The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Tag: Cuba

Cuba’s Big Currency Mistake

So, there are some protests in Cuba. I don’t know how much they amount to; I’m no Cuba expert.

But I do know that Cuba made a huge mistake when they ended their dual currency system at the beginning of the year.

Dual currency systems designate one currency for purchasing internal goods and services, and another for external goods. Their purpose is to make sure that a country doesn’t spend more money on external goods than it is earning from exports of goods and services.

When there’s way more demand for foreign goods than there are export earnings, if you allow people to just buy whatever they want in a single currency system, your single currency collapses, leading to inflation or hyper-inflation.

There’s a reason Cuba ran a dual currency system before, and while getting rid of it allowed Cubans to buy more foreign goods to start, it has also contributed (along with Covid and US sanctions) to hyperinflation:

The result of dollarization, scarcity, and devaluation: Prices have skyrocketed and inflation will likely come in at a minimum of 500 percent, and as much as 900 percent this year, according to Pavel Vidal, a former Cuban central bank economist who teaches at Colombia’s Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali.

Hyper-inflation destroys regimes.

Cuba is caught in a trap; they don’t have enough of anything, including food. Their primary ally, Venezuela, can no longer help (also being caught in hyper-inflation). Letting Cubans buy directly in dollars and getting rid of caps on imports must have seemed like a way out.

But shortages are shortages: Moderate inflation helps ease them, hyper-inflation simply imposes them on a different group of people -— those who can’t get foreign currency, a.k.a., US dollars.

Were I advising Cuba, I would suggest going back to the dual currency regime. Long lines and evenly-distributed shortages are tolerated much better than hyper-inflation-induced shortages because they are far more fair and predictable.

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Castro’s Legacy

Castro has died at age 90.

Despite the squeals, the bottom line for Castro is that he improved the lives for the vast majority of Cubans. Even after Soviet aid was cut off, Cuba under Castro was able to recover. Cuba, like all nations, suppresses some political dissent, but it has a far smaller percentage of people imprisoned than the US, and those prisoners are treated far better than US prisoners. Human welfare statistics are high, including lifespan, infant mortality, education, and so on.

One can qualify Cuba’s success, but it is, overall, a success–especially when compared to most Latin and South American countries.

As for Castro himself, he outlived pretty much all his enemies and many of their children, and died in bed. Can’t ask for much more than that as a revolutionary leader.

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The Venezuela edition of “imports will kill’ya”

So, the New York Times has an article on how Venezuelan stores are running out of basic goods, because they import so much, and with the drop in oil prices, they don’t have enough hard currency to buy what they need.

Repeat after me for the 100th time, “all resource booms end.”

All of them.  Always.  Gold, oil, rubber: it always ends.  Period.  The question is only when.

Back around 2004, myself and Stirling pointed on the late (and defunct) BOP News that Chavez was screwing up his revolution.  That’s not a way of saying I disapprove of his goals, I very much agree with what he was doing in general terms. But in specific, he was not making his country independent of high oil prices.

What a country needs it must either be able to produce, or have product it knows it can sell to someone who can produce what it needs, and who is a reliable partner. (No Western country is a reliable partner to an actual left wing revolutionary government.)


If you do not, things may go well for a long time, but you are ALWAYS vulnerable to the hegemonic economic state and its allies.  Right now that’s the West.  For a long time, if the West were jerks to you, you could run to the USSR, but right now there is no complete replacement, though China, as leader of the BRICS, is coming on strong.

Note that when the USSR fell, Russian support for Cuba almost entirely went away.

It was a huge shock, but Cuba survived it.

Chavez was a great friend of Castro’s, but he did not learn from Castro.  He did not figure out how his country could survive being cut off from what amounted to essentially it’s only source of support (in his case, oil sales).

Now Venezuelans pay the price.

Learn the lesson.

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