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Why Vietnam and Not Cuba? / Dimas Castellano

Why Vietnam and Not Cuba? / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellanos, Translator: Unstated

In an article entitled Vietnam, a Country in Constant Doi Moi, published

in the newspaper Juventud Rebelde on Sunday April 8, Niliam Vazquez

Garcia stated that "the people feel it in the streets, in the prosperity

of the family business, perhaps even in the air, the achievements of

more than two decades of Doi Moi, a process that provides for the

introduction of market logic in the economy, but with socialist


She added that the Vietnamese "in a short space of time have become

exporters of oil and other products as well as the second largest coffee

producers in the world." I join in the well-deserved recognition of this

industrious and tenacious people, but I think it useful, along with the

tribute, to promote reflection about why Vietnam can and Cuba cannot.

During the last of the wars of that country, ended in 1975 against the

world's largest military power, with the number of bombs dropped on its

own territory three times higher than those used during the Second World

War, 15% of its population perished or injured and 60% of the 15

thousand villages in the south were destroyed. As if that were not

enough, they then had to face the economic blockade and cross-border


After the end of the war and the reunification of the nation, Vietnam

started from scratch. The system of a planned economy, which extended

from north to south, plunged the country into famine and hyperinflation.

Given the failure, the reformist Communist Party supported by younger

cadres overcame the conservatives and, in 1986, proclaimed Doi Moi

(renovation), under the theme "Economic reform, political stability,"

and began by introducing market mechanisms, the autonomy of producers,

the right of nationals to become entrepreneurs and the granting of land

ownership to farmers.

Doi Moi, focused on developing the initiative, the interest and

responsibility of producers, from the very beginning faced an economic

crisis caused by the laziness, the bureaucracy and the enemies of

change, which ended with the wholesale dismissal of the conservative

Party cadres.

Then, upon the collapse of the socialist camp, the reformist trend

continued the path of deepening and permanent renewal of the Communist

Party cadres. The result was so clear that the United States in 1993

withdrew its opposition to the granting of loans, in 1994 discontinued

the embargo, and in 1995 restored diplomatic relations.

In 2001, Vietnam became the second largest exporter of rice. To achieve

this, besides the allocation of a further extension to this crop and

technological changes, the determining factor was, without doubt, the

political will of the rulers who placed the interests of the nation

first and began, in fact, to make changes in everything that really

needed to be changed: they generalized the market economy, defined

multiple forms of ownership, eliminated the monopoly of state property

and placed socialist planning second.

Thus, with Doi Moi, unlike Cuba, and focusing on internal changes, the

economy managed to produce food for its 80 million inhabitants and to

occupy second place in world grain exports; second place in the export

of coffee (the President of the Council of State of Cuba acknowledged

that Cubans, who taught the Vietnamese how to grow the aromatic grain,

must buy their coffee abroad); first place in pepper exports; to which

is added sales of oil, shoes, electronics and other products, while

foreign investment reached tens of billions of dollars. These results

allowed Vietnam to reduce poverty from 60% to 5% of its population.

Meanwhile in Cuba, which also has people who are industrious,

intelligent and gifted with a high level of training, has lacked the

political will to implement an economic model capable of arousing

interest in production.

In 1986, when Vietnam applied Doi Moi, Cuba opted for the Correction of

Errors and Negative Tendencies, a project, if I may it call that, aimed

at blocking the influence of Perestroika, than beginning in the Soviet


Then, in 1993, forced by circumstances, facing the effects of the

collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe, Cuba implemented a small group

of measures — limited and isolated — that three years later were

paralyzed by the counter-reform initiated in 1996.

Similarly, but with the opposite results of Vietnamese rice production,

facing the decline of sugar production in Cuba from more than 8 million

tons in 1990 to just 3.5 million in 2001, the government announced the

restructuring of the Sugar Industry and the Alvaro Reinoso Task, in

order to produce six million tons. To meet that figure — which had been

achieved in the country in 1948 — they closed 71 of the 156 sugar mills

and redistributed 60% of the land used for cane plantations to other crops.

The result was the decline in the harvest in 2005 to 1.3 million tons (a

figure that had been produced in the year 1907). Twelve years after that

failure, last March 31, Vice President of the Council of Ministers,

Marino Murillo stated that the Ministry of Agriculture "presents a

financial and economic condition unfavorable for several years,

impacting negatively on business management" and recognized "that have

been insufficient actions and measures taken so far to reverse it." [1]

The difference is obvious. The Cuban government remains committed to an

obsolete and unworkable model, and so far refuses to have its own

citizens included as true subjects of the changes. Still pending is

reform of the current ownership structure, whose foundation has to be

political pluralism and opportunity for participation.

The big difference with Vietnam is that the delay in undertaking the

changes in Cuba has led to the structural crisis, making it impossible

at this stage to limit the changes to some isolated aspects of the

economy. Now, simultaneously, changes need to be made in the field of

civil liberties; it is the only way that Cuba, like Vietnam, can do it.

1 Puig Meneses Yaima. Working with integrity on each problem. In the

newspaperGranma April 5, 2012, p.3

Published in Spanish in Diario de Cuba.

April 27 2012

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