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Tuesday, October 26, 2004



This is very arbitrary and unfair. It's sort of like what happens to me when I've got no cash, use an ATM machine other than my own bank's, and end up getting charged a $1.50 fee on both ends to get my hands on a twenty dollar bill from my own checking account. Except, of course, it's much worse..

Fidel Castro is one of the main guys who really destroyed any hope of "revolutionary socialism" in the 20th Century. When I was very young and foolish I was sympathetic to the Cuban revolution and could wrangle excuses for this, that and the other that was basically fucked about the Castro regime. But when he sided with Brezhnev and the Soviet tanks in '68 against the Chekoslovakian reformers, my sympathy evaporated.


Don't tell Bush. We don't want to give him any ideas.

Eric Blair

That pratfall last week must of unhinged him.

Randy Paul

Thanks for the mention, Marc.

I really think in addition to the desire to get dollars in the door in a big and quick way and to dis the exile community, that Castro is moving towards the Euro. A number of Euro-based economies have investments in Cuba (Spain and Italy especially).

The exile community in South Florida is resourceful and they'll probably set up a way to deal with making these remittances in Euros. Castro still wins out here in that case. In any event, the average Cubans still get squeezed fromn North to South.

too many steves

Was JFK right that the best solution to the problem of Cuba is a dead Castro? Would that actually emancipate Cuba or create a vacuum for all sorts of new troubles?

Cuba has been in this deplorable state for, what, 40+ years? Bush hasn't "fixed" the problem but is he guilty of omission or commission? Has he made anything but superficial changes to our (long standing) policy toward Cuba?

Shouldn't we admit that our 40 years of experience in and with Cuba proves that nothing we have tried has actually worked? Why does that continue to be controversial?

I don't know the answers to these questions and am honestly perplexed that the brutish nastiness that is Castro and Cuba has existed for most, if not all, of my lifetime - which is longer than I care to admit at the moment.


If, as indeed, the Miami Cubans figure out how to get the money to Cuban relatives through the Euro...this doesn't seem as quite a major catastrophe as it's being painted?


Learn from Cuba, says World Bank

by Jim Lobe

Washington, 30 Apr 2001 (IPS) - World Bank President James Wolfensohn Monday extolled the Communist government of President Fidel Castro for doing “a great job” in providing for the social welfare of the Cuban people.

His remarks followed Sunday’s publication of the Bank’s 2001 edition of ‘World Development Indicators’ (WDI), which showed Cuba as topping virtually all other poor countries in health and education statistics.

It also showed that Havana has actually improved its performance in both areas despite the continuation of the US trade embargo against it, and the end of Soviet aid and subsidies for the Caribbean island more than ten years ago.

“Cuba has done a great job on education and health,” Wolfensohn told reporters at the conclusion of the annual spring meetings of the Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “They have done a good job, and it does not embarrass me to admit it.”

His remarks reflect a growing appreciation in the Bank for Cuba’s social record, despite recognition that Havana’s economic policies are virtually the antithesis of the “Washington Consensus”, the neo-liberal orthodoxy that has dominated the Bank’s policy advice and its controversial structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) for most of the last 20 years.

Some senior Bank officers, however, go so far as to suggest that other developing countries should take a very close look at Cuba’s performance.

“It is in some sense almost an anti-model,” according to Eric Swanson, the programme manager for the Bank’s Development Data Group, which compiled the WDI, a tome of almost 400 pages covering scores of economic, social, and environmental indicators.

Indeed, Cuba is living proof in many ways that the Bank’s dictum that economic growth is a pre-condition for improving the lives of the poor is over-stated, if not, downright wrong. The Bank has insisted for the past decade that improving the lives of the poor was its core mission.

Besides North Korea, Cuba is the one developing country, which, since 1960, has never received the slightest assistance, either in advice or in aid, from the Bank. It is not even a member, which means that Bank officers cannot travel to the island on official business.

The island’s economy, which suffered devastating losses in production after the Soviet Union withdrew its aid, especially its oil supplies, a decade ago, has yet to fully recover. Annual economic growth, fuelled in part by a growing tourism industry and limited foreign investment, has been halting and, for the most part, anaemic.

Moreover, its economic policies are generally anathema to the Bank. The government controls virtually the entire economy, permitting private entrepreneurs the tiniest of spaces. It heavily subsidises virtually all staples and commodities; and its currency is not convertible to anything. It retains tight control over all foreign investment, and often changes the rules abruptly and for political reasons.

At the same time, however, its record of social achievement has not only been sustained; it’s been enhanced, according to the WDI.

It has reduced its infant mortality rate from 11 per 1,000 births in 1990 to seven in 1999, which places it firmly in the ranks of the western industrialised nations. It now stands at six, according to Jo Ritzen, the Bank’s Vice President for Development Policy, who visited Cuba privately several months ago to see for himself.

By comparison, the infant mortality rate for Argentina stood at 18 in 1999;

Chile’s was down to ten; and Costa Rica, at 12. For the entire Latin American and Caribbean region as a whole, the average was 30 in 1999.

Similarly, the mortality rate for children under the age of five in Cuba has fallen from 13 to eight per thousand over the decade. That figure is 50% lower than the rate in Chile, the Latin American country closest to Cuba’s achievement. For the region as a whole, the average was 38 in 1999.

“Six for every 1,000 in infant mortality - the same level as Spain - is just unbelievable,” according to Ritzen, a former education minister in the Netherlands. “You observe it, and so you see that Cuba has done exceedingly well in the human development area.”

Indeed, in Ritzen’s own field, the figures tell much the same story. Net primary enrolment for both girls and boys reached 100% in 1997, up from 92% in 1990. That was as high as most developed nations - higher even than the US rate and well above 80-90% rates achieved by the most advanced Latin American countries.

“Even in education performance, Cuba’s is very much in tune with the developed world, and much higher than schools in, say, Argentina, Brazil, or Chile.”

It is no wonder, in some ways. Public spending on education in Cuba amounts to about 6.7% of gross national income, twice the proportion in other Latin American and Caribbean countries and even Singapore.

There were 12 primary school pupils for every Cuban teacher in 1997, a ratio that ranked with Sweden, rather than any other developing country. The Latin American and East Asian average was twice as high at 25 to one.

The average youth (age 15-24) illiteracy rate in Latin America and the Caribbean stands at 7%. In Cuba, the rate is zero. In Latin America, where the average is 7%, only Uruguay approaches that achievement, with one percent youth illiteracy.

“Cuba managed to reduce illiteracy from 40% to zero within ten years,” said Ritzen. “If Cuba shows that it is possible, it shifts the burden of proof to those who say it’s not possible.”

Similarly, Cuba devoted 9.1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) during the 1990s to health care, roughly equivalent to Canada’s rate. Its ratio of 5.3 doctors per 1,000 people was the highest in the world.

The question that these statistics pose, of course, is whether the Cuban experience can be replicated. The answer given here is probably not.

“What does it, is the incredible dedication,” according to Wayne Smith, who was head of the US Interests Section in Havana in the late 1970s and early 1980s and has travelled to the island many times since. “Doctors in Cuba can make more driving cabs and working in hotels, but they don’t. They’re just very dedicated,” he said.

Ritzen agreed that the Cuban experience probably couldn’t be applied wholesale to another poor country, but insisted that developing countries can learn a great deal by going to the island.

“Is the experience of Cuba useful in other countries? The answer is clearly yes, and one is hopeful that political barriers would not prevent the use of the Cuban experience in other countries. Here, I am pretty hopeful, in that I see many developing countries taking the Cuban experience well into account.”

But the Cuban experience may not be replicable, he went on, because its ability to provide so much social support “may not be easy to sustain in the long run”.

“It’s not so much that the economy may collapse and be unable to support such a system, as it is that any transition after Castro passes from the scene would permit more freedom for people to pursue their desires for a higher standard of living.” The trade-off, according to Ritzen, may work against the welfare system that exists now.

“It is a system, which on the one hand, is extremely productive in social areas and which, on the other, does not give people opportunities for more prosperity.” – SUNS 4887

[c] 2001, SUNS - All rights reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or posted to any system or service without specific permission from SUNS. This limitation includes incorporation into a database, distribution via Usenet News, bulletin board systems, mailing lists, print media or broadcast. For information about reproduction or multi-user subscriptions please contact: suns@igc.org


Isn't Jim Lobe some leftist who supports Workers World Party?


Why do so many Cubans want to escape Castros's wonderful prison? Send World Bank officials to Cuba to handle the finaces. They can drive cabs and wait on tourist till Cuba gets more banks.

Josh Legere

How does Jim Lobe's opinion justify the repressive actions of Castro? I am with the dissidents that are in jail for exercising their human right of freedom of speech.

How can anyone in this country show solidarity with a regime that does this? Maybe they don't realize how lucky we are in the US. We can say whatever we want without going to jail.

Soft on dictatorships again...


Reply to Steve:

Hi, Steve!

Yes, Jim Lobe is a WWP supporter. He also plans to vote for Ralph Nader this year and has big pictures of Milosevic and Kim Jong-Il on his living room wall. He also has an extensive collection of Paul Robeson 78's and listens to WBAI 24 hours a day.

That's what I've heard from Leo Casey, anyhow, for what that's worth...

Randy Paul

"If, as indeed, the Miami Cubans figure out how to get the money to Cuban relatives through the Euro...this doesn't seem as quite a major catastrophe as it's being painted?"


I'm speculating. I don't even know if it can be done.

The larger issue here is this: why is Castro doing this? The answer is similar to the answer for why a dog licks his balls: because he can and in Castro's case he can because he's a totalitarian dictator.

Josh Legere

Randy - You nailed it!


Randy: "The larger issue here is this: why is Castro doing this?"

1. Beef up his own private coffers. Insurance against being deposed.
2. He knows it will never come back against him. Because all suffering of Third World citizens, especially in countries hostile to the US, is assumed to be the result of the US somehow.


All the flowery rhetoric about why Cuba is a model, blah, blah, blah flies in the face of one single, indisputable, observabel fact:

Every year, thousands of Cubans try, against near-impossible odds, to leave their island & reach the US (or anywhere else, really). It's not just that there's a mass exodus, it's that it's an exodus of desperation. Other countries are also poor, but their population can at least freely emigrate. Cuba is poor, and their people have to risk jail to leave.

Explain that, leftist Cuba sympathisers.


The answer probably has something to do with Castro's desperate need for a hard currency to make foreign purchases with. Face it, no nation or corporation is real likely to accept Cuban "revolutionary pesos" or whatever they're called. When you consider that the exchange rate for Dollars to "R.P".'s is probably something huge (during the last days of the Soviet Empire, one dollar was trading for hundreds of roubles on the black market... and the Soviets had something MORE than sugar and 12-year-old hookers to back their money up with) you'll see that wiht this directive Castro has forced a .9-to-1 exchange rate, which is FAR better than even his government could have dreamed of. Essentially, he's trading toilet paper for greenbacks.

Someone find Danny Glover...


Why do you besmirch the name of a great hero, Fidel Castro? Castro is the best thing that ever happened to my country, and it is a paradise!

Harry in Atlanta

Don't care.


Wouldn't you rather be able to lick your balls than screw around with exchange rates ? Just a thought...

Josh Narins

I guess you have never been to Israel. You can't get the official exchange rate at most places. At one place, they were taking _more_ than a 10% cut. Since we were in the desert, we had no choice about places to exchange currency.

In any event, calling it a "regressive sales tax" is, for all intents and purposes, a lie. What percentage of the money in Cuba is American, anyway? Who possesses this money? Since most people work for the government, most people are paid in Cuban currency. Certainly the poor have the least US dollars, making this, in all likelihood, a progressive "fee," but in no sense a tax.

Cuba, more doctors per person than any other New World country. More aid to the sick, poor of foreign countries than the US, in absolute terms. And since more than half the world is living on a buck or two a day, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that more than half the world appreciates Castro more than Busho.

Josh Narins

too many steves: Cuba has had this problem for more than 110 years. President Stephen Grover Cleveland smartly kept America out of Cuba, but the _LIE_, pushed by (rightist) Hearst and (leftist) Pulitzer on the American public, that the Spanish were responsible for attacking a US Naval vessel, was all the excuse the McKinley adminstration needed to launch a huge, aggressive war.

Rove has repeatedly said he and Bush are most like McKinley and Mark Hanna.

No one cheered when US troops came back from the Phillipines. Those damn 1906 American anti-patriots!

Josh Narins

Josh Legere: The two dozen odd "journalists" who Castro jailed are all allied with a group which advocates violent overthrow of the government.

Do you advocate violent overthrow of the government? Would the US sit idly by if associates of violent overthrow of the US government were in America? Does Spain allow the Basque/ETA network to publish their newspaper? Or are many arrested?

We know some people who do missions work in Cuba, and they always come back commenting on the lack of any kind of 'health care' among the 'common' people to whom they minister (generally not in the larger cities). Even aspirin is hard to get...


TO those few out there sympathetic to the Castro Regime. I'm a Czech born in 1970, meaning that i know what it is like to live under a, "communist regime".
It is true that everybody had healthcare and jobs but this came with a price. To get decent healthcare,bribery was routine and where you worked depended on your political connections and/or political obedience. Applications for universities, traveling, working, moving etc. had to be approved by party officials. My friend's father left his family and defected to Austria. The result, even though she was a young girl at the time she and her sister were deemed politically unreliable and were never allowed to study at university. Personal loyalty wasn't enough and individuals were also held accountable for the sins of their mothers or fathers. I couldgive ten more similiar examples that I witnessed first hand.
The closest we could travel to the west was Yugoslavia, because of their more lax version of Marxist/Leninism it was routine that a family would be forced to leave one child home to prevent defections.
From time to time brave souls wrote, "Russians Go Home", on walls. If the offenders had been caught they would have been thrown in jail. Attendance at May 1st parades was mandatory. If party officials said that 2+2=5 either you agreed or you faced real consequences. Not to mention imprisoning dissidents, labor camps, and the STBsecret police blackmailing friends and family members into becoming informers.
This is just scratching the surface,
I could write 1000 pages of true horrific examples of the cruel policies of the Bolsheviks.
The point is that, if you're going to defend Castro don't forget everything you're defending.

Val Prieto

I was not going to comment on this thread but, sheesh, Josh Narins, you are a complete bafoon.

Why does Castro need a sudden influx of dollars? Because he needs to purchase good from the US and can only do so by paying cash for them.

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