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Book Review: Al Campbell (Editor) Cuban Economists on the Cuban Economy.

Cuban Economists on the Cuban Economy. Edited by Al Campbell. Gainesville, FL: The University Press of Florida, 2013. Pp. xvii + 337. $79.95 cloth. ISBN: 9780813044235.

indexBy Arch Ritter

Eight years after the accession of Raúl, it is time for an analysis and evaluation of his revised approach to economic management. Not surprisingly, a large number of books dedicated to this task have been published recently.[i] Among these is an interesting volume edited by  Al Campbell of the University of Utah appeared in 2013.

Al Campbell’s collection of essays, Cuban Economists on the Cuban Economy, purposely includes some well-established analysts some of whom are less well-known outside of Cuba because they write in Spanish mainly for domestic policy formulation and publication. It is tempting to label these authors the “old guard” but some such as Miguel Figueras and José Luis Rodríguez can be said to have been moderate reformists as well, and all profess to be supporters of Raúl’s reforms. It is pleasing to see some new work by senior economists such as Figueras,. Rodríguez and the late Ángela Ferriol.

Generally, the volume strikes an “oficialista” tone, and excludes those economists from the University of Havana Center for Studies on the Cuban Economy who have been analyzing the reform process for the last 20 years as well as so-called “dissident” economists.

The volume seems to have passed its “best before….” date as the essays were written in the first half of 2010 using data up to 2008 or 2007. The authors were instructed to focus on the “Special Period” following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and consequent dramatic cuts in Soviet aid to Cuba; they “were specifically asked not to comment on the proposed reforms in their final chapter revisions…”  (Campbell  p.7)  Unfortunately this reduces the relevance of the book for assessing the economic experience and analyzing post 2010 policy reforms during Raúl’s Presidency. It would indeed be interesting to have the frank evaluations of Raúl’s reforms since 2011 from this group of analysts. The volume is nonetheless useful for understanding the economic challenges that Raúl inherited.

The Campbell collection includes twelve essays grouped in three sections.”  Section I, “The Macroeconomy,” includes a chapter by José Luis Rodríguez reviewing the general macroeconomic experience of the 1979-2009 period, a chapter by Oscar U-Echevarría Vallejo on changing development strategies, policy reforms and sectorial changes in the whole 1959-2009 period; a chapter on Cuba’s changing international economic relations during the “Special Period” by Nancy Quiñones Chang, and a description of the planning process prior to the expansion of the private sector after 2010 by Elena Álvares González.

The second section focuses on socioeconomic issues. An essay by Rita Castiñeiras García on “…The Human Dimension….” constitutes an uncritical listing of the achievements of the Revolution. For example, she accepts as a significant advance the expansion of the university system to include over 700 centers (Castiñeiras García p.156). But in 2011 under Raúl, the huge expansion of the university system was reversed and reduced to 119 centers with a large cut in enrolments as well. (Mesa-Lago, p.144) The essay by Juan Carlos Alfonso Fraga on demography and the aging of the population is useful, with its focus on the aging process, its consequences and relevant public policies.  Some analysis of Cuba’s fertility rate, its determinants and relevant public policies would also have been welcome; this is now 1.4 children per woman, the lowest in the Hemisphere, among the lowest in the world and well below the 2.2 level necessary for long-term sustainability.[1]

Ángela Ferriol’s essay on poverty acknowledges its existence in Cuba and outlines the programs designed to reduce it. A chapter on labor issues by Alfredo Morales Cartaya paints a Pollyanna picture, ignoring the collapse of the real value of wages, salaries, pensions and social security payments since 1990. Omitted as well is any consideration of the absence of meaningful collective bargaining, the right to strike and independent labor unions.

The third section then includes two essays on tourism, one on agriculture, and one on “knowledge-based” industries. The latter two essays are particularly unhelpful and offer virtually no serious policy analysis or evaluation.

[1] United Nations Development Program, Human Development Report, 2013. Statistical Annex, Table 14, p. 194.

[i] Among other volumes recently published on the reform process under President Raul Castro are the following:

Cuban Economic and Social Development: Policy Reforms and Challenges in the 21st Century. Edited by Jorge I. Domínguez, Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva, Mayra Espina Prieto and Lorena Barberia. David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, USA, 2012. Pp. iii + 333. $24.99 paper.  ISBN: 9780674062434.

Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959: A Critical Assessment. By Samuel Farber. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2011. Pp.ix + 369. $24.00 paper. ISBN: 9781608461394.

Cuban Revelations: behind the Scenes in Havana, By Marc Frank, University Press of Florida, 2013. Pp. iii + 327. $29.95 cloth. ISBN: 9789813944651

Cuba Under Raúl Castro: Assessing the Reforms. By Carmelo Mesa-Lago and Jorge Pérez-López. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 2013. Pp.xv + 295. $65.00 cloth. ISBN: 9781588269043.

¿Quo vadis, Cuba? La incierta senda de las reformas . Edited by Pavel Vidal and José Antonio Alonso.  Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011. Pp. xvii + 453. $48.00 paper. ISBN: 9780268029830.

Handbook of Contemporary Cuba: Economy, Politics, Civil Society and Globalization, Mauricio A. Font and Carlos Riobo (Editors). Boulder and London: Paradigm Publishers, 2013;

No More free Lunch: Reflections on the Cuban Economic Reform Process and Challenges for Transformation, Claes Brundenius and Ricardo Torres Perez (Editors). Switzerland: Springer, 2013;

The Economy of Cuba after the VI Party Congress,  Alberto Gabriele (Editor). New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2012.

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Book Review: CUBAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: POLICY REFORMS AND CHALLENGES IN THE 21ST CENTURY

By Archibald Ritter

 Cuban Economic and Social Development: Policy Reforms and Challenges in the 21st Century. Edited by Jorge I. Domínguez, Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva, Mayra Espina Prieto and Lorena Barberia. David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, USA, 2012. Pp. iii + 333. $24.99 paper.  ISBN: 9780674062434.

This volume is a co-produced University of Havana / Harvard volume edited by Jorge Domínguez, Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva, Mayra Espina Prieto and Lorena G. Barberia. Its objective is to describe and diagnose some of the central economic and social challenges that Cuba faces and to analyze some policy alternatives for meeting these challenges. The analyses are written by the University of Havana analysts who are among the strongest and most authoritative in their areas. These are accompanied by commentaries from professors at Harvard and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. The papers were prepared before the presentation of the government’s preliminary reform program, as outlined in its November 2010 Guide, though Domínguez’s introduction was written on the eve of the April 2011 Sixth Party Congress and draws on the authors’ analyses as well as the government’s proposals. Fortunately, the University of Havana authors present analyses of the key issue areas in an ambitious and long-term frame that goes beyond the discussion in the Guide and therefore does not read as dated.

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The opening chapter by Pérez Villanueva presents a summary overview of Cuba’s economic performance during the “Special Period” to 2010. His analysis leads to the conclusion that, “economic reform should be seen as the first of the structural changes that the country requires. Cuba’s economic problem is that the current economic system cannot serve as a starting point for the country’s development.” (Villanueva 16) He then proposes a variety of policy changes, some of which have in been incorporated into the Government’s policy reform program, for example ending rationing and state regulation rather than direct management of enterprises.

            Two essays on Cuba’s dual monetary and exchange rate system are included from Vidal Alejandro, formerly with the Banco Central de Cuba. The first focuses on the sources, character and cure of the monetary/exchange rate duality. Of special interest is the section proposing a set of policy reforms that provide a strategic approach for the establishment of a single currency.  Vidal Alejandro’s second essay is a more technical analysis of the international economic crisis of 2008-2009 and its repercussions for Cuban monetary policy. 

            Armando Nova González, who by now must be considered the “dean” of agricultural analysts in Cuba, has contributed two essays on Cuban agriculture. The first outlines the reforms of the early 1990s, analyzes and evaluates their impacts, and presents the range of policy changes required to resuscitate agricultural production, some of which have begun already. The second chapter then analyzes the impacts of the 2007-2010 reforms implemented after Raúl’s assumption of the Presidency. His central conclusion is that while the pricing, land redistribution and institutional reorganization reforms have been significant and positive, the reforms “lack a systemic focus” and require further deepening. (p.91)

In chapter six, Anicia García provides a fifty-five page analysis of agricultural production, food availability, and imports and exports of food and agricultural inputs. The sector has been severely damaged by its low policy priority over the last twenty five years, low prices in the state marketing system, minimal investment, a perverse exchange rate, and the strength of foreign competition – notably from the United States since the opening of agricultural exports to Cuba by that country. This is an impressively detailed and comprehensive analysis, clearly the best to appear so far. Following this is a fine chapter by Pérez Villanueva on direct foreign investment extracting insights from the experience of China and Vietnam for Cuba.

            Mayra Espina Prieto and Viviana Togores González contribute a valuable chapter analyzing Cuba’s changing socio-economic structures since the beginning of the “Special Period” in 1990, characterized by greater economic and social differentiation among sectors, regions, social groups and individuals and some exacerbation of inequalities, all of which have been generated by enhanced social mobility for those riding high in emerging economic activities and sectors of the economy, notably the higher end “self-employment” activities such as tourist oriented restaurants and “bed and breakfasts.”  New circumstances require new policy approaches and the authors emphasize the importance of targeting social programs, of focusing at the household level, of enhanced and sustained financial support for social policy and of social program decentralization.

The last chapter, by Lucy Martín Posada and Lilia Núñes Moreno, examines the regional and housing dimensions of inequality in Cuba. Drawing on regional statistical information from the Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas, the work of other analysts, their own analyzes and a survey, they construct a clear portrait of regional, housing and economic inequalities. They also present a range of specific policy recommendations for reducing these inequalities.

All in all, this is a valuable analytical survey of some of the central issue areas in Cuba’s current reform process. However, economic policies in a range of vital issue areas remain to be analyzed in greater depth as part of the process of the actualización of the Cuban economy. One hopes that the next round of major publications on the Cuban economy will investigate some of these specific policy areas more profoundly than was possible in a general volume such as this. Of particular relevance would be analyses of the policies toward industry, energy, infrastructure, the service sector, small enterprise and the private sector, cooperatives, state enterprise, foreign investment and joint ventures, exchange rate and monetary issues, trade policy, policy towards foreign investment, social policies, health and education, labor issues, pensions, demographic issues, cultural areas, etc. The work ahead is daunting.

 

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Book Review: ¿Quo vadis, Cuba? La incierta senda de las reformas

 

By Archibald Ritter

¿Quo vadis, Cuba? La incierta senda de las reformas . Edited by Pavel Vidal and José Antonio Alonso.  Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011. Pp. xvii + 453. $48.00 paper. ISBN: 9780268029830.

Quo Vadis, Cuba? edited by Pavel Vidal and Jose Antonio Alonso, is a co-production of the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy of the Universidad de la Habana (CEEC), and the Institute for International Studies at the Complutense University of Madrid  (Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid).[1] The project was financed by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation.  

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The volume does not attempt to make a comprehensive overview analysis of the functioning of the economy or a complete set of prescriptions for economic reform. Instead, the objective of the volume is “…to make a modest contribution to the search for useful paths for a “renovated” Cuba,” (Vidal and Antonio Alonso p.24.) and in this it succeeds. The Cuban-Spanish team has produced an outstanding set of analyses of a number of the central economic conundrums facing the Cuban economy.  

The analysts at CEEC have been focusing on Cuba’s economic situation now for some twenty years. They have steadily pushed the envelope, arguing forcefully and courageously from within Cuba regarding the need and possible shapes for reforms. They have also “stayed in the game” – in contrast to the dissident analysts such as Miriam Celaya, Dimas Castellanos and the late Oscar Chepe,  among others who work outside the system. While the CEEC analysts have perhaps had only a limited direct role in decision-making, they have been instrumental in moving the discussion forward and supporting the changing climate of opinion regarding economic institutions and policy.

The first chapter by Juan Triana Cordoví and José Antonio Alfonso, focusing on the foundations of economic growth, begins with some discussion of growth theorizing and possible insights from international experience for Cuba. It then analyzes Cuba’s growth performance, and discusses strategic options. The policy recommendations that it arrives at are fairly standard – namely promoting exports and solving the problem of the dual exchange rate and monetary system.  The third recommendation, which calls for the actualización of policy regarding the promotion of direct foreign investment (to complement domestic savings levels and stimulate technological transfer), is perhaps a bit surprising in view of Cuba’s three decades of policy hostility and then another two decades of policy reticence.[2]  

Ricardo Torres and Isabel Álvarez present a strong analysis of technical innovation, including a quick review of some theorizing, some comparative international experience and an analysis of structural changes in industry, trade and employment and the technological dimension thereof during the Special Period. They attribute the technological lag to low savings and investment levels, weak infrastructure, limited access to technology from abroad, and “the inertia and ‘immovilismo’ of Cuba’s managerial systems…” (Torres and Álvarez p.129.)  Among their policy suggestions are higher levels of savings and investment to permit accelerated incorporation of new technologies and structural change and a broadening of the self-employment sector to permit professional activities that would utilize Cuba’s well-educated labor force more effectively.

This volume also includes outstanding chapters analyzing tax reform and enterprise by Omar Everleny Perez, Saira Pons and Carlos Garcimartin; on Cuba’s social challenges and policy targeting by Anicia Garcia, Susanne Gratius and Luisa Íñiguez Rojas, and a chapter on the decentralization of state programs by Santiago Díaz de Sarralde and Julio César Guanche.             The concluding chapter by the editors entitled “Rules, Incentives and Institutions” outlines the “required institutional transformation” that Cuba needs to undergo, namely “the readjustment of the rules, norms, values and organizations inherited from the past:” The precise form of that readjustment is unstated, but “[t]he framework of economic and social incentives within which Cubans functioned in the past is called upon to transform itself and must be progressively replaced by another that will be coherent with the objectives of the reform” (p. 257).

This challenging chapter discusses the place of institutions in the development process, institutional quality and the process of institutional change in Cuban agriculture, the non-agricultural self-employment and micro-enterprise sector, the cooperative sector, and the direct foreign investment area. It emphasizes the pre-requisites for the functioning of markets (secure property rights, security of contracts, effective competition) and also market failure. It also includes brief analyses of the opposition to current institutional reform (inertia and opposition to change, potential loss of position by vested interests and the social hierarchy, and impacts on income distribution.)  The authors conclude that while reformist gradualism has certain advantages, an activist prioritization of reforms is desirable, such that the first reforms generate clear benefits for broad sectors of the population thereby building support for further reforms. All in all, this book makes valuable contributions to the understanding of the reformist challenges facing Cuba as it resolves some of its most pressing economic problems and moves towards a mixed but more market-oriented economy with major roles for the small enterprise and cooperative sectors.



[1] Six of the seven Cuban authors were from CEEC and five of the Spanish authors are from the Universidad Complutense. The editor on the Cuban side, Pavel Vidal, was at CEEC but is currently at the Pontifica Universidad Javeriana at Cali Colombia.

[2] The authors contrast the highly successful nickel sector, which has had a major role for foreign investment (in the form of Sherritt International) with the autarkic and disastrous sugar sector.

Pavel Vidal.pngAAAPavel Vidal Alejandro

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A Belated Brief Review: Samuel Farber’s “Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959: A Critical Assessment”

Review by Arch Ritter

Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959: A Critical Assessment. By Samuel Farber. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2011. Pp.ix + 369. $24.00 paper. ISBN: 1608461394.

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Samuel Farber’s volume on Cuba, as its title indicates, “attempts to present a historical analysis and evaluation of the Cuban Revolution since 1959.”  He approaches his analysis from “the left” but a democratic socialist left espousing genuine participatory democracy, with popular “self-mobilization fully respecting human and minority rights” (p. 4.)

Farber considers his work as “a form of advocacy and normative in its orientation”: 

“a political reflection on history and a search for a usable past which hopefully will support the new voices emerging in Cuba advocating a progressive transition toward a revolutionary and democratic form of socialism” (p. 5.)

While Farber’s work of course is not totally comprehensive, he takes a broad view, and includes national sovereignty, nation building and democracy, economic growth and social welfare, foreign policy, race and gender issues, the place of dissidents and critics from left to right, within and outside Cuba and then a summary and conclusion. Although Farber analyses the various issues over the life of the Revolution and also draws on pre-Revolutionary experience regarding the various issue areas, he brings each area into the 2000s and the 2010s. He also up-dates his work with an “Epilogue” on the Sixth Party Congress of April 2011 and comments on the reform process of the 2010s.

            Farber’s volume is thoroughly researched and documented. Indeed it includes 53 pages of footnotes that frequently include important substantive insights as well! His work draws on his own research and deep knowledge acquired over many years study, a comprehensive range of Cuban primary sources and the work of others analysts inside and outside Cuba.  Many observers and analysts of various aspects of Cuba’s historical experience since 1959 will be to some extent familiar with much that he writes about. However, it is enlightening and enjoyable to review in detail Farber’s well-written and well-organized discussion of these central dimensions of Cuba’s experience.

In view of Farber’s somewhat iconoclastic approach to his work, which is unabashedly “in a classical Marxist tradition” but also social democratic – or as he would undoubtedly prefer, “socialist democratic” – one might expect that he may come under s criticism from both the right and the left. But Farber’s work in fact seems uncontroversial, “mainstream” and “social democratic” in character. His analyses and evaluations are well balanced, objective and convincingly supported with painstaking and comprehensive presentation of evidence. This is a volume well worth reading for the “old Cuba hand” as well as for anyone wanting an objective analysis of Cuba’s experience since 1959.

imagesSamuel Farber

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Book Review: Carmelo Mesa-Lago and Jorge Pérez-López, Cuba Under Raúl Castro: Assessing the Reforms

 

Carmelo Mesa-Lago and Jorge Pérez-López, Cuba Under Raúl Castro: Assessing the Reforms, Boulder CO: Lynn Rienner, 2013, pp. 1-293, Copyright © 2013;  ISBN: 978-1-58826-904-1 hc

M-L & P-L

Cuba Under Raúl Castro: Assessing the Reforms is, so far, the definitive survey, analysis and evaluation of Cuba’s economic and social policies and of its development experience during the Presidency of Raúl Castro.

This is an excellent volume. Mesa-Lago and Jorge Pérez-López have built on their 50 and 40 years records respectively of their highest quality analyses of the economic strategies, policies and economic performance of Revolutionary Cuba, as well as numerous in-depth analyses of specific issue areas.

This study is comprehensive in scope, yet concise and focused. It is balanced and objective. It is constructed on a solid and broad a foundation of statistical information and a deep knowledge of the meaning and limitations of that information. It includes virtually all possible source materials from inside as well as outside the island.

In sum, it constitutes the best starting point for any observer, analyst, researcher or scholar trying to understand Cuba’s economic experience after Raul Castro’s “Acting” Presidency then Presidency.

Below is the Table of Contents to provide a quick overview of the scope of the volume.

Chapter 1        Cuba’s Economic and Social Development, 1959-2012.

Chapter 2        The Domestic Economy, 2006-2012.

Chapter 3        International Economic Relations, 2006-2012.

Chapter 4        Social Welfare, 2006-2012.

Chapter 5        The Reforms, the National Debate, and the Party Congress.

Chapter 5        Assessing the Reforms: Impact and Challenges.

Carmelo Mesa-Lago is undoubtedly well-known to all all observers and analysts interested in Cuba in view of his prolific and excellent work on Cuba over the last half-century. He currently is distinguished service professor emeritus of economics and Latin American studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of numerous books on Cuba, most recently Cuba’s Aborted Reform: Socioeconomic Effects, International Comparisons, and Transition Policies (with Jorge F. Pérez-López).

Jorge Pérez-López is executive director of the Fair Labor Association in Washington, DC. He also has been the organizer of the conferences and publications of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy since its inception some 20 years ago. His publications on Cuba have been numerous and excellent – as a spare time activity. His recent publications include Corruption in Cuba: Castro and Beyond. How he manages to carry out his excellent research and writing on Cuba over and above his demanding employment is an amazing mystery to me!

The full Introduction to the book can be read here: https://www.rienner.com/uploads/51cb22c8e9c96.pdf

The Lynne Rienner web site where it can be ordered is here: https://www.rienner.com/title/Cuba_Under_Raul_Castro_Assessing_the_Reforms

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Carmelo Mesa-Lago and Jorge Pérez-López

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Thriller set in Havana captures the wreckage of Cuba’s revolution

JOHN BARBER

The Globe and Mail, Published Friday, Mar. 29 2013

Sitting in a spotless, sunny apartment in Toronto’s immigrant-dense Thorncliffe Park, neatly dressed, fit and clear-eyed at 72, author Jose Latour shares his darkest thoughts. They focus on his native country, Cuba, and the disaster he foresees following the inevitable collapse of its geriatric communism.

“Once we have democracy in Cuba and a multiparty system and human rights, and so on, criminals from everywhere will come to Cuba,” he predicts. “There will be big corruption, a lot of prostitution and drugs.” Any semblance of social order will collapse with the dictators, he predicts.

It’s not that Latour harbours any fondness for the current regime, which effectively hounded him and his family out of the country when his crime novels began reaching an international audience, drawing unwelcome attention to the often harsh reality of life in a socialist paradise. But corruption and criminality are Latour’s métier. And as his latest novel proves, this author can still feel the deepest rhythms of Cuban society virtually in his own pulse.

Set at the climax of the Cold War, Riders of Land and Tide is a Tom-Clancy-style thriller that centres on a drug-fuelled mutiny aboard a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine in the Caribbean. Action, suspense, plot: It delivers all that the genre promises, as one would expect from a veteran once described by The Globe’s Margaret Cannon as “a classic noir writer.”

Jose Latour

But Latour’s latest also offers a revealing portrait of ordinary people in Cuba, based closely on his own former friends and colleagues, struggling to maintain their dignity amid the wreckage of revolution.

In this, Latour says, Riders is his most ambitious novel. “It’s Cuban history through the lives of three families,” he says. “The plot is absolutely fictional,” he adds, but the events and the characters and their struggles are painstakingly real. “Hundreds of thousands of Cubans live lives like these,” Latour says.

But the author has paid for his ambition to stretch genre bounds. “My Canadian publisher, McClelland & Stewart, didn’t want to publish Riders of Land and Tide because they said it dealt too much with the personal lives of people,” he says. “They wanted the book more centred in action, action, action. And I don’t do that kind of book.”

Vampires, zombies and other trendy tropes leave him cold. “That’s not my world,” he says. “I’m a realist, and I don’t believe all endings are happy and the good guys always win.”

As a result, Latour finds himself thrust onto the front lines of the electronic revolution, publishing Riders as an e-book in an exclusive six-month deal with digital bookseller Kobo. It will become available on competing sites beginning in April.

But Latour is no stranger to the vanguard, beginning with his role as an ardent young revolutionary working as a financial analyst in his country’s new government. Making the leap from bureaucracy with the help of three successful novels written in his spare time, Latour was able to quit his day job in 1990 in order to write full-time.

A growing darling of the Havana diplomatic corps due to his international reputation and work as a translator, Latour definitively stepped offside with a novel called The Fool, based on a true story of political corruption involving high-ranking officers in the Cuban armed forces and Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

Declared an enemy of the people, Latour was followed in the streets and received threatening phone calls. “So I had a meeting with my family and said, ‘Look, this is going to be a problem. I’m 60 years old. I don’t want to go to a Cuban prison at 60.’”

Cuban prison “is not Canadian prison, just in case you don’t know that,” he adds. “No, no, it’s something very different.”

Using a book tour in Spain as pretext, Latour, his wife Sandra and their two children left Cuba for good in 2002. After two years of living in Spain, they became patriotic new Canadians. None dreams of a return. “Canada is my country,” Latour says. “I’m a Canadian citizen, and this is where I hope to be cremated.”

Both children have since graduated from the University of Toronto and left home to pursue careers. But as much as Latour worries about the future of his native country, he worries that his children dream of becoming writers like him.

“I tell them, ‘Listen, you write a book like you purchase a lottery ticket,’” he says. “’I’ve been purchasing 649 since I got to Toronto and I have never won more than $10. It’s exactly the same with books.’”

So why does he keep doing it himself?

“Because I was born to write,” he answers. “It’s as simple as that.”

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Special Section of the Journal “Canadian Foreign Policy”: The Politics of Canada-Cuba Relations: Emerging Possibilities and Diverse Challenges,

A publication appeared in 2010 on Canda-Cuba Relations. It is now hyper-linked in this Special Edition of Canadian Foreign Policy Volume 16 Issue 1; Spring 2010 edited by Professor Lana Wylie. Political Science, McMaster University, Hamilton Canada. The journal is produced by the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa. This issue is a bi-national production with Cuban authors as well as Canadians. Summaries of the articles are summarized below. The complete essays are available in the hyper-linked source above.

SPECIAL SECTION - The Politics of Canada-Cuba Relations: Emerging Possibilities and Diverse Challenges

 

INTRODUCTION

SHIFTING GROUND: CONSIDERING THE NEW REALITIES IN THE CANADIAN-CUBAN RELATIONSHIP

The articles in this issue of Canadian Foreign Policy consider the current relationship as well as survey the history of Canada’s association with Cuba, touching on the highs and lows of the relationship and making suggestions about the future direction of Ottawa’s policy toward the island state. In selecting the articles that would appear in this issue, the editorial team at the journal and myself, as special editor for this issue, strove to ensure that the issue reflected a range of approaches and perspectives. The nine scholars who penned the following articles thus write from the perspective of six different disciplines: Geography, Political Science, History, Spanish and Latin American Studies, Business, and Economics. Even more interestingly, they tackle the relationship from both the Canadian and the Cuban perspectives, and bring fresh epistemological approaches to the study of the issues.

Peter McKenna, John Kirk, and Archibald Ritter are well-established Canadian scholars with careers that have been  devoted to the relationship. Not only have each of them spent much time in Havana, but they have done so in many capacities, from being visiting scholars at the University of Havana to advising the Canadian government about the direction of policy. In this issue they give us important perspectives on how the history of Canada’s approach toward Cuba is likely to shape the current direction of policy. The various approaches taken by Heather Nicol, Calum McNeil, and Julia Sagebien and Paolo Spadoni both challenge established ways of making sense of the relationship and complement the perspectives taken in other articles of the issue.  Each of these scholars has contributed much toward our knowledge  of Cuba, and in this issue they make crucial observations about the  various ways in which we have to come to understand the relationship. However, it was especially important that an issue devoted to furthering our understanding of the Canadian-Cuban  relationship reflect on it from both the Canadian and Cuban  perspectives. Luis René Fernández Tabío and Raúl Rodríguez help  us appreciate the view from Cuba. The two articles by the Cuban  contributors further demonstrate that what Canadians take as  given facts about Cuba, or about Cuba’s relationship with Canada, are notsettled at all.

CANADA AND THE CUBAN REVOLUTION: DEFINING THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT 1959-1962 RAÚL RODRÍGUEZ RODRÍGUEZ

The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 was a turning point in the history of the Cuban republic; a new Cuban government started a process of socio-economic and political transformations. The initial reaction of the United States government—with the additional support of the Cuban propertied class—led to the deterioration of  the United States-Cuba bilateral relation.

As the US economic sanctions were instituted, the Cuban government turned to other Western states, Canada among them, to try to minimize the economic impact of US policy. Canada’s export-oriented economy was poised to benefit from the new  opportunities offered by the Cuban market, and Cuba offered  Canada a means to assert its sovereignty by forging an independent  foreign policy stance. Canada was forced to observe  restraint and allegiance to its NATO partners, and especially to its closest ally, the United States—the state most hostile to the outcome of the Revolution in the context of Cold War. This complex scenario started to unfold in 1959, and was fraught with challenges and opportunities for Canada Cuba bilateral relations.

THE CHRÉTIEN YEARS:EVALUATING ‘CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT’     PETER MCKENNA AND JOHN M. KIRK

For most of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s ten years in office, his approach toward revolutionary Cuba was predicated on a policy of constructive engagement, or principled pragmatism. The piece begins by outlining the nature and extent of Canada-Cuba engagement, exchange, and dialogue during the Chrétien period. The article will then identify what worked in terms of bilateral relations and what did not, and in light of the Chrétien highs and lows, it will highlight the key lessons learned and explain why. Lastly, it will conclude with a series of policy recommendations for Canadian governments (current and future) to contemplate if Ottawa—especially given the changing United States-Cuba dynamic—hopes to enhance and strengthen ties with a post-Fidel Cuba.

CANADA-CUBA RELATIONS: AN AMBIVALENT MEDIA AND POLICY     HEATHER NICOL

This study examines Canadian newspapers and Parliamentary texts dating from 2000 to 2009. It suggests that there is, and has been, a consistent relationship between media portrayal of Cuba issues since the mid-1990s, but that in recent years as Canada’s  certainty of, and support for, Cuba has declined, a contradictory press facilitates an ambivalence towards Cuba that reflects the current state of Canada-Cuba relations.

Since 2000, less than one percent of all newspaper articles published in all Canadian major dailies have discussed Cuba. This lack of media coverage is striking, considering that Canadian companies have invested largely in Cuba and that Canadians have been among the largest groups of vacationers to the island for quite  some time. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has invested millions in official development assistance, while the current Conservative Government plays upon human rights issues on the island and the inherent failures of former rounds of Canadian constructive engagement to resolve these. The maintenance of normalized relations with Cuba has been  consistently challenged in Parliamentary debates by Conservative MPs. The latter have linked human rights abuses on the island with an increasingly critical approach to Canada’s traditional policy of constructive engagement.

CANADA’S ECONOMIC RELATIONS WITH CUBA, 1990 TO 2010 AND BEYOND     ARCHIBALD R. M. RITTER

During the Colonial era, from Independence to 1959 and throughout the regimes of Presidents Fidel and Raúl Castro, Canada and Cuba have maintained a normal and mutually beneficial economic relationship. During the first half of the 1990s, this relationship was invaluable for Cuba as it adjusted to the loss of Soviet subsidization and to its disconnection from the former Soviet Bloc. In these years, Canadian participants were enthusiastic and optimistic about future economic relations. However, in the 2000s this was replaced by greater realism and some skepticism concerning the possibilities for deepening economic interaction.

Following a brief review of the evolving relationship from 1959 to 1990, the nature of the economic relationship between Canada and Cuba is analyzed in more detail for the 1990 to 2009 era. The future economic relationship is then explored, focusing on Cuba’s economic recovery and policy environment, and the probable impacts of normalization with the United States.

CANADIAN–CUBAN ECONOMIC RELATIONS: THE  RECOGNITION AND RESPECT OF DIFFERENCE      LUIS RENÉ FERNÁNDEZ TABÍO

Despite geopolitical and ideological obstacles, the economic relationship between Canada and Cuba has, for the most part, been characterized as a prosperous and positive exchange for the two countries and its people over time. This paper suggests that Canadian-Cuban relations hold the potential to function within a different framework as a kind of new paradigm for North-South relations in the Western hemisphere in the face of US hegemony and its confrontational policy toward Cuba. With Canada and Cuba having benefited from a practice of good business, perhaps this exchange has provided a stable and prosperous base for the two nations to critically analyze structures to build upon for future relations. The significance of this relationship could be explained as a kind of mutual understanding the two have in the making of a new history, the outcome of the two countries having shared a common geographic position in relation to the United States.

TO ENGAGE OR NOT TO ENGAGE: AN (A) EFFECTIVE ARGUMENT IN FAVOUR OF A POLICY OF ENGAGEMENT WITH CUBA     CALUM MCNEIL

This paper seeks to explore the role of emotion in Canadian and American policy toward Cuba, with specific consideration of the emotional and normative dynamics associated Canadian-Cuban policy during the 1990s, and with the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996. A key point of comparison of this analysis is the assumption shared by both Canadian and American policy toward Cuba that regime change is inevitable, and that it will invariably correspond to the norms predominant in the domestic political systems of both states. It is my contention that a consideration of emotion allows us to gain insight into the decision-making behaviour in both states—and amongst the mass publics contained within them. It also allows us a means to more fully understand the possible particularities that distinguish the rational calculus of one state’s policies from another. By broadening our understanding of these, I illustrate how a policy of engagement is preferable to either embargo or constructive engagement.

THE TRUTH ABOUT CUBA?    JULIA SAGEBIEN AND PAOLO SPADONI

The search for truth in and about Cuba is an elusive and puzzling pursuit primarily affected by: 1) competing narratives of contested events; 2) the emotional distress that accompanies the experience of cognitive dissonance; 3) the Cuban cultural propensity towards vehement disagreement; and 4) the syncretic capacity of Cubans to inhabit several worlds at the same time. Canadian Cuba observers must strive to develop a balanced understanding of these competing narratives about Cuba and of the people

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Center for Democracy in the America: New Analysis of U.S. Policy towards Cuba

A new analysis of U.S. policy towards Cuba has just been published by the  Center for Democracy in the Americas. It is another well-balanced and eloquent call for a change in the failed US approach towards Cuba, a failure that has endured for a half-century.

The Table of Contents and part of the concluding comments are presented below. The complete study can be found here: Center for Democracy in the America, CDA_Cubas_New_Resolve: Economic Reform and its Implications for U.S. Policy (Hyperlink)

Table of Contents

About this Project 1
Preface 3
Section One: Raúl Castro Addresses Cuba’s Economic Crisis 7
Section Two: How the Economy is Changing for Everyday Cubans 35
Section Three: Listening to the Cuban People . 45
Section Four: Findings and Recommendations 59
The Center for Democracy in the Americas’ Cuba Program 75
Acknowledgments . 77
Endnotes 81

What Should U.S. Policy Be?

U.S. sanctions are premised on the belief that strangling Cuba’s economy will lead the system to fail, motivating the Cuban people to rise up against their government and establish a multiparty liberal democracy. After five decades, it has failed to achieve its goal. Instead, it is inhumane and counter-productive. In addition to inflicting pain on the people we are ostensibly trying to help, the sanctions could even prompt a mass  xodus out of Cuba, putting the stability of the Caribbean at risk.

Twenty years ago, amidst the wreckage of the Special Period, U.S. Congress and the Executive Branch tightened sanctions with the hope of capitalizing on Cuba’s difficulties. American policy missed the chance to align itself with the humanitarian interests of Cubans and their leadership muddled through. As U.S. sanctions became more restrictive, we ceded the playing field to allies and competitors—Spain and Brazil, China and Venezuela—who are still in Cuba today, investing and trying to help its economy grow.

While the fate of Cuba’s economic reforms rests primarily with the government and the Cuban people, actions taken by President Obama, however limited, are now playing an important supporting role. But the

United States can do more. We have a new opportunity to be seen by Cuba’s people and its future leaders supporting their efforts to build a new economy and to help the Cuban people lead more prosperous lives. The greatest contribution our country can make now is to demonstrate we want the reforms to succeed, because we want the Cuban people to succeed. If this were a core principle of our democratic policy, a series of logical steps could then follow.

First, President Obama and other U.S. policy makers should acknowledge  that Cuba’s reforms are real; that this program opens the way to a greater role for the market, and the changes are likely to exact great hardships on the Cuban people. They should also acknowledge that the reforms represent an important beginning. Until that all happens, our ambivalence plays into the hands of hardliners in Cuba who oppose reform or rapprochement with the United States. Second, Cubans lack cash and credit to make full use of their newly granted right to form businesses. The embargo and its byzantine sanctions prevent U.S. banks and developers from financing investments in Cuba. By loosening restrictions on travel and remittances, President Obama  mobilized the financial capital and support of a good portion of the Cuban American community on behalf of Cuba’s economic revival. There are additional executive decisions the president can take to ease the flow of financing to Cuba and to spur demand for the activities the emerging private sector is performing.

For example, the president could further loosen restrictions on U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. Although repeal of the statutory bar against tourist travel to the island would require an Act of Congress, unlikely in this political climate, President Obama could use his executive authority to open and expand categories of opportunities for Americans to visit Cuba.

…..

President Obama can, for example, order general licenses provided to freelance journalists, professional researchers, athletes who want to attend international sports competitions in Cuba, persons engaged in humanitarian activities, private foundations doing research, and business-related travel for authorized activities such as telecommunications,informational materials, and some marketing. He could also broaden the licensing for advisors from firms who could assist the Cubans in safe drilling and environmental protection as Cuba explores for oil in the Gulf of Mexico (as CDA recommended in the 21st Century Report on energy).

There is a broad consensus extending from the U.S. travel industry to the international human rights community that travel to Cuba should be expanded: travel is a constitutional right of U.S. citizens and has the added virtue of providing U.S. businesses broad opportunities. For Cuba’s citizens, it provides a source of profits and jobs for small businesses.

We also encourage the Executive Branch to clarify remittance expansion rules established in January 2011. President Obama has said any American is permitted to send remittances to an unlimited number of qualified Cubans of up to $2,000 per year each, but guidelines for sending remittances to non-family members are vague and need to be better defined. The regulation has no mechanism to open the door to Americans without family ties who wish to contribute remittances to Cubans they do not know and, if they could, no means for accountability exists for U.S. citizens to see if their donations were making a difference. Neither does the rule say whether the U.S. government allows Cuban recipients to seek or aggregate remittances from U.S. citizens. And answers are also needed from the Cuban government—it could identify recipient institutions which could distribute remittances to Cubans in need. Cuba should also be removed from the U.S. State Department list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. This designation subjects Cuba to sanctions including restrictions on U.S. foreign  assistance; controls over exports of certain dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.

Cuba’s presence on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism is both substantively wrong and harmful to the Cuban economy, because it punishes Cuba for legal trade and financial transactions and deprives its people access to modern technology. The president can remove Cuba unilaterally from the terror list. He should do so.

The International Financial Institutions (such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank), have provided useful support to countries undergoing economic transitions but are off limits to Cuba because of U.S. objections. The U.S. should allow Cuba to have access to their experts and advice.

……

Our final recommendation is to stop funding the USAID Cuba program. The U.S. government wastes millions of dollars each year to bring about the type of economic and political transition it sees fit for Cuba but the effect of the program increases suspicion and tension between the two governments. A failure of the program in 2009 resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of Alan P. Gross, a U.S. subcontractor. It is impossible, under the current circumstances, for USAID to take part in meaningful programs welcomed by the Cuban government, such as those that Brazilian and Spanish development agencies carry out. “Development assistance,” USAID’s actual mandate, should be discussed bilaterally between the two countries, leading to the establishment of programs agreed upon by both countries (as is done in the rest of the world). It will take time for trust to be restored, but it’s in the interest of both countries to start now.

In the final analysis, ending the embargo and normalizing relations with Cuba ought to be a foreign policy priority of the United States. As Steve Clemons, editor at-large of The Atlantic, noted: “Failure of the U.S. to finally snuff out the last vestiges of the Cold War in the U.S.-Cuba embargo signals impotence in American strategic vision and capability. Those who support the embargo undermine the empowerment of Cuban citizens, harming them economically and robbing them of choices that could evolve through greater engagement—exactly what we have seen in transitioning communist countries like Vietnam and China.”133

In the interim, these recommendations could make an important difference.They would put the interests of the United States into alignment with the humanitarian interests of the Cuban people, send a long overdue message of encouragement to the advocates of reform on the island, and demonstrate that our country is finally ready to move beyond Cold War policies of the past and modernize our approach toward Cuba for the 21st Century.

None of these actions would sit well with the hardest of the hardliners in the Cuban American community or their representatives in Washington. Their terms of surrender for Cuba, as Phil Peters pointed out in his Cuban

Triangle Blog, are written into the statutes of the U.S. embargo. In Congress, legislators including   Representatives Mario Díaz-Balart, David Rivera and others, are trying to reverse President Obama’s travel reforms, dialing back family travel and remittances to the levels imposed by President Bush. They will certainly fight actions that loosen restrictions to help push along Cuba’s economic reforms.

Nevertheless, we believe that the political dynamic of the Cuban American community has already shifted—many have moved from supporting isolation and aggression toward the island’s government to building on family ties and helping their relatives prosper and live more autonomous lives in Cuba’s new economic environment. The potential for home ownership in Cuba, and the U.S. expansion of travel and remittances, are enabling Cuban Americans to invest in the goal  of helping Cuba succeed. But this effort should go far beyond the Cuban family. It should become the motivating force behind U.S. policy.

These changes are in the broad national interest of the United States, and it is time for our policy makers to respond affirmatively and creatively to the process of reform underway in Cuba today.

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Cuba Standard.com, Cuba Trade and Investment News

By Arch Ritter

A fine newsletter on Cuban trade and investment issues, including broader economic, political and company news is produced by Johannes Werner, who is also the editor of the Website entitled the CubaStandard.com. While out of the price range of the  analyst or citizen interested in Cuba, it is of relevance for enterprises and some government offices. Some of the items in the Newsletter also appear on the Website as well.

The Table of Contents of the most recent issue is presented below in order to provide an idea of the type of analysis and coverage included  in the Newsletter. The particulars on the publication are also presented below.

The Website for the the Cuba Standard is located here: Cuba Standard.com, Cuba Trade and Investment News

Table of Contents:

U.S. inching closer to talks on offshore oil safety.

Government eases auto sales restrictions.

Analysis: The Cuban diaspora, A role for exile money and know-how?

OFAC fines Texas oil supplier.

U.S. lawmakers warning Repsol.

Jorge Piñón: What Washington should be doing.

PdVSA official: China ‘almost sure’ to fund Cuban refineries.

Government reform shifting into overdrive.

Cuba to access global pharmaceutical markets via Brazil.

Cuba seeking South African funding for medical projects.

Iran boosts line of credit.

Vietnam seeking debt arrangement.

Vietnam working with Cuba on biogas

BY THE NUMBERS, FIRST HALF 2011

C o m p a n i e s:

Pemex eyeing Repsol’s Cuba operations;

Sherritt appoints new director ;

China, Cuba to jointly develop vaccine

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New Publication from Cuba: Cooperativas y Socialismo: Una Mirada DesdeCuba

A collection of essays on Cooperatives has just been published in Cuba, compiled by Camila Piñeiro Harnecker of the Centro de Estudios sobre la Economia Cubana. Ms. Camila Piñeiro comes with an impeccable political pedigree, with parents Manuel Piñeiro Losada (a Revolutionary from 1952 onwards and a 32 year veteran of the Central Committee) and Marta Harnecker, (a Chilean sociologist,  leading ideologue and prolific author.) The volume was made available courtesy of ASCE and Joaquin Pujol

The complete document is available hyperlinked here: Cooperativas y Socialismo: Una Mirada DesdeCuba, La Habana: Editorial Caminos, 2011

Compiladora: Camila Piñeiro Harnecker; Coordinador editorial: José Ramón Vidal

Edición: Mayra Valdés Lara; Diseño: Olmer Buchholz Espinosa

The Table of Contents is reproduced below.

Índice

Prólogo Camila Piñeiro Harnecke, 7

Parte 1 ¿Qué es una cooperativa?

1.       Una introducción a las cooperativas, Jesús Cruz Reyes y Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, 31

2.       La construcción de alternativas más allá del capital,  Julio C. Gambina y Gabriela Roffinelli, 55

Parte 2 Las cooperativas y los pensadores socialistas

3.       Cooperativismo y autogestión en las visions de Marx, Engels y Lenin,  Humberto Miranda Lorenzo 71

4.       Cooperativismo socialista y emancipación humana. El legado de Lenin, Iñaki Gil de San Vicente, 103

5.       El Ché Guevara: las cooperativas y la economía política de la transición al socialism, Helen Yaffe 132

6.       Las bases del socialismo autogestionario: la contribución de István Mészáros, Henrique T. Nova, 167

Parte 3 Las cooperativas en otros países

7.       Mondragón: los dilemas de un cooperativismo maduro, Larraitz Altuna Gabilondo, Aitzol Loyola Idiakez y Eneritz Pagalday Tricio, 191

8.       Cuarenta años de autogestión en vivienda popular en Uruguay, El “Modelo FUCVAM”,  Benjamin Nahoum, 219

9.       Economía solidaria en Brasil: la actualidad de las cooperativas para la emancipación histórica de los trabajadores/ Luiz Inácio Gaiger y Eliene Dos Anjos, 245

10.   Autogestión obrera en Argentina: problemas y potencialidades del trabajo autogestionado en el contexto de la poscrisis neoliberal, Andrés Rugge, 272

11.   De las cooperativas a las empresas de propiedad social directa en el proceso venezolano Dario Azzellini, 301

Parte 4 Las cooperativas y la construcción socialista en Cuba

12.   Las cooperativas agropecuarias en Cuba: 1959-presente,  Armando Nova González, 321

13.   La UBPC: forma de rediseñar la propiedad estatal con gestión cooperative, Emilio Rodríguez Membrado y Alcides López Labrada, 337

14.   Notas características del marco legal del ambiente cooperativo cubano,  Avelino Fernández Peiso, 366

15.   Retos del cooperativismo como alternativa de desarrollo ante la crisis global. Su papel en el modelo económico cubano, Claudio Alberto Rivera Rodríguez, Odalys Labrador Machíny Juan Luis Alfonso Alemán, 397

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