Monday, September 03, 2007

Imperialist refrigerators

There is very readable article in today’s International Herald Tribune about the fate of those old American-made, 1950s refrigerators now being replaced "voluntarily" by the Castro regime.

For nearly half a century, inventive Cubans have managed to keep the old machines working.

But over the past two to three years, they have been progressively replaced by new, Chinese-made refrigerators that are supposed to be just as good but much more energy efficient.

Well, energy efficient they may be but it seems the old American warhorses were a lot more reliable, according to the Cubans interviewed for the article.

The article points out that Cubans do not have to switch to Chinese refrigerators, but there are “strong incentives to comply”.

For instance, Cubans are told that the new refrigerators were Fidel Castro’s idea and therefore, refusing to exchange old for new would be deemed to be “unpatriotic” - and we all know what that means.

As for the cost of the new refrigerators, Cubans have to fork out the equivalent of USD200.00 for the privilege, paid in monthly instalments.

In case you are wondering, the average monthly wage for ordinary Cubans is about USD15.00.

H/T: Penultimos Dias


Anonymous Walter Lippmann said...

While sneering at Cuba's program to save energy and to replace wasteful appliances with newer and modern ones, this "report" omits such simple facts as the country-wide replacement of incandescent bulbs by compact fluorescents. In this case while mentioning that Cubans are required to pay $200.00 for their brand-new Chinese refrigerators [ask yourself, where would YOU get a new refrigerator for $200.00?], it leaves out one key detail. You get to pay for the new one over ten years. AT ZERO [0%] FINANCE CHARGE.

Yes, it's true that some Cubans can't, don't or won't pay for the new machines, and in Cuba, unlike here in the center of World Freedom, no one will come and take the new frigs away.

You'd have to wonder how this New York Slimes reporter - they don't have a bureau in Cuba and only bother to go to the island once in awhile - managed to select this particular individual who complains so loudly on cue about a new refrigerator. Oh, also, though this is supposed to be yet another proof of the invasive presence of Big Brother Kommie Kastro intervening brusquely into THE LIVES OF OTHERS, the reporter, he omits a few notable facts.

Had Washington not imposed a blockade on Cuba almost half-a-century ago, these ancient machines might long ago have been replaced by more modern and efficient ones. Same is true of the ancient U.S. automobiles which Cubans keep functioning out of a mixture of necessity and affection. See the lovely documentary movie YANK TANKS for an automotive sense of this phenomenon.

By the way, the pseudonymous source says she got her Frigidaire 24 years ago. Even by my mathematical skills, that would have been 1983 or so. In other words, she got it used because major household appliances from the U.S. haven't been imported into Cuba since the earliest days of the Cuban Revolution.

We're not told the model number of manufacturing date, so there's no way to know how old the Frigidaire actually was, or what its rated electricity usage was. These would have been interesting facts to know. They would have made the story more meaningful, indicating that there was some rational calculation in the Cuban government's decision to do this, not just some nutty inspiration by an old bearded crackpot.

But it would have taken something away from the Big Bad Commie story, wouldn't it? Maybe it WAS wasting electricity? Many Cubans with ancient refrigerators have special latches which are used to keep the old doors firmly shut. After a certain number of decades, the rubber gaskets which insure insulation finally give out, and the latches maintain the pressure which keeps the cold functioning. Recently my own Amana refrigerator has begun having problems. I bought it NEW in the mid-1980s.

My next door neighbors in Havana had - I don't know if it's been changed out yet - an ancient frig from the 1940s, which they had to defrost literally every two or three days. Cubans love to complain, and foreigners expect all Cubans to complain, and Cubans like to provide foreigners with what they expect: complaints. Somehow I think this complaining is part of the Cuban national culture. I have felt this way about the New York Times for about as long as I've been reading it, ever since the early sixties. It never ceases to give reasons to be disliked.

My next door neighbors have an ancient General Electric refrigerator. It's 62 years old and still working, certainly a tribute to U.S. engineering technology. And my neighbors haven't been compelled to replace the old thing, even if they have to defrost it two or three times PER WEEK.

Have a nice day,

Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California

5:19 pm  
Anonymous Lao Fang said...

I had a friend in Canada who is dead now. He had a GE bought 50 years ago from 1998 and still worked.

Indeed newspaper reports are bound to be partial.

1:01 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home