Cuba, once known to Spain as their "Pearl of the Antilles,“ Cuba today is a hell hole of totalitarian repression and Socialist economic misery. But it wasn’t always like this. Only as far back as the late 1950s, Cuba‘s economy was second only to that of its closest neighbor to the North, the United States. For those of you unfamiliar with geography, Cuba is closer to Miami than Disney World in Orlando, at just 90 miles south of Key West. You probably don’t even know that at one time, a Cuban Peso was the equivalent of one American Dollar. Today Cuba is only slightly better off than it’s neighbor to the East, Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, only because of Cuba‘s aging infrastructure. Haiti has none. But what happened, you surely ask?
Castro’s hybrid of Communism, that‘s what.
But if life is so good in Cuba‘s Socialist Utopia, why are Cubans risking their lives in shark infested waters to escape Cuba
A little hidden history...
Cuba‘s version of Communism has always been a sort of a "pseudo-Mafia-Commie hybrid creature.“ On the surface, the quintessential Marxist collectivist mantra reaching all four corners of the island, but beneath that surface, a Mafia-style syndicate with a Godfather figure, Fidel, the lieutenants like Raul, and all the intrigue, challenges, and rewards of organized crime. Tony Soprano would be proud.
The Cubans played along with the Soviets because of the billions poured into Cuba but when the Berlin Wall fell and the subsequent lifting of the Iron Curtain, the money stopped coming in and Fidel had to reinvent Cuba. That’s when everyone outside the island recognized the Cuban regime for what it was. A criminal organization not an authentic Communist regime. Let me give you an example. To get caught with drugs in the former USSR, was a death sentence, for they saw drugs as one of the decadent West‘s many strategies (pornography was another) to destroy Communism, and as such, they abhorred drugs and were particularly brutal against both it's peddlers as well as consumers.
But Cuba was a central port for most of the cocaine leaving Colombia and transitioning to all parts of the world in the late 1970's and early 1980's. You won’t see that on MSNBC or CNN. After the Medellin Cartel was dismantled, some of the surviving founders who were in prison like Carlos Lehder (was released last year after 30+ years), began to sing like canaries and exposed Cuba as a major transitional point for aircraft and boats carrying Colombia‘s illicit national domestic product.
When this was exposed, Fidel needed to redirect his involvement to a scapegoat he could use to rid himself of the stain on his Communist image, so he killed two birds with one stone, He brought up charges of drug trafficking against a perceived threat to his authority, General and veteran of Cuba’s involvement in Africa‘s Angola on behalf of the Soviets, Arnaldo Ochoa, who was very popular with the military.
He offered Ochoa a raw deal, confess to drug trafficking and you go to prison for a little while then retire on a modest pension or don’t, and die. Ochoa, a man of principles even for a Communist, said no. He wasn’t a drug smuggler. So he was charged, adjudicated, found guilty, and executed by a firing squad, the next morning. Thus, Fidel got rid of the drug stain hanging over his Commie image and a threat to his power both at the same time.
Fast forward to today. To the wealthy, the elite and the celebrated famous worldwide, Cuba is a Paradise. A major vacation spot. They arrive in their private jets and stay in the five star hotels saturating the island, owned by foreign corporations who enjoy a cozy relationship with "supposedly“ one of the world‘s last remaining Communist dictatorships. These wealthy elites ranging from European politicians to Latin American entertainers to Israeli businessmen, to Russian mafiosos, to even American celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyoncé, enjoy an isolated luxurious experience, oblivious to the daily hardships plaguing the average Cuban living in abject poverty.
Cubans have a saying: "En Cuba, existen dos de todo,“ or In "In Cuba, there exists two of everything.“ What this means is that there exist two Cubas, the one for the average citizen that foreign tourists will never see, and the one for the vacationing wealthy elites and the government-connected. Think about that. The easiest way to demonstrate this is Hospitals. On one hand, a tourist in need of medical treatment will go to the hospital fully staffed for them and government officials. This hospital is staffed with the most modern technological equipment available and the best doctors. But for the unfortunate average Cuban citizen, you will be sent to the dilapidated, vermint infested state ran hospital, which doesn’t even have bed sheets let alone medicines. That’s medical care for Cubans in what Bernie Sanders celebrates as the best health care in the World. Liar.
Things have never been more dire for Cubans than today. A country ravaged by decades of poverty and now ChiCom-19. A repressive brutal Socialist regime imposing its authoritarianism on a disarmed helpless populace. A wealthy elite class of government officials who live in a world of luxury the average Cuban will never see. They even have an island populated by African game for exclusive hunting expeditions. They are driven around in Range Rovers while Cuban use bicycles.
The rest of the world ignores the American embargo shipping in all the consumable luxuries that the government connected enjoy. The world's largest cement manufacturer, the Mexican firm CeMex, has multiple facilities in Cuba but that cement is exported while Cuban dwellings crumble as they have no access to any of it.
But no help is coming. Even the Trump administration couldn't do much for Cubans. The UN has an unspoken understanding that no nation will interfere in Cuba's affairs. You try jumping on a boat in Miami with weapons and sail to Cuba and you won't make it 15 miles before the US Coast Guard intercepts you and brings you back to jail. Don't believe me? Try it!
In the end, only Cubans willing to overrun machine guns with bodies can bring freedom to Cuba.