Monday, July 12, 2004

Cuba: Canada's National Post gets it but many Cubanos don't

 Propping up a tropical tyranny

National Post, July 9, 2004

For those Canadians who cling to the conceit that Cuba's socialist system presents a humane and economically viable alternative to Western capitalism, this week's Post series on Fidel Castro's tropical tyranny should be required reading.

As reporter Isabel Vincent has shown, universal access to quality health care may be official policy in Cuba. And indeed foreigners flashing around U.S. dollars can fly to Havana and obtain prompt, first-class treatment. But Cuba has a "two-tier" system -- the kind most of Cuba's Canadian supporters would angrily decry if it were implemented here at home. Those Cubans who lack connections to high-ranking government officials must endure long waiting lists and indifferent treatment in poorly equipped hospitals.

Moreover, Cuba is hardly a workers' paradise: Even middle-class Cubans and professionals find it difficult to get ahead without working second and third jobs selling trinkets to tourists or driving taxis. When foreign investors set up shop, the Cuban government converts their local workers into de facto slaves. Friends of the ruling party siphon off the bulk of their foreign-source wages, and bureaucrats tax away most of the rest.
We are not arguing that Canada should join the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba -- which, to our minds, has been counterproductive because it allows Mr. Castro to blame his country's many problems on the United States. But that doesn't mean our government should be actively helping Cuba, either....
In regard to the improving "social conditions" that so impress CIDA, we refer the agency's officials to Lawrence Solomon's fine essay on the facing page. As for "Cuba's efforts to stimulate economic growth and activity," we would be interested to see CIDA expand on what fate befell Cuba's "former ally," Soviet Russia. Having cast off dictatorship and embraced democracy, recall, the Russians went through a lean decade. But the country is now booming in a way that the average Cuban could scarcely comprehend. So is China, another nation that -- economically at least -- has cast off the dogmas of communism.

The lesson is plain: Prosperity is impossible without freedom. And in the long term, all of CIDA's band-aids will do little to "stimulate economic growth and activity" until Mr. Castro's Soviet-style dictatorship is overthrown.
This is the lesson that Cubans in Florida and across the U.S. must learn.


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