Why Don’t Things Work in Cuba’ / Somos+, Kaned Garrido

Somos+, Kaned Garrido, 30 June 2015 — In Cuba it is quite natural for there to be lines everywhere. For some reason there are always shortages. Prices are high and salaries are very low. And with each step they take, Cubans have to deal with excessive red tape.

What is the problem and what is the solution?

Since Adam Smith first discussed the value of goods and services, it has been accepted wisdom that the basic principle of economics is the law of supply and demand. When we want something and offer money in return, what we pay depends on the scarcity of the item and how much we want it. This essential rule of the marketplace has been around as long as there has been commerce.

But not everyone always has the money to buy food. The market does not create boundless wealth; it only balances supply and demand. This is where socialism failed at solving the problems of humanity. Intentions may have been good but the issue was that it attacked the very mechanism that allows an economy to function: the marketplace.

The crushing machinery of socialism does not allow for a basic analysis of supply and demand. It manipulates prices, directs production and controls commerce. A group of people decides what must be produced and what must be consumed. This is why Cuba distributes cigars to those who do not smoke and hands out clothing without regard to the size of the person wearing it.

With centralization came the tedious apparatus of bureaucracy. Since the earliest days of the Revolution, bureaucracy has been singled out as the cause of the problem. But bureaucracy is essential to centralization. Without bureaucracy there would be no socialism. Without all the paperwork how would prices, business transactions and production be controlled?

It amounts to an attempt to manipulate the economy through government policy. Who could  believe that forcibly reducing prices would put more food on store shelves? If that were the case, there would be no hunger.

The reality is that prices are a reflection of supply and demand. If we want to end hunger, we should provide subsidies and improve access to food. But controlling prices will not put more bread on the table. In order to reduce prices, production must be increased, something Cuban factories have been trying to do for years. But that leads to the following question: Why don’t Cuban businesses produce enough?

In the first place, they are not even geared towards consumer demand. Everything is planned based on what managers believe will be needed. In the second place, they are operated without concern for profit, the very thing and drives the economy. They operate according to political guidelines, which ultimately leads to corruption.

Lifting the embargo might alleviate shortages a little but it will not do away with them. As long as the economy is centrally planned, low salaries, short supplies and an oppressive bureaucracy will persist.

Killing for a Dwelling / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

A usual scene in Reparto Electrico, whether Holy Week or not

A usual scene in Reparto Electrico, whether Holy Week or not

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 1 July 2015 – A daughter killed her mother, dismembered her with the help of her boyfriend and then reported her missing in order to be able to inherit her humble apartment in a slum where they both lived. It may seem the plot of a horror movie but it is a real story that barely a year ago shook the community of Reparto Electrico.

It was not the first time I heard such chilling news as that; but more than the blood relationship between the victim and the murderer, the motive of the killer was what accentuated the absurdity, the insanity, especially when in the streets, while the crime was being talked about, equally disturbing stories emerged about family conflicts related to the difficulties in wrangling a place to live.

Before and after that bloody episode, I learned of other similar scenarios, and, according to Orlando Asdrubal, a lawyer who has followed several cases in the Arroyo Naranjo township, the bloody events within families are increasing, all related to housing property rights. Continue reading

Discussing the Chilean Transition / 14ymedio

Participants at the event organized by the Association of Ibero-American Freedom at Casa de America, Madrid (14ymedio)

Participants at the event organized by the Association of Ibero-American Freedom at Casa de America, Madrid (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 4 July 2015 — In the halls of the Casa de America in Madrid on Thursday and Friday of this week a training event for Cuban activists was held. Organized by the Association of Ibero-American Freedom (AIL), the meeting was attended by ten Cubans from the island as well as the former Minister General Secretariat of the Presidency of Chile, the economist Cristian Larroulet and Carlos Alberto Montaner, among other analysts and intellectuals. Continue reading

To the Righteous (?!) Women from UNEAC*, When is Your Statement Expected’

Lady in White Laura Pollan (now deceased) being dragged by security agents

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 3 June 2015 — There is not a single day of my existence in prison in which I don’t feel embarrassed for those women who, at the beginning of 2013, once I was jailed, made a supposed appeal against gender violence, when in fact it was later shown — by the silence they maintained before other forms of violence exercises against women in opposition to the regime on the island — that they were just intending to comply with government oder, dictated by Abel Prieto personally, spokesman and sinister mastermind, from the darkness of his office as advisor of Raul Castro, the main purpose of which was to smother international solidarity in my favor.

At that time, those women, especially the intellectual ones — whom I had travel with, shared book presentations, events in which they devoted odes to my affability; who I shared emails with daily, dinners, who organized surprise parties for me, and appeared with me in national and international anthologies — once they received the official order, the joined efforts to execute me publicly, just to receive the attention of politicians and cultural officials and looking not to be forgotten when trips abroad are awarded, with which the dictatorship usually rewards their most loyal subjects in the culture field. Continue reading

Fidel Castro Visits El Guatao and Talks About Climate Change and Cheese Production / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio Havana, 4 July 2015 – A popular Cuban refrain says that when something ends in violence it was because “it ended like party in El Guatao.” This village immortalized in the national refrain received a visit from Fidel Castro Friday, according to the official press, which highlighted his visit to the Food Industry Research Institute, where he talked about climate change and cheese making in the country.

The appearance of Fidel Castro, three months after his last public outing, occurred a few days after it was announced that the embassies of the United States and Cuba would reopen in their respective territories. Participating in the meeting were María del Carmen Concepción González, Minister of the Food Industry, several members of the governing board of that body, and faculty from the Institute.

Cuba’s dairy industry is experiencing its worst moments, if we compare it to 1984 which set a record with an annual production of 1.1 billion liters of milk. Last year, however, according to the National Office of Statistics, dairy farms produced barely 497 million liters.

Technology Rationed in a Technophobic Country / Somos+, Javier Cabrera

A Cuban ration book for basic foodstuffs

Somos+, 2 July 2015 — The coming of WiFi to Cuba is very good news. Better still is the reduction in prices from 4.25 CUC to 2.00 CUC, although that is still a very high barrier for connection to the Internet. [Roughly 2 days wages for one hour. -ed.] From here I want to congratulate the promoters, Cubans or otherwise, because it has been clearly and unquestionably a step that benefits the citizenry.

However, all the data indicates that there is excess capacity to go faster, and too much hesitancy to accept the help offered by companies in the United States and other countries. We clearly have a technophobic government that is trying to deal with a problem outside its scope and trying to “reinvent” the technology as a part of a useless and expensive process, redesigning and adapting; but more than anything, delaying its adoption in time. Continue reading

Honduras Slaps with White Gloves / Angel Santiesteban

After the Congress of Honduras, according to the validity of its statutes, decided to impeach former president Manuel Zelaya, the mafia of leftist Latin American presidents have attacked from all sides the new elected government of Porfirio Lobo, expressing their support for former president Zelaya, who took his dismissal as a coup.

The late Hugo Chavez was the one who led the crusade in his favor. Since that historic event, the “wound has not healed” and, once the new president has committed to give continuity  to Democracy in his nation — Democracy which was reaffirmed during last presidential election when Hondurans did not gave their vote to Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the former president’s wife, and elected instead the agricultural entrepreneur Porfirio Lobo — these pro-Castro governments have joined efforts to plot and make it difficult the advancement of his plans for social, political and economic development. Continue reading

The Intellectual, a Ruminant in the Castro Zoo / 14ymedio, José Gabriel Barrenechea

Miguel Diaz-Canel, First Vice President of Cuba's Council of State (Facebook)

Miguel Diaz-Canel, First Vice President of Cuba’s Council of State (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, José Gabriel Barrenechea, Santa Clara, 22 June 2015 – Why don’t our intellectuals act like so many foreign observers expect? Why don’t they try to intervene in the debate about the future of the country now that there is ever more open access to the Internet, whether directly or through the exchange of USB memories, and ideas have started to move with greater ease? Why don’t they move, why don’t they stir, now that in Cuba the days of the reign of Castro II are coming to an end and everything becomes so soft, so malleable that it powerfully inspires one to get to work?

In part it is a problem of legitimacy. When in the last congress of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), Miguel Diaz-Canel insisted that they prioritize the works and talents of the State, through its cultural institutions, he wasn’t talking of something minor and secondary but of an essential aspect of politics thanks to which the regime ensures its stability and its permanence ad aeternum. Continue reading

Independence Day / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Celebration of Independence Day (14ymedio)

Celebration of Independence Day (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 3 July 2015 — The traditional celebration offered by the US Interests Section in Havana, on the anniversary of the Independence of the United States, had on this occasion a special connotation for being the first one to take place following the announcement of restoration of relations between that country and Cuba, and the last one before the reopening of the US embassy in Havana, scheduled for July 20th.

A large turnout of members of the independent civil society participated in the festivities on Thursday July 2nd, sharing the space with known artists, other cultural figures, scholars, and representatives of the Catholic Church, led by Cardinal Jaime Ortega. As usual, there were numerous officials of the diplomatic corps present at the event.

After listening to the national anthems of Cuba and the US, Mr. Jeffrey De Laurentis, Chief of the US Interests Section, delivered a brief speech by referring to the importance of the date and the events that are taking place at this new stage of dialogue between the two governments, while expressing his hopes that soon the ties between our two countries will deepen and consolidate. Continue reading

MCl Leader for the Freedom of a Cuba without Castros / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Interview with Rosa Maria Paya

Leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and Cuba Decides

From El Pais

 “The United States is negotiating with the Cuban caste.”

Cuban regime opponent, daughter of Oswaldo Para, speaks of the shortcomings of the thaw.

Alba Casas

Madrid, 3 July 2015, 23:03 CEST

To Rosa Maria Paya (b. January 1989, Havana), daughter of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya and a member of the Christian Liberation Movement — founded by her father — is not afraid to say the thaw will not end “the embargo on freedoms” that the Cuban Executive imposes on its inhabitants. “The United States is talking with the Government and those surrounding it. But civil society is left outside. It is a privilege reserved for the Cuban caste. For the rest, it is a situation of exclusion,” she says. Continue reading

Between the New and the Old / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 3 July 2015 — In his speeches of December 17, 2014, and July 1, 2015, the President of the United States of America opted for the present and the future, once again laying aside the past, for which he is not responsible and which is a bygone stage. Moreover, he acknowledged, before his people and the world, that the policy of isolation applied against Cuba for more than fifty years had failed.

On the other hand, the President of Cuba has continued to focus on the past, for which he is partly responsible, repeating the subject of reparations and other demands, some completely absurd, and others difficult to complete in the short or medium term. Nor has  he acknowledged the failure of socialism, imposed on the Cuban people since April 16, 1961.

They are two totally different concepts: the first speaks to a young president and the second to an old one.

Maybe the permanent vision of the new is what has made the United States constantly advance and develop, and the permanent vision of the old is responsible for Cuba having stagnated and regressed.

Regardless of all this, I believe that the facts are most important and (though arriving too slowly) they are there, and that speeches and declarations anchored in the past are made solely for the purpose of reassuring some characters from the national Jurassic Park. Time will have the last word