Babalú's Human Pressure Cooker (patent pending) is not hissing as loudly as in the halcyon days after the hurricanes when the hope of Cuba's complete annihilation yet shone brightly in their hearts and fed their vicarious revolutionary fervor. Perhaps the Babalunians think that they have gotten all the "bang for their buck" from Val's "Cubans don't need money" proclamation in The New York Times, which was quoted by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutiérrez as the vox populi of Cubans on the island and used to deny a proposed 90-day relaxation of restrictions on remittances and family visits. Can't you hear Cubans crying in unison: "¿Dinero, para qué?" Yes, it is the common appeal of the wretched everywhere: "Do not help us, let us die!"
Let it never be said that Fidel Castro is oblivious to the pleas of his people, or, at least, the pleas of Val Prieto; for he has listened and acted upon his recommendation, just as Secretary Gutiérrez did. Not, of course, to starve the Cuban people: Castro was doing that even before Val was born. But, as Charlie Bravo points at Black Sheep of Exile and Gusano reports at Babalú (without tracing its source), Castro is tightening his personal embargo on the Cuban people. Not content with rejecting on the Cuban people's behalf more than $100 million in humanitarian assistance from the U.S. and the European Community, and, in effect, establishing a cordon sanitaire around the island to protect Cubans from the nefarious effects of capitalist charity, Castro has now undertaken an internal purification campaign aimed at suppressing the new "kulaks" who sell their crops at food markets as well as the black marketeers who sell their wares everywhere.
To maintain absolute control of the population Castro knows that he must keep them perpetually on the edge of starvation: foreigners or locals who try to feed his human menagerie are not welcomed at his zoo. Castro must be all to his people or he is nothing. Even were he so inclined (which he is not) Castro cannot alleviate their suffering except by disappearing, which is the one thing he will never do. Therefore, he must use their suffering to his advantage. There are two ways for a tyrant like Castro to rule: by fostering the prosperity of his people or intensifying their misery. No need to say which path Castro has chosen.
Many have said that Castro learned all he knows about governance by aping Mussolini and Hitler; and it is undoubtedly true that these were his models when he was a student at the University of Havana. But before Hitler and Mussolini, and at a far more impressionable age, came Angel Castro, Fidel's father and greatest inspiration. A Spanish conscript who fought against the Cubans in our War of Independence and settled on the island at its conclusion, the elder Castro ran his plantation in Birán as Fidel would later run the entire country. His Haitian slaves (for so they were in everything but name) were never allowed off his plantation or ever heard of again after going to work for him. The pittance that they received as wages was paid to them in script which was only accepted at the company store and sufficed for only a few days rations. The rest was provided to them on credit at usurious prices. The monies "owed" to Angel Castro became the price of their manumission. Since they could not afford to repay him, their bondage to him was for life. Often Angel would hire them out to other planters and receive their wages as repayment for their imaginary debts to him. The more that Angel exploited them, the more the Haitians became dependent on him.
Just as his father, the thing that Castro most fears are peddlers and do-gooders. Even if, ultimately, he can confiscate the stock of the former and the donations of the latter, it is the undermining of his authority, more even than a decrease in the bottom line, which Castro fears and abhors.
Market tanks.... in Havana.