Turning towards Capitalism in Castro’s Cuba

A privately owned cafe near the Havana airport. (14ymedio/Archivo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Hernández Fonseca, Madrid, 8 August 2020 — Castro’s Cuba is taking a second step — timid but in the right direction — towards the implementation of a capitalist economy. First, it has partially dollarized the sale of basic goods, though it continues to pay people’s wages in a worthless currency. Second, it is doing away with the list of approved occupations, a list that dates back to colonial times, and replacing it with something more convoluted lest anyone realize that the new forms of employment are “private companies.”

There is a lot of fear within the communist regime that the Cuban people might notice how, after more than sixty years of socialist misery, all the concrete solutions being implemented are capitalist. In regards to the formation of new companies, the regime has begun asking would-be entrepreneurs (formerly referred to as cuentapropistas) to come up with “proposals” so that their business plans can be analyzed and authorized, or not, depending on the mood of the envious communist bureaucrats reviewing them.

It would be much easier to just publish the requirements for setting up small and medium sized businesses but the optics would not be good. It would be acknowledging in writing what Marxist doctrine has always denied. “What would we say to the old owners of small and medium sized Cuban businesses?” Raul might might ask at a meeting convened to discuss the topic.

Although the Cuban exodus during the 1960s was made up of the cream of Cuban society, at least in terms of their entrepreneurial skills and experience, the success of other Cubans in the United States and other countries demonstrates that entrepreneurial talent still exists on the island. If government leaders decided to seriously — they would have to do it seriously, which has not always been the case — the Cuban people could, at a minimum, enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner, which they have not been able to do for sixty years.

Perhaps we will have to wait until Raul Castro dies before making the leap to capitalism. But who knows if pressure from the street might force the general, in his waning days, to accept the defeat of his ideology in exchange for the welfare of his people? That is something the Communist Party has never prioritized. As everyone knows, the priority of the Castro brothers has always been holding onto power.

We are not talking about unrestricted freedom, something the Cuban people seek and deserve. It is simply the authorized introduction of capitalist practices into the economy, as happened in China and Vietnam, to alleviate endemic socialist inefficiencies. Nevertheless, at least in the case of Cuba, it would be a first step towards a future of total freedom for the Cuban people, something Fidel Castro never allowed, knowing that it would mean a fall from power.


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