C- For his next trick, raul will allow all Cubans to own Lear jets.Real progress, indeed.
I'm not sure about "real progress," nonee. But after 40 years of things being one way, isn't it a step in the right direction?Or should we remain terribly cynical as these changes continue?.
Under normal circumstances, it might be progress. In absolute terms, I would agree that it is.But if you can take anything from the folks who obsessively focus on such things, Cuba is not normal circumstances. I know, no place that would employ economic apartheid in a similar manner would be under normal circumstances.That said, "reforms" like this can go either way. I think Alex alluded once to the chinafication of Cuba, referring to the effect of economic and social reforms undertaken without the democratic reforms that really enable them.It's the societal equvalent of naugahyde. It looks great, but meanwhile, the little naugas suffer.Some will point at these changes as precursor to a realignment of the currency system, and elimination of the convertible cuban peso. And in the end, so what? Now the average income can truly be stated in dollars? How did that raise wages to a level that can afford all these newly-permitted freedoms? How do those changes shift ownership of the means of production?Let's not even get to the intangible issues like dissenting opinions without reprisals. That would be too much too soon, you know? Perhaps this is raul's "soft landing" strategy. But I'm not being cynical when I say I'll believe it when I see it.
I don't know if it's terribly cynical, but I don't think it's much of a step. It's a symbolic gesture aimed to placate those who say they are second class citizens in their own country. (And I'm saying this from the perspective of somebody who was banned from entry and expelled a few times from hotel grounds and restaurants, some of the most humilliating experiences of my life).Hotels and cellulars are out of reach for most Cubans and most of those who could afford them already have. Same with computers or DVD players (and btw, it's still criminalized to own a computer that wasn't purchased at a government store or authorized by the government). There were widely known ways to get a celullar and cellular service, including hacking into old Spanish phones.What I find interesting is that the hotel measure, which was not necessary and will not improve the standards of living in any way, does remove the tourism apartheid argument which has been a strong argument against allowing American tourism to Cuba. It was undeniably reprehensible to go to a beach were the natives were banned. Now the natives won't be able to go, but it'll be for the same reason natives in any other poor tourist country don't: institutionalized poverty.I'll see how Raul tackles that one before I let my cynicism down.
Hotels and rental cars? Like there's anyone in Cuba that could afford either?Maybe they just wanted to get the hilarious William Shatner Priceline commercials...:)
Back in J-School, a media law professor raised the following question:"Is it really Freedom of the Press if only a select few own the means to publish a newspaper?" He compared this to having the freedom to drink water when you're stranded in the desert without a drop of water for miles.I was reminded of what he said when I read that column because what good is freedom to stay in a $120-a-night hotel if you're only making $20-a-month?
I think these steps may be bigger than it seems. It is clear that the vast majority of the population is in no condition to take advantage of these "freedoms". On the other hand, three key players may.1. Wealthy kleptocrats. My sense is that there is class division in Cuba, and that it is characterized by associations with higher levels of power/government authority. There must be a group of shrewd political players who are able to skim off dollars. Shrewd politicking, though, is not the same as good business sense which is why they'd need...2. Native entrepreneurs. The thing about people is that we thrive, even in the worst of situations. Simple personality prevalence rates would, basically, obviate the reality that there must be some exceptional Cubans that are able to really hustle (and I mean that in a positive way). Lack of resources, though has suppressed this. Still, you'd need a third key player...3. Foreign investment. Real economic development comes from a robust integration with the world economy (which is why wealthy Cubans probably wouldn't seem so wealthy to us). The Canadians, Europeans, and Latin Americans that already go there have that head start. All together then, the foreigners connect with the local entrepreneurs through the Cuban "nomenklatura". And that's where these freedoms come in. Telephony, road privileges, and the place-based conduits to the foreigners (i.e. the hotels), are all necessary for the connection.These are necessary and meaningful basic freedoms that are clearly economic development-oriented. I just don't think are just small deals.- gus
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