• This Blog on The Cuban Economy is dedicated to Cuba's Generation "A". Although inspired by Yoani Sánchez' blog "Generation Y" this is not dedicated to those with names starting with the letter "A". Instead, it draws from Douglas Coupland's novel Generation A which begins with a quotation from Kurt Vonnegut at a University Commencement that was brought to my attention by Andrew Johnston of Ottawa: ".. ... I hereby declare you Generation A, as much as the beginning of a series of astounding triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago."

    The objective of this Blog is to facilitate access to research resources and analyses from all relevant and useful sources, mainly on the economy of Cuba.


12 September 2014 – Havana Times

Original Here:   http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106139

HAVANA TIMES – When a Cuban goes shopping they never know what they will find on store shelves. There may be plenty of some unaffordable luxury products and acute shortages of basic necessities. In the centralized system, government buyers purchase for millions of Cubans. Consumer satisfaction is a factor rarely taken into account, since the monopoly on the import and marketing protects the state companies.

Today we publish a report from Café Fuerte on the current shortages of many basic products in the country. We recognize that if the situation is distressing in the capital in the provinces and municipalities it is even worse.

Cuban Government Explains Shortages of 25 Basic Products (Cafe Fuerte)

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government has acknowledged that the shortage and unstable supply of products sold through its retail network is chiefly owed to a lack of the financial resources needed to guarantee the production or import of these articles, adding that sanctions were recently applied in cases in which such deficient market offers “had no justification.” The Ministry for Domestic Trade (MINCIN) issued an open letter recognizing that the shortage of some twenty food and personal hygiene products at retail stores had been caused by a number of factors, ranging from “the lack of financial resources needed to guarantee the production or import of products during the first months of the year” to “failure to comply with discipline and the established norms.”

It pointed out that “administrative and disciplinary measures” have been taken in certain cases evaluated, where there was no justification for the product shortage, as “the production conditions were present and the country had made the needed financial resources available.”

MINCIN issued this missive in response to a report published on August 27 by Cuba’s main official newspaper, Granma, following increasingly frequent complaints by the population over the shortage of basic products at hard currency stores and State industrial product markets. The article stated that product shortages have become a “chronic phenomenon” in the country, despite attempts by industry to meet production plans and efforts by retail chains to compensate for unbalances through imports.

Potatoes, Juice and Toilet Paper

The list of under stocked products includes potatoes, fruit juices, salt, domestically produced beers, toilet paper, toothbrushes, matches and plastic bags.

Though MINCIN insists efforts to stabilize the supply of numerous products for the remainder of the year are being made, the panorama described does not appear to point to an immediate solution to the under stocking of Cuban markets.

“With the import of some raw materials and supplies, it has been possible to resume some production processes in the country and ensure a more stable supply of high-demand products. That said, it is both crucial and fair to point out that it will not be possible to meet the population’s growing demands in all areas,” MINCIN stated, pointing to the demands of the self-employed and new forms of employment established in the country as one aggravating circumstance.

A letter issued by Cuba’s CIMEX Corporation followed MINCIN’ communiqué last week. Published in Granma, it leaves a number of “pending questions” regarding the shortage of products distributed by its stores across the country unanswered. The document was signed by Barbara Rosa Soto Sanchez, commercial vice-president of the company.

Product Shortages

On the basis of these two letters, a list of 25 products in short or unstable supply in Cuba’s domestic market, and the official prognosis regarding a possible solution to this, can be drawn up.

Potatoes: Production during this year’s harvest, aimed at 65,700 tons, fell by 48,000 tons in comparison to 2013. These figures make it impossible to satisfy the demand for this product.

Natural juices and nectars: CIMEX has imported products to meet demands and hopes to be able to stabilize the supply of its products by year’s end. The increase in the number of self-employed workers and the establishment of new food service cooperatives are the main causes of the unstable supply.

Soft drinks: Consumer demands aren’t being met and production plans go unfulfilled. This has led to under stocking. These products are not being imported.

Powdered Chocolate: The dairy industry has recovered production indices, but these still do not meet customer demand.

Domestic beer: Cristal and Bucanero-brand beers were fulfilling their production plan at 94%, which is below the market demand. Shortages are also being caused at markets due to the demand of the self-employed and food service cooperatives. Other beers have been imported to meet demand at stores.

Salt: No explanation as to its absence at markets is offered. Production and delivery goals continue to go unfulfilled and contractual clauses governing its sale are still being violated.

Toilet paper: Domestic manufacturers are meeting production plans but consumer demand is not being met. CIMEX imported toilet paper to reduce shortages by 10 % during July.

Toothbrushes: There have been delays in domestic production and deliveries since May. CIMEX has begun to import this product to stabilize its stocks. Demand is still not being satisfied, however.

Toothpaste: A drop in market offer was registered in the first months of the year. Supplies should become stable in the second half of the year.

Deodorant: The industry experienced difficulties during the first months of the year owing to a lack of financing, but production and distribution have become stable.

Laundry soap: With a production commitment of 17,000 tons for the year, its offer is guaranteed in the market.

Toilet soap: The production goal of 18,876 tons has been met to meet demand. Product shortages are the result of distribution problems. The soap deficit has been evident in the Cuban peso retail market, where a sustained offer of the product has not yet been achieved.

Razors: Stocks have run out. The product should be made available at stores this month.

Colognes and perfumes: A steady supply cannot be guaranteed through domestic production or imports. Of the total of 5,938,600 units put on the market last year by Suchel Regalo and Suchel Camacho, only 37% (2,218,649 units) was available for sale this year. The industry is not expected to recover until 2015.

Talcum powder: The demand continues to go unmet. Of the 362,000 units of talcum powder produced in 2013, a mere 16% will be produced this year.

Batteries for electric motorcycles: Cuba’s Minerva factory has not been able to guarantee a steady supply at retail stores operated by CIMEX’ Automobile Transportation Division. Supplies for electric bicycles, including the batteries, are expected to become stable by mid-September with the help of imports.

18 and 32-Watt fluorescent lights: Though high numbers of affordable fluorescent lights were imported from January to June for distribution throughout the country, stocks have not become stable in the market. MINCIN reports that under stocking is owed to a failure to import the product on a timely basis.

Energy-saving bulbs: There has been a shortage of this product since the beginning of the year owing to lack of timely imports. The number of bulbs needed to stabilize supplies in the market will be imported from Vietnam and China. CIMEX claims that the market will recover slightly between May and June.

Portable radios: No contract with domestic manufactures exists because a steady supply of this product cannot be guaranteed.

Matches: the product shortages and unstable supply are owed to negligence on behalf of the companies that sell the product. There are no production problems or shortages.

Grease removing and descaling substances: Lack of inventory and unstable supplies in the market are expected throughout the year.

Bleach: It will be impossible to meet customer demands owing to technical problems faced by domestic manufacturers. Of the 8,720,879 liters of bleach needed to meet the demand this year, only 29% of that volume will be produced.

Hydrochloric acid: It will be impossible to meet demands. Of the 4,556,473 liters needed, a mere 7% will be produced for sale.

Cuba, Spring 2010 022State Food Store, circa 2008

CuentaPropistaParty Supplies, Cuenta Propista, 2011


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14 September 2014

 Original here: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/cuba/140914/cubas-ebola-aid-the-latest-example-its-medical-diplomacy

Cuba’s pledge to deploy a 165-strong army of doctors and nurses to help fight the Ebola outbreak is the latest example of the Communist country’s decades-old tradition of “medical diplomacy.”

Since 1960, when Cuba dispatched a team of doctors to help with the aftermath of an earthquake in Chile, the Caribbean island has sent more than 135,000 medical staff to all corners of the globe.

The latest batch being sent to help in west Africa’s Ebola crisis are part of a 50,000-strong foreign legion of Cuban doctors and healthcare workers spread across 66 countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa, according to Cuba’s Health Ministry. Cuban Health Minister Roberto Morales Ojeda told reporters in Geneva on Friday some 62 doctors and 103 nurses were being sent to Sierra Leone to tackle the outbreak. World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan welcomed the Cuban aid, the largest offer of a foreign medical team from a single country during the outbreak. “Money and materials are important, but those two things alone cannot stop Ebola virus transmission,” said Chan. “Human resources are clearly our most important need.” Morales said members of the team had “previously participated in post-catastrophe situations” and had all volunteered for the six-month mission, which begins in early October.

‘Foreign policy cornerstone’

“Medical diplomacy, the collaboration between countries to simultaneously produce health benefits and improve relations, has been a cornerstone of Cuban foreign policy since the outset of the revolution fifty years ago,” said US researcher Julie Feinsilver in a study for Georgetown University. “It has helped Cuba garner symbolic capital — goodwill, influence, and prestige —well beyond what would have been possible for a small, developing country, and it has contributed to making Cuba a player on the world stage,” Feinsilver wrote in her study “Fifty Years of Cuba’s Medical Diplomacy: From Idealism to Pragmatism.”  ”In recent years, medical diplomacy has been instrumental in providing considerable material capital — aid, credit, and trade — to keep the revolution afloat.”

Cuba’s medical diplomacy accelerated after the devastation wrought by Hurricanes George and Mitch across the Caribbean in 1998. In the aftermath of the disaster, Cuba sent some 25,000 doctors and health workers to 32 nations in the region. In 2004, former President Fidel Castro and late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez launched “Mission Miracle,” a program offering free eye surgery that has benefited some 2.8 million people across 35 countries, according to Cuban official sources.

Earthquake assistance

At the same time, Cuba’s “medical brigades” have helped victims from devastating earthquakes in numerous countries including Algeria, Mexico, Armenia and Pakistan. Cuba has also trained several thousand doctors and nurses from no fewer than 121 developing nations.

The biggest deployment has seen 30,000 Cuban health professionals sent to oil-rich Venezuela, a key regional ally. In Brazil, meanwhile, some 11,456 Cubans are working in hard-hit areas suffering from staffing shortages.

Together with educational and sporting services, the export of medical professionals is worth around $10 billion annually to Cuba, making it the most important source of income for the island, outstripping money earned from foreign remittances and exports of nickel.

Yet while the qualifications and dedication of Cuba’s foreign legion are regularly lauded by countries benefiting from their services and organizations such as the WHO, they are not always viewed so positively by local health workers. Trade unions and some politicians in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay and Honduras have criticized the “army in white coats” sent by Cuba.

At the same time, Havana has also been criticized for withholding too big a chunk of the salaries of workers employed overseas.

Despite the thousands of health workers abroad, Cuba’s domestic healthcare remains one of the best staffed networks in the world, with 82,065 doctors, one for every 137 people, according to the National Statistics Office.

imagesThe Ebola Pandemic, Monrovia

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CIPS-logo2By Stephen Baranyi, Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa, and Chair, Latin America and Caribbean Study Group of the Canadian International Council’s National Capital Branch.

See the original at: http://cips.uottawa.ca/what-should-canada-do-about-cubas-participation-in-the-americas-summit/#sthash.RUA0hXpt.dpuf This commentary reflects the public remarks and off-the-record

discussion with officials at the forum on Cuba, the 2015 Americas Summit, and Beyond: Obstacles and Opportunities, which was co-sponsored by CIPS on September 4, 2014.

Most Latin American and Caribbean states have indicated they will not attend the Americas Summit planned by Panama for April 2015 unless Cuba is invited. Canada and the United States have expressed reservations about Cuba’s participation on the grounds that it would gravely weaken the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Yet neither Ottawa nor Washington can afford to see the summit fail. In an age of emerging regional powers and increasing involvement by external heavyweights like China, North Americans are rightly concerned about being left on the margins of new hemispheric relationships.

From the moment it joined the OAS in 1989, Canada has made the protection and promotion of democracy a cornerstone of its hemispheric engagement. This commitment informed Canada’s hosting of the Americas Summit in Quebec and engagement in helping negotiate the Inter-American Democratic Charter, as well as the Harper government’s current Americas Strategy. Ottawa played a key role in drafting the Democracy Clause of the Quebec Declaration, which states that

 “any unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order in a state of the hemisphere constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to the participation of that state’s government in the Summits of the Americas process.”

Recognition of the different and often difficult paths to democracy provides an opening for productive dialogue, even between ideological foes, on ways of assisting Cuba in its construction of more democratic institutions. While Ottawa has maintained respectful relations with Havana since 1959, it definitely sees the Cuban regime as not meeting the standards of liberal democracy codified in the Democratic Charter. On that basis, it is understandable that Ottawa does not favour moves that might lower the bar on democracy in the region—at the summit or in other Inter-American fora.

Yet Canada does not wish to be left out in the cold, especially if Washington decides to go along with the majority view on Cuba’s participation. The Inter-American system, with the OAS at its centre, remains important because those are the only hemispheric institutions which include Canada as a full member (unlike the new Latin American and Caribbean Community (CELAC). Saving the Americas Summit is thus part of safeguarding Canada’s presence in the hemisphere. The tricky part is finding a way to save the summit and enabling Cuba to participate, without compromising Charter norms.

How might Canada contribute to that outcome?

First, Ottawa could see Cuba’s participation in the Americas Summit as a confidence-building measure rather than as a clear dilution of Inter-American democratic norms. Cuba’s participation in the Panama Summit would move it further along the path to reincorporation opened up at the San Pedro Sula General Assembly of the OAS in 2009. Yet it would not nullify the need for many other steps, by Havana and others, before Cuba could become a full member of the Inter-American system. As such, for Canada there would be little cost (and some possible benefits) in accepting Cuba’s participation in the Panama Summit.

Second, Ottawa could quietly support the construction of a summit agenda around a less controversial theme, such as the cooperative management of migration flows. Panama is not the place to reopen the Democratic Charter, with Cuba in the spotlight. Yet Ottawa could support a lower-profile discussion elsewhere on ways of breathing fresh life into the Charter.

The publications around the 10th anniversary of the Charter in 2011 (including the work of Canadian scholars like Maxwell Cameron and Thomas Legler) generated many ideas for strengthening the application of the Charter. Those range from compendia of best practices to the establishment of a special rapporteur on democracy. That conversation might interest Cuba and its allies, if it is broadened to include a consideration of how the participatory and substantive dimensions of democracy could be enhanced—as a complement to the mostly liberal, procedural dimensions codified in the Charter. This is complex and it will take time, much longer than the months leading up to the Panama Summit.

It will require adaptation in Cuba but also a considerable degree of conceptual and operational innovation on the OAS side. For those who think that the Harper government is unlikely to support that approach, let me cite the words of Foreign Minister Baird at the OAS General Assembly a few months ago. “Democracy”, he noted in Asunción, “is a journey, not a destination. There is no single outcome. Every democracy will look a little different, coming from a different set of experiences and from a different journey.”

This recognition of the different and often difficult paths to democracy provides an opening for productive dialogue, even between ideological foes, on ways of assisting Cuba in its construction of more democratic institutions. That could be timely, given the creation of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), which merges the democracy promotion and development mandates into one department.

Finally (and probably also quietly, since Ottawa has learned that megaphone diplomacy does not work on this file), Canada could continue supporting home-grown democratic development through technical cooperation with Cuban institutions. This could be done by supporting greater citizen participation in municipal governance; funding Cuban (quasi) civil society organizations working to enhance tolerance of diversity and the peaceful management of disputes; and backing Cuban researchers exploring ways to promote more governmental accountability.

Several Canadian non-governmental organizations are already engaged in such initiatives. More could be done to expand those efforts over the coming years, on the safe assumption that they will converge with internal processes such as generational change, as well as with the renewal of democratic norms in hemispheric fora.

See more at: http://cips.uottawa.ca/what-should-canada-do-about-cubas-participation-in-the-americas-summit/#sthash.TO8hwHTb.dpuf

000477_baranyi1-e1365429847141Stephen Baranyi


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CHRIS KRAUL,  11 September 2014 – Los Angeles Times -

Original article: http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-venezuela-cuba-doctors-20140911-story.html

AAA1Worsening conditions in Venezuela are causing increasing numbers of Cuban medical personnel working there to immigrate to the United States under a special program that expedites their applications, according to Colombian officials who help process many of the refugees.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Washington said the number of Cuban doctors, nurses, optometrists and medical technicians applying for U.S. visas under the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program is running as much as 50% ahead of last year’s pace, which was nearly double that of the year before. At the current rate, more than 1,500 Cuban healthcare workers will be admitted to the United States this year.

For geographical reasons, neighboring Colombia is a favored trampoline for Cubans fleeing Venezuela, whose leftist government has struggled to rein in runaway inflation, shortages of goods and services and rising social unrest.

Cuba, which prides itself on a comprehensive healthcare system and has long exported doctors and nurses to friendly countries, maintains an estimated 10,000 healthcare providers in Venezuela. The medical outreach program is intended as partial payment for 100,000 barrels of oil that President Nicolas Maduro’s government ships to the Castro administration each day.

Nelia, a 29-year-old general practitioner from Santiago de Cuba, arrived in Bogota last month after what she said was a nightmarish year working in Venezuela’s Barrio Adentro program in the city of Valencia. She declined to disclose her last name for fear of reprisal back home. Nelia said her disillusionment started on her arrival in Caracas’ Maiquetia airport in mid-2013. She and several colleagues waited there for two days, sometimes sleeping in chairs, before authorities assigned her to a clinic in Valencia, she said.

“It was all a trick. They tell you how great it’s going to be, how you will able to buy things and how grateful Venezuelans are to have you. Then comes the shock of the reality,” Nelia said. Her clinic in Valencia had no air conditioning and much of the ultrasound equipment she was supposed to use to examine pregnant women was broken.

She described the workload as “crushing.” Instead of the 15 to 18 procedures a day she performed in Cuba, she did as many as 90 in Venezuela, she said. Crime is rampant, the pay is an abysmal $20 per month and Cubans are caught in the middle of Venezuela’s civil unrest, which pits followers of the late President Hugo Chavez — whose handpicked successor is Maduro — against more conservative, market-oriented forces. “The Chavistas want us there and the opposition does not. And there are more opposition people than Chavistas,” said Nelia, who was interviewed in a Colombian immigration office in Bogota.

A 32-year-old Cuban optometrist who identified himself as Manuel and who also fled Venezuela to apply for U.S. residency said that at his clinic in Merida he was prescribing and grinding up to 120 pairs of eyeglasses a day, triple his pace in Cuba.

“As a professional you want to be paid for what your work is worth. What we were getting, $20 a month, was not enough to pay even for food and transportation, much less a telephone call to Cuba now and then,” Manuel said. “That’s the main reason I want to go to Miami, to earn what I’m worth.”

Cubans have long had favored status as U.S. immigrants. Virtually any Cuban is guaranteed automatic residency and a path to citizenship simply by setting foot on U.S. territory, legally or not. The Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program gives medical personnel a leg up by allowing them to apply for residency at U.S. embassies. Though some Cubans apply at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, others say they fear being seen there. Also, airfare to the United States from Colombia is much cheaper than from Venezuela.

The increasing flow of Cuban doctors is only part of a rising tide of Cubans seeking to reach the United States, many through Colombia. Lacking the special status of medical personnel, many U.S.-bound Cubans first land in Ecuador, where the government requires no visas. They then typically pass through Colombia to Panama with the help of coyotes, or human traffickers. However, many are detained in Colombia. Of 1,006 illegal immigrants detained in Colombia from January through July of this year for failing to have proper visas, 42% were Cuban, according to Colombia’s immigration agency director, Sergio Bueno Aguirre. The flow of Cubans had more than doubled from the year before.

One Colombian Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity said the U.S. policy of allowing Cubans immigrant status simply by arriving in the United States has fed organized crime in Colombia and in other transit countries.

“Coyotes helping the Cubans transit through Colombia often use the migrants to carry drugs or submit to prostitution,” the official said. “Or the coyotes will just abandon them at a border, creating a big headache for the Colombian government, which has to take care of them or send them back home.”

Venezuela's President Maduro speaks with Cuba's President Castro during their meeting in Havana

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9 September 2014 – Havana Times

Original here: http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106049

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government has announced a series of measures aimed at restructuring the country’s current housing system and authorizing the building of dwellings on roofs, empty lots and State-owned land by the population.

The special issue of Cuba’s Official Gazette published this past Friday made public Council of State Decree Law 322/2014, a new legislation that substantially modifies the General Housing Law, in effect since 1988, and seeks to simplify the legal norms governing applications by citizens to request changes of address, the transfer of properties and individual construction work.

The legislation, signed by President Raul Castro on July 31, aims to “improve State housing services and reorganize housing-related activities, reassigning these to entities responsible for work hitherto governed by the National Housing Institute (INV).”

Urban Planning Control

This restructuring will involve the transfer of the INV’s chief functions to the Urban Planning Institute (IPF), presided by General Samuel Rodiles Planas, and to other State entities, such as the Ministries of Construction, Justice and Labor and Social Security and the Provincial and Municipal People’s Court system.

Following this government decision, the INV has become subordinate to the Ministry of Construction and is now tasked with directing, executing and enforcing State and government housing policy.

The Official Gazette also published seven complementary resolutions aimed at making the issuing of permits to the population more efficient, improving regional and urban organization and combatting illegal practices and construction work.

The legislative package will come into effect on January 5, 2015.

Assigning State lands to individuals or entities who request these for the building of homes, certifying that completed dwellings are habitable, approving procedures for technical reports used to value properties and transfer ownership of empty lots and flat roofs, are among the functions now taken on by the IPF.

Land Assignation

The new provisions will regulate the sale, purchase, donation and exchange of empty State lots.

The IPF will be empowered to assign State lots to individuals in need of these for the building of homes. The lot assigned will have to meet basic urban planning requirements, such that individuals may begin construction on these immediately.

“The Municipal Urban Planning Office, in cases approved by the Municipal Administrative Council and in accordance with the priorities established by the State, will be authorized to transfer ownership of State lots to individuals through the pertinent payments, giving these full rights over these properties, so that they may build homes in their jurisdiction, through the procedure to be established by the President of the Urban Planning Institute,” the Council of State Decree points out.

People who are assigned a State lot will be required to begin construction there within a year from purchase. Failing this, authorities will either extend the building permit for an additional year or decide to terminate the agreement, returning the amount paid.

Building on Flat Roofs

Those affected by natural disasters, people living in precarious conditions, welfare cases, those residing in State shelters or in earthquake or disaster-risk areas will be prioritized in the assignation of State lots.

Similarly, the transfer and use of flat roofs for the expansion of homes, through purchases and other mechanisms, will also be made more flexible.

“The owners of individual dwellings, dwellings located in buildings with several stories (where each story constitutes a single dwelling) and dwellings that are part of an apartment building, may, of mutual agreement, grant the owners of dwellings on the top floor the right to expand their homes, or grant a third party the right to build a new dwelling, in the flat roof of the building in question, provided it is technically feasible and does not violate any urban or regional regulations, following authorization from the Provincial Urban Planning Office,” the regulations specify.

The measures are aimed at alleviating Cuba’s housing deficit, calculated at 600,000 dwellings, and at encouraging individual construction efforts. According to official figures, a mere 26,634 new homes were built last year, the lowest figure registered since 2004. The most significant detail, however, is that nearly half (12,217) were built by the population, unaided by the State.

Cuba Apr 2012 012

Paseo del Prado

Cuba Apr 2012 090 Cuba Apr 2012 091 Cuba Mar 2014 094 Cuba Nov 2008 020Some potential reconstruction projects; Photos by A. Ritter

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By Arch Ritter.

Attached here is the Power Point presentation Does Cuba Hava an Industrial Future made to the 2014 Conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy,

New Picture (3)New Picture (3).bmpaaaaNew Picture (4)New Picture (5)New Picture (6)New Picture (7)

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Arturo López Levy

Cuando los funcionarios electos establecen diferentes normas para sí mientras limitan los derechos constitucionales del resto de los estadounidenses, la credibilidad del sistema político sufre y el capital de las instituciones democráticas se erosiona.

El caso del viaje a China de los asistentes del senador Marco Rubio y la congresista Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, patrocinado por el Estado-partido comunista, es un ejemplo doloroso. Durante décadas, los legisladores cubanoamericanos se han opuesto a los viajes a Cuba y amonestado ferozmente a cualquier colega o sus asistentes que lo ha hecho buscando información o para dialogar con el gobierno. Rubio y Ros-Lehtinen han hecho del tema de no viajar a países comunistas una prueba de integridad política y de fidelidad a los derechos humanos. Rubio ha dicho en el Senado que cada dólar que se gasta en un viaje a un país comunista financia directamente la represión. Cada dólar, excepto los gastados por sus asistentes en la Gran Muralla y Tiananmen mientras escuchaban los méritos del presidente Mao.

Cuando la hipocresía es expuesta, el liderazgo político es más necesario. Es el momento en que los líderes y la opinión pública deben tomar partido y dejar en claro cuáles son sus principios. La integridad marca la principal diferencia entre los que creen que los viajeros estadounidenses son –como Hillary Clinton lo expresa– “anuncios andantes” a favor de una sociedad abierta, en Cuba y en China; de quienes viajan a Pekín, mientras predican sus políticas anti-Castro restringiendo el derecho de los estadounidenses a viajar.

La Casa Blanca debería actuar con liderazgo. Cada vez que el senador Rubio y la congresista Ros-Lehtinen cuestionan ferozmente la moral de las decisiones de Obama para expandir los viajes pueblo-a-pueblo, la administración Obama reacciona tímidamente o no reacciona. Los funcionarios de Obama parecen olvidar el propio discurso del presidente sobre la importancia de comunicarse con la sociedad civil cubana y la actualización de una política concebida “desde antes que él naciera”.

Muchos cubanoamericanos que votaron dos veces por Obama están decepcionados porque el presidente da demasiado a los políticos pro-embargo y escucha muy poco a los que defienden sus promesas de diálogo y la comunicación con Cuba. Después de la reelección en 2012, ganando una mayoría cubanoamericana, la secretaria de Estado Hillary Clinton aconsejó al presidente Obama: “echar otro vistazo al embargo. No está logrando sus objetivos, y frena nuestra agenda más amplia en América Latina”. ¿Por qué no lo hace?

Después de la reforma migratoria cubana bajo Raúl Castro, es más fácil para un cubano, que vive bajo un gobierno comunista, viajar a Estados Unidos que para un ciudadano estadounidense, que vive en democracia, viajar a Cuba. Esta es una grave contradicción que pone a los que abogan por una Cuba democrática, con buenas relaciones con Estados Unidos, en seria desventaja política. El presidente Obama hizo lo correcto en 2011 cuando autorizó las licencias para viajes religiosos, educativos, humanitarios y de algunos otros propósitos no turísticos para viajar a Cuba. Pero, ¿por qué no elimina los procedimientos burocráticos engorrosos para esos viajes regulados y adopta una licencia general para cualquier viaje con propósito no turístico?

La inacción de la administración Obama ante el actual proceso de reformas en Cuba divide aún más a Washington de otros países democráticos. Europa está negociando un acuerdo amplio de cooperación económica y diálogo político con Cuba. En Cartagena, Colombia, en el 2012 durante la Cumbre de las Américas, América Latina habló con voz clara: todos los países del hemisferio, excepto Canadá y Estados Unidos, reafirmaron su deseo de incorporar a Cuba en la próxima Cumbre prevista en Panamá en la primavera de 2015.

La ansiedad de los aliados de Estados Unidos en América Latina crece cada día que la Cumbre de las Américas de 2015 se acerca. Brasil y un importante número de estados latinoamericanos y caribeños han declarado su intención de boicotear la Cumbre de 2015, si no es invitada Cuba. La invitación a Cuba no se trata tanto de tener a Raúl Castro en la foto de los presidentes, sino transmitir una desaprobación general a la política de aislamiento contra la isla, ayudando a la Casa Blanca a removerla.

Washington debe eliminar las incoherencias flagrantes entre los valores que predica y las prácticas de sus políticos. Todos los estadounidenses deberían gozar de igualdad ante la ley en el ejercicio de su derecho constitucional a viajar. El senador Rubio y la congresista Ros-Lehtinen no deben pontificar contra los viajes a Cuba después de que sus empleados visitaron Pekín y la Gran Muralla de la mano del partido-estado chino. Sus electores cubanoamericanos están desmintiendo sus posturas al ritmo de casi 400,000 visitas a Cuba cada año. No es coherente con la forma de vida estadounidense que un grupo disfrute de un derecho que sus representantes niegan al resto de la población.

Este incidente desastroso podría dar un giro para bien si el presidente Obama defendiese la libertad de viajar como un derecho humano. Algunos dirán que la Casa Blanca no puede desafiar el Congreso mediante políticas que atentan contra la ley Helms Burton. Pero si Estados Unidos quiere que otros países se unan a los esfuerzos para promover los derechos humanos y la apertura política en la Isla, debe dar el ejemplo practicando la libertad que predica. La libertad de viaje como un derecho humano es fundamental tanto en la política de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba como hacia China.

Arturo-Lopez-Levy-11 Arturo López Levy,  Escuela Josef Korbel de Estudios Internacionales de la Universidad de Denver.


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31See: http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2014/08/cubas-economic-social-reforms-mesalago

The original essay is available here: Mesa-Lago-Economic and Social Reforms in Cuba-Brookings-14

In INSTITUTIONAL CHANGES OF CUBA’S ECONOMIC-SOCIAL REFORMS, Carmelo Mesa-Lago, distinguished service professor emeritus of economics and Latin American studies at the University of Pittsburgh, evaluates the pros and cons of Cuba’s economic reform plans as they relate to institutional change.

Overall, Mesa-Lago concludes that institutional reforms in Cuba are advancing in a positive direction, albeit slowly. The most important of these so far has been the establishment of microcredit, bank accounts and wholesale markets for the non-state sector, and the sale of homes and establishment of inheritance rights for usufructuaries and home owners. However, key structural changes and components are still missing: integral price reform, elimination of monetary duality, a realistic exchange rate and bank system restructuring.

The author argues that if Cuba were to follow an adapted “socialist market” or mixed economy model, as in China and Vietnam –which have a private sector, open markets and foreign investment, combined with an indicative plan and decentralization of decision making — it would achieve much higher sustained economic growth. Furthermore, the state must permit self-employment in skilled, high-value-added jobs for university graduates, authorize medium-sized enterprises and cooperative ownership of businesses, allow true co-op independence, reduce excessive taxes on non-state workers, halt government measures that create uncertainty, and expand microcredit and wholesale markets. Mesa-Lago offers a variety of other policy recommendations that will help advance the process of institutional reform within the context of the ongoing reform process. However, time is of the essence as Raúl Castro has committed to retiring in February 2018, leaving him with only four years to complete the key institutional changes the nation urgently needs.

New Picture (3)

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The Causes & Consequences of Cuba’s Black Market

21 August 2014 –  Havana Times – Fernando Ravsberg*


HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban press is out to get re-sellers, as though their existence were news to anyone, as though they just now realized there is a black market that’s on every street corner in the country, selling just about everything one can sell.

In a news report aired on TV, they went as far as insinuating that some employees at State stores are accomplices of those who hoard and re-sell products. They are now “discovering” that the black market stocks up, in great measure, thanks to the complicity of store clerks. The reporting remains on the surface, addressing the effects but not daring to go to the root of a problem that has burdened the country for decades as a result of the chronic shortage of products – from screws to floor mops.

During the early years of the revolution, these shortages could be chalked up to the US embargo. Today, however, Cuba maintains trade relations with the entire world and can purchase the products people need in other markets. It doesn’t even seem to be a financial problem, because the products become available and disappear intermittently. Shaving foam can disappear for a couple of months and reappear at all stores overnight.

These ups and downs are what allow a group of clever folks to hoard up on and later re-sell these products at higher prices. A lack of foresight and planning when importing is what creates these temporary shortages that make the work of hoarders easier.

There is no doubt Cuba has a planned economy. The question is whether it is actually well planned. The truth is that, for decades, the country’s domestic trade system has functioned in a chaotic manner and no one has been able to organize it minimally.

A foreign journalist I know recently noted that, when toilet paper disappeared from all State shops, a supermarket in Havana had a full stock of pickled partridge that no one buys.  Who would decide to buy such a luxury canned product at a time when most store shelves are practically empty? The story brings to mind that anecdote involving a government official who imported a snow-sweeper to Cuba.

The Market and Consumption

Cuba’s domestic trade system doesn’t require “reforms”, it demands radical change, a new model. Such a change should begin with Cuba’s importers, bureaucratic companies that are ignorant of the interests and needs of consumers and buy products without rhyme or reason.

Many of their employees receive [under the table] commissions from suppliers and therefore prioritize, not the country’s interests, but their own pockets. They are the same people who received money from the corrupt foreign businessmen recently tried and convicted in Cuba.

To plan the country’s economy, the government should start by conducting market studies and getting to know the needs of consumers, in order to decide what to purchase on that basis. It Is a question of buying the products people need and in quantities proportional to the demand.

Planning means being able to organize import cycles such that there is regular supply of products, without any dark holes, like the ones that currently abound in all sectors of Cuba’s domestic trade, from dairy products to wood products.

Sometimes, this chaotic state of affairs has high costs for the country’s economy, such as when buses are put out of circulation because spare pieces were not bought on time, there isn’t enough wood to build the crates needed to store farm products or a sugar refinery is shut down because of lack of foresight.

Even the sale of school uniforms at State subsidized prices experiences these problems owing to a lack of different sizes. This is a problem seamstresses are always willing to fix, charging the parents a little extra money.

Cuba’s entire distribution system is rotten. Importers are paid commissions, shopkeepers sell products under the counter, butchers steal and resell poultry, ration-store keepers mix pebbles in with beans, agricultural and livestock markets tamper with weighing scales and bakers take home the flour and oil.

In the midst of this chaos we find the Cuban consumer, who does not even have an office he or she can turn to and demand their rights (when they are sold rotten minced meat, and old pair of shoes or a refrigerator that leaks water, for instance).

Speculation is no doubt a reprehensible activity, but it is not the cause of the black market. The country may launch a new campaign against hoarders, but it will be as unsuccessful as all previous one if an efficient commercial system isn’t created.

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Vegard Bye;

 The full Report is available here:  NUPI Report: Which Way Cuba?

This NUPI Report is the result of a project financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the purpose of studying and accompanying economic and institutional reform in Cuba. This Report consists of three papers taking stock of the political changes in Cuba by the end of 2013 (with some updates from early 2014).

First, Vegard Bye attempts to summarize the status of the Cuban reform processes under president Raul Castro, with emphasis on the link between economic reforms and political transformations. One basic question is whether increasing economic pluralism may also lead to political pluralism, or whether there will rather be a re-concentration of both economic and political power.

Second, Armando Chaguaceda looks at the social deterioration in Cuba. What is at stake are some of the most important achievements of the revolution in terms of health, education and social security. The author argues that these achievements have never been seen in a rights perspective.

Lastly, Borghild Tønnessen-Krokan describes the polarized debate and issues that have blocked normalization and friendly coexistence, and analyzes constraints and benefits related to dialogue on human rights, security and other contentious issues both inside Cuba and between Cuba and the US in light of a recent thaw.

In Annex 1 at the end of the Report, we reprint an English translation of the very visionary Manifest elaborated by our partner Laboratorio Casa Cuba: CUBA SOÑADA; CUBA POSSIBLE; CUBA FUTURA.

This is the first proposal for a liberal democracy in Cuba proposed by a group of political thinkers operating within the Cuban political system, and thus tolerated by Government and Party. There is reason to believe that this document – with possible follow-up will become a benchmark for future debate about democratic political transformations in Cuba.

New Picture (4)



Which Way Cuba? The 2013 Status of Political Transformations

By Vegard Bye

1. Introduction

2. Agricultural transformations and their implications

3. Widening space for employment-generating entrepreneurs?

4. Mariel: the new Cuban panacea?

5. The new cooperative sector

6. A dual state-private structure?

7. Social deteriorations and their possible impact

8. Cuban agents of change

9. International context Cuba towards Latin American normalcy?

10. Assessing the on-going transformations up against theoretical and empirical literature

11. The three scenarios

 Cuba: revisitando la Justicia Social en tiempos de reforma

By Armando Chaguaceda

  1. Resumen
  2. Introducción
  3. Las perspectivas del análisis.
  4. El caso cubano
  5. Las reformas y sus impactos
  6. La (in)seguridad alimentaria y los ingresos personales
  7. El déficit habitacional y la marginalidad.
  8. “ é ” y “ á ”
  9. Reducciones en la calidad educacional
  10. Conclusiones

Build Walls or Open Doors? Prospects for Cuba Dialogue

By Borghild Tønnessen-Krokan

  1. Introduction
  2. Methodological constraints
  3. Scope and definitions of dialogue and reconciliation
  4. Origins and dynamics of the conflict
  5. From Deadlock to Détente
  6. Conclusion


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