Cubans going hungry so tourists can eat well?
We will celebrate this week the second anniversary of President Obama's new approach toward Cuba. It was full of "hope and change," but it's more hopeless, and Cuba has not changed.
This is what we can say about the last 24 months:
First, the U.S. has an embassy in Havana with a picture of Che nearby.
Second, the Tampa Bay Rays played an exhibition game last March.
Third, life is arguably worse today for dissidents.
Fourth, and most critical, the tourists are eating all the food!
This is a fascinating report from The New York Times:
The changes in Cuba in recent years have often hinted at a new era of possibilities: a slowly opening economy, warming relations with the United States after decades of isolation, a flood of tourists meant to lift the fortunes of Cubans long marooned on the outskirts of modern prosperity.
But the record arrival of nearly 3.5 million visitors to Cuba last year has caused a surging demand for food, causing ripple effects that are upsetting the very promise of Fidel Castro's Cuba.
Tourists are quite literally eating Cuba's lunch. Thanks in part to the United States embargo, but also to poor planning by the island's government, goods that Cubans have long relied on are going to well-heeled tourists and the hundreds of private restaurants that cater to them, leading to soaring prices and empty shelves.
Without supplies to match the increased appetite, some foods have become so expensive that even basic staples are becoming unaffordable for regular Cubans.
"The private tourism industry is in direct competition for good supplies with the general population," said Richard Feinberg, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, and specialist on the Cuban economy. "There are a lot of unanticipated consequences and distortions."
What can we say about this surprising development?
I would add that the reference to the embargo is nonsense. It's Cuba's economic policies, not the embargo, that have turned farms unproductive and inefficient. I am still amazed that there are reporters anywhere who blame the embargo for anything.
Furthermore, this just once again shows the fraud of so-called Cuban equality. Can you name a country on Earth that feeds its tourists before its own citizens? Maybe North Korea, but that's about it. This is Castro Inc. feeding itself with tourist dollars and pushing down on Cubans again. These tourists are staying in joint venture hotels run by the Cuban military for the benefit of the Castro family and its palace guard.
The Obama approach is two years old, and the bottom line is this: tourists well fed, but Cubans hungry and facing shortages again.