"Over time, these measures [instituted by Raúl Castro] will erode the myth that no Cubans have substantial disposable hard currency income." -- Phil Peters, "'Prohibitions" Biting the Dust," The Cuban Triangle, April 1, 2008
What the ever optimistic Phil Peters calls the "disposable" income of Cubans on the island is actually the disposable income of Cubans outside the island, whose remittances to their relatives will allow them to buy those hitherto prohibited "luxury" items which Raúl and his coterie of military-industrial robber barons will sell them at mark-ups of 100-5000%
This is like taking a homeless man from the Bowery (if there are any of those anymore), setting him down on Fifth Avenue with two-bits to his name and telling him that the world is his oyster.
What would his only choice be?
The only difference is that George W. Bush won't come at the end of the day to cheat him of his quarters.
This interesting thread continues on The Cuban Triangle with more observations from Peters and me and even a cameo appearance from Longfellow at his most original, arguing that Cubans on the island are much prettier than those ugly exiles. Peters' reaction is the definition of "nonplussed."
While you're visiting the blog , please take note of the beautiful photographs of historic places in Cuba. Peters never takes pictures of the ruins. But, as I said, he is a great optimist.
Answer to Phil Peters:
There is some pleasure to be derived from looking at Buckingham Palace even if one does not have the remotest chance of ever living there. I suppose a Cuban feels a comparable sensation when he gazes on a cellphone at the museum where it is kept. Because it is truly a museum and not a store. People go there to look at the future which is somebody else's past. To look and not touch.
This is not enough. It is not even anything at all. "Let them eat cake" is all that these measures (which you mercifully refrain from calling "reforms") amount to.
But those as you, Phil, who have awaited so patiently and long for even the dimmest most transitory flicker of anything, cannot help seeing in this mirage the dawning of a new age when it is no more than a sanctioned revival of an old instinct: the desire to consume, as natural and necessary as any other desire but repressed in Cuba for nearly a half-century.
But consumerism is not enough to break the chains of tyranny as we have seen in China. There, where luxuries are no longer unthinkable, their enjoyment has been conditioned on the acceptance of tyranny.
Even if this Consumer Age were as real in Cuba as it is in China, the assumption should be that it would usher-in no era of freedom but stregthen the repression by making tyranny self-sustaining or even profitable.