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Bananas in Havana: Fidel Tightens the Screws

Cuba's Fidel Castro announced today that the U.S. dollar -- which has been legal tender in Cuba for the last decade-- will no longer be accepted for consumer purchases. Cubans will now have to trade their dollars for funny money scrip issued by the state. The exchange is one to one MINUS A 10% "fee." Let me translate: Castro has just imposed a highly regressive 10% flat sales tax on an already impoverished population. For those among you who have never been to Cuba let me tell you that ALL consumer goods are accessible only in dollars. And so are most foodstuffs beyond the minimal rice and beans on the ration card. 0792846060_3 A huge percentage of the Cuban population is wholly dependent on the $1 billion a year in hard currency sent them by relatives living abroad. The average wage in Cuba is the equivalent of $15-$20 a month. Prices on most consumer goods, meanwhile, are about 25% higher than in the U.S. You can do the math. This is a massive transfer of scarce hard currency from the pockets of ordinary and threadbare people into the coffers of a bankrupt state at the cost of everyone's standard of living. All Cubans who have been saving up dollars -- the ONLY form of savings in Cuba-- just lost 10% of their wealth [sic]. Surprise, surprise. Fidel blamed the decision on the Bush administration, citing restrictions placed recently on dollar remittances to Cuban families by Cuban American relatives, and attempts to prevent international banks to provide Cuba with dollars. Said Fidel: "The empire is determined to create more difficulties for us." Fidel's remedy: to create more economic distress for the workers of Cuba. No question the Bush administration is squeezing Cuba. It's unconscionable. So is the way Fidel squeezes his own people. The most likely outcome is a new black market in dollars. In doing this story tonight on MSNBC tonight, Keith Olbermann obliquely referred to the classic Woody Allen comedy Bananas saying Fidel also annnounced from now on underwear must be worn outside your clothes. Viva la revolucion! Update: Here's Randy Paul's take on the story.

68 Responses to “Bananas in Havana: Fidel Tightens the Screws”

  1. brucds Says:

    This is very arbitrary and unfair. It’s sort of like what happens to me when I’ve got no cash, use an ATM machine other than my own bank’s, and end up getting charged a $1.50 fee on both ends to get my hands on a twenty dollar bill from my own checking account. Except, of course, it’s much worse..

    Fidel Castro is one of the main guys who really destroyed any hope of “revolutionary socialism” in the 20th Century. When I was very young and foolish I was sympathetic to the Cuban revolution and could wrangle excuses for this, that and the other that was basically fucked about the Castro regime. But when he sided with Brezhnev and the Soviet tanks in ’68 against the Chekoslovakian reformers, my sympathy evaporated.

  2. Ken Says:

    Don’t tell Bush. We don’t want to give him any ideas.

  3. Eric Blair Says:

    That pratfall last week must of unhinged him.

  4. Randy Paul Says:

    Thanks for the mention, Marc.

    I really think in addition to the desire to get dollars in the door in a big and quick way and to dis the exile community, that Castro is moving towards the Euro. A number of Euro-based economies have investments in Cuba (Spain and Italy especially).

    The exile community in South Florida is resourceful and they’ll probably set up a way to deal with making these remittances in Euros. Castro still wins out here in that case. In any event, the average Cubans still get squeezed fromn North to South.

  5. too many steves Says:

    Was JFK right that the best solution to the problem of Cuba is a dead Castro? Would that actually emancipate Cuba or create a vacuum for all sorts of new troubles?

    Cuba has been in this deplorable state for, what, 40+ years? Bush hasn’t “fixed” the problem but is he guilty of omission or commission? Has he made anything but superficial changes to our (long standing) policy toward Cuba?

    Shouldn’t we admit that our 40 years of experience in and with Cuba proves that nothing we have tried has actually worked? Why does that continue to be controversial?

    I don’t know the answers to these questions and am honestly perplexed that the brutish nastiness that is Castro and Cuba has existed for most, if not all, of my lifetime – which is longer than I care to admit at the moment.

  6. steve Says:

    If, as indeed, the Miami Cubans figure out how to get the money to Cuban relatives through the Euro…this doesn’t seem as quite a major catastrophe as it’s being painted?

  7. anothersteve Says:

    Learn from Cuba, says World Bank

    by Jim Lobe

    Washington, 30 Apr 2001 (IPS) – World Bank President James Wolfensohn Monday extolled the Communist government of President Fidel Castro for doing “a great job” in providing for the social welfare of the Cuban people.

    His remarks followed Sunday’s publication of the Bank’s 2001 edition of ‘World Development Indicators’ (WDI), which showed Cuba as topping virtually all other poor countries in health and education statistics.

    It also showed that Havana has actually improved its performance in both areas despite the continuation of the US trade embargo against it, and the end of Soviet aid and subsidies for the Caribbean island more than ten years ago.

    “Cuba has done a great job on education and health,” Wolfensohn told reporters at the conclusion of the annual spring meetings of the Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “They have done a good job, and it does not embarrass me to admit it.”

    His remarks reflect a growing appreciation in the Bank for Cuba’s social record, despite recognition that Havana’s economic policies are virtually the antithesis of the “Washington Consensus”, the neo-liberal orthodoxy that has dominated the Bank’s policy advice and its controversial structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) for most of the last 20 years.

    Some senior Bank officers, however, go so far as to suggest that other developing countries should take a very close look at Cuba’s performance.

    “It is in some sense almost an anti-model,” according to Eric Swanson, the programme manager for the Bank’s Development Data Group, which compiled the WDI, a tome of almost 400 pages covering scores of economic, social, and environmental indicators.

    Indeed, Cuba is living proof in many ways that the Bank’s dictum that economic growth is a pre-condition for improving the lives of the poor is over-stated, if not, downright wrong. The Bank has insisted for the past decade that improving the lives of the poor was its core mission.

    Besides North Korea, Cuba is the one developing country, which, since 1960, has never received the slightest assistance, either in advice or in aid, from the Bank. It is not even a member, which means that Bank officers cannot travel to the island on official business.

    The island’s economy, which suffered devastating losses in production after the Soviet Union withdrew its aid, especially its oil supplies, a decade ago, has yet to fully recover. Annual economic growth, fuelled in part by a growing tourism industry and limited foreign investment, has been halting and, for the most part, anaemic.

    Moreover, its economic policies are generally anathema to the Bank. The government controls virtually the entire economy, permitting private entrepreneurs the tiniest of spaces. It heavily subsidises virtually all staples and commodities; and its currency is not convertible to anything. It retains tight control over all foreign investment, and often changes the rules abruptly and for political reasons.

    At the same time, however, its record of social achievement has not only been sustained; it’s been enhanced, according to the WDI.

    It has reduced its infant mortality rate from 11 per 1,000 births in 1990 to seven in 1999, which places it firmly in the ranks of the western industrialised nations. It now stands at six, according to Jo Ritzen, the Bank’s Vice President for Development Policy, who visited Cuba privately several months ago to see for himself.

    By comparison, the infant mortality rate for Argentina stood at 18 in 1999;

    Chile’s was down to ten; and Costa Rica, at 12. For the entire Latin American and Caribbean region as a whole, the average was 30 in 1999.

    Similarly, the mortality rate for children under the age of five in Cuba has fallen from 13 to eight per thousand over the decade. That figure is 50% lower than the rate in Chile, the Latin American country closest to Cuba’s achievement. For the region as a whole, the average was 38 in 1999.

    “Six for every 1,000 in infant mortality – the same level as Spain – is just unbelievable,” according to Ritzen, a former education minister in the Netherlands. “You observe it, and so you see that Cuba has done exceedingly well in the human development area.”

    Indeed, in Ritzen’s own field, the figures tell much the same story. Net primary enrolment for both girls and boys reached 100% in 1997, up from 92% in 1990. That was as high as most developed nations – higher even than the US rate and well above 80-90% rates achieved by the most advanced Latin American countries.

    “Even in education performance, Cuba’s is very much in tune with the developed world, and much higher than schools in, say, Argentina, Brazil, or Chile.”

    It is no wonder, in some ways. Public spending on education in Cuba amounts to about 6.7% of gross national income, twice the proportion in other Latin American and Caribbean countries and even Singapore.

    There were 12 primary school pupils for every Cuban teacher in 1997, a ratio that ranked with Sweden, rather than any other developing country. The Latin American and East Asian average was twice as high at 25 to one.

    The average youth (age 15-24) illiteracy rate in Latin America and the Caribbean stands at 7%. In Cuba, the rate is zero. In Latin America, where the average is 7%, only Uruguay approaches that achievement, with one percent youth illiteracy.

    “Cuba managed to reduce illiteracy from 40% to zero within ten years,” said Ritzen. “If Cuba shows that it is possible, it shifts the burden of proof to those who say it’s not possible.”

    Similarly, Cuba devoted 9.1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) during the 1990s to health care, roughly equivalent to Canada’s rate. Its ratio of 5.3 doctors per 1,000 people was the highest in the world.

    The question that these statistics pose, of course, is whether the Cuban experience can be replicated. The answer given here is probably not.

    “What does it, is the incredible dedication,” according to Wayne Smith, who was head of the US Interests Section in Havana in the late 1970s and early 1980s and has travelled to the island many times since. “Doctors in Cuba can make more driving cabs and working in hotels, but they don’t. They’re just very dedicated,” he said.

    Ritzen agreed that the Cuban experience probably couldn’t be applied wholesale to another poor country, but insisted that developing countries can learn a great deal by going to the island.

    “Is the experience of Cuba useful in other countries? The answer is clearly yes, and one is hopeful that political barriers would not prevent the use of the Cuban experience in other countries. Here, I am pretty hopeful, in that I see many developing countries taking the Cuban experience well into account.”

    But the Cuban experience may not be replicable, he went on, because its ability to provide so much social support “may not be easy to sustain in the long run”.

    “It’s not so much that the economy may collapse and be unable to support such a system, as it is that any transition after Castro passes from the scene would permit more freedom for people to pursue their desires for a higher standard of living.” The trade-off, according to Ritzen, may work against the welfare system that exists now.

    “It is a system, which on the one hand, is extremely productive in social areas and which, on the other, does not give people opportunities for more prosperity.” – SUNS 4887

    [c] 2001, SUNS – All rights reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or posted to any system or service without specific permission from SUNS. This limitation includes incorporation into a database, distribution via Usenet News, bulletin board systems, mailing lists, print media or broadcast. For information about reproduction or multi-user subscriptions please contact:

  8. steve Says:

    Isn’t Jim Lobe some leftist who supports Workers World Party?

  9. Huggy Says:

    Why do so many Cubans want to escape Castros’s wonderful prison? Send World Bank officials to Cuba to handle the finaces. They can drive cabs and wait on tourist till Cuba gets more banks.

  10. Josh Legere Says:

    How does Jim Lobe’s opinion justify the repressive actions of Castro? I am with the dissidents that are in jail for exercising their human right of freedom of speech.

    How can anyone in this country show solidarity with a regime that does this? Maybe they don’t realize how lucky we are in the US. We can say whatever we want without going to jail.

    Soft on dictatorships again…

  11. anothersteve Says:

    Reply to Steve:

    Hi, Steve!

    Yes, Jim Lobe is a WWP supporter. He also plans to vote for Ralph Nader this year and has big pictures of Milosevic and Kim Jong-Il on his living room wall. He also has an extensive collection of Paul Robeson 78′s and listens to WBAI 24 hours a day.

    That’s what I’ve heard from Leo Casey, anyhow, for what that’s worth…

  12. Randy Paul Says:

    “If, as indeed, the Miami Cubans figure out how to get the money to Cuban relatives through the Euro…this doesn’t seem as quite a major catastrophe as it’s being painted?”


    I’m speculating. I don’t even know if it can be done.

    The larger issue here is this: why is Castro doing this? The answer is similar to the answer for why a dog licks his balls: because he can and in Castro’s case he can because he’s a totalitarian dictator.

  13. Josh Legere Says:

    Randy – You nailed it!

  14. submandave Says:

    Randy: “The larger issue here is this: why is Castro doing this?”

    1. Beef up his own private coffers. Insurance against being deposed.

    2. He knows it will never come back against him. Because all suffering of Third World citizens, especially in countries hostile to the US, is assumed to be the result of the US somehow.

  15. miguel Says:

    All the flowery rhetoric about why Cuba is a model, blah, blah, blah flies in the face of one single, indisputable, observabel fact:

    Every year, thousands of Cubans try, against near-impossible odds, to leave their island & reach the US (or anywhere else, really). It’s not just that there’s a mass exodus, it’s that it’s an exodus of desperation. Other countries are also poor, but their population can at least freely emigrate. Cuba is poor, and their people have to risk jail to leave.

    Explain that, leftist Cuba sympathisers.

  16. DaveP. Says:

    The answer probably has something to do with Castro’s desperate need for a hard currency to make foreign purchases with. Face it, no nation or corporation is real likely to accept Cuban “revolutionary pesos” or whatever they’re called. When you consider that the exchange rate for Dollars to “R.P”.’s is probably something huge (during the last days of the Soviet Empire, one dollar was trading for hundreds of roubles on the black market… and the Soviets had something MORE than sugar and 12-year-old hookers to back their money up with) you’ll see that wiht this directive Castro has forced a .9-to-1 exchange rate, which is FAR better than even his government could have dreamed of. Essentially, he’s trading toilet paper for greenbacks.

    Someone find Danny Glover…

  17. Armondo Says:

    Why do you besmirch the name of a great hero, Fidel Castro? Castro is the best thing that ever happened to my country, and it is a paradise!

  18. Harry in Atlanta Says:

    Don’t care.

  19. brucds Says:

    Wouldn’t you rather be able to lick your balls than screw around with exchange rates ? Just a thought…

  20. Josh Narins Says:

    I guess you have never been to Israel. You can’t get the official exchange rate at most places. At one place, they were taking _more_ than a 10% cut. Since we were in the desert, we had no choice about places to exchange currency.

    In any event, calling it a “regressive sales tax” is, for all intents and purposes, a lie. What percentage of the money in Cuba is American, anyway? Who possesses this money? Since most people work for the government, most people are paid in Cuban currency. Certainly the poor have the least US dollars, making this, in all likelihood, a progressive “fee,” but in no sense a tax.

    Cuba, more doctors per person than any other New World country. More aid to the sick, poor of foreign countries than the US, in absolute terms. And since more than half the world is living on a buck or two a day, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that more than half the world appreciates Castro more than Busho.

  21. Josh Narins Says:

    too many steves: Cuba has had this problem for more than 110 years. President Stephen Grover Cleveland smartly kept America out of Cuba, but the _LIE_, pushed by (rightist) Hearst and (leftist) Pulitzer on the American public, that the Spanish were responsible for attacking a US Naval vessel, was all the excuse the McKinley adminstration needed to launch a huge, aggressive war.

    Rove has repeatedly said he and Bush are most like McKinley and Mark Hanna.

    No one cheered when US troops came back from the Phillipines. Those damn 1906 American anti-patriots!

  22. Josh Narins Says:

    Josh Legere: The two dozen odd “journalists” who Castro jailed are all allied with a group which advocates violent overthrow of the government.

    Do you advocate violent overthrow of the government? Would the US sit idly by if associates of violent overthrow of the US government were in America? Does Spain allow the Basque/ETA network to publish their newspaper? Or are many arrested?

  23. Anonymous Says:

    We know some people who do missions work in Cuba, and they always come back commenting on the lack of any kind of ‘health care’ among the ‘common’ people to whom they minister (generally not in the larger cities). Even aspirin is hard to get…

  24. Frydek_Mistek Says:

    TO those few out there sympathetic to the Castro Regime. I’m a Czech born in 1970, meaning that i know what it is like to live under a, “communist regime”.

    It is true that everybody had healthcare and jobs but this came with a price. To get decent healthcare,bribery was routine and where you worked depended on your political connections and/or political obedience. Applications for universities, traveling, working, moving etc. had to be approved by party officials. My friend’s father left his family and defected to Austria. The result, even though she was a young girl at the time she and her sister were deemed politically unreliable and were never allowed to study at university. Personal loyalty wasn’t enough and individuals were also held accountable for the sins of their mothers or fathers. I couldgive ten more similiar examples that I witnessed first hand.

    The closest we could travel to the west was Yugoslavia, because of their more lax version of Marxist/Leninism it was routine that a family would be forced to leave one child home to prevent defections.

    From time to time brave souls wrote, “Russians Go Home”, on walls. If the offenders had been caught they would have been thrown in jail. Attendance at May 1st parades was mandatory. If party officials said that 2+2=5 either you agreed or you faced real consequences. Not to mention imprisoning dissidents, labor camps, and the STBsecret police blackmailing friends and family members into becoming informers.

    This is just scratching the surface,

    I could write 1000 pages of true horrific examples of the cruel policies of the Bolsheviks.

    The point is that, if you’re going to defend Castro don’t forget everything you’re defending.


  25. Val Prieto Says:

    I was not going to comment on this thread but, sheesh, Josh Narins, you are a complete bafoon.

    Why does Castro need a sudden influx of dollars? Because he needs to purchase good from the US and can only do so by paying cash for them.

  26. Daniel Says:

    Why doesn’t Fidel just get the money from Barbara Walters, Steven Spielberg and Oliver Stone?

  27. too many steves Says:

    Josh: thanks, that makes my take on the situation there (and our approach) even more stark and perplexing.

    Why hasn’t a single President ever recommended, seriously, embracing Cuba and Castro a la the teachings of The Prince? We snuggled up to Noriega, to the Shah, to whoever is in charge in Haiti. Isn’t Cuba bigger and more strategic than those places?

    Sure Castro was closely aligned with the Soviet Union when that was a strategic advantage (for him) but that is oh so two decades ago.

    Does our policy, particularly the length in time and given its complete ineffectiveness, seem pathological to you too?

  28. ed Says:


    It never fails to amaze me how much America is blamed for Cuba’s failings. America is the only country in the world that doesn’t trade directly with Cuba. Well it used to. Now we’ve got a limited form of agricultural trade of around $200 million or so a year. If Cuba was such a great place to invest money in, you’d think that there would be thousands of investors from Asia, Europe and South/Central America that would love to invest money or complete trade contracts.

  29. Josh Legere Says:

    Josh Narin… I do not support the violent overthrow of the country but I do support the freedom to express those opinions. In the US many openly do! I also support the right of baffons like you to express your pathetic rationalizations of a tired dictatorship. Cuba is not a government of the Left! Nothing liberating about being in Cuba.

    Check out this clip of Castro tripping… very funny.

  30. Marc Cooper Says:

    A Couple of responses… I find in MIND-NUMBING that fat and comfortable Americans write off as insignificant a blankey 10% reduction in Cubans’ savings accounts… as ALL Cubans save ONLY in dollars. This has much more impact on most Cubans than say Bush tax policy has on most Americans.. Perhaps you should try living on a 400 grams of rice and 800 grams of rice every week.. and perhaps a quarter pound of chicken every ten days or so and then have YOUR hard currency reserves reduced by 10%. This should come as no surprise from Fidel. Remember this is a regime that literally rents out (for dollars) its domesticated work force to foreign capitalists. Spanish and Canadian entrprenuers pay the Cuban state $350 a month or so for each worker and the worker gets about $20 a month worth of toilet paper pesos. The workers also have no right to sttike.. why would any worker want to strike against his or her own state? This is of course is the fundamental flaw in the “reasoning” of all Cuba aplogists. They correctly decry the injustice of the capitalist marketplace. They simply overlook the fact that the Cuban economy is ALSO A CAPTIALIST economy.. a state capitalist model.. totally neo-liberal but WITHOUT any real salaries!

    As to who is in jail… it’s an outright lie and slander to accuse all those in jail of being linked to armed opposition to Castro. That’s oure state propaganda. Raul Rivero is an old time poet who was once a Castro acolyte, for example. he’s too drunk most of the time to be a militiaman!

    In any case… my friend… after holding all power for 45 years without any election or mandate, it’s hardly Fidel’s choice as to how people should oppose him. What would u recommend to those who oppose his rule? There are no opposition parties, there are no opposition papers, there is no freedom to assemble. Those who peititoned for change within the terms of the Cuban constitution, the Varela Project, were chucked into jail. They desperately await your suggestions on how to proceed.

  31. Val Prieto Says:

    Thanks you, Marc. Perfectly stated.

  32. Y.H.N. Says:

    “Fidel’s remedy: to create more economic distress for the workers of Cuba. No question the Bush administration is squeezing Cuba. It’s unconscionable. So is the way Fidel squeezes his own people.”

    My only problem with the US’s Cuba policy is that it is ineffective. Allow some remittances to keep the regeim afloat, but do not allow enough economic activity to actually have an impact on how business is done on the island. Seems like the worst of both worlds.

  33. Josh Narins Says:

    Frydek_Mystek: Cuba’s record with America predates Red October by about three decades. We’ve invaded four times now. How many times did Russia invade Czechoslovakia? How many people died?

    Val Pareto: They are limited to 200 million per year. Since they do much of the rest of their business in Euros (I imagine), and they can get a great Euro/USD exchange rate, your explanation becomes insufficient.

    too many Steves: JFK and Castro were talking about it, three weeks later Kennedy was dead. LBJ had to go hard against the Commies, so his brand of leftism wouldn’t look Soviet. Don’t worry, too_many_steves, I am sure that forty more years of sanctions for the crime of, well, being unpopular with the boys in Washington will _surely_ see Castro fall. Less than forty more, I bet.

    Josh Legere: Please discuss advocating the violent overthrow of the US Government with a qualified attorney. If you think it doesn’t put you on a watch list, and keep you out of the papers, and perhaps precipitate arrest on trumped up charges, you aren’t living in the real world.

    Marc Cooper: Please try selling your “Cuba is Capitalist” theory somewhere else. Are you aware that Starbuck’s hires prisoners to gift wrap some of their Christmas gift-packs? Use of prison labor is the one type of labor banned by international treaty, but it doesn’t stop it happening here (or China, obviously). As for recommendations on what to do… first you should perhaps help me to deal with the fact that both parties are run by corporate stooges in this country? Or that we have one of the worst Presidents on record, perhaps only equalled by the war-profiteering mendacity of a Polk, or the dumbness of a Truman, and yet half the country still likes him, the ignorant, superstitious half?

  34. Randy Paul Says:

    One more thing about Raúl Rivero: he received the UNESCO Press Freedom Award this year.

    I agree with Marc that this is an abominable act and it is probably designed to put more hard currency into Cuban government coffers at the expense of its citizens. It certainly doesn’t surprise me.

  35. Marc Cooper Says:

    Josh.. in other words.. America (and starbucks) is bad, so it’s OK if Fidel Castro holds dictatorial power for 45 years, and that in the name of socialism, no less, workers are stripped of all labor rights and rented out to Spanish, Canadian and Mexian hotel chains. I see.,.. it makes perfect sense. One day, perhaps, you will learn to hold two thoughts in your head at the same time:

    1) U.S. policy toward Cuba has been abominable, cynical and destrcutive.

    2) Fidel Castro has usurped the Cuban revolution and squeezed it dry of its orginal humanitarian content.

    I know it’s tough to hold such two big thoughts in one normal sized head.. but perhaps you should try.

    In the meantime we will make hard copies of your thoughts on Cuban repression and send them down to Havana. Perhaps if boiled long enough they can serve as a tasty meal.

  36. Marc Cooper Says:

    P.S. To Josh.. beyond your bold anti-imperialist polemics Im genuinely interested if you will answer to very simple questions:

    1) Do you think Cuabns have the right to dissent from their government?

    2) How should they express that dissent?

  37. rick mcginnis Says:

    Josh wrote:

    “How many times did Russia invade Czechoslovakia? How many people died?”

    And singlehandedly gives the best performance of the year in “stooge logic”.

  38. j.pickens Says:

    The good news is that people in their late ’70′s don’t recover very well from “brittle bone” fractures of the type probably suffered by Castro in his recent fall. How many friends and relatives do you know that deteriorated rapidly after losing the ability to walk after a broken hip or pelvis?

    He is probably not long for this world.

    We can all hope, at least.

  39. Marc Cooper Says:

    Thanks Rick.. yes I LOVE that one. The Russkies only invaded Czehoslavakia once (that’s because they didnt need to again!)… of course the Nazis only invaded most of Europe only once… ROFL

  40. Ken Says:

    I apologize for going way OT here, but does anyone remember that thread from the last few weeks where I predicted that generation Y (those born between 1981 and 2001) would reverse the decline in civic and political participation initiated by generation x (those born between 1961 and 1981)?

    I seem to recall virtually no one in these parts agreeing with me….

    The numbers are in folks, and they’re nothing short of staggering:

    87% registration among college students. 84% intend to vote.

    87% registration rates for college students. 84% plan to vote.

    “Shrugging off a long stretch of electoral apathy, millions of students are ready to flock to the polls a week from today in what experts say may be the biggest resurgence of the youth vote since 18-year-olds were granted that right in 1972.

    The percentage of students across the nation who say they’ve registered to vote has climbed to 87 percent — far outstripping the number eligible to cast ballots in 2000, according to a national poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.

    Our findings represent a major revival of student political engagement,” said Philip Sharp, director of the institute.”

    Generation Y has arrived…

    I wonder which of my other predictions will come to pass…Hmm…

  41. Josh Legere Says:

    Mr. Narins,

    You are what Micheal Walzer describes as an “internal alien.” You are living on Mars.

    The Revolutionary Communist Party placed ads in The Nation (it was for a DVD interview with “Chairman” Bob Avakian) and it said, “…he is the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, which is seriously setting its sight on the seizure of power right within the U.S. itself, and the revolutionary transformation of society” Good old Chairman Bob and the RCP as well as WWP and all the kooky front groups for these sects have not been placed in jail.

    That is just one example. Turn on Pacifica radio on any given day and you are likely to hear someone talk about revolution. Pick up a copy of the AK Press catalogue.

    Yes. This country does have freedom of speech. You have been given the freedom to be an ignorant fool.

  42. steve Says:

    “I guess you have never been to Israel. You can’t get the official exchange rate at most places. At one place, they were taking _more_ than a 10% cut. Since we were in the desert, we had no choice about places to exchange currency.”

    Yeah, but you forgot rule no. 1 when discussing enemy countries, comparisons are not relevant nor allowed into discussions, unless they benefit the current foreign policy. Thus, your example, or the example of Haiti’s people leaving in droves are not seen as relevant to the fact that many Cubans also are leaving their country, primarily for economic reasons. Ditto Mexico. Only when Cubans do it are we to be sympathetic.

    It is really wierd the discourse in America about Cuba.

    It reminds me of a time I was waiting for a visa in 1991 in Bangkok for a trip to Vietnam. I ran into a guy from California who was going on and on about the represison in Vietnam that he’d just seen, i.e. lots of police, everywhere and so many restrictions on where foreign tourists could travel…I asked him if he felt there was much repression in Thailand, he said he didn’t think so, in fact he could do almost anything he wanted to do. I suggested he talk with student activists or labor activists,…he might have a different sense of just how free a country Thailand was. And that was with how many billions of $$ in foreign investment and infrastructural loans, etc. to back up the economy from the most powerful capitalist country in the world no less…

  43. Marc Cooper Says:

    Que pendejo!

  44. Josh Legere Says:

    Great response Marc! It might just be the best one yet!

    Steve –

    Does Marc need to give equal time to the crisis in Hati? Or can he write about whatever he wants on his blog?

    I am sure most everyone that posts on this blog would agree that US policy towards Hati has been an ignominy. What is your point?

    Your ramble about Vietnam is silly. Look, I am sure you would love to go to Cuba and at some arroz con pollo with black beans; buy some Che dolls, talk to Assata Shakur, etc… But I doubt you would go speak to the dissidents that are in jail. You couldn’t if you tried!

  45. Frydek_Mistek Says:

    Josh Narins, Try being invaded by the Russians, Once” and see how you like it.

    Before 1989 the govt screwed us on exchange rates, so people who received foriegn currency spent it on the black market. An unregulated extremely capitalistic economy ruled by corrupt mafia like chieftans. Who got the money, criminals and criminal policemen who were payed to look the other way. I suspect that is what is taking place in Cuba right now and Casro’s policy will only encourage this.

    Don’t get me wrong. We’re still getting fucked under capitolism, but at least now I can get drunk and yell, Russians go Home” without worrying about the police.


  46. steve Says:

    Yes, Marc, that was what I was thinking of the guy at the time too, how else to explain such confusion.

    Josh, the point is a simple one, much graver violations of human rights in nearby Haiti attract little in the way of obsession in the US. Cuba is more a matter of obsession than anything else when it comes to the negative attention it receives. How else to explain the disproportionate response?

    You’re right about Cuba, since my Spanish is so weak I had to look up the word pendejo. On the other hand, as you well know, I have interviewed at length activists in China who have organized collective protests of factory privatization, fraud, etc. But, oh, well, that doesn’t fit into your stereotyped vision of those who disagree with you.

  47. Anonymous Says:

    bruc ds writes, “Wouldn’t you rather be able to lick your balls than screw around with exchange rates ? Just a thought…”

    For once, I agree with bruc ds. Ain’t that somthin?

  48. Anonymous Says:

    Josh Narins, FYI the Spanish American War was over in 1898, the Phillipine Insurrection was over in 1902.

  49. Marc Cooper Says:

    (By the way.. I speak Chilean/Argentine Spanish… in this case certainly not Peruvian!)


    (definición de diccionario) “pelo que nace en el pubis y en las ingles”. Familiarmente se usa para referirse a una persona cobarde o estúpida.

    en Chile y Argentina: 1) niño o adolescente; 2)(despectivo) persona aniñada, inmadura. Hay muchos pendejos en la piscina. / Gerardo es muy pendejo, no sabe hablar de cosas serias.

    en Costa Rica: persona torpe o poco hábil. Mi hermana Doris es pendeja para hacer de comer. ¡Todo lo quema!

    en Ecuador: persona tímida, asustadiza. ¡No seas pendeja, Amelia! ¡No te va a pasar nada si vamos juntas a saludar a Blas!

    en México, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Guatemala y Honduras: persona muy tonta, de quien se aprovecha la gente.

    en Puerto Rico es considerado un insulto muy fuerte.

    en Paraguay: 1) muchacho; 2) novio. Los pendejos estaban jugando futbol en el parque. / Erica es la pendeja de Franco.

    en Perú: 1) persona astuta, taimada; 2) usado para definir a una mujer, se refiere a su libertinaje sexual o engaño conyugal. Iván es un pendejo; se queda con mi vuelto cuando sobra dinero. / Vicente no sabe que se ha casado con una pendeja.

    en Bolivia: playboy, conquistador. Mira que pendejo es Mario, ya se metió con Karla.

  50. GameKeeper Says:


    Translate Please !!!!

  51. steve Says:

    I didn’t say I didn’t understand it, I just said it wasn’t in Chinese, so it’s not as easy for me to know what Marc is saying there. So, I looked it up with the translation site…

  52. Eddie Gilchrist Says:

    One reading of Armando Valladeres “Against All Hope” will shut up the Castro flacks forever

  53. Randy Paul Says:

    Eddie Gilchrist:

    Followed by a chaser of Heberto Padilla’s “Self-Portrait of the Other” for good measure.

  54. Marc Cooper Says:

    As an appetizer I suggest Jorge Edwards fabulous book “Persona Non Grata” just re-issued from NationBooks. Edwards showed tremendous courage in taking on Castro. This book, written in late 1973, was the first by a leftist to slam the regime. Edwards had spent a short stint in 1971 as Allende’s Ambassador to Cuba. He quikcly found himself the target of surveillance, harrassment and finally stigmatization by the Cadstroids mostly because he was a an “intellectual” who spent too much time hanging out with that dangerous species known as Writersw– most notably, Padilla.

  55. steve Says:

    I wonder sometimes (and I’m sorry for being a pedejo or whatever it is the spanish was), what if after Castro dies nothing that significant happens in terms of the CCP’s hold on power in Cuba? What will the Miami Cubans be left to then? I recall the great excitement, hubub in the US when Hong Kong was no longer British, the big hype, as well as the big hype when Deng died a few years back, again no big changes despite much discussion among ‘experts’ and pundits alike about the big changes to come, disruption caused by the death of the charasmatic leader, etc. [I await the barrage of distortion to come--AH HA!! You think Deng was charasmatic!!].

    What if nothing all that great occurs. What will happen then? Or is it fixed in stone, Castro goes, the CP goes with it? Kind of a determinist vision of history ya got going there, eh?

    Castro dies, outcome entirely desirable from the US foreign policy angle…

  56. Marc Cooper Says:

    Let’s hope the Cuban Communist Party collapses for god’s sake after Castro dies so that Cubans might have some way to exercise all that free education they get. In any case, there is NO CCP beyond personal loyalty to Fidel. It all goes with him, within 6 months. More likely within six weeks. I met more Marxists in So Africa in 1988 than I met in Cuba. Marxism isnt allowed in Cuba. Only loyalty to whatever Fidel last said.

  57. Mike Says:

    That big blah blah blah about how good is health, education and whatever in Cuba is SLAVE’S TALK. Us, freedom loving people, don’t want any handout from the government, any health or education, if it implies giving up our freedom. Anyone that defends the Castro genocidal dictatorship on such and such achievements, are SLAVES by mentality. Free people despise people who think as slaves.

  58. Aristomedes Says:

    I would view statistics re health and education coming from a totalitarian state like Cuba with much more than a shaker of salt. 100% literacy implies that even people with IQ less than 50 can read! These stats remind me too much of Saddams’ “electoral mandates” of 99% of the vote.

  59. Randy Paul Says:


    Pendejo?!? I’ll see your Spanish and raise you my Portuguese:

    Pentilho: cabelo púbico; alguém que enche saco

    Let me second Marc’s comments about Persona Non Grata. It was a brillaint, courageous book.

  60. anothersteve Says:

    (From a July 3, 2000 profile of Paul Farmer in the New Yorker Magazine. Farmer is a Harvard professor, AIDS physician and author of several books on class and health.)

    Leaving Haiti, Farmer didn’t stare down through the airplane window at that brown and barren third of an island. “It bothers me even to look at it,” he explained, glancing out. “It can’t support eight million people, and there they are. There they are, kidnapped from West Africa.”

    But when we descended toward Havana he gazed out the window intently, making exclamations: “Only ninety miles from Haiti, and look! Trees! Crops! It’s all so verdant. At the height of the dry season! The same ecology as Haiti’s, and look!”

    An American who finds anything good to say about Cuba under Castro runs the risk of being labelled a Communist stooge, and Farmer is fond of Cuba. But not for ideological reasons. He says he distrusts all ideologies, including his own. “It’s an ‘ology,’ after all,” he wrote to me once, about liberation theology. “And all ologies fail us at some point.” Cuba was a great relief to me. Paved roads and old American cars, instead of litters on the ‘gwo wout ia’. Cuba had food rationing and allotments of coffee adulterated with ground peas, but no starvation, no enforced malnutrition. I noticed groups of prostitutes on one main road, and housing projects in need of repair and paint, like most buildings in the city. But I still had in mind the howling slums of Port-au-Prince, and Cuba looked lovely to me. What looked loveliest to Farmer was its public-health statistics.

    Many things affect a public’s health, of course—nutrition and transportation, crime and housing, pest control and sanitation, as well as medicine. In Cuba, life expectancies are among the highest in the world. Diseases endemic to Haiti, such as malaria, dengue fever, T.B., and AIDS, are rare. Cuba was training medical students gratis from all over Latin America, and exporting doctors gratis— nearly a thousand to Haiti, two en route just now to Zanmi Lasante. In the midst of the hard times that came when the Soviet Union dissolved, the government actually increased its spending on health care. By American standards, Cuban doctors lack equipment, and are very poorly paid, but they are generally well trained. At the moment, Cuba has more doctors per capita than any other country in the world—more than twice as many as the United States. “I can sleep here,” Farmer said when we got to our hotel. “Everyone here has a doctor.”

    Farmer gave two talks at the conference, one on Haiti, the other on “the noxious synergy” between H.I.V. and T.B.—an active case of one often makes a latent case of the other active, too. He worked on a grant proposal to get anti-retroviral medicines for Cange, and at the conference met a woman who could help. She was in charge of the United Nations’ project on AIDS in the Caribbean. He lobbied her over several days. Finally, she said, “O.K., let’s make it happen.” (“Can I give you a kiss?” Farmer asked. “Can I give you two?”) And an old friend, Dr. Jorge Perez, arranged a private meeting between Farmer and the Secretary of Cuba’s Council of State, Dr. José Miyar Barruecos. Farmer asked him if he could send two youths from Cange to Cuban medical school. “Of course,” the Secretary replied.

    Again and again during our stay, Farmer marvelled at the warmth with which the Cubans received him. What did I think accounted for this?

    I said I imagined they liked his connection to Harvard, his published attacks on American foreign policy in Latin America, his admiration of Cuban medicine.

    I looked up and found his pale-blue eyes fixed on me. “I think it’s because of Haiti,” he declared. “I think it’s because I serve the poor.”

  61. Val Prieto Says:


    “Pendejo” in Cuban spanish means, generally, coward.

  62. steve Says:

    Pendejo in this blog comments section is translated as “anyone on the left who criticises what Marc says and does not conform to Marc’s kneejerk stereotypes of people who criticise him or Josh”.

  63. steve Says:

  64. Aragon Says:

    I guess that makes the majority of spaniards “pendejo”.

    I thought that Zapateros capitulation was supposed to guarantee them an Al Quaeda pass. Then why are they now trying to blow up the spanish supreme court?

  65. Anonymous Says:

    Val Prieto writes, “”Pendejo” in Cuban spanish means, generally, coward.”

    In South Texas (at least) it is typically translated as asshole, creep, jerk, bastard etc. depending on the gentility of the person using it.

  66. steve Says:

    “In South Texas (at least) it is typically translated as asshole, creep, jerk, bastard etc. depending on the gentility of the person using it.”

    Or infantile propensities to respond to refutations of arguments with name calling.

  67. Winds of Change.NET Says:

    Randinho’s Latin America Briefing: 2004-11-9

    Winds of Change.NET Regional Briefings run on Tuesdays & Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays too. This Regional Briefing focuses on Latin America, courtesy of Randy Paul. TOP TOPIC Election results wrap-up – but it’s from…

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