The State as Pimp
The 33 presidents and dignitaries who visited Havana were left in awe. None knew how, albeit very precariously, with the buildings in ruins and on the edge of catastrophe, Cuba managed to sustain itself. Perhaps with the exception of Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro, who has second sight and an ongoing dialogue with birds, who keep him fully informed.
None was unaware that the two-hundred-year-old sugar industry had been liquidated and scrapped by the fierce incapacity of the leadership. Everyone knew that the tobacco and rum trademarks were sold to European multinationals long ago. It was clear that the fishing fleet hadn’t existed since the nineties. However, the Island, managing to scrape by, imported 80% of everything society needed, including food, medicine and a substantial part of the energy.
How did they do it? Where’s the catch? Where did the money come from?
I heard it for the first time from a European diplomat who had lived in Cuba. Later it was popularized. The model created by the Castros is the State as Pimp. Pimping is a criminal behavior that consists of obtaining benefits from another person who is forced to work through coercion or the promise of protection. Generally it applies to prostitution, but not only. It is also known colloquially as “chulería.”
It’s an awkward name, but in sync with the reality the circulates in whispers between Cubans on the Island. The government has specialized in extorting its own citizens or allies, to whom it offers services of espionage and social control, its only two specialties or “comparative advantages,” as economic jargon would have it. Fifty-five years after the establishment of the dictatorship, almost all the significant sources of income that sustain the country come from murky businesses conducted abroad.
The Venezuelan subsidy: Calculated at 13 billion dollars a year by Professor Carmelo Mesa-Lago, dean of Cuban economists in this area. This includes more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day, of which half is re-exported and sold in Spain. Another 30,000 apparently go to Petro Caribe, giving rise to a double corruption of political support and illicit enrichment.
The public source of this information is the expert Pedro Mantellini, one of the great authorities on the issue of Venezuelan oil. He explained it to Maria Elvira Salazar on her program in Miami on CNN Latino. Caracas buys international influence based on oil, but shares with its Cuban accomplices the management of these gifts. Cuba, after all, is the metropolis.
Trafficking in doctors and healthcare personnel: This brings in 7.5 billion annually. The specialist Maria Werlau, director of the Cuba Archive project, has described the activity in the Miami Herald. The Cuban government leases out its healthcare professionals and charges for them. It confiscates 95% of the salaries of those under its “protection.” Angola pays up to 60,000 dollars a year for each physician.
Not even the aid to Haiti escapes this scheme of “solidarity at a price.” The services provided in this devastated country earned Havana a good price from international organizations.
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