When discussing current issues about Cuba with my network of Cubafanatics, there is a serious disagreement about how much change is actually occurring on Mystery Island. Since the revolution in 1959, there have been about 7-8 separate phases where things seem to be improving in terms of relations with the U.S. and in the lifestyles of individual Cubans. After all, most Cubans who left for America soon after the revolution expected to return within a year or so. The embargo was put in place with the idea of forcing Castro from power within a matter of months. Fifty-three years later, the Castro brothers are still in power, and many of the previous “phases of improvement” eventually reversed themselves.
During this time, there have been a series of controversial historical events involving Cuba, and eleven different U.S. presidents have enforced multiple policies with varying degrees of severity. There are so many variables involved that it is impossible to predict what major changes will happen, and when, and if they will become permanent.
Some of my very knowledgeable and experienced friends (who understand Cuba better than I) feel that the current changes in Cuban culture are not very significant. They expect the “loosening up” of the laws regarding the “cuenta propistas” (roughly, self-employed entrepreneurs) will be followed by a crackdown on such enterprises in the near future. They’ve been through this before, and many hesitate to start their own businesses because of memories from the last cycle.
In my opinion, this time the Cuban economy has reached a tipping point, and there will be no going back, for several reasons. The number of private businesses has been expanding rapidly this year, and the taxes they pay are helping keep the current government solvent. Also, the amazing black market is now an even more powerful economic force which has been even more important in providing much-needed goods and services. Remittances from exiles in Miami continue to flow into the country at the estimated rate of over a billion USD’s a year, and that amount is likely increasing, even though the economy in Florida is worse overall. However, there is still a LOT of money in Miami, waiting to flow back to Cuba as investments at the right time. Associates have told me that a lot of those “future funds” are already there, as friends and families in Florida have begun funding their relatives’ businesses and real estate adventures.
Today’s rapidly-changing Cuban economy is really fascinating, and will surely bring with it many social changes. When you consider that the Castro brothers are both in their 80’s and in poor health, anything can happen, probably more sooner than later. One more factor (which I am trying my best to promote) is the rapid increase in tourists from The States who will not only bring more money, but more ideas, and hopefully some will make friends with future business partners. A micro-loan of five hundred or a thousand dollars or so just might set up an enterprising, hardworking Cuban with enough capital to become a successful businessperson, who in turn, just might become part of Cuba’s future middle class, or even a future CEO and leader of Cuba. We can hope for change.
For more information, please read the article by Jeff Franks, a writer for Reuters, titles: “Cuba’s little capitalists are ready to rumba.”
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