Fifty years of tyranny and economic failure and the BBC says the festivities are subdued. To cheer up everybody, Raul Castro came out and said the next 50 years “will also be of permanent struggle”:
“It is time to reflect on the future, on the next 50 years when we shall continue to struggle incessantly.
“I’m not trying to scare anyone, this is the truth,” he added.
Let’s be honest about it: the Castros have been preaching this message of struggle and sacrifice in order to keep themselves in power.
Investor’s Business Daily wrote about the economic disaster of 50 Years Of Failure; it’s a litany of disaster after disaster:
1957: Cuban GDP is about $2.8 billion, unadjusted for inflation.
1959: Castro and his guerrillas take over and begin confiscating U.S.-owned private businesses.
1960: President Eisenhower imposes trade embargo, excluding food and medicine; Castro responds by “rapidly nationalizing most U.S. enterprises,” as he himself wrote.
1961: President Kennedy tightens the embargo. Castro blames it for plant shutdowns, parts shortages and 7,000 transportation breakdowns a month, leaving 25% of public buses inoperable. He then targets Cuban companies for expropriation.
1962: Begins food rationing. Half of passenger rail cars go out of service from lack of maintenance.
1963: President Kennedy freezes Cuban assets in the U.S.
1965: Signs deal with USSR to reschedule $500 million in debt.
1966: Signs new deal with Soviets for $91 million in trade credits.
1968: Begins petroleum rationing, says Soviets cut supplies.
1969: Begins sugar rationing in January, announces state plan to produce 10 million tons of sugar by the following year.
1970: Castro announces only 8.5 million tons of sugar produced. Blames U.S. Diverts 85% of all Cuban trade to the USSR.
1973: Tries for the first time to tie wages to productivity.
1974: Ramps up wartime spending to send 3,000 Cuban troops to Africa. It hits $125 per person, highest in Latin America, by 1988.
1975: President Ford announces softening of the embargo, letting foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies sell products in Cuba.
1979: President Carter lets Cuban-Americans visit family in Cuba. Soviet aid totals $17 billion from 1961-79, or 30% of Cuba’s GDP.
1980: Economic hardship forces Castro to permit farmers to sell surplus to state quotas in private markets with unregulated prices. 100,000 Cubans flee the island for the U.S. via the Mariel boatlift.
1982: Cuba doubles military spending. President Reagan re-establishes travel ban and prohibits spending money on the island.
1983: Cuba signs accord in Paris to refinance its foreign debt.
1984: “Armed Forces of Latin America” yearbook says: “Cuba is probably the world’s most completely militarized country.”
1985: Cuba signs new debt restructuring, blaming Mexico’s crisis for its debacle. Permits selling of private housing for the first time. Total aid from USSR since 1961 hits $40 billion.
1986: Castro defaults on $10.9 billion in Paris Club debt. Blames sugar prices. Abolishes coffee breaks, cuts subsidies. Soviets give $3 billion more in credit and aid. Castro bans farmers markets.
1987: Stops paying entirely on $10.9 billion Paris Club debts.
1988: Forbids release of inflation data, making it impossible for researchers to assess Cuban economic performance.
1990: By official statistics, GDP per capita declines 10.3%.
1991: Sugar crop falls to 7 million tons. Politburo purged. USSR ends $5 billion in subsidies. “Special Period” of austerity begins.
1992: Horse-drawn carts replace cars, oxen replace Soviet tractors. Time magazine reports tin cans are recycled into drinking cups and banana peels into Cuban sandals.
1993: World Bank says GDP contracts 15.1% per capita, as industrial output plunges 40% per person.
1994: Some private-sector activity permitted. GDP per capita shows no growth, but Castro hails “recovery.” Agricultural output down 54% from 1989, with sugar at 4 million tons. Castro blames bad finances, and “errors and inefficiency.” Food consumption, according to USDA, falls 36%. Some 32,000 Cubans flee for Florida.
1995: Havana admits GDP fell 35% from 1989 to 1993. Vice President Carlos Lage claims GDP grew 2.5%, as inflation hits 19%.
1996: Castro hikes private business taxes. President Clinton tightens embargo. Castro claims GDP rose to 7% in year.
1997: GDP reported up 2.5%, falling short of 5% projection. Failed sugar harvest, bad weather, crop pests, foreign debts blamed.
1998: GDP growth claimed at 1.2% with no inflation. U.S. embargo, global financial crisis, low commodity prices, too much rainfall, Hurricane Georges and severe drought blamed. Castro urges other debtor nations to form a cartel.
1999: GDP claimed at 6.2%. Subsidies from Venezuela begin. Castro blames U.S. dollar for woes and urges use of the euro.
2000: Cuban court rules U.S. owes Cuba $121 billion for embargo.
2001: 3.6% GDP growth, output remains below 1989. Blames loss of subsidies, second-worst sugar harvest ever at 3.5 million tons.
2002: Freezes dollar sales to preserve foreign reserves. Shuts down 118 factories due to power shortages. Buys $125 million in U.S. food. Defaults on $750 million in Japanese debts.
2003: Earns more tight sanctions from President Bush and European Union over dissident roundups. GDP rises just 1.8%.
2004: Castro declares GDP a capitalist instrument, adjusts calculations, declares GDP growing at 5%.
2005: Foreign firms asked to leave and market liberalization scrapped. Imports hit three-times the level of exports. Hurricanes blamed for falling farm output. Sugar figures not released. Castro calls economic crisis an “enemy fabrication.” Claims GDP up 11%.
2006: Castro claims 12.5% economic growth, “despite the crippling effects of the U.S. embargo,” Luxner News notes.
2007: 7.5% GDP growth claimed; adverse weather said to have affected construction and agriculture.
2008: 4.3% GDP growth claimed, far short of 8% forecast. “One of the most difficult years since the collapse of the Soviet Union,” economy minister says. Hurricanes and fuel prices blamed.
That would be bad enough if that was the only story, but the real horror lies in the millions of people whose lives have been destroyed not only in Cuba but in Africa during the war in Angola, and in Latin America.
I’ll be posting on this article on sex tourism in Havana Historia de una jinetera later on. It is describes the sordid life of a woman whose only means of survival in the Revolucion is prostituting herself to tourists.
The elaborate gathering shown live on Cuban television was a stark contrast to a tense calm that hung over the host city earlier in the day, perhaps because shortly after the New Year began, authorities banned Cubans from one of the city’s busiest square.