Time is ripe for Cuba overtures

Cuba’s economy remains a basket case; a fact recognized publicly, if only indirectly, earlier this month when President Raul Castro authorized the country’s official labor union to lay off more than 500,000 state workers between now and next March.  Cuba is the only overtly communist country in the western hemisphere; and its leaders — Raul and his older brother Fidel — have ruled the country with an iron fist since the 1959 revolution ensconced them in power.  The country always has prided itself on standing up to the “evil” capitalist system personified by the United States.  For either of the Castro brothers to make even a tacit admission that their beloved communism has failed, is a major concession. 

Whether this move to even slightly reduce the massive government employment sector (85% of the island’s 5.5 million workers, according to the Wall Street Journal) turns out to be a serious move toward a true, open economy — one that actually allows and fosters international trade with other countries, including the U.S. — remains to be seen.  It does, however, appear to be the opening political gambit in that direction.

Even with this reduction in Cuba’s public-sector workforce (even barbers are state employees), the obstacles to being able to make a living in the private sector, especially as a self-employed person, are daunting.  However, as with China a generation ago, once the door to enhanced economic freedom is cracked open, it becomes virtually impossible to then close it completely.  While it is certainly not a zero-sum game, historically speaking, economic freedom fosters political freedom.  Hopefully, this latest step reflects a growing awareness within Cuba’s ruling elite that a stifiling, state-run economy will only continue to make Cuba’s ailing economy worse. 

If this results in once again being able to legally puchase Cuban cigars in these United States, then I say such a change cannot come soon enough.

41 comments Add your comment

paleo-neo-Carlinist

September 24th, 2010
6:49 am

Roberto, I hope your last line was a weak attempt at irony. The fact that we cannot purchase puros Cubanos legally in these United States (along with a $11 trillion national debt) suggests that maybe Cuba needs to look elsewhere for an politiical/economic mentor. The fact Cuban’s Communist experinment has failed has nothing to do with the United States anymore than Communism has anything to do with why our capitalist experiment has failed – and strictly by the numbers, when a nation is $11 trillion in debt and has double digit unemployment; the system has failed – OR if this is “as good as it gets” like Cuba it is headed for an disaster. as I see it, Cuba’s failure is no different than ours. just as the Castro’s deluded Cubans with the idea of a socialist state, where the needs of all were met, the American plutocracy (long before Obama) plied Americans with mythical concepts of social mobility and “change”. it’s the 21st century. chivlary is dead. perhaps we should allow the Cubans to make overtures to us?

The General

September 24th, 2010
7:17 am

@ paleo-neo-Carlinist

While you may not currently be able to legally smoke your puros Cubanos here in the U.S., it is abundantly clear by your post that you are certainly smoking something illegal. What a goofball you are, unless you’re a troll, that is, then you got me.

From where did you gain your knowledge of political and economic systems, the back of a cereal box? Perhaps you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express the night before you wrote your post. It’s laughable whatever the reason. Roll another one and fire it up, dude.

Ed Willis

September 24th, 2010
7:22 am

Bob,
You are dead on, I especially agree about the Cuban cigars.

Michael

September 24th, 2010
8:00 am

Why do we care so much about Cuba? There are plenty of other Caribbean islands where US capitalists can bribe the govt and build casinos. Cigar access? You must be kidding. How many people in the US really smoke cigars? A few thousand?

bishop long-dong

September 24th, 2010
8:01 am

I suppose a masculine journey is in order….

in agreement

September 24th, 2010
8:02 am

America should move toward normal relations with Cuba. Our sanctions have only helped Castro stay in power, while harming the Cuban people. The Cuban refugee influence in swing state Florida has kept too many presidents from doing the right thing from a political, moral and economic standpoint.

I say, let those American companies who want to do business with Cuba do business — at their own risk, of course — and remove all travel restrictions to and from Cuba.

Carlosgvv

September 24th, 2010
8:08 am

There are a large number of Cuban-Americans who are totally opposed to any normalization of relations with Cuba. They vote, and as long as that is the case, politicians will put their vote over and above any benifits Cuba and the US as a whole might get.

Intrigued

September 24th, 2010
8:17 am

Cuba’s economy would first have to grow in order for the U.S. to do business with them. Cuba’s State run economy is broke and while the U.S. Government is also, the corporations of the U.S. private economy are not. International letters of credit from a broken economy are not worth the paper they’re written on when it comes to exports from the U.S. I do agree that there needs to be a better relationship with Cuba, perhaps in the tourist industry and that would certainly allow them to ease back into normal economic relations with the rest of the world and once their economy has built up to the level of any other 3rd world country with which we deal with in exports/imports, only then should our exporting industrial companies explore doing business with Cuba.

Exactmerob

September 24th, 2010
8:22 am

Actually, barbershops are one of the few types of businesses that are not state controlled in Cuba – they were allowed to set up private operations earlier this year.

joseph

September 24th, 2010
8:26 am

Cuban cigars are vastly overrated. I’ll take a Nicaraguan or Dominican puro anytime…

barking frog

September 24th, 2010
8:31 am

Normalize relations, let free enterprise follow it’s
course. Look what happened to China.

WAW

September 24th, 2010
8:33 am

Michael: Rush does and so this might avoid another (R) NO…

How about we annex Cuba to Florida or have a Cuba Purchase, it worked with Texas and Louisiana

Techster Working in Finland this Week

September 24th, 2010
8:35 am

It is time to normalize relations. Ultimately, it would be good for both nations (and I don’t smoke).

jconservative

September 24th, 2010
8:48 am

If the US government will ease the sanctions the US private sector will take care of Cuba. The US eased the restraints on dealing with China and US businesses are making a fortune.

But it does seem strange that in 50 years the US has not figured out a way to deal with Cuba. What happened to “American know-how”? Or is it
American “NO. How?”?

Barack

September 24th, 2010
9:06 am

I think I should send Treasury Secretary Tim Geitner down there to work on their economy. After a few months on the job, their Communist Economy won’t look so bad after all.

Walter Lippmann

September 24th, 2010
9:19 am

Cuba has been ready, willing and able to accept foreign investment for many years. Many of their hotels are run in joint ventures with the Spanish Sol Melia company. Much of Cuba’s nickel industry is run in a joint venture with the Canadian Sherritt corporation. Cuba’s Havana Club rum brand is marketed around the world by the French Pernod corporation. Cuba’s potential as an oil exporting country is being explored in joint ventures with Venezuela’s PDVSA, Spain’s Repsol, and other foreign corporations.

US law prevents US companies from participating in this potentially lucrative opportunity. Cuba is ready, willing, able and even anxious to accept US investment. They’ve made this clear as day for years and years. Washington policy-makers seem deaf and blind to these openings.

Some people, it seems, just aren’t willing to take “yes” for an answer…

uga_b

September 24th, 2010
9:30 am

Under our over active tax lords, it is cheaper to buy Cuban cigars on the black market. So, keep ‘em illegal.

Brad Steel

September 24th, 2010
9:39 am

Cuba? Why should we give two sh*ts? Cuba is no threat and even if their economy was normalized, they’d still be a blip as a trade partner.

Oh yeah! I know why people care. All of these cigar-smoking fossilized cold-warriors as still trying to fight off the red menace. Good luck Bob Strangelove. Maybe you can get some imported Cuban tit cheese too.

Jefferson

September 24th, 2010
9:48 am

Those commies in Red China must not count like the Castro commies.

sparkie

September 24th, 2010
10:18 am

I am married to a Cuban man whom is stil stuck in Cuba. I have been there several times this year and I will say this about Cuba. Cuba is such a beutiful place and the people are amazing and evcerytime I am there I do not want to leave. However with allthe beauty that they have they have a government that is terrible. My husband can not work because of government policies because he is married to a foreigner. This is a terrible thing. People want to work there and can not. When they do work they work very hard for 20 a month. I have seen people stealing food to feed their children because they don’t make enough money. The government should be ashamed of what they have sone to their people. They subpressed them for to long. Let them have the freedom to choose,freedsom to speak,freedom to change the way things are there. For the government to change their way of governing the country by opening the boarder up would not be defeat it would be freedom for eceryone in Cuba. Why would you let your people starve or hold on to a government that has not worked in years. Plain stubbornness on the part of the Castro family because they loose their power. Why beat a dead horse only to find the the horse is dead? Free the people in Cuba would be the best thing for the country.

Hillbilly Deluxe

September 24th, 2010
10:40 am

economic freedom fosters political freedom

Doesn’t seem to be working that way in China.

ButtHead

September 24th, 2010
10:46 am

The problem with freeing Cuba is that they don’t have anything we need… Got oil, we can help, got hashish we will help, cigars, no thanks.

Cheech Philosophy

September 24th, 2010
10:55 am

“If this results in once again being able to legally puchase Cuban cigars in these United States, then I say such a change cannot come soon enough”

That’s what Clinton said last night.

Al Gore

September 24th, 2010
10:57 am

Cuba is a great example of how global warming is a problem. I once saw polar bears there while I was skiing. Now they are all gone.

Monica Lewinsky

September 24th, 2010
11:12 am

Bill says Cuban cigars rule!!!

Scott

September 24th, 2010
11:43 am

The simple fact is that the embargo keeps the Catros’ in power. Information is so locked down there (they dont even have internet), that when the government condemns the US every other day…some people believe it. If the embargo ended, the people would get something they lack…information, and it would neuter Castro’s evil empire to the north argument

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution, September 24: Time is Ripe for Cuba Overtures http://blogs.ajc.com/bob-barr-blog/2010/09/24/i-want-my-cuban-cigars/?cxntfid=blogs_bob_barr_blog   Havana Times, September 24:  The Minor ‘Details’ of Cuba’s Reforms [...]

paleo-neo-Carlinist

September 24th, 2010
12:59 pm

General, please articulate the difference between a political system and an economic system. this is the reason I combined the two (political/economic mentor). money is the root of all ideology, my friend and any ideology (political system) is are controled by a central authority. In Cuba it is the Castro’s, in the USA, it is a bit larger (federal government), but no less central. so please explain to me how we can show Cuba how to design a better mousetrap? we’re not exactly mouse free at the moment.

Mrs. Norris

September 24th, 2010
1:34 pm

I couldn’t agree more. Embargos are stupid. Scott put it very well. I also think Mexico should legalize marijuana. I think the U.S. should too but Mexico really needs to. Just think, money would pour into the country. Gringos would be climbing the wall they built to get in there and smoke some marijuana in peace. And, most importantly of all, it would destroy the drug cartel. Forgive me for digressing.

Time is ripe for Cuba overtures | Cuba News

September 24th, 2010
2:27 pm

[...] http://blogs.ajc.com/bob-barr-blog/2010/09/24/i-want-my-cuban-cigars/ share It This entry was posted in Travel Ban and tagged Libertarian. Bookmark the [...]

Time is ripe for Cuba overtures | Cuba News

September 24th, 2010
2:27 pm

[...] http://blogs.ajc.com/bob-barr-blog/2010/09/24/i-want-my-cuban-cigars/ share It This entry was posted in Travel Ban and tagged Libertarian. Bookmark the [...]

Borat

September 24th, 2010
3:00 pm

A few more years under Obama and the USA will feel like Cuba

Matthew Cole

September 24th, 2010
4:42 pm

Re-establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba may have significant foreign policy implications throughout Latin America. Chavez is trying to set himself up as the regional hegemon in opposition to sometimes real and sometimes imaginary cases of American imperialism. His influence has allowed him to steer the internal politics if other Latin American nations in a socialist direction. America needs to counter this trend with positive diplomacy. Let’s start with Cuba.

[...] via Time is ripe for Cuba overtures | The Barr Code. [...]

jim

September 25th, 2010
11:34 am

I do hope once again that Cuba in the future will be open for business of all kind – old and in his ways – fidel boy would rather have the entire country of cuba goes down in flames rather that joining the human race for the people of the country of cuba – his taken over the country of cuba has been a complete failure and he knows it but would rather keep the cuban people as slaves – the people are now tired of trying to correct the way it is and have giving up instead- having been to cuba and what Fidel boy has done over the last 40 plus yrs its no wonder – maybe this type of encomy world wide will wake up the people to take this country back from these dictators – for this to happen a few in – country men will probably have to bite and take the bullet for this to start -

jim

September 25th, 2010
11:37 am

please, it is not the black house – it is a white house for a good reason – though he is a black face person of questionable honor of character – we are stuck with these two types till we can broom the entire crew out to the curb

Barring Logic

September 26th, 2010
11:47 am

@Barr – My man, you are sounding less and less like a republican every day. Shouldn’t the conservative republicans still beat the drum of “drive those commies into the ground?”

Welcome to the Democrat party!

desojo

September 26th, 2010
4:41 pm

If all of the really good and knowledgeable tobacco growers left Cuba 30 or 40 years ago, As I’m led to understand. How many cigar smokers are left in the US that really smoked the so called good Cubans of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Lets get real here.I’m 59 years old, do the math, the embargo was in October of 1960. I was about 9 years old then, and wasn’t smoking yet. The last report that I heard stated that about 95% of cigars coming out of Cuba were counterfit. I have a friend that works in Grand Camen and the Cuban cigars sold there are mostly fakes. The local tobacconist told him Cuban cigars are very rare. The tobacco industry in Cuba was trashed by Fidel. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE HONDURANS

Tracy

September 26th, 2010
10:50 pm

Interesting how we (the government) still holds a grudge against Cuba because they have a different style of government from us. However, we don’t have a problem with Saudi Arabia or China. Two countries that are neck deep in citizen abuse and human rights violations.

It’s all about the $$$.