>– Cuba’s Communist Bloc Allies Pour Billions of Dollars into Modernizing, Expanding Island Infrastructure
On November 8, Cuba’s communist dictator Raul Castro, in what amounts to a much-belated Gorbachev-style perestroika (restructuring), announced that the regime will likely dismiss 500,000 public employees, expand private economic activity, and enact massive cuts in state subsidies. Over the next two or three years, another 800,000 state workers will be ousted. Eventually up to two Cubans in five will no longer work for the state.
The ruling Communist Party of Cuba (CPC) will allow more foreign investment and possibly open the real estate market. The Castro regime has also released 50 political prisoners, even as it demands the release of its jailed espionage agents in the USA, otherwise known as the “Cuban Five.”
“Only socialism is capable of … preserving the gains of the revolution,” cautions a 32-page document published as a guide for discussion leading up to a party congress in April, the first since 1997. Not wanting to raise the hopes of diehard anti-communists everywhere and Miami’s Cuban exile community, the CPC document insists: “Planning will be paramount, not the market.” The food ration card, which provides 10 days of food per month, will be “eliminated in an orderly fashion” in a drive to slash subsidies, the party organ elaborated. “China is worth studying,” added Granma nonchalantly.
A week after Raul’s announcement, former comrade in arms Fidel blessed little brother’s proposed reforms in a speech delivered at Havana University. “Fidel recognizes that he is happy, because the country is moving despite all the challenges,” asserted one report published in Granma, which is named after the yacht that ferried the insurgent Castro Bros. from Mexico to Cuba in 1956. Another state-run news agency shouted: “Fidel Castro endorses his brother Raúl’s economic reform.”
However, the Miami Herald points out that much of Comrade Fidel’s university speech was a verbatim reiteration of another given five years ago. “I confess that I was surprised by the currency of the ideas in the 2005 speech, Castro declared. Taking a page from the Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization playbook, the retired Cuban dictator reread parts of the speech in which he acknowledged that the regime “had made mistakes in its communist path” “Subsidies or grants, only for essential and vital things,” he declared to the audience several days ago. “The only thing not allowed is the irresponsible . . . squandering of resources.”
“For the first time since the 1960s Cubans will be able to employ other Cubans, even though the constitution bans such ‘exploitation,’” mocks The Economist. The same news site, too, reminds us that “The economists advising Mr Castro are barred from talking of ‘reform,’” while “No Cuban official has matched Deng Xiaoping’s embrace of “market socialism.’” The Economist identifies another critical issue facing the Castro Bros., who are 84 and 79 years old, namely passing the torch of communist revolution to a younger generation. This important matter could be high on the agenda at the April congress.
“In the meantime,” wishes this respected journal, “his new boldness represents an opportunity for those who hope that Cuba will eventually join the rest of Latin America in accepting democracy and the market economy, for once the market’s green shoots appear they tend to flourish.”
Sounds nice, but don’t hold your breath. The political left is not only in the ascendancy throughout the Western Hemisphere, but organized and united in its goal of implementing “21st century socialism.” That Cuba’s terminally ill economy needs a “jumpstart” is recognized even by other Communist Bloc countries like Russia, which has promised to exploit Cuba’s oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico and upgrade its Soviet-era military; Red China, which is to lead a US$6 billion modernization of the Cienfuegos refinery; Brazil, which has promised to build new port facilities at Mariel, near Havana; and Venezuela, which has promised to connect the two countries with a fiber optic communication cable under the Caribbean Sea.
However, even as the Castro regime sacks hundreds of thousands of faceless functionaries, Cuba’s sister regime in Venezuela is doing just the opposite, seizing private companies, foreign and domestic, nationalizing them by the score, and chasing regime opponents from the country. Could it be that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his communist mentors in Havana actually intend to meet somewhere in the “middle,” that is, with the intent of creating “Cubazuela” or “Venecuba”? Yup. This idea of a two-state federation was first broached by Comrade Fidel five years ago.
“We are moving towards the economic union between Cuba and Venezuela” triumphed President Castro at the close of a July 2010 summit between the two leftist states. Comrade Raul droned on: “It is this a new type of relationship that will allow a better management of joint projects and is at the same time, an important step towards the goal of achieving real economic complementarities, based on the optimal use of the infrastructure, knowledge and existing resources in both countries and, above all, the political will of our peoples.”
“We have found 139 projects with potential for establishment in the medium term, of which a significant number can implement immediately,” elaborated Castro, referring to cooperation in the food, health, energy, mining, and other industries. At the closing session the minutes were signed by Venezuelan Vice President Rafael Ramirez, who is also boss of state-run PDVSA, and Vice President of Cuba’s Council of Ministers Ricardo Ramírez Cabrisas.
Castro’s November 8 proclamation of the next Communist Party congress was highly significant because it was made in the presence of Chavez himself. According to Reuters, South America’s red tyrant showed up in Havana to “celebrate their decade-long socialist alliance in a ceremony that formally extends an economic cooperation pact and should insure a regular flow of oil to Havana for another 10 years.” There Comrades Raul and Hugo ratified an extension of the Integral Cooperation Accord the two countries adopted in October 2000. In a quid pro quo, PDVSA oil revenues have bolstered Cuba’s stagnant command economy, while 65,000 Cuban agents guide Venezuela’s military, intelligence, and security apparatus.
With faithful lackey Chavez at his side, Castro chortled: “The continuance of the accord assures not only that political and economic cooperation will continue, but that there will be a strategic union between the countries.” Reuters comments: “Their alliance is bound by a shared belief in socialist principles and animosity toward the United States, which both the Castros and Chavez routinely refer to as ‘the empire.’” Cuba can therefore count on Venezuelan petrodollars to finance Havana’s version of perestroika.