A Cuban dissident I met in Havana last year sent me today an article he wrote about the real motive behind relaxing these bans. It has been reported in the state-controlled media that people purchasing these goods are later being investigated by the authorities who want to know the real sources of their income. As it’s widely known, the average Cuban salary is less than $20 a month, while the cost of most of these goods ranges in the hundreds of dollars. Many Cubans get their extra money from relatives in the United States, but many others run independent (and illicit) small businesses.
My friend tells the story of the first person to purchase an electric bicycle, which cost the equivalent of $1,070. This man had a small butter factory that apparently was very profitable, since he was selling the butter at a lower price than the government. After buying his electric bicycle, the authorities investigated him and discovered his factory. They proceeded to confiscate everything they found in his home, including the bike.
Monday, May 05, 2008
Reforms in Cuba? Not so fast ...
Much has been made of the recent decision by Raoul Castro to loosen up restrictions on the lives of Cuban citizens - for example, the Cuban government lifted its ban on the sales of personal computers this week (although connecting to the internet is still banned for most Cubans). Most pundits are trumpeting the new rules as evidence of a more free & open Cuba, but Juan Carlos Hidalgo at Cato at Liberty says it isn't so: