The Upside to Cuba’s phony reforms

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the benefits of the phony reforms that raul castro is implementing in Cuba is that they cause questions to be asked:

Cubans can now buy cell phones? I never knew they couldn’t. Why was that?

These minute changes FORCE journalists to put them into perspective for their readers who know nothing about Cuba. In a certain sense readers are getting the straight dope about Cuba FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.
Here’s an example from Mary Murray of MSNBC’s World Blog:

The old regime of Raul’s brother Fidel Castro strictly limited these luxury items to foreigners or the upper echelon of Cuban society holding privileged jobs. The only way regular consumers gained access had been through purchases on the black market.
Lucy Alvarez, a retired electrical engineer who learned to cut hair to supplement her pension, doesn’t expect to take advantage of her new economic freedoms anytime soon. “We live hand-to-mouth,” she said.

Funny, I didn’t notice Ms. Murray writing such things back when Matt Lauer and the Today Show visited Cuba back in June of last year.
Here’s more from Ms. Murray:

Under Cuba’s dual economy, people receive their salaries in national pesos (NP) while nearly all imported goods are priced in a convertible peso (called the CUC) that is tied to the U.S. dollar – valued at 24 times stronger than the national peso (NP). In practical terms, foreign goods are well beyond the reach of most Cubans.
For example, a 26″ Panasonic flat screen TV, which went on sale Tuesday for the first time in a Havana electronics store, sells for 1,961 CUC, equal to $2,120 – more than double its retail price in other countries.

Actually a 26″ Panasonic Flat Screen TV can be obtained for $575 online in the U.S., that’s 73% cheaper than in Cuba? Who makes that incredible mark-up in Cuba? Why the greedy capitalists that run the Cuban communist government monopolies, that’s who.

Nora Alonso would like a cell phone, but the 400 national pesos she earns a month working as a physical therapist in a state hospital barely covers her everyday expenses like food and clothing. A cell phone and a year of service would cost Alonso the equivalent of approximately two years of her salary.
Still she welcomes the change. “It doesn’t cost anything to dream,” she said.

Yes, it doesn’t cost anything to dream. raul castro and the rest of castro, inc. are counting on that.

Reforming the island’s economy demands structural changes, argues Dr. Jaime Suchlicki from the University of Miami, changes far beyond what currently is taking place — everything up to now, he said, is “not important.”
He believes the motive behind the new measures is an “aim to appease the Cubans and give them a little hope about more things to come. They are also for external consumption to show the world that there are some changes happening in Cuba.”

As I said, raul is counting on it.

Many people employed in government-run enterprises readily confess they have little incentive to put in an 8-hour day when their pay envelopes provide little purchasing power.
In fact, there’s even a joke here that ends with the punch line, “the workers don’t work and the state doesn’t pay.”

Really? I thought Cuba was the worker’s paradise. You know, where people whistle while they happily work and enjoy their great health plan.

People complained that Cuba was the only nation on earth where foreigners enjoyed more rights than the local population.
With their uncanny ability to poke fun at the surreal, Cubans even turned the ugly truth into the butt of popular jokes:
A first grade teacher asks her student Pepe, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“A foreigner!” he replies.

Wow, even a Pepito joke to close the article.
The news media should be made to account for WHY NOBODY PUBLISHED AN ARTICLE LIKE THIS PRIOR TO THESE ANNOUNCEMENTS! I mean all of these things have been going on for years. Why is it that were exposed to years of articles in which the only people that the journalists could supposedly find were “huge fans” of fidel and Cuba’s communist system?

4 thoughts on “The Upside to Cuba’s phony reforms”

  1. Agreed on all counts, especially the first few lines about people realizing that Cubans never had these liberties previously.
    I was sitting in my room and my two roommates saw the news on yesterday. They’d look over at me and say things like: “What?! Cubans couldn’t buy cell phones before?! They couldn’t stay in hotels either?! Why not?”
    That’s a free pass for me to talk about Cuba’s realities up here in Boston where most people are totally oblivious.

  2. I alwasy said it a 73% mark up on a TV set,The regime took economics from Tony Soprano and the NY Mafia.

  3. So true! Sometimes I feel like I’m reading The Onion: “International Observers Applaud the Erosion of Cuba’s Non-Existent Political Repression, Material Shortages and Popular Misery”
    Any remaining repression or misery, of course, is entirely the responsibility of the United States trade embargo.

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