How Much Has Cuba's Regime Cost the World?

Monday, February 9, 2015
By author and journalist, Carlos Alberto Montaner:

How much has the Cuban revolution cost the world?

Raúl Castro has handed Barack Obama a set of conditions to reestablish diplomatic relations. One of them is to receive compensation for the damages caused by the commercial embargo.

How much are the damages? According to the punctilious economists in the Cuban government, the figure is exactly 116 billion 860 million dollars. I have no idea how they arrived at that monstrous figure, but let's accept it as accurate for the purposes of this column.

Naturally, that leads us to an inevitable question: How much have the incompetence and the interference of the Cuban revolution cost the world? After all, Cuba's claim carries an implicit acknowledgment that there exist rights of property, lost profits, and punitive damages against those who violate those rights or harm innocent victims.

Let me jot some hurried notes.

First, of course, are the ill-treated Cubans. In 1959, Cuba had a population of 6 million 500. In addition to 1.8 million dwellings, there were 38,384 factories, 65,872 businesses, and 150,958 agricultural establishments. All were seized by the government without real compensation, provoking the sudden impoverishment of Cuban society.

What does that plunder amount to? The State probably owes the Cuban people 30 times what Raúl Castro demands from Obama today. They went from the first ranks of development in Latin America to the last ones.

United States. The Americans, very conservatively, set a $7 billion assessment on the properties that were confiscated on the island. Their bill doesn't include (among other forgotten items) the enormous cost of integrating 2 million Cuban refugees in the United States (20 percent of the island's population), or the damages caused by the thousands of criminals deliberately removed from Cuban jails and sent to the U.S. during the Mariel exodus in 1980.

Nor does it take into account the U.S. copyrights on books, music, movies, television, medicine, computer programs and objects of every kind copied or utilized limitlessly by the Cubans. An astronomical figure. They should add them up.

Spain. "Society 1898," established in Madrid to protect the interests of Spaniards who were hard hit on the island -- they owned much of the retail trade in Cuba -- says that the 3,000 Spanish families it has managed to locate are owed about $8 billion in today's U.S. currency.

The Soviet Union. According to Russian economist Irina Zorina, the subsidies to Cuba, not counting the massive donations of arms, exceeded $100 billion. In summer of 2014, Vladimir Putin forgave Cuba 90 percent of an irrecoverable debt of $35 billion that Cuba acknowledged to the Paris Club that it received from Russia. The remaining 10 percent, which Russia won't get back either, would hypothetically be invested in the island.

Venezuela. Economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago estimates the value of the Venezuelan subsidy at some $13 billion a year. Ernesto Hernández-Catá, another great professional, puts it at $7 billion. Either way, a humongous figure that explains, among other reasons, the magnitude of the Venezuelan disaster.

Argentina. The original $2.4 billion debt contracted in the 1970s remains unpaid and today exceeds $11 billion.

Japan. Cuba owed the Japanese $1.4 billion. They forgave 80 percent of the debt and postponed payment on the remaining 20 percent for 20 years. Naturally, they canceled all the Cubans' lines of credit.

Mexico. Did more or less the same as Japan. Cuba owed Mexico $487 million; the Mexican government forgave $341 million and postponed payment on the remainder for 10 years.

And now, let us partially approach interference, but with more questions than answers, because -- as far as I know -- nobody has yet put figures on the cost of Cuban meddling into the internal affairs of other countries.

What was the cost to Venezuela of the landing of Cuban guerrillas in the 1960s and the Castro brothers' support to the Venezuelan guerrillas and terrorists for more than a decade? What is the cost of the harebrained advisory that has plunged Venezuela into ruin?

What was the cost to Bolivia of the attempt by Che Guevara and Cuban gunmen to overthrow that country's government?

What was the cost to Chile of the radicalization of the government of Salvador Allende, motivated mostly by the presence in that country of Cuba's special troops and by Havana's suicidal advice?

What was the cost to Central America -- in human lives and economic resources -- of Cuba's creation of and support for guerrillas in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua? (Nicaragua still has not regained the indices of economic development that it had in 1979, the year of the Sandinist victory.)

What was the cost to Colombia of Cuba's links to the National Liberation Army (ELN), Jaime Bateman's M-19, and the FARC?

How much did the Argentines spend fighting the People's Guerrilla Army, organized by Cuba and led by Jorge Ricardo Masetti, as proved by journalist/historian Juan Bautista Yofre in his book "It Was Cuba"? Or the mindless attack on the La Tablada barracks, with Cuban weapons, during the administration of Raúl Alfonsín?

Why go on? The small island of Cuba, led by a madman who, like others, thought he was Napoleon Bonaparte but only tried to be him and devoted all his life to be him, has been a catastrophe, not only for the Cubans but also for half the world. A catastrophe that has cost everyone a huge amount of money.