Havana, Cuba (aliciafox.net)
“Socialism or Death” the state slogan of Communist Cuba. Not exactly a motto one would expect to see on a welcome mat. That is, unless you’re the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Reuters reported that on Tuesday the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donohue, actually visited Communist run Cuba for the first time in 15 years. To top it off, he justified his visit by praising the growth of “free enterprise” there (eh?):
“I’m here because of the evidence that we’re seeing in Cuba of an extraordinary expansion of free enterprise, the reduction in government jobs, and more private hiring, all of which is moving in the right direction,” said Donohue, whose chamber is an influential lobbying group that bills itself as the world’s largest business organization.
“As you know the chamber for years has been opposed to the sanctions as they are used,” he told reporters shortly after his arrival and before he met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
Ironically, New Jersey Democrat, Robert Menedeze, rightfully criticized the visit:
...New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez expressed serious concern about the chamber’s trip, fearing it would strengthen a government that “jails foreign business leaders without justification, violates international labor standards and denies its citizens their basic rights.”
“Such conditions hardly seem an attractive opportunity for any responsible business leader,” said Menendez, a leading Cuban-American voice for maintaining strict economic sanctions on the one-party state.
Contrary to the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims, during his first visitto Cuba earlier this year, Journalist Michael J. Totten states that there are two economies in Cuba: The Communist one for the natives and the quasi-capitalist one for the tourists:
By the 1990s, Cuba needed economic reform as much as a gunshot victim needs an ambulance. Castro wasn’t about to reform himself and his ideology out of existence, but he had to open up at least a small piece of the country to the global economy.So the Soviet subsidy was replaced by vacationers, mostly from Europe and Latin America, who brought in much-needed hard currency. Arriving foreigners weren’t going to tolerate receiving ration cards for food—as the locals do—so the island also needed some restaurants. The regime thus allowed paladars—restaurants inside private homes—to open, though no one from outside the family could work in them. (That would be “exploitative.”) Around the same time, government-run “dollar stores” began selling imported and relatively luxurious goods to non-Cubans. Thus was Cuba’s quasi-capitalist bubble created.
When the ailing Fidel Castro ceded power to his less doctrinaire younger brother Raúl in 2008, the quasi-capitalist bubble expanded, but the economy remains heavily socialist. In the United States, we have a minimum wage; Cuba has a maximum wage—$20 a month for almost every job in the country. (Professionals such as doctors and lawyers can make a whopping $10 extra a month.) Sure, Cubans get “free” health care and education, but as Cuban exile and Yale historian Carlos Eire says, “All slave owners need to keep their slaves healthy and ensure that they have the skills to perform their tasks.”
Even employees inside the quasi-capitalist bubble don’t get paid more.
Mr. Totten goes on to explain the squalor conditions that the natives of Cuba still suffer in including having to bring their own medicines, sheets and iodine to the hospital in order to receive “free” health care and having to wait 2 hours for “public transportation” they have to pay for out of their meager wages.
…As for the free health care, patients have to bring their own medicine, their own bedsheets, and even their own iodine to the hospital. Most of these items are available only on the illegal black market, moreover, and must be paid for in hard currency—and sometimes they’re not available at all.
…The free and subsidized goods and services, though, are as dismal as everything else on the island. Citizens who take public transportation to work—which includes almost everyone, since Cuba hardly has any cars—must wait in lines for up to two hours each way to get on a bus. And commuters must pay for their ride out of their $20 a month. At least commuter buses are cheap. By contrast, a one-way ticket to the other side of the island costs several months’ pay; a round-trip costs almost an annual salary.
After comparing Mr. Totten’s description and the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s description of Communist Cuba an intelligent individual might see a stark contrast between the two.
On one hand we seem to have an honest Journalist doing his best to truthfully tell the tragic story about the realities of Communism. On the other, we seem to have a businessman who lacks ethics and is apparently looking for something else… could it be…. cheap, Communist labor?