Michael Diven, my local representative in the Pennsylvania legislature, raised a few eyebrows around town with his idea of a trip to Cuba to check out the market for the state’s farm products and pharmaceuticals.
“Odd” is how Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Brad Bumsted put it on Jan. 20: “There’s nothing wrong with what Michael Diven is trying to do. It’s certainly legal. But during my two-and-a-half decades as a reporter in Pennsylvania, few things have struck me as being this odd.”
On the same day, Jake Haulk, president of the conservative Allegheny Institute for Public Policy in Pittsburgh, pointed out in a newspaper commentary that it’s anti- entrepreneurial collectivism, not the U.s. embargo, that has laid waste to the Cuban economy: “What Cuba actually needs is to abandon its Stalinist command economy that keeps out all but a trickle of foreign investment and prevents the natural, entrepreneurial, growth-oriented economic climate that existed pre-Castro from returning.”
Well, I agree with all three. I think Diven should go; I know it’s odd; and it’s true that Stalin was a blockhead when it came to economics.
And as for tossing Cuba’s Stalinism on the ash heap of history, I suspect that U.S. trade restrictions have had the effect of propping up Fidel Castro’s regime, providing his loudspeakers with the phony excuse that it’s the U.S. embargo, not the unworkability of communism, that’s keep- ing his regime from delivering the goods.
Here’s a list of helpful travel hints for Rep. Diven:
• Don’t flash around big wads of cash. “Unduly wealthy” individuals can have their money confiscated, either legally
by the Cuban government or on the street by freelancers.
• Watch out for the Soviet-trained Cuban secret police. “Cuban authorities,” warns Human Rights Watch, “continue to treat as criminal offenses nonviolent activities such as meeting to discuss the economy or elections.” Run-of-the- mill “contempt for authority” (desacato), for instance, can bring three to five years in jail.
• Comply with the”duty to denounce” (el deber de denunciar). If my Spanish is right, it’s “el arbusto es malo hombre” (Bush is a bad man). Practice up.
• Forget about bringing cigars back. At the max, it’s ten years and $50,000; at the light end, confiscation by U.S. Customs.
• It’s” “Donde esta la cerveza?” (“Where’s the beer?”).
• And remember the tips by Michael McGuire, associate travel editor at the Chicago Tribune: “Allow extra time for finding your way. Maps are scarce.”
“Avoid night driving.” Lights are scarce. “Scan the road for potholes.” Asphalt is scarce. “Fill up your tank at every opportunity.” Gas is scarce. “Carry with you basic medicines, such as aspirin.” Pills are scarce. “Take all supplementary liability insurance available.” Smooth sailing is scarce.
U.S. trade restrictions have propped up Castro’s regime, providing him with the excuse that it’s the U.S. embargo, not the unworkability of communism, that’s keeping his regime from delivering the goods.
“Pick up all the Cubans you can at bus stops and along the highway.” Cars and buses are scarce. “Take cigarettes and soap – Cubans love to receive gifts.” Marlboros and Dial are scarce.
And don’t make scary faces at the wrong people.
“Dangerousness” brings up to ten years – no crime necessaty, just jail for looking like a hazard.