What does a near-total lack of freedom do to formerly wealthy places? As Luis Henrique Ball reminds us in this insightful interview, Cuba used to be the top sugar exporter in the world; now it has to import the sugar it requires to make the small amount of rum it still produces. The Havana of Hemingway and Fred Astaire is gone, and the country is one of the poorest on Earth—even poorer than Haiti.
Cuba may be opening for US travellers, but the Cuban regime remains just as despotic as North Korea. “It is not fun when you have a cabaret that is only for foreigners. It is not fun when the shops you go to, again, are only for tourists. You are not actually being exposed to the culture.” It is not fun, either, adds Ball, to be spending money and living in luxury when surrounded by so much hardship.
Venezuela, where he was born, is also in bad shape. Fighting for civil and economic liberties as the head of a trade group eventually brought him into conflict with the Chavez regime. He fought against the confiscation of property without compensation, among other unjust measures, and even organized a national strike to protest the regime’s policies.
Ball left Venezuela after having been falsely accused of civil rebellion and treason, but even after these charges were dropped, he decided to remain in the United States. “I have children, and I wanted my children to have a good future in freedom, and that’s the reason why I stayed.” In 2013, he founded the PanAm Post, which reports on important stories across the Americas, including the ongoing failings of the authoritarian regimes in Cuba and Venezuela.
Links of interest: Luis Henrique Ball | PanAm Post