Cuba Today: Between Deterioration and Hope

From Criterio magazine via Mirada Global:

Cuba has lived a long period of shortages and economic difficulties. First it was the blockade, which was tempered by the era of collaboration with the socialist world. Then came a special period after the fall of the socialist bloc, up until the alliance with Venezuela. At the present time, shortage and economic crisis is once more in view due to the world situation and the uncertain future of Hugo Chávez’s country.


For 52 years now Cubans have endured austerity stoically. The first generations did it out of idealism, for the revolution. Then came some measures to face the crisis. But time has worn out hope of improvement.

In Cuba there is no extreme poverty or much less destitution, as in other Latin American countries; the great Cuban achievement has been to provide access to basic goods to everyone. But the degree of hope for a better life was kept at such a low level that they constricted dreams and discouraged the efforts to improve growth. At the present time the model is in crisis and radical changes are being proposed in order to face the situation, which generates panic in a population that feels that the few sure things they have may be ending.

The impact is especially important in the new generations, who didn’t live the hardships of the past nor did they live the revolutionary experience as their own victory. All they know is the prolonged and growing shortage and the impact of consumerism exhibited by the tourists, the facilities that are built for them, how those who migrated and come back to visit have improved in life and the business opportunities and the good life that foreigners who decide to settle in the island can enjoy.

Read the rest here. Also available in Spanish.

Tim Reidy


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George Mitrovich
7 years 3 months ago
The article is a reminder of how idiotic American foreign policy is toward Cuba. We have strong ties to China but not Cuba. Why? Is it because China’s communism is more benign than Cuba’s? Or is it possible our ties to China are all about money?
The state of U.S./Cuba relations are nothing more than the consequences of allowing Cuba’s émigré population in Florida to dictate our policy; and it is, as stated, “idiotic!”
It is unfortunate President Obama lacks the courage to break this indefensible policy. Both the U.S. and Cuba would benefit greatly from restoring diplomatic recognition. And, I have no doubt, the greatest beneficiaries would be first, the people of Cuba, and, secondly, U.S. business interests. 
I would add a third: By restoring normal relations with Cuba – if one can talk about “normal” after 52-years – means the right of Cubans to enjoy religious freedom, would that not abound to the Christian faith.
Tom Maher
7 years 3 months ago
Why should this one-sided pro-Cuban government propaganda piece be used to mask  what Cuba is today and has been for the last 52 years: one of the world worst totalitarian country in the world?  Today under Cuban law the Communist party remains the the only political party allowed in Cuba. To enforce this one-party dicitatorial  rule all politcal opposition are outlawed and any political oppostion or expression is brutally suppressed and imprisoned.  The ugly truth is that Cuba is notorious has numerous political prisoners..

The State Department website indicates that Cuba today remains a human rights violator.   And Cuba it is a state sponsor of terrrorism. 

In the 21st century human rights violations and state sponsorship of terrorism are strongly condenmed by most nations.  And Cuba has a 52 year record of these violations.

So why ?prasie or reward the brutally repressive government of Cuba with tourist dollars????????????? ????I?t? d????oes not make? ??a?n?y? sense.  Tourist ?money will be used to build more prisons and better enable the Cuban state to maintain? ??a?n? ?e?v?e?n? s?t?r?i?c?t??e?r? ?dictatorial control over its people.  Or ????????????C?u?b?a? ?c?o?u?l?d? ?f?u?r?t?h?e?r? ?s?p?o?n?s?o?r? ?a?n?d? ?a?s?s?i?s?t? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????terrorist groups.

Why should Cuba be rewarded as a state sponsor of terrorism or as a frequent cited human rights violator of its own people ? 

America magaziner ???????????????????r?e?a?d?e?r?s? ??a?r?e? ?n?o?t? w?e?l?l? ??s?e?r?v?e?d? by publishing without critical comment ??t?h?i?s? o?n?e?-?s?i?d?e?d??, pro Cuban government propaganda ?p?i?e?c?e??  from non-objective ?a?n?d? ?n?o?n?-?c?r?t?i?c?a?l? foriegn sources such as Criterio.
Vince Killoran
7 years 3 months ago
Cuba is "one of the world worst totalitarian country in the world"?!  Well, sure, right after North Korea, China, several countries in Africa, Asia, and the Near East.

To be sure, Amnesty International takes it to task on several fronts (it also criticizes the USA). Portraying Cuba as a Western Hemisphere super-villian is a shopworn scare tactic.
Tom Maher
7 years 3 months ago
Vince KIlloran (#3)

Look up the U.S. Department of State website "Cuba Human Rights" and Cuba  Staste Sponsor of Terrorism" .  This will show Cuba has a probelm with Human Rights and Sponsorship of Terrorism the same way as the other practicing  Commumunist state of North Korea has problems with Human Rights and Sponsorship of Terror.

Coun tires that sponsor Terrorism are very few but Cuba is one of them.  If your source of news is something other than Criterio you should recongnize that Cuba has a notoriously not been at peace with the United States and its own people.  So why should it be spported?  Or was it that the last ten Presidents since Kennedy have just been mean to the poor misunderstood communist dictatorship in Cuba?  
Stanley Kopacz
7 years 3 months ago
Well, then, we should stop doing business with religion and free speech suppressor, China.  We can stop our companies from building factories there.  That's a form of consistency I could live with.  But it won't happen so our stance on Cuba will remain one of our country's pathetic posturings.
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 3 months ago
I suppose that the author is this article is Cuban, has been to Cuba, or knows Cuban people both here in American and in Cuba.  I appreciate his insights and observations.

Living in South Florida, I know many Cuban Americans as well as Cuban doctors and nurses who work at the local hospitals (yes, we have to import them).  Like the rest of us, they are divided politically - some thinking that government of Cuba must be overthrown (the older ones, in general), and some being proud of the education that they have recieved.

But what stays in my mind are the comments of people who have traveled to Cuba, not as former Cubans with family, but as tourists.  You can get there via flights that go through other countries that have good relations with Cuba.  They love Cuba - the culture, the people, the cars, the food.  You have to go, they tell me, there is no place quite like it.  What I notice in their photos is the art.  What we would call slum housing, is painted and decorated in all colors and designs, made with everything and anything available.  I can only imagine that the people, though poor by our standards, are not depressingly poor.
Tom Maher
7 years 3 months ago
Contrary to this article Cuba is an economic hole-in -the- ground due to it strict adhedence to communist aocialistic economic system not the United States.  Commuinsim as an economic system l has failed everywhere and been rejected everywhere.

The Cuba's  economyc It is very? ?possible that the agin?g Ca?stro brothers will not be around much longer and Cuba may then be ready to do what ?mo?st other communist nations h?ave done: get ?rid of ???c?ommunism.? ??
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 3 months ago
Perhaps Cuba will find her way to a good mix of capitalism and socialism (the best of all worlds?).

But the wounds of 52 years, not just between 2 countries, 2 ideologies, but between families, remain unhealed.  The issue between the USA and Cuba is deeper and more personal than politics.  I'd love to see the USA make the first move toward reconciliation.

This all reminds me of the Elian Gonzalez story, where the small boy was rescued from the sea and given to his Miami family.  The father, in Cuba, wanted him back and the struggle became a political/media event.  Surprisingly, most of my Cuban neighbors were sympathetic to the Cuban father despite the circus taking place in Miami.
Tom Maher
7 years 3 months ago
Reference to an authoritative source on Cuban Government and Political Consitions of April 28, 2100 by the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemishere Affairs shows that the average monthlky Cuban income is a mere $20.  This makes Cuba after 52 years of existance one of the poorest countires in the world.  Little economic developemnt has taken place in Cuba in 52 years and it has developed no new insdustries.  

So if you want to promote poverty or you yourself want to be poor  move to Cuba becasue under their present communist economic system you are certain to have poverty all around you and be poor forever. 

As the people of the middle east demonstrated this spring politcs is very personal.  If you live under a dictatorshop in the middle east or Cuba you are going to be dirt power and have no prospects,  You just can't get more personal than to be so poor.


Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 3 months ago
Tom (#10), have you talked to any Cubans lately?

I could agree with you that their economy is not the best (but neither is ours, these days), and they don't have the freedom to do what they want to do with their lives.  But I think you're on the wrong track in assuming that poverty is the worst possible thing that could happen to someone.

Did you know that Cuba has one of the best healthcare systems in Latin America, and that university education is free to anyone?  Which means that virtually everyone in Cuba is literate.  There are lots of doctors, nurses and teachers in Cuba.

When I was awakened from surgery a few years ago I was cared for by a very skilled and polite young man, who I learned was from Cuba.  I asked him how things were for him in Cuba, and he was very appreciative of his native land and had all intentions of returning.  Cuban health workers who worked for free made the difference in Haiti after the earthquake last year.

You can use the internet to find facts to boost your argument, whichever side you are on, but reality is always much more complex.
Tom Maher
7 years 3 months ago
Beth Cioffoletti (# 12) 

Tihis article attempts to excuse the failed economic and poliical  system of the Cuban  government for the last 52 years and attempts to blame temporarty external factor for Cuba's dire  economic poverty.

Do you have any idea what $20 per month average per capita income means?  That is less than $1 per day.  That means your standard of liiving is so low you will have difficulty affording even basics of  being feed and clothed and housed. You can not do almost anything for yourself. You are completely dependent on the state. 

All of this poverty is very characteristic of a communist system of government which is why 20 years ago the the Soviet Union collapsed and everyone in the world with the exception of North Korea and Cuba abandoned communist as a matter of choice.  

Cuba and North Korea chose to remain police states. All private ownership and initiative are outlawed.  The state ownes almost everything,.   It is like being in prisoner of the state. .  Yes you get stae rations for clothes, housing and medical care but you do not have any life outside of the state.  And if anything goes wrong as it will in a society of such scarce resources you are not allowed to complain or make known your gievances.  This society totally lacks individual freedom or meaningful personal choices.   So 52 years later you still have a very poor country without any hope of economic prospects and no freedoms.   

Why praise or excuse or promote such an oppressive  economic and political system which every other country in the world has abandoned twenty years ago?  You do remember the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 before the internet?  In the 20 th century communism was supposed to humankinds inevitable wonderful future.  But it failed completely and was rejected. 

Cuba's problem is that it is still communist economically and politically  It is not a democracy and its citizens do not enjoy freedom and human right common to most people around the world. There is noone else to blame for Cuba's  gross poverty but Cuba.. Communist socialism does not work in Cuba any better than anywhere else.  
Tom Maher
7 years 3 months ago
Vince Killoran (# 15) 

There is nothing nuanced about being a totalitarian communist police state which is what we have in Cuba today. 

United States foriegn policy must deal with the fundemental reality of Cuba today.  Cuba is not a democracy.   Cuba is a totalitarian communist state that pervasively violates its own citizens'  human rights in order to maintain the exclusive control  by the communist party over all aspects of Cuba's political, economic and cultural life. 

Further Cuba has been for 52 years and remains a direct security threat to the United States.   Cuba is one of a few reamining countries that are on the State Department's State Sponsor of Terroism list along with the Iran, North Korea, Syria and Libya .  Cuba as a state sponsor of terorrism remains a direct security threat to the U.S. homeland and U.S. secuirty generally.  Cuba remains a security threat to the United States.  

We do not owe the Cuban government any favors.   It does not make sense to do anything that sustains or furhters the existance of the communist government in Cuba or reward the Cuban government with any benefits such as direct travel to the United States while Cuba is considered a Statre Sponsor or Terrorism and therefore a security threat. Out foreign policy must be directed ar ending  communism in Cuba and encouraging democaracy in Cuba.
Vince Killoran
7 years 3 months ago
Cuba=bad, very bad. Close your eyes to all other information and repeat one million times for fifty years.

The most dubious part of your argument is that you lean on the U.S. State Department Terriorism List as evidence! Good grief-that is about the worst place to go for accurate and partisan-free information on such matters. No one working on human rights sees that list as anything more than a dodgy piece of heavy-handed American foreign policy.

If there's anything positive to take away from your one-dimensional, hyperbolic take on Cuba is that your view is shared by an increasingly smaller number of Americans.  The real challenge is how to preserve the advancements that Beth identified and stave off a return to pre-Castro Cuba after Castro is gone.
Tom Maher
7 years 3 months ago
Vince Killorian (#17)

Actually on further reading of current U.S. Department of State Reports on Cuba, a better title to this article might be "Cuba Today: Between Deterioration and Hope and Terrorism"   Cuba is just not sure whether it is ffully or or aganst terrorism so it is definitely in between.  And being in between is definitely not acceptable.  

Current U.S. State Department reports document that Cuba since 1982 has been designated a State Sponsor of Terrorism by the U.S. State Department. And for good reason.

As is said in the 9/11 Report the key failure of 9/11 was a lack of imagination in defending the United Stares in a modern world.  We are in a age where powerful modern technologies can be used as weapons of mass dsitruction agansit populations to achieve the political ends of terrorist organizations.  ANd have been repeatedly in New York, Wahington D.C., London,Madrid and all over the world    In the 21st centrury there  is an extreme danger that an even more powerful weapon of mass distruction such as a nuclear, chemcical, biological or radiation weapon will be used by terrorist group of only a few people.  So countires that support terrorism such as Cuba are exteremely disapproved of by the United States governemnt due to the extreme secuirty risk they pose to the United States.   Needless to say any such mass destruction event would with provoke a  massive retalitory response.  Security from terroism is deadly serious and is can not be dismissed as on eof our nations most vital concerns.   Any American politcian that fails to recognize the gravity and seriousnes of defending the United States from terrorism is very great political trouble. 

This article fails to convey the seriousness of Cuban governemnts failure to fully cooperate with United States worldwide counterterroism efforts.  The U.S. State Department "Country Reports on Terrorism 2010" documents  in Chaper 3 "State Sponsos of Terrorism"  the following: Cuba continued to denounce the U.S. counter terroism efforts throughout the world, portraying them as pretest to extend U.S. > influence and power."  op  anti  position to the United States

You know that Cuba state medical services that Beth thinks is so wonderful well guess where they are used?    Cuban medical services are used to give medical aid and comfort to terrorist soldiers wounded and injured performing terrorist missions. U.S. State Department report "Country Reports on Terrorism 2010" pge 236  as well as safe haven and political consultation to terrorist.   The 2010 report documents the FARC terrorist organization (In English: Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia)  which has been waging nonstop terrorist attacks against Columbia a democracy for decades. 

Providing safe haven for terrorist is a very big problem that Cuba has.  Safe havens aid terrorsm and is not acceptable. 

This report Terroirsm Report for 2010 also states the warning "Cuba has been used as a transit point by third-nation nationals looking to enter illegally into the United States. "  Cuba knows this is going on but largely has not cooperated with the United Staees to prevent this from happening.  So you can see the problem with allowing direct flights in and out of Cuba with a governement that is a safe haven to terroist and allows illegal access to the United States.  We would have plane loads of terrorist without proper security checks coming into the United States. How does that make sense?  

Cuba has a public stance against international terrorism and its financing but does not take all appropriate actions against terrorism and actively undercuts and denounes United States counterterroism efforts.  Cuba is effectively help undermining United States security and is effectively aiding terrorism which is why it is still officially designated as a State Sponsor of Terroism.   The Cuban government and its  52 year old  anti-Americanism should not be trusted or rewarded by the United States and should be held very suspect for not being fully and reliably participating in couterterroism efforts.  
we vnornm
7 years 3 months ago
Thomas merton had some prescient things to say about Cuba in SEVEN STOREY MOUINTAIN...from his personal visit before WW II. If you have a copy of the book collecting dust, it's worth taking a look...quite pertinent to this blog....bill
Vince Killoran
7 years 3 months ago
Perhaps I could interest Tom in the Thomas Merton in Cuba Pilgramage Tour (I'm not kidding! see

Tom, I'm looking at Merton's book of letters now and, boy, have you done a "Darkness at Noon" job on excerpting it!  Merton is quite critical of both Castro and the U.S. (and the Cold War mentality in general).   
Vince Killoran
7 years 3 months ago
I think Beth and Stanley have it right: a little nuance and depth when discussing other countries' human rights records. Time to break out of the Cold War-right wing Cuban exile mindset.

And then there is the USA. Notwithstanding the State Department's dubious list, most international, non-partisan human rights groups do not place Cuba near the top of worst offenders.  BTW, the good old USA makes many lists. 
Vince Killoran
7 years 3 months ago
Who has made the claim that Cuban leaders are "good"? The argument is for nuance and a measured response, taking into account the degree of human rights violations and with a full understanding of the positive things that may emerge from a governmental system that is seriously flawed (e.g., Beth's point about Cuban literacy & health care).

I have this argument with non-Americans all the time who point to U.S. human rights violations, faulty voting systems, and support for seriously bad regimes.

Tom Maher
7 years 3 months ago
Dr. Van Ornum (# 20)

It was like being hit by a lightning bolt when in following up your suggestion I immeadiatly came upon a letter date May 15, 1961 in a book on Thomas Merton's letter titled "Witness to Freedom", "The letters of Thomas Merton in times of crisis".   The letter was to Evora Arca de Sardinia conseling her.  Her husband had been captured at the Bay of Pigs insurgency in Cuba by Castro.  The entire letter is astoundingly clear and insightful analysis yet spiritual. 

A sampling:
 "But I shall pray that if possible their lives may be saved and that they may escape in order to work for a truly free and properous Cuba."

"I am very much afraid that the curtain is rising on a long and tragic era for all of Latin America due to the false hopes and illusionsaroused in radicals by the Castro regime."

"And pray that those who fight for freedom may learn the wisdom that is necessary to confront the enormous and cleverly intergrated machine of Communist tyranny."

Merton has numerous super critical comments and warnings on Communism in Cuba. 

I do not know if you intended it this way but it turns out that? ???????????T?h???o???m???a?s? M?erto?n? ??h?a??d??? many powerful comments a?b?o?u?t? ??C?u?b?a?, Castro ?and Communism? during and after ??t?h?e? ??Cuban Revolution of 1959.??
Tom Maher
7 years 3 months ago
Vince Killorian (# 21)

The letters (more than one, a series)  to Evoca Arca de Sardina were not publiched until the 1990s and are not generally known compared to other letters Merton published himself or others published for him closer to the time of his death in 1968.  Merton wrote volumns of letters to a wide number of people many of whom were "ordinary" people and therefore his letters to them were not of immeadiate interest to publishers and remained unkown for decades.   But in these letters to ordinary people involved in  Cuban life Merton expresses criticism of the Castro regime and Communism in Cuba. 

The surprise is that Merton the Trappist monk living in an isolated monastery had visited Cuba before he became a monk,  and had contact with ordinary Cubans and wrote to them numerous letters on the subject of Cuba and Cuban affairs such as the 1961  series of letters to Evoca Acra de Sardina.   But this is Merton speaking his mind about freedom spiritually and politically, as was one of his constant themes  in all of his writtings, on Castro, Cuba and Communism. In this early 1961 letter Merton had a lot of very critical things to say about the Castro regime and commuism in Cuba that have been validated and remain valid today.  - the Castro regime (and Communism)  is a false hope and an illusion. 

Merton's early 1961 letters show that he did indeed have strong criticism of Castro and Communism in Cuba which one might not expect from a person with an iconic aesthetic monk image.    Merton's letters on Cuba apply today.
Vince Killoran
7 years 3 months ago
Tom claims that Merton thought Castro's Cuba was "a false hope and an illusion."

True.  He thought the USA and the Cold War was a false hope and an illusion as well.


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