CASTRO’S URBAN POLICY: AN ASSESSMENT

by Lisa Reynolds Wolfe on May 20, 2015

buildings1

Fidel Castro and the rebeldes met with a fair amount of early success in their drive to improve the quality of life in urban areas of Cuba — especially in Havana.

Rural-urban imbalances diminished a great deal during the decade of the 1960s, although the demographic growth of Greater Havana continued until 1963.

Improvement occurred mainly because of the political-administrative reorganization of Cuba and the creation of new state enterprises. There was also an initial emphasis on improving the city’s existing educational facilities, a policy which attracted numerous students from the interior.

Gradually, the demographic growth of Havana was stabilized, particularly after the implementation of the Urban Reform Law.

In 1963-1964, the first socialist master plan for the city of Havana was created as an attempt to address the problems of the city in a centralized manner. The master plan created six regions which were to be treated as a metropolitan entity. Previously, the six municipalities had worked independently, each with its own mayor and separate municipal agencies.

The master plan took effect when Havana had 1.5 million inhabitants, and one of its main objectives was to strive for a decrease in the city’s rate of population growth.

In an effort to slow migration from the countryside, strategies were devised to redistribute maritime and port activities as well as noxious industries to points elsewhere in Cuba. Development of infrastructure was planned to support these economic activities. This decentralization slowed the rate of Havana’s annual population growth which had previously included the annual arrival of 17,000 in-migrants from the interior of the country as well as a natural increase of 23,000. However, improvement was not uniform.

A reduction in population density in the overcrowded areas of Central Havana was not achieved. The reallocation of resources for infrastructure outside of Havana meant that the area had no new housing construction. Also, physical deterioration accelerated due to the lack of routine maintenance, especially that of streets and buildings which required periodic repair and painting.

Areas left vacant by emigrants such as Country Club, Miramar, Kohly, and Nuevo Vedado provided a situation of privilege for the new residents. These districts were soon identified as ‘frozen zones’. This meant that they were to serve as housing for high-level government officials, dignitaries, foreign experts, and diplomats. Nevertheless, the character of the neighborhoods, known for their high levels of physical segregation was beginning to break down.

Some housing was assigned to those with low income and many of the larger structures were carved up into schools and dormitories.

As students poured in from the countryside, their relatives soon followed, setting up residence in the boarding houses which were established in some of the abandoned housing. Over the decades, the area was impacted by the economic problems which plagued the city as a whole. Isolation and deterioration were the end result, affecting Miramar particularly.

As the decade closed, a humbled Castro determined to shift the revolution in a more conservative direction.

Soviet advisors flocked to Havana, and Soviet economic models became the norm.

The age of Fidelian voluntarism was over  . . . at least for the moment.

In 1972, Cuba joined COMECON and, in 1975, Cuba began implementing the Soviet-directed “System for Economic Management and Planning.”

Havana’s fate would now be dependent on the imperatives of Soviet central planning.

Photograph by Lisa Reynolds Wolfe.

COLD WAR TAIWAN: THE UNITED STATES PULLS OUT

by Lisa Reynolds Wolfe on May 12, 2015

pingpong

 

The ‘economic miracle’ of the 1960s led the United States to re-evaluate Taiwan’s need for continued economic and military assistance. Reassessment was logical because, in reality, multinational corporations, the World Bank, and the IMF had replaced US missions as Taiwan’s conduit to the world economy, and the island had become a supplier of labor “to an increasingly far-flung division of production.”

By mid-decade it was determined that Taiwan was the first country in the developing world to have gained self-sufficiency.

New commitments of United States economic aid ended by 1965, although resources in the pipeline continued to be disbursed through 1967.

Military assistance came to an end in 1971 when the United Nations decided to recognize Mainland China as the representative of all Chinese people. The US subsequently refused to engage in further direct sales of advanced military equipment. Instead, American security support focused on helping Taipei upgrade its own defense industries.

From the mid 1970s on, domestic production of jet fighters, helicopters, guided missiles, artillery, and other weaponry increased, often under contract with US manufacturers.

On January 1, 1979, the United States ended its formal relationship with Taipei. Diplomatic relations were institutionalized with the People’s Republic of China.

The American Embassy in Taipei was closed, the Mutual Defense Treaty was allowed to expire, and the country was expelled from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Although militarism in Taipei remained pervasive, the military became less visible in the state apparatus.

In the absence of superpower military investment, the government increased its own defense spending: the 1980 budgetary allowance was 25% above that of 1979. This included $880 million for the purchase of US arms.

The last stages of the US assistance program to Taiwan provided the impetus for continued economic growth through an emphasis on private enterprise and export promotion.

American support had been substantial, averaging about $100 million a year from 1951-1965. Military aid during the same period amounted to roughly $165 million per year. Four-fifths of the input went to the public sector, allowing private investment to support the industrial sector.

Allocations to infrastructure included monies to expand electrical power generation as well as distribution to build highways, bridges, and railways, to develop harbors, and to provide telephone and telegraph facilities. These were all dual use projects which supported the military but also served the civilian community.

Agricultural appropriations consisted of technical assistance and training.

All of the assistance energized industry by defraying military support costs and allowing Taiwan’s own resources to be used for economic development.

When the US ended its mission, Taiwan was second in Asia (after Japan) in per capita income. The country had one of the highest rates of increase of gross national product and industrial production in the world, and was a leading agricultural producer in terms of efficiency.

In other words, Taiwan — especially its capital city Taipei — had become a showcase for capitalist development among the emerging nations.

Photograph by DBKing

 

COLD WAR E-BOOK

May 1, 2015

(CLICK HERE TO BUY COLD WAR UNVEILED ON AMAZON!) COLD WAR UNVEILED lets you learn about the Cold War while you’re on the go! Ever wished you had an easy and FUN way to learn about Cold War History and Politics? Are you a student? A history buff? An erudite conversationalist? Do you want to WOW your […]

Read the full article →

CUBAN COLD WAR EMIGRANTS AND CUBA’S EMBRACE OF SOCIALISM

April 27, 2015

From 1965-1974, the United States and Cuban governments administered the Vuelos de la Libertad or Freedom Flights. The two governments jointly determined who would migrate and, as a result, emigration during this period was coordinated, orderly, and focused on family networks. The immediate family of exiles already in the United States received priority. Certain categories of […]

Read the full article →

CULTURAL COLD WAR

April 14, 2015

I’m sure that most of you know that the Cold War involved more than proxy wars and revolutions. It was above all ideological, a rivalry between two very different ways of life, a half century struggle pitting “freedom” against “repression.” For many, the conflict was most apparent in what was called the cultural Cold War.  But […]

Read the full article →

CUBA, HISTORY, AND THE SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS 2015 (1990-2011)

April 9, 2015

The video below is the second in a two part series that takes you quickly through the last 50 or so years of Cuba’s political and economic history. Here are the salient points: By 1990, when the Russians were gone, things were really tough. It was becoming very clear that the Cuban people could not […]

Read the full article →

CUBA, HISTORY, AND THE SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS 2015 (1959-1990)

April 9, 2015

As most of you probably know, this week Panama will host the summit of the Americas, an important meeting of heads of state from our Western Hemisphere. The summit, inaugurated by President Bill Clinton in 1992, is a historic happening this year because it is the first time that both Cuba and the United States […]

Read the full article →

COLD WAR BEGINNINGS: A PODCAST

April 3, 2015

At the end of our last podcast on Causes of the Cold War, I mentioned that America had just dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and that the Soviets were responding by pushing forward with an effort to produce their own atomic weapons. In other words, the arms race was on. In this podcast — […]

Read the full article →
Web Statistics