Wise words about Cuba

The hideously depressing thing is that Cuba under Battista–Cuba in 1957–was a developed country. Cuba in 1957 had lower infant mortality than France, Belgium, West Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Cuba in 1957 had doctors and nurses: as many doctors and nurses per capita as the Netherlands, and more than Britain or Finland. Cuba in 1957 had as many vehicles per capita as Uruguay, Italy, or Portugal. Cuba in 1957 had 45 TVs per 1000 people–fifth highest in the world. Cuba today has fewer telephones per capita than it had TVs in 1957.


Thus I don\’t understand lefties who talk about the achievements of the Cuban Revolution: \”…to have better health care, housing, education, and general social relations than virtually all other comparably developed countries.\” Yes, Cuba today has a GDP per capita level roughly that of–is \”comparably developed\”–Bolivia or Honduras or Zimbabwe, but given where Cuba was in 1957 we ought to be talking about how it is as developed as Italy or Spain.

The great revolution might indeed provide things that certain lefties like. But it can only be viewed as a success even in those terms by refusing to look at where it was before said great revolution.

12 thoughts on “Wise words about Cuba”

  1. Well,Richard, since Cuba has, potentially, normal trading relations with 191 of the countries in the United Nations, and restricted relations with 1 of them, I suggest not very much.

  2. One of the lesser delights in watching Chariots of Fire was to be reminded that at the time of the Paris Olympics both Cuba and Argentina were in the first world.

  3. Martin, the ‘normal’ trading relations which included countries amongst the 191 being bullied into applying the same sanctions by the 1 (which just so happened to be the most powerful economic country on the planet and the nearest trading relation) and eventually translated into Helms-Burton when they refused to kow-tow to Washington.

    Oh… that ‘normal’.

  4. Bob,

    Trade embargoes don’t really work very well. Take this example from recent Southern African history:

    In the 1970’s Rhodesia, like Cuba, was an economy based on primary industires – farming, forestry and mining. It was also the subject of an almost total embargo by all 192 of the United Nations. Despite this, the Rhodesian economy actually grew during sanctions and per capita GDP was greater at independence than it is now in sanction-free Zimbabwe.

    I’ll agree the US does have a lot of clout and does tend to throw it around. That being said, experience does seem to indicate that even The Great Satan’s worst enemies can find chums with whom to trade if they want to, if they have something worth trading and if they have a bit of gumption.

  5. Richard Grey:

    EmbargoeS? Insofar as I know, the only nation maintaining an embargo against Cuba is the U.S. (and it’s also noteworthy that, since those articles of trade deemed “humanitarian” are not covered by embargo, the U.S. continues to be, by far, not only a trading partner of Cuba but, by far, their largest.

    Socialist governance is able to guarantee only one result: that you’ll be poorer than if otherwise governed. That goes for virtually every nation on the planet; Cuba’s just sort of a “worst-case scenario” (come to think of it–maybe it’s good to have a cautionary example!).

  6. I’ve been reading a biog of Stirling Moss recently, and recall two stories about his attendance at the Cuban Grand Prix (a sports car race). The first time, the race was under Battista, the race organisation was chaotic and his friend, Manuel Fangio, was kidnapped by rebels. The second race was under Castro and was a bit less chaotic.

    The relevance is that in the 1950s, Cuba was more like Argentina and Brazil economically than its closest neighbours. Why? — proximity to the USA and readily available gambling, prostitution and booze helped. Sanctions cut off that income source, which would have been diminishing anyway (Las Vegas effect).

    In the cold war era, Cuba propped itself up with over valued sugar exports to the USSR. The USA would have been a more natural market post cold war, but that market was artificially closed. And USA citizens are prohibited from visiting Cuba for tourism and trade.

    Cuba is now poorer than Argentina and Brazil, with weaker prospects. All three countries have been merrily fucked up by despots. But only Cuba has endured a spiteful economic blockade by its natural trading partner for 40+ years. Gene Berman fairly comments that humanitarian goods have been exchanged; those are the goods that have permitted Cuba to remain civilised within its limited economic progress.

    Now if Cuba had oil to trade like Venezuela…

  7. “The first time, the race was under Battista, the race organisation was chaotic and his friend, Manuel Fangio, was kidnapped by rebels. The second race was under Castro and was a bit less chaotic.”

    Such a good point.
    Reminds me of something that happened to my family. In the 1920s my grandmother was in Romania and there were all kinds of political uprisings going on, people fighting in the streets at times.
    By the time the Nazis locked her in a concentration camp, everything was far more regimented and organised. She knew exactly how much bread she was going to get (1 piece per three days or something).
    Then when she lived under Stalin in Soviet-occupied territory, she knew exactly what rations she would be entitled too, and she didn’t need to worry about the possibility of her surviving relatives running away to join the army, because they were all forcibly enlisted or sent to a gulag and killed.
    Living with certainty under despots has a lot going for it!! Gee Charlieman, maybe you could come to Australia and rule over us!

  8. PS:
    “was kidnapped by rebels. The second race was under Castro and was a bit less chaotic.”

    So Castro = good because there were less kidnappings by rebels? But weren’t the rebels followers of Castro themselves? After the revolution they didn’t need to “kidnap” people because the activity was now termed “relocation” like when AIDS sufferers were relocated to concentration camps.

  9. mark: Note that I described the events during two years under different governments. I didn’t produce a cause and effect argument about the two Grand Prix. It’s all in your head.

  10. BlacquesJacquesShellacques

    I’m from Canada. We trade freely with Cuba. Americans who wish to trade with Cuba often do so through here, or Mexico. The difference in shipping costs is minimal.

    Cuba has little trade because they have neither money nor trade goods anyone wants.

    How dat happen?

  11. Having visited Cuba several times, it’s a country I feel very safe to be. Also having talked to a lot of Cubans and visited their homes helps to understand their way of life so who are we to critisize. I would live in Cuba if I could.
    Oh and Charlieman, Cuba has plenty of oil.

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