What NYT Doesn't Say About "Private Enterprise" in Cuba

Thursday, March 6, 2014
This week, The New York Times ran a story about Cuban exiles providing humanitarian relief to their homeland.

Apparently, the NYT has been unaware that Cuban-Americans have always been the main source of humanitarian relief to the island. They may also be surprised to find out that the U.S. provides more humanitarian aid to Cuba than the rest of the world combined.

To that end, U.S. sanctions have always had humanitarian exemptions. With one important caveat -- to ensure such aid is not funneled through the Castro regime.

And there's good reason for this.

In recent examples, pursuant to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, we saw how foreign aid supplies ended up in the regime's hard-currency stores and tourism facilities. Also, how a Cuban independent journalist was imprisoned, pursuant to discovering medical aid to fight a cholera outbreak was being kept at Havana's airport, rather than being distributed.

But then, in a neat trick, the NYT story tries to confabulate business support with humanitarian relief.

It romanticizes a program called, Cuba Emperende, which through the Catholic Church (whose senior leadership has been supportive of the current dictatorship), trains Cuban entrepreneurs.

First and foremost, Cubans don't need help being entrepreneurial. It's in our DNA. All Cubans need is freedom and a rule of law -- and they overwhelmingly tend to succeed.  This has been proven generation-after-generation in the U.S. and any democratic country throughout the world where Cubans have established themselves.

More pertinently, it's disingenuous to talk about "private enterprise" or "small business" in Cuba, for both of these terms imply private ownership. And unfortunately, private ownership is illegal in Cuba. Thus, Cuba Emprende may be training entrepreneurs in Cuba, but their enterprises are owned by the Castro regime.

For example, the "paladar" featured in the NYT story is run on a self-employment license. That means, the licensee has permission to run a small restaurant and keep some of the earnings, but the licensee has no ownership rights -- intellectual or tangible -- over the "paladar." Moreover, they have no legal recourse.

Sure, the licensee may be making a bit more money than working at the government factory, but it is still working for the owner and landlord -- the Castro brothers.  And at their whim, as we've seen time and again, the license and "paladar" is no more.

Of course, the most successful "paladares" are fairly safe, as they tend to have the "protection" of a senior military or intelligence official.

A State Department cable -- released by Wikileaks -- once noted:

"A USINT officer outside the XXXXXX paladar XXXXXX spotted the supposedly 'self-employed' owner drive up in a car with Ministry of the Interior (MININT) plates. A one-table paladar in the Santa Fe neighborhood (known as the 'fish paladar') reportedly enjoys an elite clientele - Raul Castro."

And recently, another Cuban independent journalist revealed how the true "owner" of Havana's chic (and supposedly "private") Star Bien restaurant was the son of Castro's repressive Minister of the Interior, General Abelardo Colome Ibarra.

(Notice how these things never tend to be discovered by foreign investigative journalists?)

So when Cuba Emprende (not surprisingly, run by Carlos Saladrigas and Co.) states that it is "interested only in incubating small businesses, in line with the government’s stated economic policy" -- it is cause for great skepticism.

It's also reason why the current safeguards in U.S. law remain in place -- and be enforced.

For the goal should not be training, financing and managing businesses (unwittingly or not) for the Castro brothers.