HAVANA (AP) — A newly released confidential U.S. diplomatic cable predicted Cuba’s economic situation could become “fatal” within two to three years, and detailed concerns from other countries’ diplomats – including China – that the communist-run country has been slow to adopt reforms.
The cable was written last February, months before Cuban President Raul Castro announced a major revamp of the island’s economy, laying out plans to fire a half-million state workers and open up the island to expanded forms of private enterprise.
The cable, sent by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, which Washington maintains instead of an embassy, was released Friday by WikiLeaks. It was apparently written by America’s chief diplomat on the island, Jonathan Farrar.
Cuban parliament chief Ricardo Alarcon, who often speaks on U.S. issues, told The Associated Press the cable did not contain anything new or interesting. “It seems to me Jonathan Farrar was a little depressed that day” that he wrote the dispatch, Alarcon said.
Relations between Washington and Havana are already strained by the long detention of an American contractor on suspicion of spying – not to mention 50 years of Cold War animus, and the release of the cable was not likely to help matters.
It details a breakfast meeting held by the Interests Section’s chief economic officer with diplomats from some of Cuba’s main trading partners, including China, Spain, Canada, Brazil and Italy, as well as France and Japan, both of which are among the island’s top creditors.
“All diplomats agreed that Cuba could survive this year without substantial policy changes, but the financial situation could become fatal within 2-3 years,” the cable said, adding that Italian diplomats cited sources within the Cuban government as predicting that the island “would become insolvent as early as 2011.”
It is no secret that Cuba’s financial situation is increasingly dire. Raul Castro has warned that the state can no longer afford to subsidize nearly all forms of Cuban life. The government provides free health care and education, and nearly free transportation, housing and utilities. All Cubans also receive a ration book that provides them with some basic food, though not enough to live on. Most islanders work for just $20 a month in a state-dominated economic system riddled with inefficiency.
The cable said the situation would worsen dramatically should there be economic or political problems involving Cuba’s top ally, Venezuela, which the dispatch said was “increasingly unstable.” It quoted the French diplomat at the meeting as saying Hugo Chavez’s country “is in flames” and “a source of serious concern for Cuba.”
Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this report.