Miami Herald Editorial Board vs Sarah Stephens

The Miami Herald is no apologist for the Castro regime, Sarah Stephens is.

For a while now, I find myself in complete agreement with the Miami Herald editorials about Cuba. Here is what they wrote today about the recent pronouncements coming out of Cuba:

Now the Cuban people, having been told that their ration cards are losing value and their free meals at work will no longer be served, have to look toward private employment without having the materials necessary to start up their own businesses. Where does a seamstress buy fabrics in Cuba that aren’t price-prohibitive? Where would a furniture maker get the wood to craft a table and chairs?

For decades, Cubans have been resolviendo, taking care of things, buying goods on the black market pilfered from government warehouses. That won’t change under this new plan until the Castros are gone.

Contrast that with Castro apologist Sarah Stephens writing in the Huffington Post:

As recently as Friday, Cuba’s Catholic Church revealed the names of four more political prisoners to be released, under the agreement it made with the government this spring, which will bring to 36 the number of dissidents freed. The agreement calls for all 52 of the remaining prisoners from Cuba’s 2003 round up to be let go. This agreement is not uncontroversial among hardliners in the government or the Cuban communist party, but it is being honored nonetheless.

This past week, Cuba’s government also announced that it would lay off 500,000 Cuban citizens on state payrolls, and take steps to help the private sector economy absorb them, which sounds an awful lot like they will be less dependent on the government.

These changes, along with others already made, are redefining, as many analysts have written, Cuba’s social contract with its own people, and represent extraordinarily difficult decisions taken even in the context of a one-party state.

Defending tyrants is not a job for the feint of heart. If you’re keeping score at home; Stephens not only seeks credit for a regime which releases 70% of prisoners illegally detained for 7 years, she implies that the Castro brothers also deserve credit for acting against the wishes of a secret, albeit powerful, new opposition, the much-feared non-Castro hardliners.

Stephens last sentence I underline is a sycophantic tour de force. You see the very reason for “one-party” regimes is that decisions become much less “extraordinarily difficult,” since the regimes do whatever they want to whoever they want whenever they want [with apologies to M&M].

Want to hear it from someone outside Miami? OK, how about a Washington Post editorial from Sept 20, 2010:

Predictably, apologists for the Castros and for U.S. corporate agriculture greeted the half step with renewed calls for the lifting of what remains of the embargo on trade with Cuba, or at least the end of all restrictions on travel. This, too, is part of the Castros’ strategy. The regime has begun slowly releasing political prisoners into exile — another limited concession that it has made before — in the expectation that the Obama administration will respond and that a wave of American tourists will arrive with desperately needed dollars. In fact, the administration reportedly is planning a liberalization of travel restrictions, though not a lifting of the tourism ban.

Castro apologists have one thing in common, they object to being referred to as Castro apologists. But how else to describe people who write what Ms Stephens is writing at this stage of the regime. Shame on her and shame on those of us who forget how those like her have acted and what they have defended during the next chapter of Cuba’s history. On the flip side, I am thankful for the views of my hometown newspaper, who gets it and does not allow domestic ideological differences to alter its view of an evil regime.

The Miami Herald editorial referenced is copied in full at end of post.

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Miami Herald Editorial 09/21/10
Cuba’s tailspin into the `free’ market – Castro’s latest desperation move won’t work

As Cuba’s failed economy struggles after a half century of quashing individual creativity and entrepreneurship, the regime has come up with a plan to lay off a half-million workers — 10 percent of its workforce. They are being encouraged to open small businesses, instead.

Sounds like “capitalism-lite” to us.

Not so, says Fidel Castro, who has been making speeches to university students. The octogenarian says he was misunderstood when he told a reporter for The Atlantic magazine recently that the Fidelista economic model no longer works. It’s capitalism that doesn’t work, he corrected. Whatever.

It’s no secret that Cuba is broke and has been for years, even before the Soviet Union’s subsidies ended two decades ago.

Raúl Castro has been hinting about changes since his brother Fidel became sick, and Raúl was put in charge. “We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where one can live without working,” Raúl told Cuba’s National Assembly recently.

And no wonder many Cubans don’t seem to want to work. They long ago lost hope that a college education or specialized training would reward them with better earnings, much less let them move to a better home or buy a used car. Cuban youth have grown weary of a dictatorship that seeks to monitor their music, limit their use of the Internet and keep them focused on their next meal by standing in line with their ration cards for steadily declining goods.

Truth is, most Cubans work hard. They just don’t work that hard for the government jobs that pay on average $20 a month. To survive they have had to turn to the black market for work or depend on family remittances from abroad if they’re so lucky.

Over the years, doctors, lawyers and military officials, among others with “revolutionary” clout in Cuba, have been allowed to open paladares (home restaurants), to try to offset their lousy earnings.

But the Cuban government imposed so many rules on those restaurants — from the number of chairs allowed to the types of meals that can be served (no lobster!) — and hit them with burdensome taxes of 50 percent or more that the wannabe entrepreneurs had no choice but to close or do their business in hiding. This has meant paying off government overseers so they can sell “illegal” lobster meals to European tourists with a wink and a nod.

Farmers markets were another attempt for Havana to survive after the Soviet Union’s collapse, but there, too, the regime came down hard so that profits were cut to the bone.

Now the Cuban people, having been told that their ration cards are losing value and their free meals at work will no longer be served, have to look toward private employment without having the materials necessary to start up their own businesses. Where does a seamstress buy fabrics in Cuba that aren’t price-prohibitive? Where would a furniture maker get the wood to craft a table and chairs?

For decades, Cubans have been resolviendo, taking care of things, buying goods on the black market pilfered from government warehouses. That won’t change under this new plan until the Castros are gone.
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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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