Cuba: The Selling of a Nation

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

I first heard the concept from a European diplomat who had lived in Cuba. It has since spread. The model created by the Castro brothers is a pimp state.

It's an uncomfortable designation but in line with the reality that circulates sotto voce among the Cubans on the island. The government has specialized in the extortion of its own citizens. Fifty-five years after the dictatorship was imposed, almost all the significant forms of income that sustain the country come from shady deals made abroad.

The Venezuelan subsidy. Estimated at $13 billion a year by Prof. Carmelo Mesa Lago, dean of Cuban economists on the subject. That includes more than 100,000 barrels of oil per day, half of which are re-exported and sold in Spain. Thirty thousand others apparently go to PetroCaribe, originating a double corruption of political support and illicit enrichment.

The public source of this information is expert Pedro Mantellini, one of the great connoisseurs of the topic of Venezuelan oil. He explained it in Miami, on María Elvira Salazar's program on CNN Latino. Caracas buys international influence with oil but shares with its Cuban accomplices the management of those gifts.

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The trade in doctors and health givers. This business brings in $7.5 billion a year. Specialist María Werlau has described this activity in the Miami Herald.

The Cuban government leases its professionals and charges for their services. It confiscates 95 percent of their salaries. Angola pays as much as $60,000 a year for each medic. Not even the aid to Haiti escapes this scheme. The services rendered in that devastated nation are paid to Havana - at a hefty price - by international organizations.

Brazil, which pays for medical services, is Cuba's latest grand partner in this dark activity of international procurement. It is a practice known to Cuban slave traders since the 19th century.

While slavery lasted (until 1886), the masters used to lease their slaves when they didn't need them. The most profitable aspect of the "Negroes-for-hire" business were the poor girls the masters delivered to the brothels. The masters charged for the services the girls provided. They were businessmen-pimps. Now, we're dealing with a state-pimp.

Other leases, other businesses. But that's not the end of the exploitation. The Cuban government leases other professionals to private companies.

The ancient Greeks referred to slaves as "talking tools." I don't believe that Raúl Castro knows the classics, but he does understand the latest meaning of that expression.

There are Latin American or Portuguese-speaking universities that lease from the Havana government the services of good Cuban professors of mathematics or physics at bargain prices. European and Latin American companies exploit computer technicians trained on the island.

The Castro regime knows that a well-trained Cuban is totally unproductive in Cuba, given the demential entrepreneurial system on the island, but also knows that he is a potential source of wealth once he's placed abroad. Objectively, that government is a giant labor subcontracting agency that violates all the rules of the International Labor Organization (ILO). It exists for that and profits from it.

Remittances from exiles. Emilio Morales, who fled from Cuba a relatively short time ago and is a major expert on the subject, places that source of income (as of 2012) at a little more than $5 billion. Roughly half of it is sent in cash and the rest in merchandise. The flow grows at the rate of 13 percent per year.

Every time a rafter escapes, the regime outwardly whines about the loss but knows that, after a while, dollars will flow toward the needy family that was left on the island. In Cuba, the malcontent would have to be fed, even if merely crumbs. Once in exile, he or she is a gratuitous source of income.

How long can Castro sustain an almost totally unproductive society through activities that border on, or incur directly, in crime? No one can tell. Pimps usually live a long time.

Carlos Alberto Montaner was born in Havana in 1943 and has lived in Madrid since 1970. A former university professor, he is an acclaimed writer and journalist. His syndicated column appears in dozens of newspapers in the United States, Latin America and Spain. Originally published in the Miami Herald. Republished with author permission.

(AP Photo)

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