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Is Cuba a failed state or not?

DIARIO DE CUBA spoke to three experts on the categorization that the regime does not want to acknowledge, as it would mean accepting that a historical process has failed.

La Habana
Cubans in line in Havana.
Cubans in line in Havana. DIARIO DE CUBA

In the wake of the disaster wrought by Hurricane Ian in western Cuba, the first secretary of the Communist Party in Havana, Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, gave a speech in which he sought to refute the growing perception on social media and outside the country that the regime on the island is a "failed state."

In a triumphant tone lauding the workers at the Electrical Union (UNE), the official stated: "You have been the ones who, through your hard work, in silence, have debunked the fallacy of the 'failed state' that the enemy has constantly tried to sow. Your efforts have shown that we can suffer different situations, but we must always keep our faith in the Revolution, which, since the very beginning, has been on the side of the humble, for the humble, and has forsaken no one."

DIARIO DE CUBA consulted three experts to try to understand what is at stake when it comes to this concept that the regime clearly fears. Can one speak of a "failed state" in reference to the current situation on the island? Is it enough to appeal to "faith in the Revolution" to take for granted the state's ability to solve the multitude of problems the country faces today?
Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a social democrat politician and vice-president of the Council for Democratic Transition in Cuba, and one of Cuba's best known dissidents, addressed the origin of the term.

"The conversation on the subject is interesting, heated. It seems, at times, an anti-Castro adage. It has the authorities irked, those who don't like to read, but the concept is altogether pertinent. Those who first used it, back in 1992, were two authors, Gerald Herman and Steven Ratner, in an article that appeared in issue 89 of Foreign Policy magazine," he recalled.

According to Cuesta Morúa, the concept originated in "academic debates concerning the reality of African countries that simply did not react. It is not a concept to discuss prosperity, but rather to analyze states and their minimum conditions. In this sense, the authors defined it as a situation in which certain states are not able to guarantee their populations basic goods. The concept of a failed state is understood and situated in these extreme situations of the kind facing the Cuban state."

The historian also recognizes that the mention of the term in Cuba raises hackles among the regime’s authorities.

"At a time when the crisis has reached a head and is taking a heavy toll on Cuban society, the perception of a failed state worries them because, in the Cuban case, the state has been everything. It was built on the idea that only the government and its machinery drew legitimacy from meeting the needs, from the most basic to the most sublime, of the Cuban population," he explains.

"And this failed. A state that imposed itself based on the notion that it guaranteed us everything, from the cradle to the grave, finds itself in a situation in which it can only cover the people?s food needs for ten days, it cannot guarantee medical basics for the sick, or provide elementary resources for the education system. This is what qualifies it as a failure."

"In the current debate it takes on more significance for the Cuban case because, worldwide, basic goods fall under security considerations. There is talk of food security, health security, even cultural or identity security when it comes to protecting minorities or sectors facing discrimination. This sheds more light on citizens' defenselessness in Cuba, a country that has also eliminated social security for vulnerable categories of the population, such as senior citizens and the very elderly," he notes.
"Isn't it the policy of the Cuban state to eliminate subsidies, when the global debate is now about increasing subsidies for the most destitute? This is an important point when assessing it on failed state scale," he observes.

"What happened is that, in the debate on failed states, a geopolitical vision prevailed, fundamentally American, which considered a failed state one that could not comply with one of its requirements: control over its territory or internal order; in other words,  concepts associated with national security. Conveniently, and ironically, the Cuban Government clings to this narrow American characterization to insist that it is not a failed State. Current thinking on national security already recognizes the links between poverty and security within and beyond borders. But stability is also about what can be put on tables," he stresses.

A bankrupt project

According to Cuban economist Emilio Morales, president of Havana Consulting Group, a diagnosis of the Cuban panorama reveals the reasons justifying use of the term.

"It must be said that the Cuban state does not currently have the capacity to meet the basic needs of the population. The country is in tatters, up to its neck in debt to the Paris Club and other creditors, including its political allies China, Russia and Venezuela. It has lost its lines of credit due to its delinquency with its creditors," he recalls.

"The country exports practically nothing, and almost depends on the community of Cuban exiles to survive. In 2021 it exported $1.966 billion and imported $8.933 billion; in other words, the country imports 4.2 times what it exports. The remittances that the country receives are greater than the sum of most of its exportable items, demonstrating that a group of more than two million Cubans has to maintain, with its prosperity in the free and democratic world, a population of 11.2 million people living under the yoke of a dictatorship."

In addition to this, Morales cites an inflationary crisis, with the dollar trading at one dollar for 200CUP on the informal market, plus the 700% devaluation of the peso in just two years; the largest migratory exodus in the history of the country; the scandalous deterioration of the health system, exacerbated by a lack of supplies and medicines; and the government's inability to respond to natural disasters, given that the damage caused by the recent hurricane is compounded by thousands of people who were already waiting for  solutions for their homes after previous years' weather events.

"This situation clearly confirms that the model does not work, that the state does not have the capacity or the financial resources to meet the population's basic needs. This explains the acute shortage of food and medicines in the country at this time, when food can only be bought in dollars, not in the local currency with which the State usually pays workers," he stresses.

"Right now the state does not have the resources to guarantee the electricity needed by industry and homes, so the country is practically paralyzed. As a consequence of this energy breakdown, the population does not have access to many services, including drinking water, given the government's inability to pump it and guarantee the supply."

Morales notes that the people's natural resentment of this state of affairs has led the regime to resort to a policy of terror to silence their numerous protests.

"However, the brutality applied to a defenseless population has not served to quell the peaceful protests by citizens. On the contrary, these have actually increased in recent days. As the protests escalate and the subjugation increases, the people are beginning to respond in other ways to fend off the repressive forces."

"This scenario of chaos that the country is enduring today is nothing more than the result of the Government's dereliction of its obligations and governmental priorities," which is "the result of the transformation of a socialist State into a mafia state in the hands of a small military and family elite that controls the wealth and the business system of the country, its repressive apparatus, and the Government itself, which it uses as a puppet for citizen control. This mafia, which is beholden to no government entity, and controls more than 80% of the country's economy, has devised a financial scheme to steal the country's wealth and export it to tax havens through a complex network of companies that operate in the shadows and that, year after year, bleed Cuba dry, without the bureaucratic government being able to do anything about it."

"Today they cannot conceal a scenario in which the total disconnect between the government and the population is manifest, where the leaders have no empathy for the people; where, in the face of a dire crisis, dictator Raúl Castro is hiding and not showing his face; where the president-designate is spurned and repudiated by the people, denoting that the country is heading towards anarchy in the face of this power vacuum that struggles to sustain itself through terror," he said.

A definitive fall

Cuban economist Rafaela Cruz, who has analyzed the current Cuban crisis on numerous occasions, stresses that, given that "Castroism is today a simple mafia organization, a self-imposed group that violently excludes anyone who disputes its power, an organization with the sole purpose, through force and coercion, of plundering the people," Cuba is a country currently ruled by "a failed mafia: failed in its parasitism, because a good parasite is capable of coexisting with its victim, but Castroism has never known how to milk the cow without killing it."

She explains this with an image: "Castroism is like a man falling from a 63rd floor and, seconds before hitting the concrete below, shouts with fervor: 'Look, I'm flying,' believing that he is in control of the situation, and that the rest of us believe him. Failure in Cuba is a process. It's one of those falls that may seem long, but, once it has begun, is bound to come to an abrupt and ugly end."

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