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Like a North Korea with palm trees

January 12, 2016

That’s one tourist’s take in this article from The New Yorker.

Shopping in Cuba
In the markets and shops of Cuba, handicrafts are in ample supply but certain mundane provisions are not.

A Spanish-English dictionary, sunscreen, insect repellent, a towel, chocolate ice cream: these are the items that eluded me during a recent trip to Cuba. For all the hoopla about the island’s opening and the more than three million tourists who swamped it last year, Cuba is no country for shoppers. The more mundane the object of desire, the more exasperating it can be to find.

I’m not saying that these common items are completely unavailable in Cuba—I’m sure they are for sale somewhere on the island—but I couldn’t locate them. And I did look. […]

Having been a foreign correspondent in Eastern Europe in the nineteen-nineties, and more recently in China, I have some experience with Communist and post-Communist countries. In Cuba I saw elements of many of them, from Albania to Vietnam. Like Prague in the nineteen-nineties, Havana’s old city is swarming with tourists who gaze at the faded splendor of its Belle Époque architecture. Private restaurants inside these elegant wrecks, called paladares, beckon tourists with creative meals made out of the few ingredients available locally, mostly chicken, pork, cabbage, rice, and beans.

But Cuba also looks to me like a North Korea with palm trees. To be sure, Cuba has evolved politically, investing in education and health care rather than weapons of mass destruction. But the economic fundamentals in these last bastions of Communism are much the same. Like North Korea, Cuba maintains a distribution system in which citizens pay a low cost for inadequate rations of staple foods. […]

H.T. Jeff G

As the author points out, el socialismo cubano is more humane than some of the Asian and European variants. But, still, economic central planning has yet to work as well free markets (to the best of my knowledge).

It makes you wonder about the motives of people who keep imposing that planning on others, doesn’t it?

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