Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Viva Castro's departure
Cuba in 2008 should be the Hong Kong or Singapore of Latin America

Mark Milke
For The Calgary Herald

Saturday, March 01, 2008

In 1958, the year before Fidel Castro came to power in a revolution and
promised prosperity, democracy and the restoration of Cuba's 1940
constitution, the Caribbean island, while troubled by poverty, a corrupt
dictator and the American Mafia, was also better off than most
developing nations.

While poor compared to the United States, Cuba in 1958 had a per capita
GDP of $3,170 according to the OECD. (Canada's was $8,947.). But Cuba
outranked all other Latin American countries except four: Argentina,
Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Tellingly, in 1958, the island nation's per person wealth was higher
than any East Asian country or colony, save Japan, which barely beat
Cuba at only $3,290. Hong Kong had a per capita GDP of $2,924,
Singapore's was $2,294, the Philippines' was $1,447, Taiwan's per person
GDP stood at $1,387 and South Korea's was $1,112.

Thus in 1958, Cuba was almost as rich as Japan, one and half times as
wealthy as Singapore, richer than Hong Kong, and three times as
prosperous as South Korea.

Fifty years later, Cuba is one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

Meanwhile, jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and
Taiwan (the latter two also had dictators and problems similar to Cuba
in the 1950s) have long eclipsed Cuba. They've done so not only in per
capita wealth, but in measurements Castro's defenders point to when they
assert the Marxist revolution "worked," such as in health care and education

The irony of Cuba's position became even more evident recently.

By happenstance, I was in Cuba when Castro resigned. It should have
happened long ago and I doubt his replacement, his brother Raul, will
change much.

Human Rights Watch puts it this way: "The repressive machinery (Castro)
constructed over almost half a century remains fully intact."

That machinery, documented extensively by a plethora of sources in the
decades since 1959, includes secret police, plenty of snitches, summary
executions, concentration camps, sadism against male and female inmates
alike, "re-education" and forced labour. One refugee I spoke with last
year told me how his father was sent away for three years to work in the
sugarcane fields after the family applied to leave Cuba in 1969.

The abuse of Cubans continues even recently. In 2003, the Cuban
government gave 75 journalists jail terms of 20 years and more for
expressing something other than the state line.

Sometimes, Cuba's government is just petty. In 2005, a chambermaid,
Leidys Morales Quinteros, was fired after she was overheard criticizing
Castro. (Note to Canadian tourists: this is why Cubans tell you they
don't want to discuss politics.)

On the economic front, the effect of 49 years of Castro's communism is
clear.

One travel guidebook estimates that 45 per cent of Cubans live in
substandard shelter. That might be a wild underestimate. Walk around
Havana and much of the housing is literally crumbling. It's also
substandard and cramped.

Peer into an apartment and you'll notice the ubiquitous dividers in
rooms. It's common for several families to live in apartments and houses
designed for just one.

Then there's the social fallout of the glorious revolution and its
Marxist doctrines.

One acquaintance chatted with a Cuban training to become a doctor. Her
rent was 100 pesos a month. Her income was 30 pesos. When asked how she
paid the bills, she replied that she prostituted herself once a week —
twice weekly when the rent was due.

Some will point to the U.S. trade embargo as the source of Cuba's
economic ills.

I agree. It's a significant reason for Cuba's poverty, that and the
Communist system itself — and both should end. Cuban-Americans don't
have to give up their claims to property confiscated by Castro and his
thugs, but that can be dealt with if and when Cuba becomes a liberal,
market-oriented democracy.

In the meantime, money is power and the Americans should try another
strategy: wash the Communists out to sea on a tidal wave of U.S. dollars
from investment, trade and tourism.

If Castro cared about Cubans instead of raw power, he could have long
ago admitted that his economic program had failed, reversed course,
and/or even resigned. He could have called elections as did other
Marxists such as Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega in the 1980s.

But instead, precisely similar to past Cuban dictators, Castro tightened
his grip and now has a worse economic and human rights record than the
dictator he toppled, Fulgencio Batista.

Cuba in 2008 should be the Hong Kong or Singapore of Latin America. That
it is not is the fault of Castro and his cronies.

Mark Milke is author of A Nation of Serfs? His column appears every weekend.

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