Wednesday, June 29, 2005

This country is not Cuba

From Cuba.Net:

Authorities close clandestine soft-drink factory

SANTA CLARA, Cuba - June 23 (Ramón González Abreu, Cubanacán Press / - Special police forces here raided a clandestine soft-drink factory operating out of a home in the El Condado neighborhood, arrested the occupants and seized products and equipment.

Forces of the Interior Ministry Special Brigades found cases of soft drinks, a bottle-filling machine, carbonation equipment and other tools.

The occupants were charged with possession of equipment in pursuit of an illegal economic activity, but they claimed the equipment was all lawfully acquired in hard-currency stores.

Which was found by Eric Umansky:

Ahhh the joys of entrepreneurship in Cuba. Here's what I wrote last year during my trip to the island:

Walk around downtown and there appears to be at least a smattering of private enterprise. There are multiple car rental companies, even seemingly competing fast food joints (El Rapido and Burgui). Some are run by one government ministry, others by another (for example, some car rental companies are overseen by the tourist department; others are overseen by the ministry of transportation), but in the end all the businesses are owned by the state. "It's the Duff Beer economy," says one expat. "It might all look different, but it's all coming from the same spout." 

What a difference from Việt Nam, where private enterprise is observed everywhere - from the stall holders selling phở, through medium-sized companies (some of which I work for) through to big companies like outsourcing supremo TMA Solutions. It's no neoliberal paradise, but there are lots of shops and cafés and motorcycle dealers and whatnot that are not owned by the state

And "hard-currency stores" - trời ơi! Do they really still exist? I've yet to see one here, unless you count duty-free shops as such. My contract(s) state my salary in USD. My employers then pay me the equivalent in đồng, which is used to purchase things. To buy things like foreign TVs and foreign perfume, you visit the same shops as the locals. Paying in hard currency doesn't give you greater variety of goods, and you end up getting ripped off anyway. 

It seems that "old" Communism - the Communism of Brezhnev and Andropov - is still alive in Cuba. I should visit it one day.