Cuba’s ‘big change’ – China-on-a-daiquiri?



Fidel’s brother [Raul Castro] has clearly been thinking ahead in a way the aging Fidelistas in the Cuban Communist Party have not, notes Alma Guillermoprieto.

He may be trying to modernize Cuban socialism to the point where it is capitalist and open enough to accommodate the restless generations who are now under forty-five years of age; he may be dreaming of something like a Norway-under-the-palm-trees or, more likely, China-on-a-daiquiri, she writes for The New York Review of Books:

Then there is the question of the surplus value, to use an old Marxist term, that the Cuban government extracts from its workers. Although the private sector has grown exponentially since Raúl Castro’s reforms, about 70 percent of the labor force still works for the state, earning an average of six hundred pesos—about $25—a month. In recent years the state has allowed a skill-based range of wages for its workers, and so some doctors now make as much as $67 a month. By comparison, though, the owner of the private home I stayed in is allowed to charge, in CUCs, the equivalent of $35 a night per guest, in each of two bedrooms that are fairly steadily occupied by tourists.

Meanwhile, the state is taking in an estimated $2.5 billion a year by renting out its doctors to more than sixty different governments. But it only pays those doctors some $300 a month while their stint lasts, plus less than $200 that are deposited monthly in a Cuban account, as a sort of inducement to doctors to return home after their tour of duty.

“What I want to know,” my acquaintance exclaimed loudly, “is why it takes the Revolution half a century to correct each mistake?” Guillermoprieto adds:

This is an exaggeration—there were mistakes, like the concentration camps for homosexuals and Seventh-Day Adventists set up in the 1960s, that were rectified in mere years instead of decades—but it is tangentially related to the question that must trouble the mind of those responsible for the huge current changes: How many mistakes can safely be corrected? When the house you live in is falling apart, how much can you tinker with the plumbing, the windows, the door jambs, and the supporting walls before the whole edifice collapses around you?


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