CASTROENTERITIS A look back to the future

Posted on 08/27/2015 | About Cuba

“Castro-enteritis” could well be the most appropriate description for the short-term havoc that President Obama’s easing of travel restrictions has the potential to unleash on the island - and in the longer term it could get even worse!
And, as if the removal of travel restrictions alone weren’t serious enough, the inevitable lifting of US trade embargos could set the stage for Cuba to follow the same “ugly capitalist” traits that have emerged in post cold war Russian.

Such a turn of events cannot possibly leave Cuba’s quietly successful tourism sector unscathed. Consider the simple fact that the island currently has a total of just 46,000 hotel rooms, almost 40 percent of which are in Varadero. These are currently filled with lots of happy Canadians, Brits, French, Spanish and Italian tourists. They are attracted by a combination of low priced inclusive tour packages, white sand beaches, “Cuba libres”, and a nothing fancy old-fashioned good times. Over the years the sons and daughters of the revolution have come to accept these beach loving, foreign-currency-bearing “extranjeros” in their midst. The average Joe from Mississauga or Jose from Madrid is there for one or more of “The Three S’s” and doesn’t really care to question or threaten any of Fidel’s achievements. Sure they make it tough for the locals to get a seat at La Bodequita del Medio or La Floridita, but there’s a happy, easy-going acceptance of one by the other. But with travel restrictions lifted, consider what happens when Uncle Ramon from Miami, and Lou and Betty Beavis from Brooklyn arrive on the scene.

“Tio Ramon” will be looking to rediscover a Cuba that, while it might still exist at home on Miami’s Calle Ocho, hasn’t been seen in Cuba for a half a century. The big question is, will he and his Cubano relatives be able to build on the good elements of Fidel’s socialist Cuba, or instantly set about trying to tear it down and turn it back to the ugly sideshow it used to be under Batista’s corrupt rule? The Beavis’s on the other hand, although lacking a political agenda, will be looking for everything they expect from everywhere else in Florida and the Caribbean. Antic sights like Edsel taxi cabs will have a Disney-like novelty value for a while, but they’re soon going to expect Cuba to come in line with tourism norms. A sudden influx of US tourism and commerce – think of the welcome new market Detroit auto-makers can enjoy here – will herald the return of the Marriotts, Hyatts and Sheratons, which in turn will drive new infrastructure requirements. Cue Bechtel to build new roads and airports. You can also bet your booty that Steve Wynn and The Donald have already put their markers down in Havana.

To compete with this influx of big brands, the current breed of hotels and resorts in Varadero will need to invest in renovations, service upgrades and expensive US marketing campaigns. New airports mean higher landing fees and handling charges. Meanwhile all this economic activity will serve to push Cuba’s historically low labor costs to all time highs. In other words, with a combination of over-demand, under-supply and rising costs, Canadians can soon bid “adios” to that all-inclusive $500 week in Varadero. Before it gets to that stage however, one must remember that South Florida’s Cuban exile community has been zealously predicting the imminent demise of the Castro regime for the last fifty years. And before any of this can happen, Raul and big brother Fidel have got to say “Yes” to the terms on which the US’s huddled masses can return. So, while he may not understand there is no such language as “Austrian”, in his effort to reach out to the oppressed Cuban people, President Obama must learn one little word in Spanish that can cause a lot of misunderstandings - the word “SI”.

Everyone knows it means “YES”, but it has a second meaning, the biggest of all little words in any language, “IF”.