communism

“Postcards from Venezuela”

Venezuelan protester tear-gassed

Anti-government protesters take cover from tear gas during clashes with police in Caracas. (Reuters/The Atlantic)

As a companion to yesterday’s Cuba post, we have this update from The Atlantic on Human Rights Watch (HRW’s) reports on brutal repression of Venezuelan demonstrations. Venezuela has been helping to prop up Cuba, but its mismanagement of the economy and demonization of opposition is degrading the government’s ability to survive. It’s another reminder that class-based demagoguery and repression result in making everyone poorer and less free. Venezuela’s massive oil reserves insulated it from reality for a decade, but the government so mismanaged the oil industry that many of its most valuable employees fled to Alberta to work the oil sands there, and Venezuelan oil production has been declining as the technologically knowledgeable depart or are kept from renovating the older fields.

Read the whole thing if you have time, but here’s one of many horrifically brutal incidents documented by HRW:

The guardsmen took the detainees to a nearby park, where they were forced to lie down on the ground with nine others, while the guardsmen continued to kick and beat them, and stomp on their heads with their boots. One of the guardsmen placed a rifle on Carrasco’s neck and moved it slowly down his back, pulling down his underwear and penetrating his rectum once, causing a hemorrhage. Three of the other detainees were told to lie down facing upwards, and a guardsman ran over their legs three times with a motorcycle.”

More on Social Decay:

“Marriage Rate Lowest in a Century”
Making Divorce Hard to Strengthen Marriages?
The High Cost of Divorce
Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
Cuba: Where All but the Connected are Poor
Ross Douthat on Unstable Families and Culture
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
“Marriage Markets” – Marriage Beyond Our Means?
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
Why Did Black Crime Syndicates Fail to Go Legit?
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Culture Wars: Peace Through Limited Government
Steven Pinker on Harvard and Meritocracy

“Breaking Bad”–The Lessons of Walter White

Cuba: Where All but the Connected are Poor

havana

Bringing you one of the better reads of the day, Michael Totten’s piece in City Journal wrapping up his reporting from Cuba in a neat and depressing package.

Neill Blomkamp’s 2013 science-fiction film Elysium, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, takes place in Los Angeles, circa 2154. The wealthy have moved into an orbiting luxury satellite—the Elysium of the title—while the wretched majority of humans remain in squalor on Earth. The film works passably as an allegory for its director’s native South Africa, where racial apartheid was enforced for nearly 50 years, but it’s a rather cartoonish vision of the American future. Some critics panned the film for pushing a socialist message. Elysium’s dystopian world, however, is a near-perfect metaphor for an actually existing socialist nation just 90 miles from Florida.

Cuba had been a relatively wealthy nation — comparable to Argentina in living standards, and with high levels of trade and tourism both to and from the nearby US. From the time of the revolution into the mid-70s, Cuba’s economy gradually declined while nearly every other Latin American economy grew rapidly. Then the USSR, which had provided much aid and oil, suddenly collapsed and the aid was cut off. Privation in Cuba increased dramatically — surgery without anaesthetics, food rationed or unavailable. Venezuela took up some of the role of the dead USSR in the Chavez era, shipping oil to Cuba and paying the state for use of Cuban doctors. The Cuban state was forced to open up a capitalist bubble to allow tourism to expand and provide needed foreign currency.

When the ailing Fidel Castro ceded power to his less doctrinaire younger brother Raúl in 2008, the quasi-capitalist bubble expanded, but the economy remains heavily socialist. In the United States, we have a minimum wage; Cuba has a maximum wage—$20 a month for almost every job in the country. (Professionals such as doctors and lawyers can make a whopping $10 extra a month.) Sure, Cubans get “free” health care and education, but as Cuban exile and Yale historian Carlos Eire says, “All slave owners need to keep their slaves healthy and ensure that they have the skills to perform their tasks.”

Even employees inside the quasi-capitalist bubble don’t get paid more. The government contracts with Spanish companies such as Meliá International to manage Havana’s hotels. Before accepting its contract, Meliá said that it wanted to pay workers a decent wage. The Cuban government said fine, so the company pays $8–$10 an hour. But Meliá doesn’t pay its employees directly. Instead, the firm gives the compensation to the government, which then pays the workers—but only after pocketing most of the money. I asked several Cubans in my hotel if that arrangement is really true. All confirmed that it is. The workers don’t get $8–$10 an hour; they get 67 cents a day—a child’s allowance.

Michael Totten ends his piece with a visit to a tourist restaurant overlooking Havana — no Cuban can afford to go there and it’s almost empty:

I stared at the city below out the window as I sipped my red wine. Havana looked like a glittering metropolis in the dark. Night washed away the rot and the grime and revealed nothing but city lights. It occurred to me that Havana will look mostly the same—at night, anyway—after it is liberated from the tyrannical imbeciles who govern it now. I tried to pretend that I was looking out on a Cuba that was already free and that the tables around me were occupied—by local people, not foreigners—but the fantasy faded fast. I was all alone at the top of Cuba’s Elysium and yearning for home—where capitalism’s inequalities are not so jagged and stark.

More on Social Decay:

“Marriage Rate Lowest in a Century”
Making Divorce Hard to Strengthen Marriages?
The High Cost of Divorce
Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
“Postcards from Venezuela”
Ross Douthat on Unstable Families and Culture
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
“Marriage Markets” – Marriage Beyond Our Means?
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
Why Did Black Crime Syndicates Fail to Go Legit?
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Culture Wars: Peace Through Limited Government
Steven Pinker on Harvard and Meritocracy

“Breaking Bad”–The Lessons of Walter White