Finally, Cuba.

Written By: - Date published: 7:45 am, December 18th, 2014 - 145 comments
Categories: International, us politics - Tags: ,

I was born in June 1959. In October the following year, the United States put an embargo against Cuba, and it has remained in place ever since. The main reason appears to have been for purely US domestic reasons. Certainly there doesn’t appear to have been any real reasons for the embargo for many decades. Furthermore…

The UN General Assembly has, since 1992, passed a resolution every year condemning the ongoing impact of the embargo and declaring it to be in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law.[2]

Today it appears as if President Obama in the USA is intending to lift the substantive parts of the embargo. From the Huffington Post

Officials said Wednesday that talks will begin to normalize full U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations, according to the AP. The U.S. also will aim to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months.

“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Obama said Wednesday, noting he’s instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to begin the discussions to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Obama said he instructed Kerry to conduct a review of Cuba’s designation as state sponsor of terror. He also said the U.S. is “taking steps to increase travel, commerce and the flow of information to and from Cuba,” noting the changes will make it easier for Americans to travel there.

“Neither the American nor Cuban people are well-served by a rigid policy that took place before most of us were born,” Obama said, describing the steps being taken to improve relations as the beginning of a “new chapter.”

It will be a problem getting through determined opposition in congress. There are many people in congress who have built political capital based on opposition to Cuba.

145 comments on “Finally, Cuba.”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Now that’s some good news. Yay!

  2. karol 2

    I agree the end of the embargo against Cuba is welcome news.

    I tuned in to Al Jazeera this morning in the middle of Obama’s speech on it. I had to turn off because it was too much dubious spin. No doubt it was necessary to try to win over the Republicans. But it was all about the US being the beacon of free speech and democratic rights – the rights to unions, etc.

  3. Murray Simmonds 3

    My guess is that this will be all about opening up access to Cuba by the American and European multinationals who want to get in there and make a buck.

    By ” . . . an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests . . .” Obama of course means the interests of the big multinational corporations.

    • Ovid 3.1

      Jeeze, that really is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t proposition. Maintain the embargo and the US is pandering to Florida’s Cuban community. Normalise relations and Obama is a corporate puppet. Can’t they be doing it because, for once, common sense has prevailed?

      • locus 3.1.1

        ovid.. i like the history behind your tag. btw there’s a great sweet wine you can buy in Constanta called ‘tears of ovid’ 🙂

  4. Tiger Mountain 4

    The Cubans have demonstrated great solidarity with people all over the world in practical ways and provided leadership that has been adapted to various Latin American countries.

    ‘Normal’ relations are of course necessary on standard grounds of travel, technology and trade etc. But hopefully the Cubans don’t get swamped by the consumerist advance guard of gadgets and social undermining in the guise of ‘democracy’.

    Oh well, Fidel will at least likely see the yanks pull their heads in a bit in his lifetime. Viva Cuba.

    • Gosman 4.1

      The examples from former communist countries suggests that once the Cubans start to experience what they have been missing for a number of years they will want more of it and will likely demand an end to the privations forced upon them by a failed ideology.

      • mikesh 4.1.1

        One tends to suspect that any disadvantages experienced by the Cubans were due more to the US embargo than to “failed ideology”.

        • vto 4.1.1.1

          Good luck with that line. Some simply refuse to think about whether that was a factor. Those of an ideological fanatical bent

          • Gosman 4.1.1.1.1

            Give me an example of how the embargo impeded Cuban economic development in a way that couldn’t be worked around then. Surely that isn’t too difficult to show.

            • felix 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Gosman just wants someone to say trading with the US would have been helpful.

              Then he’ll extrapolate that as some sort of admission that ALL trade under ALL conditions is ALWAYS helpful to EVERYONE.

              Then he’ll accuse anyone who responds of reversing a position they’ve never held.

              So here we go. Being able to sell their products to their nearest and richest neighbour would have been helpful.

              You can take it from there on your own, Gosman.

              • Gosman

                If we are to believe the views of someone like DracoTBastard (By the way where is Draco?) it is more beneficial for an economy to be isolated and economically self sufficient than being open to trade and investment with other nations. Many leftists seems to share similar views to this from what I can tell.

                [lprent: Even commenters get to other things on the odd occasion. Authors and mods certainly do. I know that I’m rushed off my feet trying to get stuff done before year end ]

                • felix

                  And there you go, as predicted.

                  1) You’re drawing a false dichotomy between either total embargo or totally unregulated corporate heaven.

                  2) For bonus points, you’re trying to ascribe a view you think you remember reading somewhere to whoever you’re talking to now.

                  Gosman, I get it. You’re of the opinion that totally unregulated markets are always the answer to everything, and anyone who disagrees is a communist.

                  But why would anyone bother arguing with such an absurd, abstract, unrealistic, ideological brainfart?

                  • Gosman

                    You’re mistaken if you think I am arguing for total free trade, (which would be virtually impossible to ensure). However Freer trade is usually more desirable than less free trade.

                    What many left wingers have argued now and in the past (and Draco is but one proponent) is that nations do better when their economies are protected from the effects of foreign investment and trade. I believe Draco has stated on numerous occassions the solution to our problems is to make most of the stuff here that we currently get from overseas including Operating Systems for Computers as well as the Computers themselves. A number of people agree with this concept including (in the past at least) the Communist leadership in Cuba.

                    • felix

                      So go and fucking argue with Draco you moron.

                      Everything in my comment above stands.

                    • Gosman

                      I’m quite happy making my point in this thread thank you very much.

                    • felix

                      Then go ahead and make one.

                      So far all you’ve done is lie about what other people are saying.

                    • left for deadshark

                      Gosman
                      No such thing as free trade,until their is free movement of labour.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      1. I’ve never argued for complete eradication of trade
                      2. Cuba used to do a hell of a lot of trading with the USSR – until it collapsed at which point the Cuban economy also collapsed. This is a danger of being trade dependent as the GFC just proved on a global scale yet again
                      3. Producing and using stuff here will always be cheaper in real terms than importing it due to the added costs of transportation
                      4. Researching and producing what we use here helps develop our society rather than leaving us as a bunch of ignorant yokels
                      5. I have said that foreign ownership needs to be banned outright because becoming serfs to foreign owners is bad for our society

                    • Gosman

                      That is exactly what I stated your position was. Thanks for confirming it. The question is do you think Cuba will benefit from trading with the US or should it attempt to make most of the goods it could receive from them in Cuba?

      • felix 4.1.2

        privations forced upon them by a failed ideology.

        That’s no way to speak about your global corporate masters.

      • locus 4.1.3

        hmm… i figure you’re tr0lling so that you can have a sneer at all the the things that went wrong under commun1sm, but i understand your need given the massive failings of the capitalist ideology just acrosss the water.

        The ‘failed’ ideology in cuba gave us some great cigars, an iconic leader, free health care and good education for all cubans, self-sufficiency in a consumerist world, fantastic street musicians, a place of inspiration for poets and writers, and a society where kindness and friendliness to strangers are still seen as a virtue.

        Yes – loss of free speech ultimately the main problem with a one-party dictatorship – but widespread poverty is largely the result of the US embargo for more than 50 years, and the resulting ‘do anything to make a living’ has led to social ills like prostitution and increased crime.

        I sincerely hope this change doesn’t open the doors to unbridled capitalism and US exploitation

        • Gosman 4.1.3.1

          The Cigars were something Cuba was known for prior to Castro taking power.

          The iconic leader was brutal and anti-democratic.

          Free health care has massive downsides of low pay and shortages of medicines.

          Good education has not led to good jobs or a dynamic economy.

          Self-sufficiency has not stopped many Cubans desiring the consumerist items you bemoan.

          Street Musicians and poets and writers have restrictions on what they wish to perform and Cuba does not seem to have more or less in this area than say Ireland which doesn’t have a brutal totalitarian communist dictatorship.

          They may well be kind and friendly to strangers but they also have neighbourhood committees that report on any counter-revolutionary behaviour of citizens.

          Loss of free speech is the least of the problems with a one party dictatorship. Being locked up for having views contrary to the party is much worse.

          As I have pointed out Cuba has had plenty of opportunity to trade with the rest of the world. Indeed that is what they did for 30 odd years until the fall of the Soviet Union.

          Prostitution and increased crime is more the result of the distortions imposed on the Cuban economy by their Marxist ideology rather than any embargo.

          • locus 4.1.3.1.1

            If you comment on capitalist countries with similar constraints to those faced by cuba over the past 50 years I would be interested

            After Haiti suffered under pap doc (right wing dictator) they ‘benefited’ from US ‘largesse’. Where are they now?

            • Richard McGrath 4.1.3.1.1.1

              Haiti are in the ‘repressed’ category in the Heritage Foundation’s index of economic freedom rankings, along with Cuba. No freedom – no prosperity.

  5. Macro 5

    The US and the rest of the world for that matter has a great deal to learn from Cuba, because Cuba represents the future that awaits us all. Cuba is the way forward if this world is to survive beyond the demise of cheap fossil fuel. Cuba has had virtually none since the embargo began – and survived. It survived by throwing away the majority of Capitalist doctrine, strengthening the Commons and by collective action in the face of oppression from a bully US. Today its public health service is amongst the best in the world – far better than for the average citizen in the States for instance – and free. Cuba’s carbon footprint is one of the lowest in the world but ranks a little below NZ on the UN scale for High Human Development and well ahead of Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Cuba has life expectancy and infant mortality rates almost identical with the US which has the highest GHG emissions per capita in the world.

    • Tracey 5.1

      This is not a loaded question but do they have unfettered freedom of speech?

      • Huginn 5.1.1

        No, Cubans do not enjoy free speech; not by any stretch of the imagination. Neither do they enjoy freedom of movement, even within Cuba.

        There’s a lot of good to be said about Cuba. High literacy; cheap, good quality health care – even within the limits of externally imposed economic constraints.

        There’s also a lot that isn’t working, eg housing, that comes down to an incredibly restrictive take on communism.

        I don’t think these are easily separated. It’s possible to greatly admire and utterly despise the Cuban govt at the same time, for the same reasons.

    • Gosman 5.2

      Cuba has enjoyed the oil largesse of first the Soviet Union and now Venezuela so you are seriously mistaken in your assertion that it has survived with had virtually none.

      • locus 5.2.1

        where have you been for the past 2o years Gosman?

        Not much in the way of support from the USSR since 1989 and as for Venezuela’s “largesse” to Cuba, you’re sadly mistaken, it’s been a 2-way street:

        “Hugo Chávez described Castro as his mentor. The bilateral relations that developed between Venezuela and Cuba after Chavez (1999) includes development aid, joint business ventures, large financial transactions, exchange of energy resources and information technology, and cooperation in the fields of intelligence service and military.”
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuba%E2%80%93Venezuela_relations

        • Gosman 5.2.1.1

          Ummm… nowhere did I state that Cuba did not provide something in return for the oil. Whether it was a market price or not is debatable however what is clear is the Cuban economy has not done without oil as suggested by Macro.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 5.3

      Must be those power blackouts. There are some good things in Cuba, but a lot of bad things as well, which are swept under the carpet.

  6. Tracey 6

    How many terrorist acts have been linked back to Cuba?

    I guess they only embargo one nation at a time and it is Russia’s turn.

  7. Gosman 7

    Very good to see. Hopefully this will lead to a situation where the Cuban people are given the space to replace the system that has impeded their economic development for the past 50 years.

    • vto 7.1

      ha ha

      do you not think the US embargo has impeded their economic development?

      and whats the view like down there in that sand hole?

      classic

      • Gosman 7.1.1

        Please explain how the embargo has impeded Cuba’s long term economic development.

        • vto 7.1.1.1

          ha ha more classic gosman styles

          • Paul 7.1.1.1.1

            Ignore him.

          • Gosman 7.1.1.1.2

            So you can’t then?

            Unless you think having an open trading arrangement and access to US capital provides economic advantages. In which case you must then support the concept of the TPPA if not the actual substance.

            • vto 7.1.1.1.2.1

              yawn gosman.

              your debating techniques are entirely transparent and childish. Long recognised as unworthy.

              • Colonial Rawshark

                This is Gosman’s way of saying: if you don’t like being economically strangled, you must therefore like being economically shot. At least, you must like it in concept.

                • Gosman

                  I find it hilarious that many hard core left wingers spend an awful lot of their time trying to stop free trade and investment agreements yet then bang on about the negative impacts of not having them on countries they believe represent something approaching their leftist ideals.

                  • vto

                    I find it hilarious how small the window is that right wing fanatics look out at the world through..

                  • Please look up an explanation of the logical fallacy “False Dichotomy,” then consider how it may apply to your rhetorical alternatives of economic embargo or complete absence of controls on trade.

                  • locus

                    ‘free’-trade Gosman? you must be joking

                    there’s no level playing field when it comes to negotiating trade deals with the US

                  • McFlock

                    You’re a fucking liar, gosman.

                    Who here has been banging on about the lack of a free trade deal between Cuba and the US? Nobody.

                    I initially thought that maybe you had a particular interest in commenting so much on this thread, but then I realised that school holidays start around now.

                    Fuck off to some school holiday programme, dipshit.

                    • Gosman

                      Where have I lied?

                    • felix

                      Just above, where you said that left-wingers have been banging on about the negative impacts of not having a free-trade deal between Cuba and the U.S.

                      Liar.

                    • Gosman

                      Do you not agree that certain people from the left are arguing that the US should free up trade with Cuba?

                    • felix

                      Show me where someone in this thread argued for a “free trade and investment agreement” between the U.S and Cuba.

                      And put the goalposts back where you found them, liar.

                    • Gosman

                      I never stated they were. However getting an embargo lifted is essentially an agreement for freer trade. It is like being designated a Most-favoured-nation status by another country. All it means is there are less restrictions on business dealings between two countries. People arguing for a lifting of the embargo on Cuba are wanting business dealings between the two nations to be conducted in a freer manner than they are now. You can couch this in any way you like but the fundamental principles are the same.

                    • vto

                      gosman, as stated earlier your debating styles are disingenuous, simplistic and distortionate. And as felix points out you keep moving the goalposts.

                      To the point though – You are trying to say that any trade between peoples is somehow comparable to current neoliberal “free trade” agreements. That is just complete and utter shite.

                      Grow up.

                    • McFlock

                      Do you not agree that certain people from the left are arguing that the US should free up trade with Cuba?

                      That’s not the same thing as “many hard core left wingers spend an awful lot of their time trying to stop free trade and investment agreements yet then bang on about the negative impacts of not having them”, is it, you lying fuck?

                    • Gosman

                      I’d argue (and in fact have been) that it is essentially the same thing. What many people on the left are arguing is that Cuba should be able to trade with the US on the same level as other nations. They want the US to remove trading restrictions placed upon them. This is no different to NZ negotiating removing restrictions on NZ Goods in other nations – the sort of Free Trade agreements you deem to be neo-liberal and I just call Free Trade Agreements.

                    • vto

                      Nope not at all. Nothing like it.

                      By your logic you would call someone trading with the local dairy the same thing as a neoliberal “free trade” agreement.

                      Sheesh

                    • McFlock

                      Don’t be a moron.

                      Cuba losing its status as, for example, the ONLY nation on Earth embargoed by the US under the Trading with the Enemy Act is nothing like requesting a free trade agreement.

                      Anybody stupid enough to genuinely believe the two are equivalent would be incapable of writing a coherent sentence. You are obviously capable of writing a coherent (even if blatantly and egregiously untrue) sentence, therefore a reasonable conclusion to draw is that you, gosman, are either a fucking liar or a lying fuck.

                    • Gosman

                      Only if it involved nation to nation trading vto. Does your example of someone trading with the local Dairy involve nation to nation trading?

                    • vto

                      Bullshite gosman.

                      Your argument is that any trading between nations is like a neoliberal “free trade” agreement in principle. Same principle applies to any trading between any entities.

                      So all trading of mankind since day dot is just like a “free trade” agreement in principle.

                      Ffs man, that is out there ……….

                    • Gosman

                      I reject the concept of neo-liberal free trade agreements and in fact I don’t even think it is an official term used by proponents of them. They may well be a prejorative term for Free trade agreements by people on the left but as with the concept of ‘Trickle-Down economics’ it is a misnomer.

                    • McFlock

                      Gosman:
                      Delete the term “neoliberal” then.
                      You are aware that a free trade agreement between nations is an agreement to mutually remove all tariffs and quantity restrictions on trade in the items outlined in the agreement?

                      As opposed to allowing trade, but with maybe import duties and restrictions on what products may be imported?

                      As opposed to the current US trade embargo against Cuba, where all trade is outlawed and even US tourism to Cuba is technically illegal?

                      You cannot be so stupid to have genuinely confused any of those three things.

                    • felix

                      Of course he’s not.

                      But he’s stupid enough to think that anyone reading might fall for the deception as he lies his way through the thread.

                    • vto

                      Well there we have it folks – trade according to gosman.

                      Anyone who indulges in trade with others tacitly supports “free trade” agreements.

                      Only on planet gosman

                    • felix

                      But vto, he’s assured us that’s totally not what he means, in between saying exactly that and exactly that again…

                    • vto

                      ha ha yep exactly. No wonder people lose their cool with him ….

                      …. it is like dealing with the EQC officers here in Chch – they will stand with you on the grass outside your smashed home and tell that the grass is not green….

                    • Gosman

                      All Trade with Cuba is not outlawed. There are exceptions to the ban on goods services.

                      A free trade agreement is not necessarily an agreement for both sides to make concessions. If a country is very open already then they might not do anything different. The agreement then is just one side lowering barriers to trade and maybe a disputes resolution process.

                    • felix

                      And anyone who bothers with you will only find that in a couple of hours you’ll be denying you ever said that too.

                      Just a pinhead dancing on a pinhead to cover up his dishonesty.

                    • McFlock

                      All Trade with Cuba is not outlawed. There are exceptions to the ban on goods services.

                      Oh, fuck off. That’s like saying that a 100-year non-parole period isn’t a life sentence.

                      You know damned well the list of exceptions is so small as to be practically invisible – and does not include allowing the purchase of Cuban goods. Strictly one-way.

                      There’s a reason they have fuck-all trade with the world’s largest economy that’s also one of their closest neighbours. I repeat: the only country on Earth embargoed by the US under its trading with the enemy act.

                      Removing that situation is nothing like calling for a free trade agreement, and you fucking know it.

      • Gosman 7.1.2

        Please explain how the embargo has impeded Cuba’s long term economic development.

        • ghostwhowalksnz 7.1.2.1

          Shut off trade with US, eg sugar and even cigars

          • Gosman 7.1.2.1.1

            I believe the Cubans sell these to other nations instead.

            • McFlock 7.1.2.1.1.1

              Did you just discard the concept of supply and demand, as well as argue that the embargo was without impact and therefore purpose, to suit your argument of the moment?

              You really are a stupid dickhead. Even a moron would be a better liar than you.

    • Murray Rawshark 7.2

      The Cuban people have no desire to change the system of the US and A. Stop spreading your Cold War garbage.

  8. esoteric pineapples 8

    I like something I read a while ago (to paraphrase) – the Cubans only have to look at Haiti to see what they are missing

  9. les 9

    ‘take me to the April sun in Cuba’…Dragon a blast from the past.

  10. Paul 10

    A truly great international country.

    Cuban medical internationalism

    Cuban medical internationalism is the Cuban programme, since the 1959 Cuban Revolution, of sending Cuban medical personnel overseas, particularly to Latin America, Africa and, more recently, Oceania and of bringing medical students and patients to Cuba. In 2007, “Cuba has 42,000 workers in international collaborations in 103 different countries, of whom more than 30,000 are health personnel, including no fewer than 19,000 physicians.”Cuba provides more medical personnel to the developing world than all the G8 countries combined,although this comparison does not take into account G8 development aid spent on developing world healthcare. The Cuban missions have had substantial positive local impact on the populations served.

    Following the 2004 Asian tsunami, Cuba sent medical assistance to Banda Aceh and Sri Lanka.] In response to Hurricane Katrina, Cuba prepared to send 1500 doctors to the New Orleans; the offer was refused. Several months later the mission was dispatched to Pakistan following the 2005 Kashmir earthquake there. Ultimately Cuba sent “more than 2,500 disaster response experts, surgeons, family doctors, and other health personnel”, who stayed through the winter for more than 6 months. Cuba is helping with the medical crisis in Haiti due to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. All 152 Cuban medical and educational personnel in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince at the time of the earthquake were reported to be safe, with two suffering minor injuries. In 2014, Cuba sent 103 nurses and 62 doctors to help fight the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, the biggest contribution of health care staff by any single country.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_medical_internationalism

    • Gosman 10.1

      This article provides a balanced assessment of the Cuban health system

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/06/201265115527622647.html

      • The Murphey 10.1.1

        Q. Why are you so interested in this thread?

        Q. Do you believe that UK/US/Qatar (Aljazerra) is a trustworthy source of ‘news’?

        Q. What do you believe the Cubans have missed out on given the epidemic of inequality ravaging the globe as a result of the corporate capitalism which is destroying the earth and its inhabitants?

        • Gosman 10.1.1.1

          Because Cuba is a prime example of the dangers of left wing economic thought.

          They are as balanced, if not more, than the sources of news you likely use.

          If you think there is no inequality in Cuba you are seriously mistaken. You just need to see the difference between those earning convertible Pesos or US Dollars versus the rest to see that.

          • The Murphey 10.1.1.1.1

            Q1. That is no a response to the question. Your rationale is incorrectly placed not to mention laced with bias and lurching towards ‘thought police’ status

            Q2. Further bias confirmation and inability to provide reasoned response to the question. What you managed to accomplish was assumptions and deflection using the tactics which would be beneath the level found in a sandpit

            Q3. Continuing with the deflection this time using a confused line around currency exchanges

            Q.Are you taken seriously as a real boy on this site?

          • locus 10.1.1.1.2

            ah.. no explanation from Gosman as to why Cuba has miracuously punched above its weight in many ways despite absolute isolation from capitalist nations

            • Paul 10.1.1.1.2.1

              Of course not, and it’s clear he’s unprepared to find out or look at the issue without his neoliberal glasses on.
              So sad to see someone so blinkered.

            • Gosman 10.1.1.1.2.2

              Economically it certainly hasn’t punched above it’s weight.

              • locus

                no – ‘economically’ you’re right, but it has different priorities – like 99% literacy

                • Gosman

                  Thus providing other nations well educated immigrants when they leave Cuba for a better life.

                  • locus

                    just like the Philippines ay – 4 million of them have left from their USA sponsored capitalist society to get a better life elsewhere – 78,000 left last year

        • wtl 10.1.1.2

          Q. Why are you so interested in this thread?

          Gosman occasionally goes crazy on certain threads and ends up posting ~50% of hundreds of comments (some hobbit ones come to mind). I no longer bother reading any of his comments – its not worth the time or effort. I recommend you do the same.

      • miravox 10.1.2

        “This article provides a balanced assessment of the Cuban health system”

        It is a view, I’ll grant you that, and therefor valid, if not necessarily accurate (although it may be).

        How about checking like for like with, say, an ex-pat view of the Philippines health system

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/expathealth/9195995/Expat-guide-to-the-Philippines-health-care.html

        So infant mortality and life expectancy, the usual measures of national health are better in underdeveloped, isolated Cuba than in underdeveloped, globally integrated Philippines. I also know through personal connections that a Philippines family must provide in-hospital non-acute nursing care and be able to pay for surgery, that the vaccination schedule is variable, nor are mammograms (as per the Al Jazeera article) routine.

      • Paul 10.1.3

        Obviously given your prejudices in favour of neoliberal capitalism, you are too narrow minded to look at Cuba’s amazing health achievements.
        They make your US friends’ healthcare look miserable by comparison, despite the fact that the US is a wealthier country.
        Which country cares more for the health of all of its people?

        • Gosman 10.1.3.1

          The Cuban advances in health care and education were certainly impressive in the first few decades after the revolution. But as the economy has stagnated and declined as a result of their failed Marxist economic policies so too has the health and education systems.

          “And now health services and education are becoming harder to access and getting worse. Secondary-school enrolment is below its 1989 peak. There is a surfeit of humanities graduates and a shortage of agronomists and engineers. Although infant mortality has continued to fall, maternal mortality has risen. Many drugs are in short supply. Hospital patients sometimes have to bring their own sheets. There are reports of doctors starting to demand payment. On a weekday morning in a village in the inappropriately named municipality of La Salud (“health”), south of the capital, this correspondent came across an elderly woman who had hurt her arm and was whimpering with pain, having found no doctors in attendance at two health clinics.”

          http://www.economist.com/node/21550421

          • felix 10.1.3.1.1

            Gee, imagine how much better they could have sustained those health advances if they weren’t locked out of the enormous market on their doorstop for purely stupid ideological reasons for fucking decades.

            🙄

  11. nadis 11

    This is a long overdue move and shows one of the positives of a two term limit on the presidency. If Obama was trying to get re-elected I’d be surprised if this initiative would happen.

    And at least we might see an end to all those poor desperate refugees rafting from Florida to Cuba in search of a better life. And luckily Cuba was re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council – after all there are very few countries that have as proud a record as Cuba when it comes to standing up for individual human rights, promoting free speech, giving the right to free assembly, and allowing free movement of its’ citizens.

    http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/cuba

    • Gosman 11.1

      Of course that restriction on freedom is fine because they are protecting the workers paradise from the lies and machinations of the evil Capitalist’s.

    • les 11.2

      ‘rafting from Florida to Cuba in search of a better life’?

      • locus 11.2.2

        ah yes… the wonderful US of A where there was much more opportunity to earn a buck and not have to fund an egalitarian society /sarc

        but hey, most of the cubans who migrated to Miami in large numbers since 1950 had middle-class backgrounds with the financial resources to ease their assimilation and setting up of businesses – happlily accepted by the US who could portray them as exiles from a dastardly communist regime

        • nadis 11.2.2.1

          Don’t let facts or your irrational anti-US bias get in the way of a good rant. Can you provide a reference? I thought Cuba was a classless society, so interested to hear it actually has a middle class. Last time I looked it had two classes, the ruling elite and everybody else.

          • locus 11.2.2.1.1

            fair enough, I should have given my source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_migration_to_Miami

            you got me wrong…. i’m not biased against the USA, just making the point that the cuban middle class that were living well in the 50’s when Castro came to power and realised that they might have to sacrifice their comfortable lifestyles in the new communist regime – so the US was a potentially profitable and welcoming place to move to, given their money and eduacation

            • Gosman 11.2.2.1.1.1

              The Mariel Boat lift was in 1980. This was over 20 years after the Revolution. What class were the majority of the 125,000 who left Cuba at this time then?

  12. saveNZ 12

    Cuba has amazing health care. Due to the embargo’s they were forced to go into preventative care. Worked wonders. Just having healthy food, fantastic nurses and doctors – their health outcomes beat the US. If you want to avoid bad Health Outcomes just look at US and do the opposite. US spend more per person on Health and have poor outcomes. Just shows you how being enemy no 1 and isolated from Globalist Capitalism actually has benefited the average Cuban.

    Saying that good on Obama for trying to get rid of their embargo. I think the US could do the world a favor by having a good look at themselves. Far from being the pinnacle of hope and prosperity they have worsened the outcomes to the average American. Absolute Greed has not helped them. From Police Brutality especially against Black people, the completely useless ‘War on Terror’ that has multiplied the problem, the corporations that actually control the government policy through Lobbyists, the homelessness, lack of affordable Health care and so forth.

    If Obama wants to get out of the White House with any sort of integrity he needs to stop looking outside the US and look to clean up his own country, stop the spin doctors, lobbyists and Attack Politics and actually clean up the Corruption that is drowning the US. He campaigned on improving Health care in the US, but seems to have found it difficult to get the job done due to the enormous amounts of obstacles in his way – a bit like how signing the TPP will turn out to NZ. You are not in control of your own country anymore.

  13. James Thrace 13

    John Oliver is responsible for this. The man is a traitor to the USA!

    /sarc

    Seriously though, since Oliver pulled up an old clip of Obama talking about the lack of need for an embargo against Cuba and why it should be lifted, it was only a matter of time before it was lifted.

    Especially since North Korea was removed some time ago from the list of anti friendly countries against USA.

    • Gosman 13.1

      The recently announced change in US-Cuban relations does not effect the embargo. To end that will require the support of Congress, which is likely to prove difficult to get.

      North Korea does not have diplomatic relations with the US so this is more than they have.

  14. Gosman 14

    This article gives a good background to this issue and the economic reasons behind the changes. Interestingly it was written in April of this year. Makes you wonder if they knew something was afoot.

    http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21600117-would-be-especially-good-time-change-americas-relations-cuba-if-not-now

    • locus 14.1

      Interesting commentary in the Economist… but no arguments provided as to how much ordinary cubans might benefit most from the removal of trade restrictions…. and the introduction of capitalist freedoms

      i’ve seen this in Romania and other ex-communist countries I’ve worked in – lots more stuff in the shops but most people don’t have jobs or if they do, are not earning enough to buy what is now being desirably displayed

      • Gosman 14.1.1

        As opposed to Cuba where there is usually nothing in the shops so noone can get stuff even if they had the money to pay for them. Of course there is always the ‘black’ market.

        • locus 14.1.1.1

          been to Romania have you Gos… spokenn to the locals? many think they had it better in the old days – apart from Ceaucescu

          • Gosman 14.1.1.1.1

            Your argument falls apart with your final sentence. However before that it is also seriously flawed as I could equally argue that many East Germans hanker after the ‘good old days’ of East Germany. They are not in a majority though. If the majority of Romanians wanted to return to the past then they would vote to reimplement the system. The fact they haven’t suggests the many Romanians you mention are similar to the many East Germans with a hankering for Socialism.

            • locus 14.1.1.1.1.1

              Romania has a multitiude of problems arising from their experience under a communist dictatorship, and many more from their current experinece under capitalism

              btw – Romanians are pretty disenchanted with their democracy … turnout in their last parliamentary election was 42%

              • Gosman

                There is nothing stopping someone forming a party advocating a return to the social and economic policies of the past though.

                • locus

                  Romania has adopted the neolib ideology of ‘small government’ , has a flat tax rate of 16% for personal income and corporate profits, and a programme of privatisation. Lots of hype but no improvement to ordinary Romanians’ way of life, increased corruption and political apathy.

                  So my referencing Romania in this thread is because I’m more than a little skeptical of cheerleaders for ‘freeing’ trade with the USA, as I suspect neoliberal ideology will be exported to cuba along with the many other ‘desirable’ US consumer goods.

            • locus 14.1.1.1.1.2

              Romania has a multitiude of problems arising from their experience under a communist dictatorship, and many more from their current experinece under capitalism

              btw – Romanians are pretty disenchanted with their current form of democracy … turnout in their last parliamentary election was 42%

    • Ad 14.2

      The United States and Cuba make really interesting comparative studies because they are so extreme and can be tracked side by side for over 50 years.

      Both have strong central states in terms of military spending.

      Both very interventionist – (Cuba during the Soviet era).

      Situated just a few kms from each other.

      And yet look at their different societal results in terms of:
      – literacy
      – freedom of the media, and degree of media scrutiny of public affairs
      – public health statistics
      – income deprivation, and income disparity
      – poverty levels
      – right to judicial due process
      – freedom of religion
      – income and wealth mobility over time
      – physical mobility access, including public transport, cars, trains, buses, planes etc

      Sure, the comparisons are entirely fair, but I would have thought 50+ years is enough for some tracking data.

      Meantime, I recommend you get there via Toronto or Chile before all those old Havana Spanish facades get converted into Gucci, Dior, Prada, and Luis Vuitton, just as has been done recently to Auckland’s Queen Street.

      Cuba still has parts that are like New Zealand was prior to 1984, except with better music, dancing, and its own cool approach to being alive.

      • Gosman 14.2.1

        Did you not read the links I provided on Cuba? The country has as much inequality by some measures as much the rest of South America and the much vaunted education and health successes are very much fading.

        • Ad 14.2.1.1

          Yes thanks I did.
          That is precisely my point.
          Neither are shining examples of successful systems, and they have gone bad in different areas for different reasons.

  15. kiwigunner 15

    I spent five day in Cuba earlier this year travelling around from Havana with a tourist guide. I have to say that I had hoped to see a socialist success story, not in the sense of possessions and services but in terms of lifestyle and happiness and contentment. I was sadly mistaken. Short of a tobacco farmer who had a govt contract and seemed happy enough (though his home was third world and tree rat was on the menu) every single person we met wanted to move to the USA and were prepared to work their way through an expensive and lenghty application process to do so. I’m not commenting on the reasons behind all this but corruption was always mentioned. Food was quite scarce and the shops largely empty. The building works – lots of renovations of important buildings stopped half way through lack of funds. Petrol wasnt a problem but it was all leaded and with the old car fleet it was a dodgy thing travelling in their open coconut cabs behind a 1950’s ford whatever. In short it seemed to me the people wanted Cuba open again, and that it needed it. Sadly though, the history of Cuba before the isolation is filled with the worst of USA – drugs, the mafia, etc . Out of the frying pan…

    • locus 15.1

      i’m not sure that the communist dictatorship in cuba, rabidly opposed and constrained by the USA, should be likened to a socialist state like Austria or the Scandinavian countries for example

      • Gosman 15.1.1

        Especially considering the Austrian or Scandinavian countries are a long way from being Socialist. They still believe and support private property and free enterprise. These are all things that the Cuban Communists have either banned or actively discouraged by varying degrees over the past 50 years. Only recently have they started liberalising in any significant sustained manner.

  16. Gosman 16

    This article highlights the fact that Cuba is not some egalitarian paradise as suggested by some

    http://www.economist.com/node/21550421

    “The Gini coefficient of income inequality (where 0 represents complete equality and 1 complete inequality) rose from 0.24 in the late 1980s to 0.41 a decade later, according to research quoted in Espacio Laical, a magazine published by Cuba’s Catholic church. A confidential later study is said to have put the figure at 0.5, similar to the Latin American average of 0.53 in the mid-2000s.”

    This is higher than the levels of inequality in NZ.

    • Tiger Mountain 16.1

      Well Gosman, how are the rellies in Paraguay? what a pathetic display you have put on today as per usual.

      “The Spirit Level” uses a UN human development and sustainability measure also and ranks Cuba very well in some respects. What is with “confidential” later study? Good luck to Cubans I say and may they become a society with certain consumer gadgets but retain socialist principles and internationalism.

    • ma rohemo 16.2

      I knew a guy who was working for US companies in Cuba before the revolution.

      From his accounts a large majority of the country have done better than they would have if they had remained “working for the Yankee dollar”.

  17. McFlock 17

    Good news about the relaxed embargo.

    And I must also say that regard for this pope continues to be growing for me. I’m still not into the magic book thing, but he seems to be following the vibe on the bumper sticker pretty well.

  18. mickysavage 18

    This from twitter …

    “It’s a tough decision to normalize relations with a country whose police force routinely murders civilians, but Cuba made the right choice.”

  19. Sable 19

    Yeah the US administration starts to look like a bunch of bigots and bullshit merchants when China gives Fidel Castro the Confucius Award for peace. I suspect they may also be afraid that Cuba will start to look at other nations to do business with, maybe join BRICS, shock horror!!!

  20. georgecom 20

    Here is my take on the Cuba-US situation.

    Anyone who denies the impact of the US embargo on the Cuban economy is not being honest. Any one who tries to dress it up in terms of freedom or liberty, likewise not being honest. The embargo may have made sense up until the end of the 1980s. It was the product of the cold war and 2 superpowers. Cuba received economic patronage from the USSR and in turn provided the USSR with political bragging rights under the noses of the US. Since the demise of the USSR the embargo has been a fairly nasty bullying act from the US with its nose out of joint, intent on punishing Cuba for its impetuosity to challenge the US hegemony in what it has long considered its personal playground – Latin American politics. The embargo has cost the Cuban economy.

    And Cuba did build a pretty impressive health and education network from the 1960s to the 1980s. In the first few years following the Cuban revolution there was significant improvement in the living conditions for many Cubans. Since the end of Soviet largesse Cuba has done well in hanging onto what it has of its health and education system.

    I say done well because the economy is pretty sick. The US embargo has exacerbated this, the soviet style state socialism put in place the structural weaknesses that could not be overcome following the end of Soviet support. Trade with the USSR allowed the inefficient model of socialism to function, more of less, despite inefficiencies and mismanagement. Loss of that trade exposed the state socialism model to the realities of its contradictions without soviet money and expertise to paper over the cracks. Whilst building a very good health and education system during the 1960s-80s, basic infrastructure such as housing, water and sewerage did not seem to have been maintained. The loss of soviet assistance has seen a continual deterioration of infrastructure.

    The condition of state socialism is why Raul Castro has sponsored a series of economic reforms since 2008 . Amongst the problems are low productivity, workplace theft and lack of financial incentives. There is a cafe in Havana (one where I has perhaps the worst meal in my adult life) that lends out books and magazines. The operations of the cafe were controlled by one section of Havana government, the operations of the lending out of the books and magazine, another arm of local government. Castro put in place the mechanisms to transfer the running of many small state enterprises to worker collective. The particular cafe would be a good candidate.

    The recent Cuba-US announcement is not some instant panacea to the internal problems of the Cuban economy nor and end to US vindictiveness displayed in the embargo. Its a start of more work that needs to happen.

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