Human trafficking: the nadir of Castroist socialism
The socialist model formulated by Marx and completed by Lenin aimed to be superior to capitalism in terms of its capacity to develop "productive forces," i.e. the economy's technological and material foundation. It was precisely this alleged superiority of socialism, according to its supporters, that would spawn a new society of abundance for mankind in which class divisions would lose their raison d'etre.
To realize socialism's promise the Soviet Union, and later China under Mao Tsetung, set about rapidly promoting industrialization, (Stakhanovism) and collectivizing agriculture.
The result, as we see today, has been a complete debacle. Real socialism, whether in the Soviet Union, Mao's China, or anywhere else in the world, never managed to equal, and far less surpass, capitalism's results in terms of technological innovation and agricultural and industrial growth.
After the failure of Stakhanovist industrialization and the collectivization of agriculture, it came time for "extractivism" - that is, the intensive exploitation of underground resources (oil and gas, in particular) - to drive the development of socialism.
Extractivism came to the fore with "21st-century Socialism," introduced by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, in 1999, in an extremely fortuitous scenario: oil prices rose more than 1,000% during the first 14 years of his government.
Despite this very favorable international situation, socialist "extractivism," which Chávez called socialismo petrolero, was also incapable of developing Venezuela's "productive forces."
With the oil boom over, and the manna no longer falling from the sky, Chávez's catastrophic handling of the economy - with his succession of expropriations, price controls, modified exchange rates and other manipulations of the market - has left Venezuela facing an unprecedented crisis. The inflation rate is the highest in the world, and the lines to buy basic necessities are getting longer every day.
After the fiasco of "oil-fuelled socialism," what economic saints are Marxism's devoted acolytes going to turn now to keep their faith alive?
The case is that the service sector (medicine and education, port infrastructure and tourism, among others) was still ripe for exploitation, and the Castro regime dove right in.
Exporting professionals (doctors, schoolteachers), in order to appropriate a portion of their wages, is one of the Cuban regime's favorite economic tactics to obtain the foreign capital necessary for its survival.
To do this, ideologically akin governments (especially in Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador) have agreed to use Cuban professionals under contractual conditions that enable the Castro regime to retain a portion of their wages.
By way of example, the Brazilian Government pays the Government of Cuba 4,255 USD per month for each Cuban doctor hired, while the physician ends up receiving just 1,245 from the Government, plus a percentage of this sum in an account in Havana. The rest (over 50%) lines the Cuban regime's coffers.
For good reason, the Castro regime's scheme with the country's doctors has been compared to the slave trade in colonial times.
And, like any human trafficking, the victims, in this case the doctors exported, try to escape their fate, just as African slaves once did.
Hence, hundreds of Cuban doctors, once in the countries assigned for their work, have opted to defect. Cubans in a range of professions are using Ecuadorian visas as a way to escape the cage of Castroism. Even Cuban baseball players go the way of Villadiego to leave behind the misery wages paid them by the Cuban state.
Havana regularly blames these defections on US immigration policy, which facilitates entry into the US by Cuban professionals, but it cannot evade the fact that the vast majority of these professionals yearn and struggle to settle in countries that guarantee better working conditions and more quality of life.
In fact, according to the December 2015 decree which reintroduced restrictions (that had been abolished in 2013) on outgoing Cuban doctors, the Castro regime claims that they are being lured away by "the conditions offered by various countries." (i.e., not just the US).
In this respect Havana’s positions are incongruous. On the one hand it has been trying to attract, with promises of houses and cars, doctors who had escaped from Cuba. On the other it is imposing stricter requirements on those leaving the country. Given this contradiction, and the danger of not being able to go abroad again if one wishes to do so, what doctor will want to sign up?
The results have been equally disappointing with regard to the "special economic zone" of the Port of Mariel, a project launched with great fanfare in January of 2014 but that, as the BBC World website has observed: "still does not work."
The site adds that, in accordance with a decision by the Cuban regime, workers in the area are to receive "salaries equivalent to those of public servants, which are limited to a pittance in US dollars per month." According to a port worker, the pay is not even enough to buy the Real Madrid t-shirt he was wearing when he was interviewed (which was probably a gift from a tourist or a relative living in Spain).
Like the countries purchasing Cuban medical services, foreign investors operating in Mariel have to hire staff and pay wages (in foreign currency) through an agency of the Cuban government, which receives the currency and pays personnel in Cuba pesos at exchange rates that short workers.
As Dimas Castellanos will analyze in an article published in this paper, the State ultimately retains two-thirds of the salary in dollars paid by an investor in the area.
Hence, we are dealing here with a new case of human trafficking, with the difference that this time it is done in situ, i.e., without exporting the workers.
With this morass of obstacles and counterproductive controls, there is no economic sector - industry, agriculture, mining or services - able to function effectively.
Paraphrasing Lenin, who stated that imperialism would be the highest stage of capitalism, it could be said that human trafficking marks a new low for Castroist socialism; that is, its nadir.