With yesterday’s announcement that Cuba intends to lay off more than half a million workers with the expectations that they would join a new, state-tolerated private sector, you have to wonder if that old song lyric, “Cuba y Puerto Rico son de un pájaro las dos alas” is more true than ever before.
Think of it. This is a parallel philosophy to the austerity measures that are driving the entire Fortuño program (with the main difference being that Cuba’s private sector is nonexistent and Puerto Rico’s is a figment of the now-defunct Section 936 of the IRS code’s imagination). Can’t you imagine Fortuño using Raúl Castro’s own words: “We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where one can live without working,” to describe the Puerto Rican government worker?
In his recent revelations to the Atlantic‘s reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, Castro makes sense at times in his evaluation that Cuban socialism doesn’t work, but of course in the U.S. press there is no context given for this, i.e., the U.S. embargo and the general disaffection that the world’s dominant economic system, global capitalism, has for socialism in general. Yes it’s embarrassing how he now admits that homosexuals were repressed in Cuba, as well as many other dissenters, but it’s silly to argue, as Miguel Pérez does, that he isn’t right that the “capitalist system now doesn’t work either for the United States or the world, driving it from crisis to crisis, which are each time more serious.” Pérez’s argument that South Florida Cubans are living proof of capitalism’s success for exiles only draws more attention to the outright socialist program the U.S. ran to prop up the Cuban community for Cold War propaganda purposes. To say nothing about how the property values of homes in South Florida have tanked as bad or worse than any area in the country.
Still, this is a scary moment for anyone who isn’t part of the the top 10% of U.S. income earners, who earned 50% of total U.S. income, or even the top 1%, which received 24% of the land of the free’s riches. If this means that Cuba is moving toward the kind of Chinese-style state capitalism that some in the U.S. business community feels is closer to the model of the future (i.e., no Democratic dissent, total repression of worker’s rights, trampling on any kind of environmental regulation), then I think it’s time to worry that the rest of the Caribbean, including our own beloved Estado Libre Asociado, is under threat.
We can wait to see if Cuba’s new private sector flourishes with some measure of autonomy, or wait for the inevitable. Puerto Rico y Cuba buscando el mismo “sueño.”