Lions, leopards and buffalo: latest punchlines in the running joke of Cuban “economic reform”

As we’ve heard so many times since Raul Castro took the helm in Cuba, the younger of two Communist dictators is a pragmatist. A reformer. He’s brought changed to the island’s dated, no-longer-sufficient economic system that everyone has known were long overdue.

There are signs that the changes Raul has made are paying off. With economic freedom from the state comes new opportunity. For example: the opportunity to work for the state.

But wait; there’s more! This “brigade of cuentapropistas,” as the BBC refers to it, will be using its freedom from the state to work for the state in accommodating immigrants that will kick Cuba’s economic progress up a few notches: 146 wild animals that Namibia has donated to Cuba, including (but not limited to) lions, leopards and buffalo.

Let me pause here for the benefit of any new readers who might not read much Cuba news. Yes, you are reading this correctly. The government that created “spaces” for free-ish market activity because confining its citizens within its ludicrous economic system was too much of a burden… has decided that the next step in its scheme is to not only hire all those workers right back, but spend a reported $15 million on committing to the care of 146 wild animals. For a zoo in a city where plenty of the human attractions need remittances to feed themselves properly.

And… call me crazy, but something tells me this project won’t stay under its $15 million-dollar budget. Between whatever the regime agreed to pay its new “independent contractors” (cuentapropistas translates roughly to “ownaccorders” or “ownaccounters”), the frivolous and unproductive “job creation” the project will prompt the state to spend on, and the meat that it will presumably feed those animals while denying meat to the two-legged class outside the fence… this might just be the most hilarious-if-it-weren’t-so-tragic theft of Cuban time and talent (a “long con,” if you will) we’ve seen in some time.

Read all about it — including Cuba’s history of inability to properly feed its zoo animals and the international brouhaha over the animals’ right to better migration conditions — here.

Finally, here’s a video of some lions at a zoo in Camaguey, Cuba. It was supposedly shot in May of this year… probably close enough to present day that we can place it in the post-special-period period during which interviewees for the BBC story insist the government has fattened up its animals.