Arms into Plougshares, Golf into Housing

At a time of growing environmental and economic crisis the 'capitalist lunacy' of golf, in the words of Bernard Shaw, is becoming more evident. Ironically, in Cuba, Golf developers, encouraged by recent 'economic liberalisation' announcements are making their own plans…

In his regular weekly 'Alo Presidente' TV Show, Hugo Chavez has hinted that some of Venezuela's golf courses would be expropriated to be used for other purposes, along with 'good land' that has been abandoned. Stating the obvious, Chavez, who has in the past called golf a 'bourgeois sport' pointed out that it was "an injustice – that someone should have the luxury of having I don't know how many hectares to play golf and drink whiskey and, next door, there's misery and children dying when there are landslides". The comment followed the landslides of October where many people died in shanty towns and is also related to Venezuela's acute housing shortage with an estimated two million homes needed. 9 golf courses, many of which in oil-producing regions catering for Venezuela’s oil elite, have been shut down in Venezuela since 2006.

Ironically, in Cuba foreign developers are planning more courses,  with some of the recent economic 'liberalisation' changes being linked to golf development. The Obama administration, may have slightly loosened the travel ban in April 2009 by allowing Cuban-Americans to travel freely to Cuba, but otherwise has made little progress in lifting or at least loosening "El Bloqueo", the 50 year old & cold war trade and travel embargo, imposed by the world's most powerful state against a small island nation.

The travel ban already has plenty of holes as it is condemned at the UN each year by all the world's countries (except Israel) and is also increasingly ignored by many US citizens travelling via Canada or Mexico, or, officially under humanitarian or educational cover (a "professional research general license").

Also ironically, the travel ban has affected and distorted the Cuban Tourism model, with resorts seen as a last resort after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the abrupt end of soviet aid. (on the contrary the solution in agriculture was ecological with urban organic agriculture thriving) Low-cost package tourism from Europe led to an overreliance on foreign (transnational) built and operated resorts.

A similar travel ban was in place against Vietnam and Laos, now long gone, although their communist systems are not, at least nominally. Many golf courses and luxury resorts are currently being built in Vietnam, mainly for Chinese travellers. Such golf tourism & holiday home developments and condominiums (and casinos, and…) could also be the case in Cuba and this is rather depressing, full circle after 50 years.

A lifting of the travel ban would also have a considerable impact in competing Caribbean destinations and even Florida.

Currently, even before the latest economic 'liberalisation' moves of Raul Castro, involving the laying off of about 500,000 state workers (victims to a possible lifting of the embargo?) there appears to be some movement. According to anti-bloqueo campaigners such as the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, the Obama administration has delayed action until after the November 2nd elections, with an expansion of educational, cultural and other forms of non-tourist travel likely, depending on how bad the electoral results will be. (Would not it be amusing were Cuba to continue the travel ban from its side – for example by issuing a very limited number of visas?)

If anyone needs reminding of what is wrong with golf, they can visit:

A video about a – currently blocked thanks to local protests – planed-mega golf development in arid Crete

and the latest about the controversial Trump Golf resort development in Aberdeen, Scotland and the ‘Tripping up Trump’ campaign, a local movement to save residents from eviction.

As is well known, golf course construction is just a ruse for holiday home developments. No one is really interested in promoting this peculiar sport, which Churchill defined as "chasing a quinine pill around a cow pasture".

Sources: Bloomberg, FT, Independent, Tripping Up Trump , Hospitality Times

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