Cuba celebrates 60 years of involution
Cuban President Gen. Raúl Castro celebrated Friday the 60th anniversary of the guerrilla attack on the Moncada barracks that marked the beginning of the Cuban revolution, but the event could just as well be remembered as marking six decades of Latin America’s biggest political, economic and social fiasco.
Granted, many of us, especially those born outside the island, once saw the “Cuban revolution” with a dose of romantic admiration. But even if you brush aside the fact that Cuba’s revolutionaries toppled one dictatorship to install another, the cold statistics of the past six decades tell a story of thousands of senseless deaths, a massive emigration that split Cuban families, and an economic collapse with few parallels anywhere.
In 1958, the year before then guerrilla leader Fidel Castro took power, Cuba had a per capita income of roughly $356 dollars a year, one of the three or four highest in Latin America, according to Carmelo Mesa Lago of the University of Pittsburg, co-author of “Cuba under Raúl Castro” and one of the most prominent experts on the Cuban economy.
By comparison, Costa Rica was poorer, and Asian countries such as South Korea were much poorer, with per capita incomes of less than $100 a year.
Consider how much things have changed since:
• According to the World Bank’s databank, South Korea, which started welcoming massive foreign investments in the early 1960’s, today has an annual per capita income of $22,600; Costa Rica of $9,400, and Cuba of $5,400. And according to Mesa Lago, Cuba’s real per capita income is probably lower than that because the figures have been manipulated by the island’s government.
• South Korea has 276 cars per 1,000 people, while Costa Rica has 135, and Cuba only 21, the World Bank statistics show.
• In South Korea, 37 percent of the population has access to broadband Internet, compared with 9 percent in Costa Rica and 4 percent in Cuba, they show.
While South Korea has become a world industrial powerhouse — its Samsung electronic goods and Hyundai cars are exported everywhere — and Costa Rica has high-tech factories from companies such as Intel, Cuba is an industrial basket case.
The island has not even been able to continue producing sugar or cigars at its 1958 levels. According to Cuban government figures cited by Mesa Lago, Cuba’s sugar production has fallen from 859 tons to 106 tons per 1,000 people over the past six decades, and Cuba’s cigar production has fallen from 92,000 cigars per 1,000 people to 36,000 over the same period.
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