José Azel Crushes “Liberalized” Cuba Narrative on CCTV America


EspañolThis past week, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV America offered an account of Cuba’s policy developments over the past few decades, in which they described a “more liberalized approach” that “welcomed investment.” The news anchor, Phillip Yin, even went so far as to say that “economic reforms and a push to reduce corruption [don’t laugh] have helped ease some concerns from foreign investors.”

Screenshot from CCTV America. Uploaded on March 28, 2014.

Perhaps they did not realize whom they were interviewing when they brought on José Azel to elaborate on the account. A senior scholar with the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies and author of Mañana in Cuba, Azel laid waste to the notion that Cuba is somehow investor friendly (see my review of his book).

Azel explained that prior to General Castro’s revolution, Cuba was one of the most prosperous nations in the Americas. Now, it is at the prosperity level of Haiti and battling with North Korea to be the least economically free nation on the planet, according to the Heritage Foundation.

In line with his recent PanAm Post article, Azel said that none of the “so-called reforms” — such as permitting “181 rather menial activities” for self-employment — are really going to help. “All of the same kinds of restriction are in place,” and Azel does not “know of any serious company that is going to invest in Cuba.”

Perhaps that is because “it’s not investing in Cuba; it’s investing with Cuba,” since all foreign investment can only take place with the Cuban military as the majority shareholder.

Azel also highlighted that foreign firms cannot even hire their own workers. Rather, they must petition the Cuban government, whose agents then assign someone for the job. In an act of modern enslavement, the Cuban officials then receive the wages and keep approximately 90 percent before paying the worker.

In terms of immediate reforms, if he were at the helm, Azel advocated a unified currency (in his book, he recommends dollarization). “Second, just allow freedom; allow people to invest freely — not to have to be a minority partner.”

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