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    Strangling us at the waist

    Strangling us at the waist
    ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 18 de Noviembre de 2016 – 19:32

    More than 20 years ago in Havana a friend and colleague of mine
    portrayed the regime’s incessant calls for austerity with an
    unforgettable image that I have never forgotten: “Boy, if we keep
    tightening our belts they’re going to strangle us at the waist.”

    And that is what the Castro brothers are calling for, once again,
    according to the unbelievable latest report put out by the National
    Bureau of Statistics and Information (ONEI) a few days ago.

    And I say unbelievable because as the year winds to an end the entity
    has come out and claimed that in 2015 the “trade surplus” of Cuba fell
    by 1.6 billion dollars, Cuban exports of goods and services decreased by
    2.9 billion, and imports, 1.3 billion, due to the low commodity prices
    and the crisis in Venezuela.

    This delay in disclosure was politically motivated. The trade balance
    will soon be announced for 2016, and it will be worse. And the
    Government will want to claim that if in 2015 the fall in imports was
    sharp, this year of course there was less money to import goods and
    food. Then in 2017 things will be even worse, and we will have to
    tighten our belts, again.

    With a straight face, ONEI officials went even further and reported that
    in 2015 the export of goods and services reached 14.9 billion USD, and
    imports totaled 12.6 billion.

    This is completely false. All these statistics have been bloated with
    smoke-and-mirror accounting tricks. To start with, at no time since
    1961, when Fidel Castro proclaimed the Communist nature of “his”
    revolution, has Cuba had a surplus in its trade balance, except for an
    almost symbolic surplus of 10 million dollars in 1974. That is, over the
    course of 54 years of self-declared Communism, Cuba has posted 53
    international trade deficits, and 1 micro-surplus.

    Neither has the Island ever exported goods and services worth more than
    5.4 billion USD. Castro’s record exports came in 1989 with 5.399
    billion, but in that same year imports were also at a record high of
    8.14 billion dollars, and Cuban foreign trade showed a huge deficit:
    2.74 billion.

    It was, precisely, trade deficits that were responsible for Cuba’s
    enormous foreign debt, which hit 59.681 billion dollars in 2013, for per
    capita debt of 5,328 USD, the highest in the Third World. This was,
    basically, due to trade credits received and never paid by Havana.
    Thanks to Obama’s policy towards Cuba, lately several creditor countries
    have forgiven many of the debts owed by the Castros, who will get away
    without paying a penny of those debts, now renegotiated.

    The economy does not grow

    Cuba, of course, does not always need to post a surplus in its trade
    balance. It is normal for developing countries to run trade deficits, as
    they need to import technology, capital goods, raw materials, and
    equipment, for which they receive loans that they pay back with their
    economic growth itself.

    But in a centrally-planned economy, imported technological and capital
    resources are not taken advantage of, as there is waste, bureaucratic
    negligence, errant decisions, massive theft at factories, very low
    productivity and widespread general labor inefficiency, to the point
    that workers are now imported from India.

    Thus, the economy does not grow and loans are not paid back. Thus,
    suppliers stop selling, and funding sources stop lending money. Today
    Cuba exports fewer goods than it did in the mid-20th century,
    concentrated in four basic products: nickel, sugar, tobacco, rum and
    pharmaceutical products (16% of the total).

    How, then, can the Castro regime report that it had a trade surplus in
    2015, and exported goods and services worth nearly 15 billion dollars?

    It´s simple. For years the Castros have had thousands of doctors and
    technicians of all kinds (including generals, colonels, and intelligence
    and counterintelligence officers) in Venezuela. Due to his verbal
    incontinence, Chávez himself actually admitted that he had 44,000 Cuban
    doctors and nurses in the country. There are another 11,400 Cuban
    doctors in Brazil, and there are even more in some 64 other countries.

    Income confiscated, not produced

    The Castro dictatorship confiscates 75% of the wages of those thousands
    of doctors and technicians, a maneuver unprecedented in modern history.
    This stolen money, as if they were slaves owned by State’s military
    regime, is then entered in the books as it were from exported services,
    exceeding some 11 billion dollars a year on average.

    But that money obtained from Cuban doctors abroad does not really belong
    to the Castro government, but to those personnel, who work and receive a
    salary in foreign territories, not on the Island. No such income is
    received by the regime, but rather has been unfairly expropriated.
    Reporting this as it were from exported services is a farce.

    And there are more accounting ruses. Castro re-exports part of the
    petroleum given Cuba by Venezuela, which, until a year ago, was at least
    36 million barrels of oil a year. That is, Cuba exports a resource that
    was not produced in the country, that did not cost it a penny, and does
    not appear in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, it obtains with
    this non-produced good currency that boosts the supposed “surplus” in
    its trade balance.

    Those in the upper echelons of the Castro regime have no qualms about
    reducing the already scarce supply of oil and gasoline in the country
    and exporting it to obtain currency, most of which ends up in the
    coffers of the civil/military nomenklatura rather than the nation’s
    public treasury.

    To make matters worse, the Government inflates the GDP figure
    inordinately. It has done so since 1959, following orders issued by Che
    Guevara when he was president of the National Bank. But now its methods
    are even more “profitable.”

    Fewer exports than 60 years ago.

    First, social spending, like that on Public Health and Education, is
    plowed into the GDP, as if collected by private institutions at high
    prices in a developed capitalist country. That is, fictitious values
    ??of services, rendered free, are calculated as if they had generated
    revenue for private institutions. No other Government in the world lies
    in this way. If Latin American countries did the same thing, the poorest
    nations would suddenly seem rich.

    Actual Cuban exports in 2015 were goods in the amount of 3.9 billion
    dollars, as reported by the ONEI itself in early 2016. That’s less than
    half of the $9.898 billion exported by the Dominican Republic, a much
    smaller country, whose GDP was seven times lower than Cuba’s before the
    Castro regime. In 2016 Cuba will have exported fewer goods, and in 2017
    the number could be even lower. And it will no longer be able to tighten
    its belt, as my friend said.

    The truth is that Cuba now exports fewer goods than it did about 60
    years ago, when, in addition to the aforementioned products, it sold
    meat, coffee, pineapple, stud bulls, fruit and other agricultural
    products making Cuba a significant food exporter. Today it imports 81%
    of the food it consumes.

    In short, Raúl and Fidel Castro’s regime is unique in its mockery of the
    international community, the UN, the ECLAC, the UNDP and every other
    international economic organization.

    The appalling thing is that no one condemns these fraudulent statistics.
    Everyone accepts them, which enables the Castros to remain the great
    mythomaniacs and creators of fallacies that they are, as they pull the
    wool over everyone’s eyes while almost suffocating everyday Cubans …
    who cannot tighten their belts any further.

    Source: Strangling us at the waist | Diario de Cuba –