People seem to believe what Raul Castro is saying about making nice with the USA. After all, he's the kinder, gentler one given to promises of a cell phone in every pocket if not a chicken in every pot. Certainly the prospect that he and Obama will be bosum buddies and Cubans will be watching Survival instead of living it is an attractive one.
But even with a sincere desire by both camps to cozy up, what are the prospects of a Cuba that feeds, houses and protects Cubans to a western standard?
In prospecting a prosperous future for all Cubans, the only thing that matters is its relationship with the USA.
Cuba has not been isolated from the world for the last fifty years, just from the USA for the last forty seven.
They’ve had more or less free market access from and to Russia, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Spain and everyone else. Yet these exporters of tremendous economic opportunity haven’t had all that much positive effect on the standard of living for Cubans.
So really, all the happy prospects of a better future for Cubans hinge on the USA.
And unhappily, I have to suggest that everyone hold on to their mojitos.
If tomorrow morning. Fidel and Raul along with Ricardo, Felipe and Carlos and the entire employment complement of the Capitolo hopped on a seaworthy 58 Chevy and sailed across the Caribbean to find sanctuary with Hugo in Venezuela, nothing would happen to improve the lot of Cubans for a decade - maybe a generation.
And it’s not because there aren’t a lot of people (including this one) who really, really want Cubans to prosper. It’s just reality.
The primary reasons that Cuba will take a while to be “reconstructed” all have two legs. When a change comes current leaders can be expected to priorize milking the opportunity for all it’s worth above what’s good for the people. Ask anyone who has done business with this crew. Their idea of a deal is that you invest the capital, you pay the costs and them a commission and they keep the profit. They’re so crooked that when they die they’ll be screwed into the ground, not buried. Plus, they don’t pay their bills.
The next big reason that things won’t be turned around quickly is that there is almost no way to do it. Infrastructure that developed countries take for granted: electricity, water, refrigeration, roads, construction equipment, ports to receive material, transportation and just about everything else do not exist in any form that could allow any reconstruction to take place. Figure ten years and $30 Billion to start.
A third reason is that reconstruction of an economy requires hordes of lawyers, stadia of translators, battalions of legislators and armies of diplomats and bureaucrats. All talking eternally and from all sides and all at once. It took fourteen years to design and built the Canada / USA Free Trade Agreement and those two countries are best friends and biggest trading partners! How long to do the same when a whole bunch of Florida legislators owe their jobs to anti-Fidelistas? Until they are in their graves.
I hope I haven’t depressed anyone on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of Fidel’s glorious victory over Battista, Eisenhower and Michael Corleone . Anyone who’s bothered to read this likely has affinity for the people, if not the place and the politics and wants to see the day when they live free and live well. Me too. I just hope I’ll still be around to visit there, then.