Poor Will Be Screwed as Cuba Liberalizes

CancunI’m not sure how to take Josh Barro’s article over at The Upshot this last week, Cuba the Next Cancún? It Should Be So Lucky. It is a response to a tweet by Jeremy Scahill, “I’m glad I got to visit several times before US tourists try to turn it into Cancún.” Barro’s response it, “Gotcha! Cancún was a government created Caribbean resort!” If that were it, it would be just vaguely sad and pathetic. I mean: it was a tweet and Barro never actually proves that Scahill was wrong.

The one thing that we have seen time and again as communist countries “liberalized” is that they they don’t move to open governments with free markets. They move to corrupt governments with crony capitalism. In the United States, the first thing that set the media against Putin was what he did to the oil oligarchs in Russia. This was presented as some terrible authoritarian move. But the Russian people saw it the opposite way. Putin was just reversing a great injustice that occurred under the early Russian “democracy.” The people’s wealth was basically stolen from them. The billionaires who were losing most of their money were not great capitalists. They were just people who had the ability to work the levers of government.

I doubt that Scahill has thought through the situation in Cuba. It was, after all, a tweet. But the generous reading of his words is that he fears that the “capitalists” are going to descend on Cuba, find a whole lot of government officials keen to trade their power in the government for piles of cash. And just like in Russia before it, Cuba will see its people screwed of their share of the wealth generated. It will be the Batista government all over again. Five decades of the Cuban people suffering under their own government and the United States’ government. And it all comes right back to where it started.

The problem with Scahill’s tweet is that he he misspoke. It wouldn’t be the tourists who try to turn Cuba into Cancún. The idea of more and more tourists going to Cuba and spreading some money around in the local economies sounds like an absolutely great idea to me. The fact that individual Cubans would build hotels sounds great. In this regard, I suspect that Barro and I are much in agreement. But he probably thinks foreign capital flooding in is the best way to do this. On that issue, I’m sure I’m with Scahill. It would be sad if Cuba ended up looking the same as every other corporate resort in the world.

But I can’t get too upset about that. The issue is how this would all play out for the Cubans themselves. Most likely, they will be screwed the way most people are today: with a public-private partnership that allows powerful people in the government to cash out of the country, foreign money to cash in, and leaves the people with new minimum wage jobs cleaning toilets. Maybe that will be an improvement for them. But it certainly isn’t anything like justice.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

8 thoughts on “Poor Will Be Screwed as Cuba Liberalizes

  1. And Cuba made the unforgivable mistake of nationalizing some oil refineries way back when. There you go, that’s a “terrorist state.” Or “rogue state.” Or whatever.

    I’m pretty sure Cuba was hated by America for 50 years because we failed in our half-assed attempts to illicitly conquer it. Iran tried nationalizing its oil industry, so off you go, Mosaddegh! Guatemala, quite wittily, paid United Fruit exactly the value of land United Fruit was criminally under-reporting on their tax returns, and President Arbenz stated to anyone who asked that his goal was to be like America under the New Deal. Off you go, commie!

    Holy shit, this stuff is depressing. Welcome to the feel-good namby-pamby world of liberalism, folks.

    • I didn’t know that about Guatemala. That’s great! That is my problem with American media coverage though. When Russia was being raped by the oligarchs, the coverage was all about how great it was that “democracy” had come to Russia. Who needs oppression when the free press only report what the power elite want them to.

      • Yeah (sob.) The Guatemala thing came right after the Iran thing. The CIA was on a roll, I guess.

        Media. The “Colbert Report” ended with a big sing-along featuring lots of celebrities, and I guess Steven Colbert’s earned that, he did an O’Reilly parody with more legs to it than any of us would have supposed. In the sing-along, I think I saw Amy Goodman. Hard to recognize in a dress and with a hairdo, but I’m pretty sure it was her. If that actually was Amy Goodman getting to be unserious and dolled up by makeup people, that’s just great. If anybody deserves a day off to be a prom queen for once, it’s her. If I announced the stuff she does daily, I’d shoot myself. Also, if that’s her, props to the “Colbert” staff for being pretty damn cool.

        • I didn’t see her. I did see Arianna Huffington, which could have been who you saw although she is obviously not of the same caliber. Paul Krugman was there. But any liberals who were there were more than offset by Henry Kissinger. Was he the only war criminal there?

          Mostly, I was really disappointed with the last episode. “We’ll Meet Again” went on way too long. Also: it’s amazing that comedy writers can be so bad at writing narratives. And this is after having had months to think about it.

          The episode was good in the sense that it summed up the Colbert character. Now that Colbert is going to be out of character, we will see if his insufferable narcissism goes away. I do hope so. Even from the character it was often hard to take.

          • I just rewatched the bit. Yeah, I saw Huffington, and Dr. Death Kissinger, too. Krugman was standing right next to Thomas Friedman, if you didn’t catch that. The lady I’m fairly sure is Amy Goodman is early on in the thing, obviously enjoying herself and singing next to Charlie Rose and R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe (in the ostentatious wool cap.) Right before that you can see Ken Burns behind another group of celebrities as Meredith Viera hogs the camera. Gloria Steinem briefly walks in front of Viera’s camera hogging.

            I enjoyed the number, it was like “Where’s Waldo.” Lots of people I admire, many I don’t, have fun picking ’em out from the crowd. I didn’t watch the show regularly; I don’t have cable. My impression is that Colbert served a useful purpose mocking the O’Reily type, just as “The Daily Show” serves a useful purpose as a farm team for comedians to hone their stuff. Are Stewart or Colbert genuinely gutsy? Of course not. Their clips make me smile more than any average “SNL” episode, though, and I like it when my expensive glowing rectangles make me smile.

  2. @JMF – Ah! That would be UN Ambassador Samantha Power. I see what you mean. But I don’t think Amy Goodman ever has her hair done. It’s a principle — like with me and combing my hair. There was a lot of camera hogging. The same thing happened to Ric Ocasek. I don’t think much care was taken and they over-filled the space.

    There are times when Stewart is clearly angry. I’ve never seen that with Colbert. I wouldn’t say that Stewart was “gutsy,” but the sad thing is that he has more guts than any journalist working at his level. You know you don’t have to have cable. I watch it the morning after online most of the time. But the quality of The Daily Show has really gone down. And I almost never watch the interview.

  3. Damn! I wanted it to be Goodman being happy. I don’t really give a flying fart if Power is happy. “A Problem From Hell” wasn’t the worst book in the world, it was about how genocide is horrible, and nobody argues with that. As UN ambassador, she seems to be window-dressing for America’s awful human-rights record, which negates any good things about her writing in my view.

    Hopefully the good people staffing “Democracy Now” are happy, even if they’re not invited to celebrity sing-alongs. I think I’ll pop over there now and do my Xmas duty with a donation, which is about due as I’ve been checking them out for months without paying a dime, cheapskate bastard me.

    Now that celebrity sing-along is far less tolerable. It still had Ken Burns and Steinem. Hopefully Kissinger had his skin scorched by being in their vicinity, going “Mein Gott! Ze dezenzy! I ist on fire!”

    My favorite Colbert bit isn’t from the cable show. It’s a sweet little song he did at the end of a Xmas special, with one of my secret heroes, Elvis Costello. I suspect Elvis wrote it; the lines “a redeemer / and a saviour / an obese man giving toys for good behavior” would be more than enough DNA for a TV detective. I can’t find a link that isn’t unbearably huge, but punch “Stephen Colbert Elvis Costello” into a search engine and check out “There Are Much Worse Things To Believe In.” There hasn’t been a good new original Xmas song in decades; this qualifies. For that song alone, I’m happy “Colbert Report” ever existed.

    • I can’t believe you read that book! I avoid stuff like that. Politicians never write good books. And yes, it would have been nice to see AG with a big smile. All she seems capable of is a wry smile. But that’s enough — and more than the world deserves.

      I always avoided any time Colbert sang with guests. It was part of the narcissism that I hate. It seems to me that he sang with Costello many times. He must not have been available for the last show, because he was a favored guest.

      In the song “Catholic Boy,” Jim Carroll wrote, “When I enter a church, the feet of statues bleed.” I’d like to think the same thing of Kissinger.

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