Havana Affair

This Washington Times article about the plight of Cuban blacks trying in vain to get help from the NAACP is not new, but it deserves to be highlighted.

"I have never heard of a chapter of the NAACP taking an interest in the Cuban Negro," said Eusebio Penalver Mazorra, a black Cuban who spent 28 of his 69 years as a jailed dissident in the communist nation.
"While they moved in a precise way for solidarity to get rid of apartheid in South Africa, we have never received their support, even though we have asked for it."

That article came to my mind when I saw this Voice of America article about President Bush's revised Cuba strategy. "President Bush is moving to reduce the flow of U.S. dollars to Cuba and taking other steps to try to hasten the end of Fidel Castro's communist government in Havana."

In other words, the embargo, which has lasted for decades and which has not so far resulted in Castro's downfall, needs to be tightly maintained, in order to bring about Castro's downfall.

Besides this mind-boggling idea and the observation that foreign adventurism never sleeps, I'd like to offer you an anecdotal perspective. A friend of mine went to Cuba a couple of years ago on one of the educational trips the article mentions. Needless to say, I was very interested in what he observed there, and we talked about it a good deal when he got back. Perhaps the most important thing he said was that he believed the government there would fall within six months of a repeal of the embargo. Why? "There are two economies." Cuba's official economy runs on the peso, while its unofficial economy runs on the dollar. The government pays pesos, while tour guides, prostitutes, mendicants, and as many others as are able get dollars. Not surprisingly, the peso buys hardly anything. Also not surprisingly, as many people as are able become tour guides, prostitutes, and mendicants. Far from propping up the regime, the dollar economy is a refuge from the crushing poverty of the peso economy.

Repealing the embargo would not lead, as some seem to think, to American companies dealing exclusively with the government, which would indeed amount to propping up the regime. Instead, removing all impediments to trade with Cuba would result in a great influx of American dollars to private hands. One only needs to examine Hernando de Soto's The Other Path to be reminded that in remote economies the people are just as industrious as they are here in the comfortable West. They set up stalls, shops, and markets wherever they can find space. I can guarantee that as soon as I'm able to reach Cuba, I'll be spending a large amount of money, and as much of it as possible will bypass the government and go straight to ordinary Cubans.

If that doesn't undermine a regime, I don't know what does.

Returning to the plight of Cuban blacks. The VOA article mentions that part of Bush's plan is increasing funding for Cuban anti-Castro groups, and looking for private solutions I wondered what private groups could be involved in anti-Castro agitation. Then I remembered the article and how one of the most powerful private groups, and in this situation one with great reasons for agitation, is sitting on the sidelines because of its overriding commitment to leftism. There are other groups, though not as powerful, and there's always the hope that they will successfully pitch the Cuban case to the NAACP. Until then, we have to lament that a powerful potential force for good is effectively siding with the enemy, and that the most powerful option is the one most adamantly opposed by the US government.

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"...I?ll be spending a large

"...I?ll be spending a large amount of money, and as much of it as possible will bypass the government and go straight to ordinary Cubans."

How much do you suspend reality in order to believe that the regime will not confiscate their wealth through taxation, or, better, through inflation? The regime has guns for a reason.

How would ending the trade

How would ending the trade embargo get money into the hands of the people?

The government is the sole employer. Even today, the Europeans and the Canadians are free to invest there -- but they cannot hire Cubans independently.

All hiring is done through Castro. Westerners pay western market rates for labor and Castro's government pays the actual workers pennies.

C'mon. If there were a hint of an armor-chink a la China, you might be right.

But, just this week, Cuba announced an end to the program that allowed independent businesses in a few areas. These had been tolerated since the USSR imploded and Cuba was denied its subsidies.

Sorry, Cuba (like North Korea) will have to be starved into change. And while that sounds cruel, bear in mind that that's the policy of their leaders.

Our pouring money in there will just result in Fidel and Kim expanding their palaces. Wow! Sounds a lot like oil-for-food.

Brian: I know I didn't use


I know I didn't use the term "black market," but try to be more creative. You think that what prostitutes make is taxed? Are they voluntarily handing over part of their earnings? What the government doesn't know about, it can't tax. As for inflation, I suppose it could start printing American dollars, but that seems unlikely.


The Other Path is a really interesting and important book, I recommend it. There are lots of people in the Third World willing to work, and most of them are willing to circumvent official channels to get it done. Already Cubans have a million ways of getting dollars from tourists. I find it hard to believe that the regime could stop it all. They can hardly stop what little unofficial (read: illegal) trade there is now. Just imagine what it would be like without the embargo.

Cuba is right next to Florida. Do you deny that Americans would want to visit Cuba? The State Dept. seems to think that too many are visiting now, in violation of the spirit, if not the letter of the law.

Not to mention that in 43 years the embargo has utterly failed to produce regime change. But just as the Marxists can continue hoping for the worker's revolution, we can keep hoping that the embargo will work.

I find the personal aspect

I find the personal aspect (that the US government can tell me where I can or can't visit) to be more demeaning.

The embargo of Iraq really did a lot of good didn't it? Sadam still built elaborate castles. The emabargo against Cuba is equally useless. Castro sure looks like HE is well fed.

If the US really wants to oust Castro, throw the full-on crush of capitalism at him. Let American tourists visit. Let tobaccanists import Cuban cigars. Let the baseball players play in the "world" series. Export shiny new cars to the island to replace all those 1950's cars. Let collectors buy up those 1950's cars. I feel that Unrestrained Capitalism will do more to topple the worlds dictators than any stupid embargo.


I do not believe that the

I do not believe that the covert dollarization of the Cuban economy is not the panacea that you hope it is. Your hope in the black market is admirable, but in reality the Government will just shoot the "speculators." The "speculators" will get tired before the Government runs out of bullets; I think you're demonstrating a remarkable naievete about the power of the State.

Why don't they shoot them

Why don't they shoot them now? Everything that Randall said is going on right now. Cuba doesn't have the resources of a panopticon state- even Soviet Russia, the exemplar of mass state terror, didn't have the resources for total mind control.

Additionally, I don't think the Cuban people would really stand for a new mass slaughter in the face of dramatically opened trade with the US (likely including a massive investment by rich Cuban-Americans just across the straits). If anything, we've done Castro a favor by keeping him isolated. Who's going to rise up thinking that the world has either turned its back on you (the US) or is happy to have you as an outsourced colonial plantation (the Europeans, Canadians) who *likes* your oppressive government?

And how do they know how good it is everywhere else, when nobody is allowed to talk to them or trade, etc. The influx of tourism can ONLY highlight the massive poverty of Cuba and the difference in material living conditions- probably the MOST subversive thing we could do to Uncle Fidel.