There appears to be a lot of excitement over a recent Miami Herald article heralding the arrival of capitalism in communist Cuba. But as usual, not all is as it seems.
The press in Miami rolls out the red carpet for Cuban capitalism
The economic panorama of Cuba is currently a topic of intense debate that has grabbed the attention of the Miami press. In an editorial published on July 1, The Miami Herald proposes a skeptical perspective, interpreting Cuba’s signals of capitalism and economic freedom as potentially strategic maneuvers by a government facing financial difficulties.
The publication of this editorial comes after a widely criticized article that spread on social media, endorsing the emerging capitalism in Cuba. It now warns readers to remember the history of brief economic freedom experienced on the island, often followed by abrupt repression, and questions the authenticity of this new capitalist narrative.
On the other hand, in a report by Tim Padgett, WLRN Public Radio and Television delves into the changing economic scene in Cuba, focusing on the resilience and growth of the emerging Cuban private sector despite significant challenges.
Padgett showcases the success of private enterprises, or MSMEs (micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises), while highlighting the economic obstacles they face due to the U.S. embargo. Through stories of Cuban entrepreneurs, WLRN advocates for the crucial role of U.S. support in overcoming these obstacles.
These seemingly opposing narratives appear to be influenced, in part or in whole, by external forces such as Cuban-American entrepreneurs with ties to Havana and lobbying groups. However, what is essential is the intention to place a debate in the South Florida media that could end up normalizing the economic policies of the Cuban dictatorship.
Let’s see what the media have to say.
The Miami Herald’s cautious take: Capitalism or cunning?
According to The Miami Herald’s editorial, Cuba is hinting at a shift towards capitalism by promoting private enterprise and welcoming foreign investors. However, this narrative of progress is met with skepticism. The history of the Cuban government presenting an illusion of economic freedom only to suppress it creates a backdrop of suspicion and doubt.
Even as private grocery stores and various businesses replace government-run entities, Cubans continue to suffer from shortages of food, medicine, and basic human rights. The Cuban economy, severely hit by the pandemic, seeks relief by encouraging remittances from relatives residing in Miami and inviting more goods to enter the island.
The Miami Herald warns its readers to keep their optimism in check. Andrés Oppenheimer, an expert in Latin America, cites past cases where Cuba seemed to open up to the world, only to confiscate properties and reimpose control, resulting in significant losses for foreign investors.
The editorial poses the following question: Is the alleged shift towards capitalism genuine, or is it a cunning ploy by a government desperate for financial support while insisting on maintaining control?
The on-the-ground report from WLRN: Obstacles and hopes in the private sector
Contrary to The Miami Herald’s skeptical perspective, the article from WLRN delves into the flourishing Cuban private sector, despite the collapse of the nation’s communist economy. Private enterprises, known as MSMEs, are thriving, and there is a desire for partnership with the United States before Russia takes advantage.
WLRN offers an insider’s perspective from Cuba, featuring the story of Idián Chávez, a Cuban engineer who has created a private toilet paper factory, a significant step for the emerging Cuban private sector. However, despite the promising momentum, Chávez and his fellow entrepreneurs face significant challenges due to the U.S. embargo. This restricts direct relations with the United States, complicates financial transactions, and limits economic potential.
While critics fear that a seemingly prosperous private sector may only reinforce the regime through taxes and fees, advocates see an opportunity for change. They argue that U.S. support could provide Cuban entrepreneurs with training and technology to bring about significant changes in the country’s economic structure.
The pressures behind the narratives
The difference in perspective between these two media outlets appears intentional. Read independently, the reader perceives that the narrative surrounding Cuba’s economic change is complex and nuanced but focused on a real event, from which sincere improvements are expected. In a worst-case scenario, it is about moving forward with caution. A possible influence in shaping and analyzing the issue seems to come from lobbying groups formed by Cuban-American entrepreneurs and U.S. politicians. These groups, potentially aligned with the Cuban government, could be shaping the narrative to highlight an emerging capitalism in Cuba, from which they would undoubtedly benefit.
The ultimate goal? It is likely to influence public opinion and U.S. policy to lift the embargo and remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
However, the validity of this capitalist emergence remains questionable, and its presence in the Miami press is merely another move on the geopolitical chessboard.