Wednesday, January 30, 2008

El gobierno (de Cuba) compra a Irán 550 vagones de carga y 200 coches ferroviarios


Miércoles 30 de enero de 2008.

El gobierno compró a Irán 550 vagones de carga y 200 coches ferroviarios de pasajeros para modernizar ese medio de transporte, anunció este martes el ministro del sector, Jorge Luis Sierra, informó EFE.

Los equipos llegarán a Cuba paulatinamente y permitirán restablecer el servicio de trenes diarios que enlazan a La Habana con el resto de las provincias, dijo el ministro del Transporte, en declaraciones divulgadas por la agencia oficialista Prensa Latina.

Sierra no precisó el monto de la operación, que da continuidad a la colaboración entre los dos países en el sector.

Teherán concedió a La Habana en noviembre del año pasado un crédito de 200 millones de euros para la financiación de importaciones en el sector del transporte, fundamentalmente en material y vehículos ferroviarios, así como en otros campos de la economía.


Hasta “el bobo de la yuca” en Luyanó sabe que la Cuba de Castro nunca les va a pagar.

Qué espera Teherán a cambio?

“. . . . Any strings attached?”

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

La culpa de todo la tiene el totí

Este es un dicho que conozco desde muchacho en Luyanó

Blame It All on the “Totí”


“La culpa de todo la tiene el totí.” That is an old saying; a Cuban humorous and cynical portrayal of escapism.

“El totí” is similar to the black bird in USA. It is a threat to crops when their swarms feast on sprouting rice and other grains. Surely, the “totís” do harm, but not all of it. Droughts, poor farming methods, Soviet styled collectivism and stiff government controls do far more damage.

People can cross their arms and escape reality by doing nothing but blaming “el totí.” Farmers doing so will fail miserably, however.

The old Cuban saying frequently rings true all over Latin America in political and economic arenas, by substituting “el totí” for the American bald eagle.

When Castro, in his heyday, was invited to La Paz, Bolivia, The Miami Herald published the following Reuters cable dated August 8, 1993: ”A smiling and relaxed Castro has been mobbed by crowds of well-wishers and journalists wherever he has gone, in contrast to U.S. envoy Bruce Babbitt, who was whistled and jeered as he entered (the Bolivian) Congress for the inauguration ceremony. . . .”

This took place even though Castro was, and is, the main culprit for Cuba’s economic failures and for a tyranny imposed at his will on the Island.

I quote from an article, The Return of the Idiot, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa: [1]

“Ten years ago, Colombian writer Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, Cuban writer Carlos Alberto Montaner, and I wrote Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot, a book criticizing opinion and political leaders who clung to ill-conceived political myths despite evidence to the contrary. The “Idiot” species, we suggested, bore responsibility for Latin America’s underdevelopment. Its beliefs—revolution, economic nationalism, hatred of the United States, faith in the government as an agent of social justice, a passion for strongman rule over the rule of law—derived, in our opinion, from an inferiority complex. In the late 1990s, it seemed as if the Idiot were finally retreating. But the retreat was short lived. Today, the species is back in force in the form of populist heads of state who are reenacting the failed policies of the past, opinion leaders from around the world who are lending new credence to them, and supporters who are giving new life to ideas that seemed extinct. . . . Foreign observers are missing an essential point: Latin American populism has nothing to do with social justice. It began as a reaction against the oligarchic state of the 19th century in the form of mass movements led by caudillos who blamed rich nations for Latin America’s plight. These movements based their legitimacy on voluntarism, protectionism, and massive wealth redistribution. The result, throughout the 20th century, was bloated government, stifling bureaucracy, the subservience of judicial institutions to political authority, and parasitic economies. . . .”

In Cuba, Castro puts the blame on what he calls the USA “blockade,” using this smoke-screen to conceal his absolute economic failures.

This escapism fuels his anti-imperialism rhetoric. But this rhetoric does not solve the three main problems of the Cuban revolution: breakfast, lunch and dinner, as is said in Cuba jokingly.

I remember a conversation with Ives Daude, Bureau Chief for Agence France Presse in Havana in 1965. I was the Bureau’s Accountant. He knew Latin America well as he had been to Buenos Aires and other posts in Latin America.

Ives was reserved and business-like most of the time, but in that conversation he elaborated about the Cuban situation. He made an insightful remark along the following lines: Cuba was the last colony in America to gain independence from Spain at the beginning of the last century. The Spanish colonization was highly bureaucratic, and left a profound influence in public life over all the countries under its dominance. Its imprint was freshest and most long lived in Cuba. Putting a Communist bureaucratic system on top of the Spanish bureaucratic legacy was guaranteed chaos in Cuba.

And the Cuban economy has remained chaotic during the last forty-eight years. The “Idiot” species have prevailed in Cuba for almost half a century, putting the blame of Cuban failures on the Yankee imperialists. This is good escapism but leaves the Cuban people destitute. Cuban escapist “Idiots” do not allow their communist government to address the need to motivate the Cuban people to work hard. Bureaucratic controls stifle initiative and foster corruption as people’s main objective becomes surviving their everyday agonies.

The Human Oscillating Fan

My wife and I stayed in Cuba until 1966 when we were able to leave for Spain with our three children.

There were what I call “human oscillating fans” in Cuba. We would see two or three persons talking a few yards from us. One person, before saying anything, would look over his or her shoulder, with the head moving to the left and then to the right, to ensure no one was within earshot. Then he or she would say something. Another person, before replying, would oscillate his or her head. This body language resembled the tall electric oscillating fans commonly used at offices and homes where there was no air conditioning. There was no need to hear those persons; they were airing comments about the Castro regime.

I had been to Chile twice before 1970 and had made friends with employees and executives with whom I had worked. I went back on a business trip in 1971, and found my friends bitterly divided into two opposites. Those siding with Allende were not friendly to me any longer. I again observed the “human oscillating fans” in the office halls or in the lunch room. Chileans opposing Allende felt fear and distrust. “By the end of the 1960s, the polarization of Chilean politics had overwhelmed the traditional civility of Chile's vaunted democratic institutions. The centrist agreements of the past, which had enabled presidents to navigate a difficult course of compromise and conciliation, became more difficult to attain. . . . in 1970 the socialist candidate, a physician named Salvador Allende, was elected president. In a reflection of Chile's increased ideological polarization, Allende was elected president with 36.2 percent of the vote in 1970. . . . According to the Popular Unity [Unidad Popular - UP] coalition , Chile was being exploited by parasitic foreign and domestic capitalists. The government therefore moved quickly to socialize the economy, taking over the copper mines, other foreign firms, oligopolistic industries, banks, and large estates.”[2]

I stayed at the Sheraton San Cristobal in 1971. One morning a hotel maid asked where I was from. I told her, “cubano” (Cuban.) She told me that this hotel, the Carreras and other major hotels were full of Cubans. I did not feel like clarifying that I was a Cuban exile, no one amongst the legion of Cubans brought by Allende to support his government by controlling confiscated companies and by establishing a Cuban styled intelligence apparatus.

“Outside the government, Allende's supporters continued direct takeovers of land and businesses, further disrupting the economy and frightening the propertied class.

The two sides reached a showdown in the March 1973 congressional elections. . . . The National Party and PDC . . . netted 55 percent of the votes, not enough of a majority to end the stalemate. Moreover, the Popular Unity's 43 percent share represented an increase over the presidential tally of 36.2 percent. . . .”[3]

On September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet staged a coup d’état. Allende was either killed or committed suicide at his presidential office. His communist agenda ended there.

Pinochet established a military dictatorship. A significant insurgence developed with Castro supporting Chilean fighters with money, weapons and guerrilla war training in Cuba. After a few years, the insurgence was defeated. Pinochet’s critics claim that there were tortures and indiscriminate killings. Pinochet’s supporters claim that they fought communist urban guerillas masterminded by Castro.

A “Yes” or “No” plebiscite took place in 1988. The “No Pinochet Option” won, resulting in Pinochet ending his dictatorship on March 11, 1990. Patricio Aylwin had been elected President and a democratic process continues to date in Chile.

Pinochet trusted technocrats to run the Chilean economy during his mandate. A free market economy developed under the tutelage of the “Chicago Boys.” They were a group of persons who studied with or were influenced by Milton Friedman from the University of Chicago.

Current Conditions in Cuba and Chile

Private copper production went up to 68% in 2005 from 25% in 1990.[4] Chileans broke away from the escapism of putting the blame on foreign investors for their economic problems. Chile forged alliances with foreign investors who brought financial resources and improved technology into the country.[5]

Today, Chileans enjoy a framework of respect for human rights. “Oscillating human fans” are not observed any longer in Chile.

I recently watched a video produced in Cuba by a Portuguese network.[6] There are interviews with school children and ordinary people on the streets. The school children recited slogans parroting government indoctrination, just as when our children were attending grade school before we left Cuba in 1966. People on the streets were a mixed lot. Some of them put the blame on the “blockade” for their poor living conditions. No doubt, el Totí’s syndrome prevails to our day in Cuba. Others prudently or genuinely showed support for the regime. A few evaded the interviewer’s questions with don’t-get-me-in trouble answers. One lady said: “I am a mother, I have a family to support. I can’t talk freely about what you are asking me.” Another lady moved her head to the right and then to the left before saying something critical of the Castro regime. The “oscillating human fans” are still in Cuba.

During 2006, exports of goods and services totaled U.S. $58 billion (in Chile) . . . . Copper exports reached a historical high of U.S. $33.3 billion. . . .[7]

“(Cuban) exports free on board . . . . were projected to total US$2.8 billion in 2006. . . . 2005 exports included US$1.2 billion in nickel….[8] I am estimating the same value for nickel exports in 2006.

2006 Chilean exports were US$24.7 billion for goods and services other than copper. 2006 Cuban exports were US$1.6 billion for goods other than nickel. Chile has a population of 16 million and Cuba has a population of 11.5 million people. 2006 Chilean exports per capita were US$1,544 (other than copper); 2006 Cuban exports per capita were US$139 (other than nickel.)

It is notable that Chilean copper exports in 2006 were US$33.3 billion in 2006, or a per capita of US$2,081, which are a result of policies incorporating foreign investment in the copper industry.

Chile and Cuba are two extremes of the political and economic spectrum in Latin America. Chile has a democratic government and is moving ahead through the hard work of its people in a free market economy, without any need to recur to escapism. Cuba is impoverished by a communist system that shackles its people economically and politically. Cuba is lagging behind badly and the Castro regime takes solace in blaming it all on the bald eagle.

Gonzalo Fernández

Fernández graduated from Havana University with an accounting degree. He is a business consultant in Raleigh, North Carolina. Wrote "Estados Financieros" (Financial Statements), UTEHA, Mexico, third edition, 1966. Fernández is a coauthor of the "Handbook of Financing Growth", Marks, Robbins, Fernández and Funkhouser, John Wiley and Sons, Inc, New Jersey, 2005. He is a Past-President of the Raleigh Chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants.

[1], May/June 2007.

[2] www.fas,org - The Federation of American Scientists, Intelligence Resource Program.

[3] See note 2.

[4] Cochilco chart, Milestones in copper production. (Comisión Chilena de Cobre.)

[5] A chart, FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) by countries of origin, shows, from 1974 to 2006, shares of 26% from USA, 22% from Spain, 16% from Canada, 5% from Australia, 3% from Japan and 19% from others. Source: Foreign Investment Committee.

[7] – Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, April 2007.

[8] Library of Congress – Federal Research Division, Country Profile: Cuba, September 2006.