Re: LATIN AMERICA: Grenada, Latin American education and Cuba after Fidel

Bill Ratliff writes: On Grenada, there undoubtedly were some in Grenada who opposed the US invasion, I just did not find them. I think, however, that they would have told me. Since Tim Ashby was there at the time, he would know the popular reaction far better than I. His note passed mine in the atmosphere. He mentions a military aspect that inclined us to invade, which I only alluded to.

On the Oppenheimer column on Latin American education, which I sent in and you posted, one major point Oppenheimer and those he quotes totally miss is in many ways the most important point of all in explaining fundamental problems in Latin America. LA countries tend to put lots and lots of money into cheap or free university education which, because their primary and secondary education is so bad, and the vast majority of the youngsters get miserable training, goes disproportionately to the kids of the elite, as so very, very much there goes to the elites. Reforming Asian countries put a lot more money into primary and secondary education, and they come out way ahead of Latin Americans in the quality of their education, the training of their people to cope in the modern world, in development prospects generally. I explain why I think reforming Asians are so much more successful in my Hoover Institution Policy Study entitled: Doing it Wrong and Doing it Right: Education in Latin America and Asia

I suggest that WAISers look at a just published book by Alvaro Vargas Llosa, son of the novelist and sometime political activist Mario Vargas Llosa, entitled Liberty for Latin America. AVL, himself a journalist, analyst (co-author of The Manual of the Perfect Latin American Idiot), and  sometime political activist is, in US political terms, a libertarian. I think he is dead on, though his message will not be well accepted by so many here and in Latin America, alas precisely the ones who are likely to wittingly or unwittingly keep Latin America on the fringes of the modern world.

I have criticized Castro in print for decades, but I think a US military invasion of Cuba would be a terrible, terrible mistake. But I think the chances are good that when Fidel finally leaves, Raul (if he is still alive, he was in China last week) and others will want to stay in Cuba, not just retire abroad on their savings, though I wish they would. They are more likely to look toward the Chinese "survival strategy," as some in the Bush administration put it. I attach a draft op-ed I have just sent out on the subject. Anyone who wants to look at the prospects more seriously can see my study done for the University of Miami Cuba Transition Project. I think this should get it:

By William Ratliff

  What will happen in Cuba after Fidel? Everyone who cares a tobacco leaf about the island wants to know. Raul, the designated successor, just back from China (and not for the first time) knows best, but he isn’t talking in public.  Some of the Castro brothers’ former top aides are talking, however, and they and logic suggest that Cuba will in many ways turn to important aspects of the Chinese reform experience. This is the main “survival strategy” that so panics the Bush Administration and many Cuban-Americans. Underlying any future policy is recognition that the stagnant wreck that is the Cuban economy today must be made to work. Fidel has always been essentially a Maoist in his determination to maintain personal power at all costs and to prevent the consummate evils of economic competition (the market) from soiling the spirits of Cuba’s people.   The result is squalor today that is similar to the poverty Mao caused in China a quarter century ago, though Cuba has had less fanaticism and violence mixed in. The Cuban people have tolerated this poverty because it is Fidel’s legacy and the Maximum Leader is still much revered, even by many who now want to move on.  But there is no Fidel Substitute and his successors know they must quickly create in large part by simply allowingan economy that will raise people’s living standards.
 As soon as Mao died, Deng Xiaoping turned to economic pragmatism, and Cuba’s post-Fidel leaders will almost certainly do the same. But why look to China? Alcibiades Hidalgo, at one time Raul’s top aide and a former Cuban UN ambassador, told me the younger Castro “has sympathized for many years with change in the Chinese style, that is, capitalism or something like it in the economy but a single party and repression of politics.” Former Cuban intelligence official Domingo Amuchastegui added that once Fidel is gone, many aspects of the Chinese experience “will most probably be implemented in Cuba rather quickly.” According to Amuchastegui, after Raul’s 1997 visit to China, the chief aide to Zhu Rongji, a major architect of China’s reforms, visited Cuba at Raul’s request, where he “lectured hundreds of Cuban executives and leaders, causing a tremendous impact.”
What are some of the particular areas of interest?
·Thinking. As several pro-Castro Cuba specialists in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences have told me, the first and main thing Cuban leaders and the people need to do is jettison stifling egalitarianism and turn instead to promoting initiative, market productivity and growth.
·Markets. Chinese reforms have ranged from the wholesale transformation of some institutions and practices to the encouragement of private shops and industries of all sizes. The reforms have raised the living standards of most Chinese.
·Military. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army long played a leading role in economic reforms, and the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces are already doing that in Cuba, the one Chinese example Fidel has permitted, for his own reasons .
·Politics I. The communist party has maintained control in China, calling itself socialist while it carries out largely market reforms. Raul could try to create a system of orderly political succession within the closed upper level of the party (or military), as Deng did in China.
·Politics II. At a lower political level, it is significant that on his trip to China in mid-April, Raul spent a lot of time looking into what the Cuban paper Granma called “the workings of parliamentary institutions and local government,” that is the largely ceremonial “representative” political concessions China adopted decades ago under Mao, but which have taken on more substance in recent years.
·Exiles. Overseas Chinese played a critical role in supporting China’s economic reforms, and overseas Cubans could do the same, though this would require Cuban pragmatism equal to Chinese, which may be asking too much. Besides, unlike China, Cuba will have many non-exile sources of funding as soon as serious reforms begin.

In the broadest sense learning from China’s experiences simply means beginning to promote primarily export-oriented, market-style domestic economic reforms by means of programs and institutions that are guided by a largely authoritarian government that continues to proclaim itself socialist.
     It is indeed a “survival strategy,” but it will certainly raise the living standards of the Cuban people and perhaps in time result in significant political change as well.

William Ratliff is a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was in Cuba during the arrests, trials and imprisonments of 2003 and wrote China’s “Lessons” for Cuba’s Transition? for the University of Miami’s Cuba Transition Project.   RH: Bill strides the world like a colossus, with one foot in China, the other in Latin America.  He is amply qualified to lead the Chiu¡nese and Latin American sectors of our "Learning History" project.

Tim Ashby responds: The only people on Grenada who openly opposed the US Recue Mission were Bernard Coard, "General" Hudson Austen and their Leninist coterie who murdered Bishop and other PRG officials.  I understand that the Soviet bloc personnel on Grenada at the time were as surprised by Coard's coup d'etat as the rest of the world was, and I doubt that it was instigated by the Kremlin or by Castro's DGI.
As usual, I agree with Bill Ratliff on most of his Cuban analysis.  One major difference between Cuba and China is that private property ownership is illegal in the PRC, while 80-90% of residences are privately owned in Cuba (with what I believe is valid legal title).  While much of the land is owned by the state, an exception was made for around 225,000 small rural farmers (guajiros), who own about 20% of Cuba's prime agricultural and.  As mentioned in an earlier posting, this group is very loyal to the revolution because they credit it for taking land from the old estate owners and redistributing it to them.  The Cuban government plans to distribute ("privatize"?) farmland to another 50,000-100,000 small farmers.  In contrast, China's peasants have no real land tenure rights and are often dispossed of their holdings by corrupt government officials and the new class of oligarchs.  This has caused widespread social unrest, and some Chinese officials fear it could lead to another revolution unless significant land reform is implemented.

RH: "Private property ownership is illegal in the PRC"?. Then who owns all the new buildings going up, especially in Shanghai?

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: June 10, 2005