About that salve…

Interesting piece from the Miami Herald, which has infiltrated a correspondent into the Cuba. Some excerpts (emphasis mine):

CARDENAS, Cuba — Loraicys is 27 years old, has never worked, and refuses to take just any job. She is not alone.
As Raúl Castro embarks on an ambitious plan to kick-start the communist nation’s economy, he faces daunting challenges: Many Cubans simply do not work.
Decades of measly salaries and vast government subsidies have kept many young people off the labor rolls because it’s more lucrative to hustle on the street. Others live comfortably enough off remittances from Miami and elsewhere.
According to Granma, the communist party newspaper:
• 20 percent of the working age population in Havana is unemployed.
• Nearly half of them turn down jobs when they are offered.
• 17 percent of the more than 17,000 recent technical school graduates did not show up for the jobs they were offered. Another 200 of them stopped coming in after a few months.
Many Cubans told The Miami Herald said they did not work because it just was not worth it. The dual currency system that pays state salaries in nearly worthless pesos and sells most consumer goods in a dollar-based tender called the CUC, means average monthly salaries don’t cover the cost of basic goods such as shoes, which can cost three times as much as a $10 monthly wage.
Eduardo, a 30-year-old stagehand who got his first job four years ago, said most of his friends worked for the first time when they were in their late 20s — after emigrating to Florida.
”Why was I going to work? The money they would pay me was not going to meet my needs,” he said. “My mother in Orlando sent me $100 a month, and with that I was set.

Incidentally $100 a month is amount permitted to be sent to Cuba each month after President Bush enacted “draconian” changes to U.S. policy on remittances to the island in 2004.
Last week Barack Obama addressed the Cuban American National Foundation saying he would remove those restrictions because, “It’s time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime.”
Well here’s at least some anecdotal evidence that such an outcome does nothing to create incentives for change in Cuba, in fact, it perpetuates the status quo. In Cuba the state is supposed to take care of the needs of its citizens. Remittances relieve the regime of its self-designated responsibilities.

12 thoughts on “About that salve…”

  1. Henry: Absolutely awesome post. Why do anything at all, when you can live decently off hand-outs. Hate to say this, but, Canx the remittances, Canx the visits, Canx the ’66 Adjustment Act, stop the hand-wringing, and then lets see what happens. No more escape valves.

  2. Well since the dead horse of remittances keeps getting beat I guess its okay for me to grab a stick.
    There are vast differences between remittances for Nikes versus remittances for extra rice and beans and medicines. One is an abuse and the other is humanitarian. I am still taken aback by how rabid we can be against remittances because of the abuses of some yet I can count the posts on one hand of the zeal against the open trading with the enemy exceptions. As I have said time and time again. If we think for once that economics will stimulate a desire for freedom then what we will see is just liberal mentality that we presently see in this country where freedom is just a tool to have your stuff. This same lady that receives $100 obviously could care less about her freedom as she is pacified by $100. Her passion is not for freedom, but for stuff. Until Cubans feel that freedom is worth giving their life for all the remittances and visits and money in castro’s coffers won’t mean a thing.

  3. I read this article yesterday morning a few times. The Herald seems to be heading Raul’s advice to debate the problems in Cuban society. Maybe we should change its nombrete to Juventud Rebelde North instead of Granma North.

  4. Pototo,
    The reason remittances keep coming up is because candidates for public office keep bringing it up as a wedge issue. They are the ones that can’t abide by the current policy and seek to change it.
    It’s worth reminding everyone that current policy doesn’t prevent remittances, it limits them. The question is whether those limits are truly draconian or not.
    My contention is that very few Cuban-Americans in the U.S. really want to send more than the $1,200 per year currently allowed. That it’s all an appeal to a theoretical argument rather than any real need.
    As for the separation of economic and political freedoms, they are and always will be linked. The castro brothers have foisted a perverse system on the Cuban people that demoralizes them and decays human values that are necessary to succeed in free countries. To Cubans credit, most of them do overcome that when they do reach freedom.
    So if the candidates challenging the status quo are going to base their whole campaign positions regarding Cuba on lifting the “draconian” policy I’m going to challenge that. Sorry if it bothers some of you.

  5. Sounds to me like the salve is used to grease the creaking wheels of Raul’s Marxist donkey cart. The salve that drips off may soothe those being crushed under the wheels, but the rest keeps the cart rolling.

  6. Henry,
    So you may be helping castro rather than hurting him by allowing remittances and economics to dictate the issue of freedom. If in fact raul and co. do some type of economic reform and Cubans get more money (however small it may be) and the Cubans are appeased what then? I disagree that financial prosperity and freedom are intertwined. So do those who have not desire freedom any less than those who have? If the key to freedom is something that cannot be purchased then we may be doing a diservice to the issue of freedom. Freedom is in the heart and mind and not in the billfold. Good economics is a fruit of freedom, but not the source of it.

  7. Look, my point is that these candidates are making a mountain out of a molehill. They want to differentiate they’re stance on Cuba but they know that coming out against the embargo in a larger sense in a non-starter. So they read an FIU poll from 4 years ago and decided the way to be different without alienating is to appeal to a humanitarian argument about family remittances and travel. But the truth is that $100 a month is probably an amount that most people send (or less). In other words the 2004 restrictions really affect very few people. So while in principle (while answering a telephone survey) a lot of Cubans might be against the 2004 restrictions it’s not really a major issue to them. That’s why Obama and Garcia et al are trying to make a big issue out of it. It were truly the outrage they claim it is, they wouldn’t need to remind people all the time about it.
    Now I’m sorry but I do see economic and political freedoms as being linked. There is a reason that castro inc. has not implemented real economic reform. That’s because that would be truly destabilizing to the regime. You see where Obama got it wrong is that the objective should not be to make Cubans less dependent on the castro regime but rather more self-dependent. There’s a difference between enjoying the fruits of one’s own labor and enjoying the fruits of some relative in Miami’s labor.

  8. Assuming the article is accurate, if Granma says 20% of eligible workers are unemployed, chances are the % is much higher. My friends often discuss the lack of work ethic from some of the new arrivals from Cuba when they initially land here; but this explains it. We have something similar, the dregs of the Great Society welfare system.
    And by Cuban standards, $100/mo is not that draconian, when everyone else earns a fraction of that. But then, politicians do latch on to this kind of argument for their own ends.
    After listening to this political vs. economic freedom debate for a long time and from different people a lot more erudite and well informed than me, I’m not so sure they are identical twins. Related yes, but not inseparable. I may change my mind, but I see China still under the boot of the ruthless Chitkoms while it’s economic engine speeds off the charts. There is a valid point in that some people value their “stuff” more than their freedom; if this were not the case, a lot of dictators who buy off their supporters would not remain in power. And there is the issue of a country’s idiosyncracies and history: a culture accustomed to totalitarian rule may not be as eager to revolt for free speech, for instance. We here don’t understand it from our vantage point, but there has been a large portion of the Russian population that didn’t care for perestroika or democracy; they wanted a return to the nanny state. And they’re getting it.
    But definitely, in my mind, once you open/free the marketplace, there will be political demands of one sort or another because of the tension that exists between governments trying to control, and business trying to get government off its back.

  9. Derbyshire updated…
    Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care, 100 percent literacy, and generous remittances from abroad to salve his wounds.

  10. Mambi:
    So, no more Cuban Adjustment Act also, right?
    I am in this country thanks to the Cuban Adjustment Act, I wonder if you or your family have not benefited directly or indirectly from it also. But it doesn’t matter, right? We’re here already, to hell with the Cubans that stayed behind, right? Is that what you’re proposing? Do you have an idea how many Cubans, including myself, would had been deported and probably suffer prison in Cuba if it wasn’t for the Cuban Adjustment Act?

  11. A lot of people owe their freedom to the Cuban adjustment act and a lot of us have the dignity enough to understand that it exists because of special circumstances in Cuba that have to do with a dictatorship. The problem is where people abuse the generosity of the country and start going back to Cuba on vacation. Either you fled because of political oppression or you didn’t. It’s dishonest to say you did and turn around and go to Cuba the day are eligible because you cousin is turning 15.

  12. Yes, Henry, what you’re saying is one thing and I agree with you on this point, I understand the people that go back to visit their family, I don’t understand the people that go there to vacation.
    As per going to Cuba when your cousin is turning 15, well that’s debatable, I am not sure if I would do it (I haven’t been back to Cuba since I left, eight years ago, and all my family is there), but I don’t criticize anyone who does it either, but I digress.
    I am responding to Mambi’s comment of “Canx the ’66 Adjustment Act”, I think that’s just plain ridiculous and I see that you agree.

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