CubaBrief: Democratic lawmakers visit Havana, meet with Cuban president. Cuba’s Poverty Is the Result of Socialism, Not a Blockade.

Reps. James McGovern (D-MA), Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Troy Carter (D-LA) met with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, leaders in Cuba’s congress and the regime’s foreign minister, the U.S. Embassy in Cuba told The Associated Press on December 11, 2022.

During this visit did the Congressmen call on Diaz-Canel to free all Cuban political prisoners, stop calling for violence against Cubans he disagrees with, end massacres of fleeing refugees, end the internal blockade, stop weaponizing migration, end the trafficking of doctors, stop sponsoring terrorism, and hold free elections? These are some of the substantive issues between the two countries.

There are over 1,000 Cuban political prisoners, and the political show trials are still ongoing.

These members of Congress shook hands with Miguel Diaz-Canel. This is the same Diaz-Canel who “called on supporters to fight in the streets as anti-government protests” grew. Business Insider cited two of his inflammatory quotes.

“The order to fight has been given — into the street, revolutionaries!” Díaz-Canel said during a TV speech on July 11, 2021, the BBC reported.

“We call on all the revolutionaries of the country, all the communists, to go out in the streets where these provocations will occur, from now on and in the next few days. And to face them in a decisive, firm, and courageous way,” he added, i24 News reported.

“They will have to pass over our dead bodies. If they want to confront the revolution, and we are willing to do anything.”

Díaz-Canel’s call to violence had deadly consequences for Cubans. Regime agents firing on protesters in residential neighborhoods.

Cuban protester Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36) was shot in the back and killed on July 12, 2021 by police.

Christian Díaz, age 24, disappeared after joining the protests. Police first told his father that Christian was jailed in Matanzas, but later said he’d drowned at sea and was buried in a mass grave. His family is convinced he was beaten to death.

Diaz-Canel claimed that they “addressed our differences” and “topics of shared interest” in the meeting with the visiting Congressmen.

“What topics of interest” would this delegation have with a dictatorship that continues to sponsor terrorism, engage in drug trafficking and backs Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

The Castro regime played a big role in establishing the Soles Cartel, a major drug trafficking network within Venezuela, through their connection with Colombian guerilla forces.

It’s also important to recall that Colombia’s new president Gustavo Petro, was an M-19 member. Same terrorist group that Havana was using a narcotics ring to funnel arms and cash to that led to Cuba first being placed on the terror sponsor list in 1982.

Diaz-Canel was in Moscow with Vladimir Putin on November 22, 2022 unveiling a statue of Fidel Castro and ratifying Havana’s support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Castro regime has been spreading disinformation backing Moscow’s aggression.

The Cuban dictatorship blames U.S. economic sanctions for its economic woes.

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in two articles makes the case that it is the communist centralized planning of the dictatorship that is responsible for the economic crisis in Cuba.

In 2019, Cuba imposed a policy of complete price control over the products entrepreneurs and vendors were selling in the market.”

Taiwan and Cuba are small nations with a powerful neighbor with an opposing ideology. The difference is that the regime in Taiwan embraced capitalism, and the regime in Cuba embraced communism.

“Cuba and Taiwan began the decade of the ’70s with similar economies, but today the GDP of the Caribbean island is five times less than that of Taiwan, and 90% of its population lives in poverty, while in the Asian island only 0.7% of its population is poor. It is definitely not the fault of the “blockade”, but of socialism.”

Associated Press, December 11, 2022

Democratic lawmakers visit Havana, meet with Cuban president

HAVANA (AP) — A delegation of at least three U.S. lawmakers visited Havana and met with Cuba’s government this week, American and Cuban officials confirmed.

Reps. James McGovern (D-MA), Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Troy Carter (D-LA) met with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, leaders in Cuba’s congress and its foreign minister, the U.S. Embassy in Cuba told The Associated Press on Sunday.

It’s one of just a handful of such visits to the island in recent decades. While officials provided few details about what was discussed, Díaz-Canel and Cuba’s Congress tweeted photos of the meetings.

One photo shows Rep. McGovern shaking hands with the Cuban leader and another shows the politicians meeting with other Cuban officials.

“We addressed our differences and topics of shared interest. We affirmed our willingness to improve bilateral relations,” tweeted Díaz-Canel Saturday, also noting he expressed the importance of ending the U.S. government’s six-decade trade embargo on the island.

The meeting comes following a number of visits in past months by Biden administration officials to discuss migration. The talks mark a gradual easing of tensions, which were relaxed during the Obama administration and tightened under the Trump administration.

Cuba is facing the greatest exodus from the island in a decade, fueled by compounding economic, energy and political crises.

In the past year, Cuban arrivals to the U.S.-Mexico border have skyrocketed, and a growing number of boats packed with migrants have been found off of Florida’s coast.

In October, Cubans replaced Venezuelans as the second most numerous nationality after Mexicans arriving at the border. U.S. authorities stopped Cubans 28,848 times, up 10% from the previous month, the latest data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows.

It also comes weeks before the U.S. plans to resume visa and consular services on the island, which had been stalled after a series of health incidents involving American diplomats in 2017.

FEE, December 8, 2022

Cuba’s Bustling Black Markets Hold an Important Economic Lesson

Even totalitarian states need markets to coordinate production and arrange resources.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

By Carlos Martinez

Black Markets have always been regarded as networks where buyers and sellers transact goods and services notorious for being morally wrong. Things like hard drugs, illegal prostitution, or guns that are not registered are among the many elements people cite when someone introduces the conversation of black markets to the table. Yet, few have talked deeply about how black markets can function and improve the general well-being of a nation. For this purpose, there is no better starting point than Cuba.

Cuba is known for its apologia to communism and the practice of different policies associated with it. The question of whether Cuba is a communist nation must be left to the discretion of the reader. What can be said, though, is that the country has a government with the universal capacity to dictate prices. In 2019, Cuba imposed a policy of complete price control over the products entrepreneurs and vendors were selling in the market. And although the Cuban regime has been more polite recently in opening specific sectors of the economy (those that do not affect the power of the politicians), the reality is that nothing has changed dramatically.

As many may infer, in an economy where price controls are established, shortages would arise as a response to the inefficient policy passed by the ruler. As Henry Hazlitt put it,

“Price—and wage—fixing is always harmful. There is no right way of doing it. There is no right way of doing a wrong thing. There is no fair way of doing something that oughtn’t be done at all. We can’t even define a fair price or a fair profit or a fair wage apart from the market, apart from the state of supply and demand.”

Such is the case that recently Cuba had protests over the shortages of food and medicines; this from a country whose main propaganda has been, over the years, the defense of the proletarian from the capitalist and the concern for the social welfare of its people. However, the politicians that rule over the island—primarily the Castro family—are not equipped with the basic economic knowledge to know that if you put a price ceiling on a product, you may create shortages. But what is even more harmful is that by establishing fixed prices, the once functional economy that could allocate resources efficiently stops doing so, and instead, malinvestments appear.

Cubans even like to call this an “internal blockade” as a satiric answer to those who say that the leading cause of the economic destruction in Cuba is due to the embargo. Although the embargo may cause some struggles with the operations of different micro-companies on the island, it is not the primary reason Cubans suffer from massive poverty. If this statement is not convincing enough, the fact that Cuban ended last year in 175th place in the economic freedom index might clarify it.

As the conditions on the island have worsened after the “triumph” of the Cuban revolution, Cubans have come up with a solution to the shortages of supplies and services: black markets. These markets primarily supply capital and consumption goods that have either been sold in the markets by corrupt bureaucrats—hence, the intention of bureaucrats to create shortages on purpose—or imported to the island via commercial flights. (These imports are not to be considered smuggled by law since they are the baggage of the clients arriving at the airport. However, the goal of it is to be sold in non-regulated markets.)

Some may ask how accessible these markets are to consumers or how noticeable they are to the authorities. Well, the truth is that there are guides to show foreigners and tourists on the island how to access black markets. The black exchange operations have been normalized so much in Cuba that the only way the government had to fight back against these merchants was to start giving away licenses. Even though the government has formalized some sectors of selling operations, the majority of the black market in Cuba remains unchanged.

The black markets have grown over the last four years thanks to access to the Internet on mobile devices. The introduction of the Internet to the island has been prolonged due to the regulations and policies to strictly monitor and control what Cubans upload to their social media. Yet, the efforts to do so are limited because most Cubans use text encrypted-based apps like Telegram, Signal, or WhatsApp to communicate their offers.

Previous to the usage of these apps, the exchanges were done locally, depending on the knowledge of the existence of buyers and sellers. However, markets have evolved considerably, and some people now go to other provinces to buy the products. Under normal circumstances, buyers could ship those products and have them before your door by the next day. This is impossible, however, considering that Cuba’s mail service is highly corrupt. Oftentimes, if someone ships an item, it gets stolen.

In bringing items to sell on the island, Cubans do not constrain themselves. The need is so generalized that even ibuprofen is scarce. After the hit of Covid-19, the need for medication increased to the point that Cubans living outside the island were shipping drugs and selling them illegally. Bitcoin is also utilized in transactions because of the inflation level the peso is suffering. Steve Hanke said Cuban inflation was recorded last July at 85% per year.

Even so, some libertarians like Martha Bueno have expressed concern about specific platforms Cubans use for these transactions. These platforms can change Cubans’ Bitcoin into a central bank digital currency (CBDC) called MLC (“Moneda Libremente Convertible“). This currency is backed by nothing and was created by the Cuban government to collect foreign currencies and remittances that family members outside the island would send to their relatives. For this reason, Bueno suggested using currencies like Monero where addresses may not be deciphered; in that way, no one can determine when the transaction was done or where it occurred.

Again, the point here is not to suggest that Cuba is transitioning to a free-market system, but to demonstrate how black markets have arisen as a response to harmful regulations and to show how their development has impacted the lives of Cubans.

The rise of these black markets shows that governmental intervention is not a solution, and actually works against the wants and needs of us—the consumers.

For better or worse, even totalitarian states need markets to coordinate production and arrange resources.

Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez is a Cuban American undergraduate student attending Rockford University, pursuing a major in economics.

From the archives

The Washington Times, April 27, 2022

Don’t let Cuba weaponize migration


The Washington Times editorial “Biden should not bow to Cuba’s political blackmail” (Web, April 24) is spot on in its conclusion that “the United States must take charge and only negotiate on its own terms without bowing to political blackmail,” but not while the military dictatorship engages in “its manipulative migration tactics — and finally frees political prisoners.”

The editorial mentions Mariel (1980) and the rafter crisis (1994) but omits the fact that between 2014 and 2016, over 120,000 Cubans entered the United States in another migration surge, during former President Barack Obama’s detente with Raul Castro. Obama responded to this extortion by ending the asylum policy for trafficked Cuban doctors, as well as the wet-foot/dry-foot policy. Ending these policies harmed Cubans and strengthened the dictatorship.

All Cuban migration crises have occurred under administrations seeking better relations with Havana: Camarioca (1965), Mariel (1980), the Rafter Crisis (1994), the Central American exodus (2014-2016) and now. The Cuban dictatorship reasoned that it could use immigration as a tool of asymmetric warfare to obtain more concessions. And it has been right on these four prior occasions.

In contrast, when Fidel Castro threatened a new exodus during the Reagan and Bush administrations, he was met each time with the response that the weaponization of migration would be dealt with as a national security matter. No exodus occurred.

To understand Havana’s tactics, Prof. Kelly M. Greenhill’s 2002 peer-reviewed paper, “Engineered Migration and the Use of Refugees as Political Weapons: A Case Study of the 1994 Cuban Balseros Crisis,” is required reading.


Executive director, Center for a Free Cuba

Falls Church, Virginia

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

FEE, September 29, 2021

Taiwan’s Wealth Shows Cuba’s Poverty Is the Result of Socialism, Not a Blockade

Cuba and Taiwan began the ’70s with similar economies, but today the GDP of the Caribbean island is five times less than that of Taiwan.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Emmanuel Rincón

For decades the Communist Party of Cuba has blamed the United States for Cuba’s misery and poverty, alluding to the “blockade” that the U.S. maintains against Cuba. However, the alleged blockade wielded by the island is in reality a trade embargo that only makes it impossible for people and companies in certain sectors within the United States to do business with Cuba, the rest of the world can trade freely with the island.

Even the United States annually exports about $277 million in goods to Cuba despite the trade embargo, a majority of these exports are foodstuffs.

In addition, despite the establishment of a dictatorial regime in Cuba that has been in power for more than 60 years without any kind of alternation, elections or basic freedoms, the whole world recognizes the communist authorities and Cuba has a presence in all multilateral international organizations, the main one being the United Nations.

Then there is Taiwan, which has characteristics very similar to those of Cuba, since it is also an island that is close to one of the two world powers—China. In the case of the authorities of Taipei they have been completely blocked by the Asian giant, since China claims sovereignty over the island.

Taiwan is recognized by only a dozen nations around the world, has no representation in the United Nations, and its official name cannot even be pronounced at any international event: be it an Olympic Games, a United Nations General Assembly, or even by the embassies of most countries in the world—including the United States. And yet, despite all these difficulties, today Taiwan’s economy is one of the most important in the world, with a poverty rate of 0.7%, as opposed to Cuba, which has one of the most depressed economies on the planet and 90% of its population living in poverty. What is the difference between the two islands? The economic and political model they applied in their nations.

Two Islands With Similar Histories

Cuba and Taiwan, despite being located at two different poles of the planet earth, have very similar characteristics, the one that most resembles them is the fact that they are less than 200 kilometers away from the two superpowers of the world—the United States and China respectively—and suffer trade embargoes or political blockades by the neighboring superpowers; on the other hand, Cuba has a little more than 11. 3 million inhabitants—a couple of million more have fled the country, while Taiwan has 23.5 million residents, despite the fact that Cuba has a land area about three times larger.

Despite the similarities, both nations are currently a long way apart in terms of economic, social, cultural, and technological development, as well as individual freedoms and democracy. Today, Taiwan’s economy is five times larger than Cuba’s, but fifty years ago things were not so different, in the 1970s the GDP of both countries was similar and the largest industry of both was agriculture.

Taiwan: Capitalism, Liberty, & Free Markets

The painful results of the cultural revolution in Mao Zedong’s communist China, which caused the death by famine of at least 30 million Chinese, illuminated the path of the region’s governments, who quickly understood that the failed model of putting the State in control of the means of production would make them all more vulnerable and miserable.

Then the People’s Republic of China’s neighbors began a series of economic and political reforms that would drastically change the quality of life of their inhabitants; Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and, of course, Taiwan, would begin to open their markets, encourage private enterprise and transform their authoritarian regimes into nations with democratic institutions, and little by little the sun began to shine for the so-called Asian tigers.

Despite territorial limitations and China’s political blockade of the island, Taiwan’s inclusive institutions paved the way for the production of technology to supply a severely deficient world market. Taiwanese entrepreneurs began to specialize in the production of semiconductors, those microchips that today we find in all electrical devices in the world, from computers to smartphones and even cars, and little by little the poor island of the past became a rich and developed country.

Currently, Taiwan has the sixth freest economy according to the Index of Economic Freedom, Singapore is the first nation in this section, while Malaysia ranks 22nd and South Korea 24th.

In an article published by the Taiwanese embassy in Mexico, the authorities stated that: “Taiwan, thanks to the policies of its government, began a rapid and overwhelming commercial development, becoming a stable industrial economy. Today it is the 22nd largest economy in the world. This allowed it to establish relations with countries that were in search of good trade relations.”

In the same brief they explain the transition that occurred in Taipei:

“Despite having started as a one-party military dictatorship, in the 1990s it began a process of democratization that today has it as one of the freest countries in the world, with high rates of press freedom, health service, public education, economic freedom and human development. That is why communist China sees Taiwan, and its international recognition, as an existential threat. The contrast is stark. Democracy has not only proven that it can work, but has brought multiple benefits to the population. The Taiwanese have a better quality of life, and opportunities for personal development, than the average Chinese on the mainland. And all this within a framework of freedoms that are unthinkable in a communist China that censures dissidence and whose ruling party increasingly tightens its control over all aspects of the country”.

Cuba: Socialism, Misery, & Ideology

On the other side of the planet, in Cuba, they decided to cover their eyes with the results of the cultural revolution perpetrated in China, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union. While Taiwan took off with a capitalist model, Cuba remained anchored in the old revolutionary dogmas of Fidel Castro, who far from trying to change, he sought to expand his regime of misery in the rest of the continent, achieving it quite successfully in countries such as Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The Cuban revolution took power on the island in 1959 by force of arms and never let go again. With popular slogans such as redistribution of wealth, supposed aid to the poor, and socialism, Fidel Castro began to expropriate land and private companies to be managed by the state, and in a short time Cuba, which used to be one of the largest producers and exporters of sugar in the world, found that it could no longer even produce sugar for internal consumption and had to import it.

For decades, the Cuban revolution was able to stay in power exclusively thanks to the financing offered by the Soviet Union with the aim of increasing the ideological enemies in the backyard of the United States. After the fall of the USSR, in the 90’s Cuba lived one of the worst decades of its history, until the political astuteness of Fidel Castro managed to put Hugo Chavez in power in Venezuela, and since then they lived off the oil of that country, until the same failed socialist model ended up ruining the nation with the largest oil reserves in the world, and Cuba was again involved in a tremendous economic crisis, with millions of citizens in extreme poverty, which has recently provoked one of the largest civil uprisings against the communist authorities.

Cuba and Taiwan began the decade of the ’70s with similar economies, but today the GDP of the Caribbean island is five times less than that of Taiwan, and 90% of its population lives in poverty, while in the Asian island only 0.7% of its population is poor.

It is definitely not the fault of the “blockade”, but of socialism.

A version of this article originally appeared in El American.

Business Insider, July 12, 2021

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel called on supporters to fight in the streets as anti-government protests grow

Connor Perrett

Jul 12, 2021, 9:44 AM

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel called on his supporters to take to the streets and fight amid ongoing anti-government protests in the country.

“The order to fight has been given — into the street, revolutionaries!” Díaz-Canel said during a TV speech on Monday, the BBC reported.

“We call on all the revolutionaries of the country, all the communists, to go out in the streets where these provocations will occur, from now on and in the next few days. And to face them in a decisive, firm, and courageous way,” he added, i24 News reported.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets over the weekend, calling on Díaz-Canel to resign in the largest protests in the country in decades, Reuters reported.

The anti-government protesters have grown frustrated with ongoing economic troubles in the country, which are the worst since the fall of the Soviet Union, the report said. People in Cuba have reported difficulty accessing basic goods while the government clamps down on civil liberties and COVID-19 infections surge, the report said.

Cuba reported nearly 7,000 new COVID-19 cases and 47 deaths from the disease on Sunday — a record amid protesters’ calls to ramp up the nation’s vaccination effort, the BBC reported.

In his televised address on Monday, Díaz-Canel said the anti-government protests were led by mercenaries hired by the US in an attempt to destabilize Cuba, the BBC reported. He also blamed US-led social-media campaigns, Reuters said.