Wednesday, January 26, 2011

As we say, not as we do

Penultimos Dias posts a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the cash flow resulting from current Cuban-American travel to Cuba: about $1.7 billion, which would amount to about 1.5 percent of gdp. Additional economic impacts come from remittances and the massive amounts of goods that Cuban Americans bring on those flights – some for consumption, some to provide the wherewithal for entrepreneurs to do their work, some for resale.

We can quibble about the estimates but all agree: it’s a significant amount of money.

What is the impact? Some goes to the government, some goes to individuals. Some of the money that goes to the government supports services for the public, and some that goes to individuals ends up with the government, through taxes or mark-ups at hard-currency stores.

A substantial segment of the Cuban-American community – about ten planeloads a day out of Miami – could care less about sorting this out. Contrary to the views of those they elect to Congress, they send their money, buy their plane tickets, go to Cuba, take their families out to restaurants, take them to stay in tourist hotels, and help them as best they can.

They act as regular immigrants, but they elect legislators who consider themselves exiles.

When these legislators talk about Cuba policy, they don’t take a sanctions-begin-at-home approach. Has anyone ever seen them try to persuade their own constituents to stay at home, not to travel to Cuba, not to support such a huge flow of hard currency to Cuba?

The concern about hard currency kicks in now, when President Obama plans to open up travel – partially – for the rest of Americans.

Do as we say, not as our constituents do.

[AP photo.]


Anonymous said...

Although difficult, if not impossible to tell, it would be interesting to know what the cross over, if any, is between traditional hardliners and the people who travel and send money to Cuba. As you know, Cuban-Americans can be broken down into two groups: 1) The hard-liners that have been in the U.S. for decades with little or no family still in Cuba (they also have the wealth and control the political dialog); and 2)newer immigrants still with family and friends in Cuba who don't have much interest in entering the political discourse.

As time passes, I believe the second group will eventually want to be heard. There has already been evidence of this when the hard-liners protested the Juanes concert on Calle 8 and were quickly outnumbered by other Cubans protesting against them.

Anonymous said...

The whole argument that money from travel, remittances or whatever will help keep the Cuban government in power is a false one.

After 52 years, the government will stay in power with or without any funds derived from the US.

When will people stop believing that they will just magically disappear one day for lack of cash?

Anonymous said...

the base hypocrisy of American policy against Cuba, anyone who still talks about the embargo and its effectiveness, or the necessity of continuing the travel restrictions, should once and for all stop.
an excellent article

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Peters,

Is the original Spanish maxim from which you derived the title of your comment "Haz lo que yo digo y no lo que yo hago?" "Do as I say and not as I do?"

The tragedy in Cuban society is that it is largely a fight between two elites about power in which both elites, although they say the opposite and claim they represent the Cuban nation do not really care about the plight and sufferings of the Cuban people or the future of their country.

In reality the conflict is not about communism and capitalism.
The Havana elite is already convinced that communism is a failure and wants to move towards capitalism but without losing political and economic power to the competing Miami elite.

Nor is it about democracy or dictatorship. In reality as a legacy from Spanish rule whatever clique is in power tries to use it for its own benefit and to prolong its stay in it at all costs.

Elections are rigged, corruption is rampant, human rights and free speech are violated and since electoral results are untrue power is defined through control of the repressive apparatus or violent uprisals.

The Castro regime in Cuba has only accomplished through leftist methods what former rightist dictators tried to do and failed.

In truth Castro represents a continuation of traditional objectives of Cuban rulers to remain in power as long as they could through new methods that ensure popular support by demagogically claiming to follow nationalistic and social reform objectives.

Due to this, it is safe to assume if the Castro regime is someday substituted by a democratic representative democracy, it will be an imperfect one in which the rulers will probably revert to the same practices and objectives as their precastro

To be continued

Anonymous said...

Moreover, its sheer illusion to think that all the representatives of the present Havana elite can be completely thrown out of power.

If the experience of the former East European Communist regimes and the Soviet Union is to be trusted, after the fall of the communist state takes place the former elite continues to share in power.

Perhaps they no longer continue to always call themselves "communist" or "socialist" but they are around nonetheless and continue to occupy important positions in the new pot communist governments.

The communists after all included into their government, party and military structures as much human talent as possible and the successor regimes have to avail themselves of these former communist cadres in order to run the country with some degree of efficiency.

So what is the way out?

Cuba today is in a similar position to when it reached independence in 1902 or to 19th century France.

In both these cases competing elites openly fought for dominance in the short run through a series of political clashes and insurrections while the eventual solution of their nation's social integration came in through the day to day contact and gradual intermarriage between the descendants o the competing elites.

True representative democracy will come out of this process, of economic growth and of the development of a well educated middle class arising out of it.

The proper US policy should be not to intervene forcibly in Cuban democratic development since such policy is counterproductive because it arouses Cuban nationalistic opposition.

Every country should be allowed to develop at its own pace and without direct foreign intervention.

to be continued

Anonymous said...

But this does not mean that the US should not attempt to indirectly influence the speed of the process of Cuban democratic transition.

The Obama administration is doing just that by ending the separation between the Cuban population in the island and the Cuban Americans.

This will bring about more social interaction and intermarriage and result in the reduction of the ideological differences between both segments of the Cuban population.

Obama is also attempting to further the development of a private sector in Cuba by allowing Cuban Americans to invest in it.

This will allow the creation of a middle class and an independent civil society.

It will also gradually convert the descendants of the nomenklatura into a neoburgeoisie that will begin to share interests, intermarry and gradually share power with the descendants of the Miami elite and eventually form a new unified Cuban elite with roots in both present competing ones.

Obama is also attempting to use the conditional lifting of the embargo as a carrot to promote human rights and democracy in the island.

In pursuing the above mentioned policies he is also:

1 Helping to raise the standard of living of the Cuban population.

2- Making non violent change more possible in Cuba.

3- Diminishing the possibility of a civil war or civil disturbances in Cuba that will:
a) Force the US to carry out a humanitarian military intervention in the island.
b) Promote massive Cuban emmigration to the US.
4- Help to diminish the US deficit in the balance of payments.
5- Further other US economic interests such as making possible future:
a) Repayment by a prosperous Cuba of its debt for the confiscation of US properties.
b)US investments in Cuban tourism, oil, biofuels, nickel, agriculture, and biotecnology.

What future US policy towards the island do the representatives of the Miami elite want?

A continuation of the same practices that have not produced any results in 50 years would not benefit the island or the US.

These groups profit from US subsidies to promote a democratic transition in Cuba and continue to back proven unsuccessful and counterproductive policies because they want the present gridlock to continue so these subsidies will not stop.

They continue to want to starve their own countrymen to increase the possibility of violent social change in Cuba and a future US military occupation of the island that could install the m as Cuba's future rulers despite the island populations opposition.

For the very same reason they oppose new policies that have the potential to eventually bring about gradual non violent social change in Cuba and to better the relations with the US.

They thus place their own clique's interest in survival in the internal US political system and a utopical return to political power in the island above the interests of the Cuban nation and of the US itself.

Pantaleon Paticruzado

Anonymous said...

In response to this quote from the first post: "Although difficult, if not impossible to tell, it would be interesting to know what the cross over, if any, is between traditional hardliners and the people who travel and send money to Cuba"....

Well, we know of one very ironic example of this "cross over": none other than our old friend, Posada Carriles! As he says in this article ( , Posada "must still send money to the island to help feed his aging sister and brother."

That threw me for a loop, and what better way to illustrate the current reality and how it contradicts our understanding of how the "exhile Cubans" conduct themselves.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Peters,

You are not right in saying that extremist right wing legislators have not tried to convince Cuban Americans not to visit Cuba to see their families.

They tried for years through propaganda campaigns to convince Cuban Americans not to visit the island and not to send financial aid and parcels to their families so as not to aid the Castro regime.

Then under the last Republican administration, as you know, they legally restricted the allowed frequency of family visits and of all aid.

This led to huge violations of human rights for Cuban Americans. For example, this commentator could not assist to his own father's funeral.

So the right wing extremists not only tried to convince us not to visit the country were we were born, they forcibly restricted our right to do so.

These legislators should be really worried about how to recover the flow of dollars going to Cuba so that they do not contribute to the US balance of payments deficit.

If they did this, IMHO, they should promote a bill to expand the list of consumer goods and productive inputs the US could export to Cuba.

If they did so this they would also contribute to the growth of the private sector in the island, to raise the Cuban population's living standards and to democratic transition.

To be Continued

by reducing the frequency of the visits, the amount of

Anonymous said...

As a Cuban American who favors using the lifting of the embargo to stimulate a democratic transition in the island, I am deeply aware of the contradiction between the constitutional rights of all americans and US foreign policy towards the island.

After all the question of whether the constitution allows the US government to restrict the right of its citizens to travel anywhere in the world is a valid one.

The issue of whether the US government violates the equal rights clause of the Constitution by allowing Cuban Americans and certain other classes of US citizens to travel to Cuba while denying such a right to the rest of the Americans also seems logic in my eyes.

As a Cuban American I naturally believe that promoting democracy in Cuba should trump all other issues and this guides my judgment.

For example, I agree with Obama's latest measure of allowing certain groups of informed and educated US citizens to visit the island because I believe that from the point of view of the Cuban democratic transition the ideological benefits from such visits outweigh the disadvantages of providing additional dollar income to the existing Cuban regime.

However, I believe the opposite with respect to allowing tourists to visit the island.

I believe that the growth of American tourism to the island is the best bargaining chip available that the US can use to stimulate the Cuban democratic transition.

This leads me to be against throwing away this important carrot by conceding it unilaterally to the Cuban government.

I favor regulating such travel and conceding increases in the quotas of American tourists allowed to visit the island in exchange for measures that favor the democratic transition the US government promotes.

However, I recognize that this is a value judgment and that it is up to the executive branch of the US government to decide what the interest of US policy should be and how to carry them out and for the Supreme Court to decide whether such policies are constitutional or not.

As an American citizen of Cuban origin. I can not expect that my particular interpretation of what should be US policy should be that of the US government.

I have a right to put in my 2 Cents worth but I can not impose my beliefs on everyone else nor think they necessarily represent US interests.

Pantaleon Paticruzado