          • Griffin

            If you understood what I wrote, the US is not a pure and simple “democracy”, it is a constitutional republic, which includes democratic elections. There are many forms of democracy, none of them perfect, and each with their own advantages and flaws.

            Barack Obama received a great deal of financial support in the form of small donations from millions of Americans of modest means. Yes, he also got support from some very wealthy individuals, corporations and unions. At the end of the day, 130 million people did go out and vote, not just the 0.00001%. Although it is a fair criticism that voter turnout in the US is embarrassingly low.

            Most of what you wrote is boiler-plate leftist pamphlet stuff. But this bit:

            “Each of the candidates for these offices is vetted by that .0001% and only the ones who promise to serve their purposes, once elected, receive the financial support necessary and without which their opponents have no chance of election.
            This is fact.
            Those selections are made known to the respective party leaderships who have absolutely no choice but to nominate these pre-selected choices of the wealthy.”

            …is pure delusional fantasy. Who is on this vetting committee? When & where do they meet? Do they wear silk top hats and smoke fat cigars while picking their candidates? How do they manage to control the primary voting process so that the outcomes of all the separate primaries, and the party convention nomination process, turns out exactly how they decided?

          • John Goodrich

            If you do not understand that no candidate for national office can win an election without the enormous donations from the wealthy which dwarf donations from the rest of the population and that that money comes with not just strings attached but steel cables, then you’re not dealing with reality .
            Do Google up a few hundred items dealing with “U.S. oligarchy” or just look up Paul Street and read his stuff on this.
            The millions of people, the 50% or so who are stupid enough to vote in such national elections are handed only those candidates who had the money to survive the primary processes and then run their campaign against an equally vetted opponent.
            The choice is ONLY those candidates who get the BIG money .
            You can’t be that naïve.
            READ.

          • Griffin

            I am aware of the limitations of the US electoral system. but this blog is called Havana Times. I prefer to discuss the topic of Cuba. For some reason, no matter the subject of the essay posted by the Cuban writers, you veer off straight for another round of bashing the USA.

            As Winston Churchill once said, “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

          • Moses Patterson

            My favorite Churchill quote (assuming he really said it) is “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” I wonder if your buddy JG can understand that.

          • John Goodrich

            Moses,
            in supporting capitalism which is totalitarian and the antithesis of democracy and in your support of the U.S oligarchic government which is also totalitarian in its top-down rule, YOU oppose democracy .
            Anarchy, the philosophy/system to which I subscribe is democratic at its center . It rejects all governments as ultimately undemocratic and is based on bottom-up democracy.
            Do please attempt to reconcile these obvious contradictions for me.
            Are you NOT a totalitarian ?
            Am I not opposed to the totalitarian forms to which you subscribe ?
            Am I not, as an anarchist, a democrat in the precise meaning of the word ? ?

          • Moses Patterson

            With respect, your questions are off topic. Besides, who cares?

          • John Goodrich

            Your non-answer is an answer.
            You evaded the question because were you to answer truthfully you’d be in agreement with me as to the totalitarian nature of your beliefs .
            Were you to attempt to describe either capitalism or the U.S oligarchic electoral system as democratic, you’d just look foolish.
            It’s not that I did not know the answer to my questions , I just love to watch you squirm when that cognitive dissonance hits you.

          • Moses Patterson

            Thanks for the US civics lesson as you see it. But isn’t this site about Cuba?