Thursday, September 28, 2006

Subtle or not so subtle bias

I read this Washington Post article about the problems of transportation in rural Cuba with great interest.

In the 4 1/2 decades since Fidel Castro's 1959 victory, small-town Cubans have watched the cars that once lined their avenues cough and gasp and eventually die, not to be replaced. What remains are mostly vehicles that Castro's government considers essential to the country's development -- heavy trucks to haul workers and equipment to state-run farms and tractors to till the fields and drag bundles of cut sugar cane.
But I noticed that just like almost any other news article about Cuba coming from reporters inside the island that it's a whitewash.

Of course you have the obligatory blaming of the embargo (for an embargo that supposedly doesn't work according to some, it's the root of all Cuban problems for others):
Supporters of Castro blame the U.S. trade embargo for the transportation woes and especially for the dearth of personal cars. Cuba makes no cars of its own. Non-U.S. automakers that might normally be eager to ship vehicles and replacement parts to the island are hampered because of U.S. trade rules. Ships are prohibited from entering U.S. ports for six months after making deliveries to Cuba, effectively blocking access for those companies to the world's largest market.
No mention of why Cuba doesn't simply have its own fleet of ships to bring vehicles and other items to the Island. Perhaps its because Marxist economies are a failure, especially highly militarized ones that spend money subverting countries all over the world. Of course Cuba could have vehicles shipped to an allied country like Venezuela but that fact is conveniently overlooked.

Even the attempt at balance places the embargo as the root cause of the problem:
Castro's critics view the situation differently, blaming the failings of Cuba's economic policies after years of communist rule. The government's weak financial position makes it impossible for it to place large enough orders to overcome the limitations created by the trade embargo.
Read these excerpts from the article and tell me if the headline of the article (In Rural Cuba, a Slow Road to Progress) is accurate:
He said he remembers gazing at the big cars in Trinidad when he was growing up in the early days of Castro's rule. He was sure he'd own one someday. But it never happened. The cars slowly disappeared, and Vuelta Ortega just laughed when he grew up and people tried to sell him barely functioning, or even inoperable, antique vehicles for $10,000 or more -- the average amount a Cuban would earn over 27 years.

A new car was out of the question. Cubans need government permission to buy new cars, which usually go to government agencies or to people involved in tourism and development, and almost no one outside those lines of work can afford one if they could get permission.
Does that sound like progress to anyone reasonable? In other words, 50 years ago during the AWFUL Batista dictatorship, there were more vehicles and less transportation problems than after 5 decades of GLORIOUS REVOLUTION! The emphasized phrases above are the real culprits (hidden deep in the article) behind Cuba's transportation and other economic problems: centralized economic planning/production combined with a lack of freedom. That's not progress that's moving backwards. Back to the 1800s which the article points out but, of course, its very quaint:
Far from complaining, many of his passengers seem to have embraced their 1800s-style transportation system. The leisurely ride fits the slow tempo of their lives, even though most say they would jump at the chance to own a car. "This ride always clears my mind," a paunchy man named Sergio Ramirez said as he shuffled bags at his feet.
So there you have it. Even though Cuba has gone backwards 100 years during the last 47, people like it that way. According the mainstream media they also love not having presidential elections, not having clean water and not having adequate housing. Quaint indeed!

This is the same newspaper that broke the Watergate scandal? How the mighty have fallen.


Anonymous said...

When i was in Habana it was very interesting to see that there were many brand new european luxury cars rolling around (a LOT of mercedes, a few audis). There was always a fleet of mercedes waiting outside the Hotel Nacional (not where i was staying). Obviously these cars were not for the average cuban, but i was still amazed at how many of them there were driving all over the city. I'm suprised more people did not opt for the 1950's gas guzzler which i though was part of the experience of being a tourist in cuba.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

To the other anonymous dipshit that submitted a comment that I will not publish:

Go somewhere else and spew your anti-Cuban-American propaganda. Go start your own blog and see if you can get 3 people to read it.


beckie said...

Yesterday on my lunch break, I picked up the POST and read this same article thinking of you. So glad you read it also, and to posted it here.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Sir Fil M.

I am not going to publish your comments. For one thing they are long. For another, they are idiotic.

I "implore" you sir to not comment on things which you think you understand but do not.

You said that in order to import commodities like cars Cuba needs to have a balance of payments with the outside world that offsets these imports of equal value.

That's not necessarily true. Countries run trade deficits and trade surpluses all the time. And contrary to popular belief neither is necessarily "bad" because in the long run all things tend toward an equilibrium. But that's just a smoke screen you put up anyway that denies the fact that there are something like 190 countries in the world and Cuba is free to buy/sell goods and services to/from about 189 of them.

Cuba's sugar harvest is not the lowest it's been in a century because there is no demand for the product outside of the US. It's sugar harvest is low because that industry has been mismanaged by communists to the point that the world's largest sugar producer in now a net importer of sugar.

If that's not an economic failure to you sir then there's no hope for you.

Have a nice day. And don't bother with a follow up. It won't get posted either.