The Spanish Caribbean depended almost entirely on the sugar plantations as the major institution in economic development. At the end of World War I the Caribbean highlands produced almost a third of the total sugar sold in the world market…
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Production continued to increase up to 1925 well production deteriorated thereafter because of a series of restrictive policies first on the Cuban government and then on the part of the United States aimed at reducing overproduction and restoring prices. The division of labor and the existence of major production and processing machinery meant that workers were separated from the means of production and subjected to industrial discipline. (Ayala, 50) The plantation systems created a capitalist form which was dominated by the oligopolistic giant in the world sugar market. The Spanish Caribbean was unable to maintain control over its industries because of the introduction of the most modern forms of economic organization which lead to the emergence of wage labor based on the inability of the labor to handle the new technology. This was coupled with the poverty and inequality and the lack of capital for investment. Furthermore, the development of the free labor market and the introduction of the latest technological advances in the sugar mills, and the fast-paced economic integration to the US economy were the major causes of the persistence in poverty and underdevelopment. (Langley, 271-5) The entrance of the US in the market caused a massive ripple in the industry because of the US had the latest technology and trained workers to handle the production process. The US easily captured and dominated the market because of the inability of the Spanish Caribbean to contain the massive raw material production due to lack of sophisticated industries and technologies that were owned by the US. Furthermore the US had the capital required to invest and run the business effectively which was lacking in the Spanish Caribbean. Innovative technologies and increase in the scale of production radically transformed the business of sugar production. The idea of land concentration also created a scenario in which a few land owners acquired most of the land resulting in the majority of the population being landless and also the immigration of more workers for the sugar industry without any changes in the land tenure further aggravated the landlessness situation in the areas and local class relations were transformed and the workforce proletarian by large-scale investments in sugar centrals. (Langhorn, 10) The large landowners received economic compensation, but workers were simply expelled from the land and their houses were demolished. The eviction of the agricultural workers disregarded traditional usufruct rights over parcels of land, which provided access to means of subsistence above the monetary wages of the workers. The destruction of garden plots and closure of access to fruit trees implied, over the long term, impoverishment for these rural workers. Some of the sugar plantations were converted to military bases by the US due to its ability to acquire the land from the large land owners with only a few transactions. (Langhorn, 10) The sugar companies often purchased already existing mills which were small in size and hence unable to handle the large quantity of the raw materials produced; this gave the US an upper hand in the industry since it had large size mills that were able to handle a large quantity of the raw materials and the vertical ownership structure extending across the border to the north subdued local interests or prevented them from surfacing. Further, the increase in employment in other sectors such as construction and other sectors promoted by military contracts during the Second World War to the decline of employment in the sugar industry. In addition the new jobs paid better wages; this therefore transformed the economy from an agrarian economy to one dependent on the US Navy also
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