Cubans don't benefit from American business — Castro does
By Editorial Board September 16 at 7:03 PM
AS YOU ponder the impact on political and economic freedom in Cuba of
the Obama administration's diplomatic opening to that Communist-ruled
country, keep this figure in mind: $50. That's how much every American
visitor has to pay the Castro regime for a tourist visa each time he or
she travels to the island, as the administration is aggressively
enouraging people to do. Last year, 160,000 people visited Cuba from the
United States, which translates into $8 million, not chump change for
the financially troubled regime. Those numbers are on course to double
We make this point to place the latest celebratory headlines about the
renewal of scheduled air travel from the United States to Cuba in a
broader perspective. If you think the president's policy will "empower"
the fledgling Cuban private sector, as opposed to the overbearing state,
think again. Easy money from expensive visas is a relatively minor
example of the regime's so-far successful efforts to reap direct benefit
from the new relationship with the United States. Even more important is
the fact that the Cuban armed forces own the country's dominant tourism
companies, and those firms are expanding their role in anticipation of
an American influx.
As the Associated Press recently reported, the Cuban military has taken
over a previously autonomous office that controlled Old Havana, a major
tourist attraction, as well as a bank responsible for most of Cuba's
international financial transactions. Gaviota, a military-owned tourism
company, is in the midst of what the AP calls "a hotel building spree,"
which Cuba needs because its existing hotels lack sufficient capacity,
by far, to accomodate hundreds of thousands of additional visitors from
the United States. To date, Cuban private operators had been filling the
gap by renting rooms in their homes. The military's activities show that
the regime has no intention of sharing the market with these
cuentapropistas, as Cuban small businesses are known in Spanish. The
Obama administration claims that support for these entrepreneurs is a
major aim of its policy; it sees them as a potential source of
middle-class pressure in favor of democracy. Meanwhile, it authorizes
Starwood Hotels, a giant U.S. firm, to join forces with the Cuban state
in operating government-run hotels.
Stripped of the high-minded rhetoric, the fundamental tendency of the
new dispensation in U.S.-Cuban relations is toward collaboration between
U.S. corporations and military gatekeepers on the island, in which
profits take priority over the basic human rights of the Cuban people.
If this sounds familiar, it's because it's very much like the
arrangement that once existed between Washington and the kleptocratic
Batista regime Fidel Castro overthrew in 1959.
Source: Cubans don't benefit from American business — Castro does - The
Washington Post -