First poll in Cuba in 50 years

April 14th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Miami Herald has details of how a poll was done in Cuba recently, despite it being illegal to do so. The methodology sounds very impressive- great effort was made for it to be accurate. The 18 surveyors were at considerable risk in conducting the poll.

The results of the poll were fascinating, as the first publication of actual opinion in Cuba. Key findings include:

  • Only 19% satisfied with the joys of a socialist economic system, and 79% dissatisfied
  • 44% have a positive opinion of Fidel Castro and 50% a negative opinion
  • 47% have a positive opinion of Raul Castro and 48% a negative opinion
  • 80% have a positive opinion of Barack Obama and 17% a negative opinion
  • 32% have a positive opinion of the Cuban Communist Party and 58% a negative opinion
  • 64% want to travel abroad and 37% want to open their own business
  • 55% would like to live in another country
  • 53% say the US is a friend of Cuba and 10% say not a friend

Shows why we should distinguish between the Cuban people, and their Government.

Obama announces normalizing relations between the US and Cuba

December 18th, 2014 at 7:21 am by Lindsay Addie

President Obama has announced that talks are under way to normalize relations between the USA and Cuba. The Washington Post lists a summary of changes to the relationship

Reestablishing diplomatic relations
Adjusting regulations to more effectively empower Cuban people
Facilitating an expansion of travel to Cuba
Authorizing expanded sales and exports of certain goods and services from the United States to Cuba
Authorizing American citizens to import additional goods from Cuba
Initiating new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate freely

This is a bold move by Barack Obama that if successful could help define his legacy. There is a long way to go with this though. Predictably Republicans are against the idea.

UPDATE: The White House has released a full list of the changes here.

UPDATE 2: The official White House statement in part says.

Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective of empowering Cubans to build an open and democratic country. At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.

We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state. We should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.

Statement from the Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner giving the Republican view.

Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner,” Boehner said. “There is no ‘new course’ here, only another in a long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship that brutalizes its people and schemes with our enemies. If anything, this emboldens all state sponsors of terrorism, as they now have an even better idea of what the president meant when he once told Russian leaders he would have ‘more flexibility’ after his reelection.

Term Limits in Cuba

February 26th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

AP reports:

Raul Castro announced Sunday that he will step down as Cuba’s president in 2018 following a final five-year term, for the first time putting a date on the end of the Castro era. He tapped rising star Miguel Diaz-Canel as his top lieutenant and first in the line of succession.

The 81-year-old Castro also said he hopes to establish two-term limits and age caps for political offices including the presidency – an astonishing prospect for a nation led by Castro or his older brother Fidel since their 1959 revolution.

That would be a very good thing.

Communist dictatorships all too often turn into a type of feudal monarchy. We see this in North Korea, and Cuba looked to be heading that way.

I think term limits are an excellent thing as they mean no one person remains in power for ever, and as importantly focus politicians on what they can achieve in their limited time in the top job rather than trying to hang on forever.

Since taking over from Fidel in 2006, Castro has instituted a slate of important economic and social changes, expanding private enterprise, legalizing a real estate market and relaxing hated travel restrictions.

Still, the country remains ruled by the Communist Party and any opposition to it lacks legal recognition.

A long way to go, but at least heading in the right direction.

Term limits for Cuba

April 18th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

This is genuinely good news if it occurs. AP reports:

Raul Castro proposed term limits yesterday for Cuban politicians – including himself – a remarkable gesture on an island ruled for 52 years by him and his brother.

The 79-year-old President lamented the lack of young leaders in government, saying the country was paying the price for errors made in the past.

Castro told delegates to a crucial Communist Party summit he would launch a “systematic rejuvenation” of the Government.

He said politicians and other important officials should be restricted to two consecutive five-year terms, including “the current president of the Council of State and his ministers” – a reference to himself.

I think term limits are very valuable in stopping dictatorships. If someone is able to try and retain the top job forever, then they will try to – and the temptation to abuse the powers of the state to hang on is immense.

Think if there was no term limit for the US President. I hate to think what Presidents would do to try and win a third or fourth term.

Even in NZ, we saw the Electoral Finance Act as part of Clark’s strategy for a fourth term.

If NZ had a four year term, then I’d propose a maximum five terms for any MP, and a maximum two terms for the office of Prime Minister. If MPs knew there was a finite amount of time they could serve, I think it would encourage more focus on what they achieve during that time, rather than how long they can stay on for.

Fidel up close

September 13th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Jeffrey Goldberg got invited recently to meet Fidel Castro. Some fascinatign insights from his Part I and Part II articles.

Castro’s message to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, was not so abstract, however. Over the course of this first, five-hour discussion, Castro repeatedly returned to his excoriation of anti-Semitism. He criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and explained why the Iranian government would better serve the cause of peace by acknowledging the “unique” history of anti-Semitism and trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence.

My goodness. Hopefully the Iranian President is listening.

He began this discussion by describing his own, first encounters with anti-Semitism, as a small boy. “I remember when I was a boy – a long time ago – when I was five or six years old and I lived in the countryside,” he said, “and I remember Good Friday. What was the atmosphere a child breathed? `Be quiet, God is dead.’ God died every year between Thursday and Saturday of Holy Week, and it made a profound impression on everyone. What happened? They would say, `The Jews killed God.’ They blamed the Jews for killing God! Do you realize this?” …

He said the Iranian government should understand the consequences of theological anti-Semitism. “This went on for maybe two thousand years,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything.” The Iranian government should understand that the Jews “were expelled from their land, persecuted and mistreated all over the world, as the ones who killed God. In my judgment here’s what happened to them: Reverse selection. What’s reverse selection? Over 2,000 years they were subjected to terrible persecution and then to the pogroms. One might have assumed that they would have disappeared; I think their culture and religion kept them together as a nation.” He continued: “The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.” I asked him if he would tell Ahmadinejad what he was telling me. “I am saying this so you can communicate it,” he answered.

I never thought I would be singing the praises of Fidel Castro, but he has it dead right.

I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.

“The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore,” he said.

This struck me as the mother of all Emily Litella moments. Did the leader of the Revolution just say, in essence, “Never mind”?

I asked Julia to interpret this stunning statement for me. She said, “He wasn’t rejecting the ideas of the Revolution. I took it to be an acknowledgment that under ‘the Cuban model’ the state has much too big a role in the economic life of the country.”

As China has learnt also. A lesson some MPs on the left could do with learning also.

He asked us, “Would you like to go the aquarium with me to see the dolphin show?”

I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly. (This happened a number of times during my visit). “The dolphin show?”

“The dolphins are very intelligent animals,” Castro said. …

Someone at the table mentioned that the aquarium was closed on Mondays. Fidel said, “It will be open tomorrow.”

And so it was.

Has, being dictator has some advantages!

“Goldberg,” Fidel said, “ask him questions about dolphins.”

“What kind of questions?” I asked.

“You’re a journalist, ask good questions,” he said, and then interrupted himself. “He doesn’t know much about dolphins anyway,” he said, pointing to Garcia. He’s actually a nuclear physicist.”

“You are?” I asked.

“Yes,” Garcia said, somewhat apologetically.

“Why are you running the aquarium?” I asked.

“We put him here to keep him from building nuclear bombs!” Fidel said, and then cracked-up laughing.

My God, a Fidel with a sense of humour, who decries anti-Semitism and admits the Cuban model no longer works. Almost likeable. But then I remember all the political prisoners.

Economic Freedom Benefits

April 14th, 2008 at 2:13 pm by David Farrar

Paul Walker blogs on the benefits of economic freedom, and mentions Hong Kong and Cuba:

An interesting point of comparison is that in 1958 Cuba’s per capita GDP was $3,170 while Hong Kong had a per capita GDP of $2,924. Since then these two countries have followed very different development paths in terms of economic freedom . Today Cuba is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, very different from today’s Hong Kong.

So in 1958 Cuba had a higher GDP per capita than Hong Kong. And today?

Hong Kong is US$41,944 (PPP) compared to around US$4,500 for Cuba.

Cuba has a state which is basically 100% of GDP. In Hong Kong it is under 20%. In NZ it is 42%.