The state of Cuba

My friend Maša has recently visited Cuba. Here is my translation of part of her blog post where she describes some of her impressions:
The first surprises began soon after landing. When one drives onto Autopisto Nacional - the only and the largest highway on the island - one begins to seriously question how many accidents they have. The road has enooormous holes and if you don't know the road, it can probably straight out destroy your tires rather than just puncture them. Left and right there's no safety fence, there's no centerline, no roadsigns or signposts, while on the road there are ox wagons, groups of cyclists training, cyclists and roadside vendors selling various things, trying to attract a driver's attention.

Despite all of the above, we did not see a single accident in three weeks, and we traveled almost 2000 km. [denis: Cuba apparently had 1,000 fatalities in 2001 and about 172,500 cars in 1998, for about 0.5% fatalities per year per car. The U.S. has about 40,000 fatalities per year and about 250 million cars, for about 0.016% fatalities per year per car. Cuban cars are more than 30 times as deadly. It is doubtful that they are driven 30 times as much.] The cars are dilapidated, they hardly even stay in one piece, while people drive over that wreck of a road much faster than we would (while of course braking before holes), however I didn't see anyone overtaking brazenly, and I didn't see anyone cut off another driver. One wonders how much help road signs, highways and airbags are, when people [in Slovenia] drive so damn recklessly. [denis: Slovenia has modern European roads, modern cars, about 300 road fatalities per year and about 1,000,000 cars, for a fatality rate of 0.03% per year per car, which makes a Slovenian car about twice as dangerous as a U.S. car, but 15 times less dangerous than a Cuban car. Figures would change in some direction when accounting for the number of miles driven.]

I have come to detest socialism much more than before, but I'm also angry at the arrogant Americans. Yeah, great... every month, each Cuban gets one paltry packet of rice, oil, salt, and so on (and women now EVEN get 10 hygienic pads), health care is free, schools also. But what help is that, when they take back most of everything people earn, and the remainder is nowhere near enough to live normally. And then doctors work as waiters and professors work as taxi drivers, because only working in tourism can make life bearable. Until work is not sufficiently rewarded, people simply won't work more and better - and that goes for you as well, dear voracious Slovenia!

If you are seen in public with a tourist and you have a police record from before (which you can probably get just by sneezing too loud), you go to jail. Committees for revolutionary defense serve to snitch on people and god help if you get on your neighbor's wrong side and he reports you for talking against the revolution. You need the state's permission to set sail to the sea, so that you might not by chance escape from this heavenly political system. To work out papers for a regular trip out of the country, you need 4 months and at least some 4 visits to Havana (and the costs of traveling there aren't small). You practically cannot buy a car unless you're at the trough or you work in a government company. And then the poor people, who don't have much to begin with, are being sold cathode ray TVs at about the same price as you can buy an 8" larger LCD in Slovenia. If that's not screwing people, I don't know what it is.
Maša goes on to argue against American economic sanctions against Cuba, which policy indeed seems unreasonably harsh and inequitable until you realize that Americans owned much of Cuba and were expropriated in the glorious revolucion. The economic sanctions may still seem harsh, and it definitely doesn't help Cubans, but when a nation expropriates your citizens, one could argue the justification.

So there you have it, Cuba as observed by a European tourist in late 2008.


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