In Cuba, the terminal stage of communism is a mafia

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This essay was originally published in Discourse magazine.

On Feb. 5, Mirtza Ocana, an American citizen of Cuban origin, arrived at Tampa International Airport from Havana and was arrested for attempting to smuggle more than $100,000 into the country. When questioned, Ocana confessed to having carried out 45 similar assignments since May 2023. The smuggling operation involved millions of dollars.

Because Cuba has slipped beneath the attention horizon of the news media, this incident attracted zero interest. Yet it posed a perplexing riddle. Cuba’s communist regime currently faces the most disastrous economic collapse in its long history of such failures. The reasons are many, but most immediately it’s a lack of foreign currency with which to buy food and fuel for the population. The Cuban economy resembles those broken-down cars from the ’50s still found on the streets of Havana: It produces little for internal consumption and almost nothing that can be sold abroad for hard currency. 

Why, then, is the island now exporting dollars to the United States?

A woman and a boy attempt to hitch a ride during a scheduled power outage in Bauta, Cuba, Monday, March 18, 2024. The island is facing an

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