The United States, along with knotting diplomatic ties, is urging the Cuban government to allow international transplants to bring big business onto the island. With capitalist ideals poised to leap into Havana like their great-grandfathers in the early twentieth century, corporation heads must remember to prioritize the destitute populations of Cuba to ensure justice flourishes alongside modernity.
Not four hours from the capital, home to some of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the nation, the small ex-industrial town of Placetas struggles to tread water. Elderly women and newborns live in the converted slave barracks at the site of what used to be a massive sugarcane factory that provided jobs and income to the town before it shut down. With no chance of mobility and a pittance from the central government, the poverty-stricken population of Cuba cannot hope to escape the cycle of poverty. Now, with a system designed to funnel large sums of money to a small percentage of privileged people, the income gap in Cuba could potentially increase. If the impoverished Cubans lose any more footing, they may literally starve. Facing the complicated mixture of politics and economics of a nation stuck in the mid-century, the impoverished cannot afford to bet on funds to trickle down to them. These families are hard working, capable and resilient, but lack the means to improve their situations as Americans and Europeans with the same qualities.
Capitalism has its virtues: the innovation and competition that results from a free market have allowed for wonderful, even life-saving, technology and systems. However, any economic ideology has its pitfalls. For Cuba, those pitfalls may be too deep to escape. If the nation permits foreign businesses to begin monopolizing, the money will certainly be channeled away from the country, leaving it bare. While government officials may be able to begin successful businesses because of their class status, the poor will be left without access to the resources for mobility. Realistically, a multitude of scenarios will prove incorrect, and one will emerge, whether rejuvenating or devastating to the local economy. Yet it will take the best efforts of many nations to keep corporations in check, break up trusts and ensure that Cuban interests come before raising GDP.
The world still awaits Cuba’s emergence from its temporally paused phase. While the rest of the globe continued to grow and change between the mid twentieth century and now, the island remained in a paralysis of technology and culture. Now that Castro has opened Cuba’s gates to the United States, the country may be one of the last frontiers on Earth — an important thing to remember for Americans when considering the mistakes of the past.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 28 print edition. Email Connor Borden at [email protected]