A few days ago in Caracas, a profound irony of the economic parasitism of Raúl Castro's regime and its abuse of Cuban exiles' generosity was recognized.
During a televised speech by Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela's Tourism Minister Ali Padrón, without dissimulating his satisfaction much, and in a mocking tone, admitted that Venezuela's premier travel location, the island of Isla Margarita, has attracted waves of Cubans travelling from Cuba for "high-end tourism" stays, where they go shopping and spend "3,000, 4,000 or 5,000 dollars in four days," he said.
Padrón asserted that this type of tourism "is going to boost the economy of the Estado Falcón" (the region of the country), while narcodictator Nicolás Maduro celebrated the "good news" offered by his minister, who remarked on the success of the biweekly flights operated by the Venezuelan airline Estelar, which has been flying between Cuba and Isla Margarita since mid-August.
The Maduro dictatorship only asks interested Cubans to buy a Venezuelan tourism card, which costs just 30 euros, in cash, and is valid for 30 days.
The price of this card (which, in practice is tantamount to a visa) is not included in the prices of the packages, with three nights costing some $775, and a week, $870, including round-trip airfare, accommodations, and transfers to hotels and a mall, as well as a "dining plan" including "breakfast and dinner." Everything at their fingertips and ultra-cheap.
The Venezuelan minister announced that these tourism packages for Cubans "in the coming weeks, will also be running from Havana to Punto Fijo," in the Paraguaná Peninsula. Maduro quickly clarified: "And Punto Fijo is closer to Cuba." Indeed, it is: about 700 kilometers closer, and just 87 minutes from Cuba by plane.
But, where do those $5,000 spent on Isla Margarita come from?
Obviously, this is a well-planned scheme devised between Caracas and Havana, from which both dictatorships benefit at the expense of Cuban exiles, who pick up the tab.
In this way the Cuban tyranny manages to alleviate mounting social and political pressure by expanding the importation of products to the island, thereby averting famine and the economy's absolute collapse.
As the regime is unable to supply the Cuban market, it facilitates these trips to the Mercado de los Conejeros (market) and others on the Isla Margarita, which had been ailing, so that Cubans can buy essential products there and then sell them back in Cuba. It also facilitates the emigration of disgruntled Cubans to the United States, from which they will later send dollars to their relatives on the island.
Maduro's narcostate, meanwhile, receives easy money, as, despite its work and efforts, it has not managed to attract Cuban immigrants. But, where does the bulk of that $3,000 to $5,000 that those Cuban "tourists" in Venezuela spend in the blink of an eye come from? Even the dollars that the regime now sells at the CADECAs, for 123 pesos, come mostly, of course, from the "Empire."
At the same time, Isla Margarita receives not only covert merchants, "mules", and legal freelancers, but also relatives and friends of the millionaire mafia that rules Cuba and that owns small businesses on the island, who travel not just to Venezuela, but to other countries in the region as well.
What happens is that, through this "high-end tourism of peddlers", as it might be called, ironically, unwitting Cuban emigrants end up financing the Venezuelan narcodictatorship. Who could have foreseen that.
The regime exploits family ties between Cubans
What is disgraceful is that Raúl's dictatorship denies the importance of the absolutely indispensable funds that reach the country from the United States (without which Castroism would no longer exist), and refuses to answer this key question: what would be the fate of the Cuban economy, and Cubans, today without the billions of dollars in cash, packages of medicines and consumer items of all kinds that their countrymen generously send, or carry directly in their pockets, from the United States and the rest of the world?
Between 2010 and 2020 alone Cuban exiles sent 57.269 billion dollars to their homeland, of which 51.543 billion (90%) was sent from the United States. This figure includes cash remittances worth $29.948 billion and $27.321 billion in goods, according to a study conducted by The Havana Consulting Group, which is three times Cuba's total exports of goods in that decade.
Without that money, many on the island would be starving, and more than a few would have died of starvation or curable diseases. Others would be severely malnourished, hungry, chronically ill, or wearing rags —and this is not a journalistic metaphor—. Doing just a little math suffices for one to get an idea of what would have happened.
"We don't need you..." but we depend on your $$$
Without the money sent to Cuba by those same "worms" (gusanos) and "scum" (escoria) that Fidel Castro scorned, shouting "let them go, we don't want them, we don't need them," the dictatorship itself would have succumbed after the death of Uncle Sacha, its Soviet sugar daddy.
But, ever devious and cunning, the "Leader" (Führer, in German), when the money that flowed like a heavenly spring from Moscow dried up, legalized the circulation of the dollar. The result was that remittances boomed and Cubans returned from the US like Santa Clauses bearing green bills and gifts for their families and their closest friends and neighbors.
Both Castro brothers acted like fleas that, when the dog dies, look for another, and continue to suck its blood. If there is one thing that reveals the Castro dictatorship's shamelessness, it is how it blackmails and exploits family and emotional ties between Cubans for its own benefit, taking cynical advantage of the noblest and most altruistic feelings of Cubans, as a nation, extorting them with a subliminal message: "either send money, medicine and merchandise, or your relatives here will suffer, or they may even die."
Never in history has a Western people been so dependent on gifts sent from abroad by family and friends.
Surprisingly, Cuban emigrants now end up bolstering Maduro
The economic crisis in Cuba is now so devastating, however, that the remittances are not enough for people to buy enough food, toiletries, medicines or anything else. There's not even enough money to stock store shelves.
This is why dollars and euros provided by Cuban emigrants are ending up in other countries, including Venezuela (and Panama, Guyana, Nicaragua, Mexico and even Russia), where people are shopping at low prices, returning to Cuba, and selling at higher ones, thereby supplying the black market, the only one that works on the island.
It is not a question of being against or in favor of sending money to Cuba, which is a delicate matter that touches on sensitive humanistic, family, ethical, moral, and religious considerations; personal generosity, etc. No one wants a relative on the island to go hungry or die due to a lack of medicine.
In my view, the important thing here is to point to three things: 1) the appalling level of contempt that Raúl "The Cruel" and the mafia that maintains him in power feel for their compatriots; 2) the fact that the Cuban economy is teetering on the verge of collapse, as it is now unable even to benefit from all the money coming in from abroad, 90% from the United States, because it cannot even manage to stock the foreign exchange stores at which it was obtaining profits of up to 700% on food and essential products that the country is unable to produce.
And the third is that, through no design of their own, and to their surprise and disgust, Cuban exiles are inadvertently helping to finance Maduro's narcoregime. In short, these are the kinds of aberrations inherent to Castroism in its final throes.