Social rights are part of the second-generation family of human rights. They are acquired, not inherent or preeminent. Civil and political rights constitute the first-generation group and are more in line with natural law, particularly when notions of consensual government are factored in. Non-democratic regimes have consistently pontified on social rights as their basis of legitimacy. Such claims, of course, depend on impressive socio-economic results. What happens when oppression and the scarcity of liberties cannot be excused by purported social “advancements”? The 2023 VI Report of the State of Social Rights in Cuba (Report), issued by the Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos (OCDH) (“Cuban Human Rights Observatory”), lends important data to the matter of these rights. This is seminal considering that dictatorships have long used them to prompt legitimation prerogatives. The Cuban regime has methodically utilized this discourse.
The research for the study was conducted in 75 municipalities within all of Cuba’s provinces and consisted of 1,354 personal interviews. The information confirmed in the OCDH work cites a deterioration of basic conditions in all areas that impact life in Cuba. Things have gone from bad to worse. The Report points out that those who fare better enjoy greater leverage with the regime, judged by income. Remittances, a form of external subsidies from family members outside the country, are also a determinant factor. Thus, the exodus of Cuba’s youth is the island’s fastest-growing industry.
The argument that what is needed is a greater transfer of capital to stimulate the non-state sector (to call it “private” is a bit disingenuous) and foster an “entrepreneur” generation is making a lot of noise these days again. Apparently, 45 years of back-and-forth economic liberalization, Castro-Communist style, is not enough to convince the intransigents dead set on having Americans invest in Cuban state and concessionary capitalism. History has gone unnoticed by some.
In 1978, Decree-Law No. 14 made space for self-employment (“cuentapropismo”) in Cuba. The Business Improvement or Perfection (“Perfeccionamiento Empresarial”) project, the scheme to covert soldiers into businessmen in state-owned enterprises (SOE), began in 1987. The fall of Soviet communism witnessed a barrage of liberalized private-state foreign investment arrangements. In the 1990s, Cuban military and non-military personnel were sent overseas to receive hotel management, accounting, and technological training. Cuba was more dollarized than most Latin American countries for certain periods.
The transfer of the dictatorial helm of power from Fidel to Raúl Castro ushered in an array of economic reforms. “Raulismo”, as some have coined it, was supposed to bring efficiency and a spreading of wealth among Cubans while retaining the socialist Leninist state. While in no way comparable to a free-enterprise, competitive capitalist system, the Raulist reforms were big by Cuban communist standards. However, given the total absence of the rule of law, the capriciousness of its ideological primacy, and the instrumentalization of Cuban SOE’s by the power elite, a powerful oligarchic class has surged. This minute portion of the population has been the only beneficiary of communist Cuba’s 45-year journey through Marxist state capitalism (not an oxymoron).
There has been an ongoing shift that has deepened since Raulismo’s socio-economic modifications became Cuban law. Cuba is transitioning into a kleptocracy. It is becoming more full-bodied with the passage of time. We are witnessing a tropical Putin-style evolution with Cuban socialist characteristics. Those that advocate investing in Cuba’s current business realm, willfully or benignly, will only benefit the corrupt oligarchic few. The Cuban problem is a political and ethical one. It is of a structural nature. Only a full throttled systemic change can bring better days for Cuba. Anything less will only add to the abject material and spiritual impoverishment of Cubans.
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🖋️Author Julio M. Shiling
🖋️Author Julio M. Shiling
Julio M. Shiling is a political scientist, writer, columnist, lecturer, media commentator, and director of Patria de Martí and The CubanAmerican Voice. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science from Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Florida. He is a member of The American Political Science Association and The PEN Club (Cuban Writers in Exile Chapter).