Friday, January 25, 2013

Nick Miroff's Cuban trifecta (+ 1): Obama on Cuban TV, Resale Economics, & the Cuban Inter-NOT

There has been so much Cuba news this month that even a proud Cubaholic like me has had trouble keeping up.

The big news, of course, is the new migration law that took effect on January 14 and the sense that it is being implemented in a surprisingly open way - so far - by the immigration authorities.

However, thanks to Nick Miroff, the intrepid and incisive Havana-based correspondent for the Global Post, the Washington Post, and NPR, we have gotten some good ole shoe-leather reporting on three other important topics this week.
  • Jan. 22: First is a fascinating story on the first-ever broadcast of a US presidential inauguration on the Communist island - not by one of Cuba's few state TV stations - but by the newly present Venezuelan TeleSur channel.  Writing with Kristin Deasy and Miroff indicates that while TeleSur is not exactly an unfiltered medium, it is much more plugged-in and informative than what the Cuban public has been forced to rely on for decades.  As a little lagniappe (bonus points for anyone who can tell me what this word means), Miroff adds a link at the end of his story to one he did back in October where he surveyed a handful of Cubans from different walks of life and political perspectives on who they would vote for and why.  Included among his interviewees are former diplomat Carlos Alzugaray (Obama) and Ines Quesada (Romney), a member of the Ladies in White.  It's good to see that my old friend Carlos and I still agree on some things!
  • Jan. 23: Thankfully, this is a long, detailed article about the day-to-day contradictions of Cuba's half-way economic reforms.  Specifically, it focuses on the phenomenon of the "resale economy," or the proliferation across the island of people who find, scavenge, beg, borrow, steal, and often improve various state products and then resale them at a slight profit.  This is partly the result of the still very limited numbers of legal self-employed occupations available to Cuba's would-be entrepreneurs.  And this newly legal activity has provoked both criticism at the supposed "speculation" and "profiteering" involved, and praise for the value-added convenience of the service these resellers provide.  Highly recommended - especially since I'm in the middle of co-authoring a new book on "Micro-enterprise and Public Policy in Communist Cuba."  Catchy title, don't you think!? 
  • Jan. 24: The final article in Miroff's trifecta is his smart take on the recent seemingly BIG news that Cuba's ALBA-1 fiber optic cable is finally operational after two years.  Essentially, Miroff reports that a "wired" Cuba does not necessarily mean a more connected one - both for political reasons and for ones having to do with the woefully inadequate existing internal Cuban dial-up Internet infrastructure.  The cable has the potential of increasing Cuba's on-line speed 3,000x, but it remains a "strong link in a weak chain" according to CIS guru Larry Press.  Doug Madory of rensys, who first broke the ALBA-1 cable story last week, recommends that Cuba convert its backwardness into a leap forward into the wireless mobile age deploying 4G wireless across the island.  
I'm sure that the USAID would jump at the chance to help them do that!

Good work, Nick!  Keep 'em comin'. 

2 comments:

  1. What's intriguing are the ultimate hispanic origins of the word lagniappe. It's a gallicism of ñapa...or extra. 'La ñapa' means an extra bit, a frosting on the cake.

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  2. Yes indeed. I've got Colombian friends who use that word, la ñapa, to describe that very unexpected, but much appreciated bonus item. It must be due to that 40-odd year period of New Orleans history (1763-1803) when the Spanish ruled Bourbon Street - God save us!

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