Tag Archives: Cuba-Canada Relations

Peter McKenna: “Canada needs a new approach to Cuba”

Original Here: : http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Canada+needs+approach+Cuba/6477890/story.html#ixzz1sbPP0BZN

Following last weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to seriously reassess his position on Cuba (which was not officially invited to the inter-American gathering) and re-set the Canadian-Latin American relationship.

Indeed, we can’t on the one hand criticize the U.S. government for a failed Cuba policy (after 50 years of ineffective economic sanctions) and then side with the Americans on excluding Havana from the Americas Summit process. Additionally, we should not forget that Cuba punches well above its weight within the wider region.

Notwithstanding recent comments by former Cuban President Fidel Castro, who castigated Harper for environmental damage caused by Alberta’s oilsands and Canadian mining companies for exploiting struggling communities in many Latin American countries, the Canadian government should seek to strengthen its relationship with Havana. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (and Consular Services), Diane Ablonczy, has already done some important work in this area. She has properly recognized that there exist huge opportunities where both Canada and Cuba can work constructively together on a wide range of issue areas, including trade, tourism, energy and people-to-people contacts.

The next step is for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to undertake an official visit to Havana in the coming months. That, of course, would set the stage for a prime ministerial visit to Cuba — or a visit by a senior-ranking Cuban government official (Raul Castro?) to Ottawa in the near term.

But as former prime minister Jean Chrétien found out during his own April 1998 visit to Cuba, it makes no sense to press the Cubans hard on the human rights front or to attach certain conditions to a continued warming in bilateral relations. Yes, we should raise the issue of democratization and respect for political rights and freedoms, but if we hope to influence them here we should do so in a respectful and non-accusatory manner (and without preconditions).

Canada could also earn some diplomatic credit with its Cuban friends (and build stronger linkages with the Argentines, Brazilians and Mexicans) by pushing U.S. President Barack Obama on an anti-Cuba bill passed by the Florida state legislature in March. Harper should firmly ask Obama if there is any way that this counterproductive bill can be quashed. The offending legislation was sponsored by Miami Republican lawmakers determined to punish the Cubans by restricting state and local governments from signing procurement contracts with any companies that do business with Cuba and Syria. Both countries still remain on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The point here is not only to prevent Florida taxpayers from supporting companies that have commercial relations with Havana, but to compel those same companies from operating and investing in Cuba. In a word: it’s about “internationalizing” the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba — which has always been seen in Washington as the key instrument for removing the Castros from power.

Clearly, if this bill is signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott, it could have negative repercussions for Canadian companies bidding on contracts in the sunshine state.

But the constitutionality of such a bill is seriously in doubt, since only the federal government (and Congress) in Washington has the legislative competence to conduct foreign policy (and impose sanctions). And it is well-established that state and local governments are constitutionally prohibited from setting policy that conflicts with federal law-making responsibilities. A similar law in Massachusetts — which sought to limit state businesses from dealing with companies inking commercial deals with rights-abusing Burma — was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.

Canada could enhance its position and prestige in the hemisphere by standing up to the Americans on Cuba. Accordingly, it should seek Cuba’s presence at the next Americas summit, should there be one.

While most of what Fidel Castro said in early April can be ignored, he was right about highlighting the constructive engagement approach of former Canadian prime ministers Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien toward Cuba. Indeed, we need to jettison ideologically tinged rhetoric and focus on positive interaction, co-operative dialogue and commercial exchange.

To be sure, one of the keys to Canada opening up the door to wider and deeper relations with the Americas has to involve Cuba. Taking up the question of Cuba’s importance in the region is a good place for Stephen Harper to begin.

Peter McKenna is professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island and the editor of the forthcoming book, Canada Looks South: In Search of an America’s Strategy.

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Cuba’s World Heritage Sites

By Arch Ritter

Havana Fortifications, by Natascha Chaviano, 1997

I think of Old Havana almost every day when I walk over the gates in the Hartwell Locks of the Rideau Canal on my way to Carleton University. This is because the Rideau Canal and its Fortifications, like Old Havana and its Fortifications, is a fully certified “World Heritage Site”!  The Rideau Canal was built in 1834 to provide a secure water route from Montreal to Lake Ontario – secure against the United States, which had just been defeated in the War of 1812 when it tried to capture Canada. The Havana Fortifications were designed to secure the harbor and the Armada against pirates and the British – who in fact had succeeded in capturing Havana in 1762 (see the second last picture below.).

Rideau Canal entering the Ottawa River

Having lived beside the Rideau Canal system in Kingston and Ottawa for over half a century, I took it for granted but was pleasantly surprised when it received World Heritage (WH) status. But in thinking further, perhaps the WH designations have not been debased – at least not in the case of the Canal, which is an amazing piece of 19th century engineering. It was built by British tax-payers, English military engineers, Scottish stone-masons, and Irish navies.  It has been in active service from 1840 to the present. Its sister canal is the Caledonian Canal in Scotland.

Cuba has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The jewel in the crown of course is Old Havana, which is undoubtedly one of the historical wonders of the Western Hemisphere. The work of the “Historian of Havana”, Eusebio Leal, in preserving and reviving the old city is outstanding and perhaps underappreciated. I have visited only a few of the other WH sites in Cuba, so I will not venture any commentaries on the possible debasement of standards in the acceptance of such sites on the part of UNESCO. (One suspects that as more and more sites receive the WH designation, the standards may decline.) Trinidad and Viñales, are destinations for many visitors to Cuba and certainly worth seeing. The inclusion Camaguey and Cienfuegos historic centers was a surprise for me. I have not yet been to the other sites so I will not comment.

Here is a listing of the World Heritage Sites, hyperlinked to the relevant UNESCO web pages

There are also three additional sites in the process of proposal or submission to UNESCO.

Cuba seems to have done very well relative to other Latin American countries in having sites granted the WH status. Only Mexico with 31 and Brazil with 18 have more such sites. Otherwise, the countries with the most designations are the larger European countries with long histories such as the UK with 29 WH sites, France with 37, Germany 37, Italy 46 and Spain 37. The United States has a mere 21 WH sites while Canada has 15. The process for obtaining UNESCO designation appears to be rigorous and impartial (See the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention.) However, I suspect that the campaigning by national governments to have their sites nominated and accepted is an important factor as well.

Is there an economic value to having sites receive the UNESCO World Heritage designation? Certainly tourist promotion and foreign exchange earnings are perhaps the most obvious economic benefit. Travelers pay attention to the designation and often conclude that sites with the designation are worth visiting. I at one time thought that it would be an interesting challenge to visit all 936 UNESCO sites during my life. If life and finances were infinite I would definitely do so. I am currently at # 97 so I might not make it all the way. However, I will definitely try to visit all of Cuba’s WH sites.

A second benefit is that UNESCO requires that any site with the WH designation has to be taken well maintained. This provides a useful incentive to preserve cultural sites and protecting natural sites. Greater international and national attention to the cultural and physical sites can only be positive.

 Havana Fortifications Castillo de la Fuerza

Fortaleza de San Carlos de La Cabana, La Habana

“His Britannic Majesty’s Land Forces Taking Possession of Havannah (sic.), August 14, 1762 and Sloops of War Assisting to Open the Booms” Artist: Philip Orsbridge.    Less than a year after Havana was captured by the British in the Seven Years War it was returned to Spain in exchange for Florida by the Treaty of Paris. By the same treaty, France chose to retain Guadalupe and Martinique in exchange for Quebec which went to the British.

Living History at Fort Henry Kingston

 

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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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Baranyi and Legler: “Canada’s long engagement with Cuba: paradoxes and possibilities”

By Thomas LEGLER y Stephen BARANYI, Universidad Iberoamericana (México) y Universidad de Ottawa (Canadá)

América Latina Hoy, 52, 2009, pp. 131-146; Canada’s long engagement with Cuba, paradoxes and possibilities

Professors Legler and Baranyi have produced an interesting analysis of Canadian relations with Cuba and the possible implications for the European Union and the United States which somehow I missed a few years ago. A Spanish language version of  full document is hyper-linked above. Unfortunately it is not available in English.  Here is the Abstract in English however.

ABSTRACT: The European Union, Latin America and even the United States have each initiated distinct processes of dialogue with Cuba. What relevant lessons can be drawn from Canada’s long history of engagement with the Revolution? This article documents the evolution of Canada-Cuba relations since the 1940s, focusing on the ups and downs of these relations since a policy of «constructive engagement» was launched in the mid-1990s. It argues that this approach (in its many guises) has not had a major influence on the liberalization of Cuban politics. Moreover, what little influence Canada had during the «Special Period» has diminished with the economic recovery and the diversification of Cuba’s external relations over the past decade. As such, the authors conclude that the most appropriate strategy for Canada and other «engagers» is to take a coordinated, long-term approach of supporting a variety of endogenous change processes inside Cuba. A realistic strategy should include ongoing but low-profile dialogue with the current regime, cooperation with a wide range of possible reformers within and beyond the state, and support for broader social changes through trade, foreign investment, tourism, academic and cultural exchanges.


ThomasLegler

Stephen baranyi

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Wikileaks on Canadian Relations with Cuba

Embassy of Canada in Cuba

VZCZCXRO0421

RR RUEHQU DE RUEHOT   #0845/01 3292055

ZNR UUUUU ZZH   R 252055Z NOV 09

FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0092

INFO ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 000845

SENSITIVE   SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CAN AND WHA/CCA

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PREL [External Political Relations], ETTC [Trade and Technology Controls], ETRD [Foreign Trade], CU [Cuba], CA [Canada]

SUBJECT: Canadian Relations with Cuba

1. (SBU) Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) interlocutors tell us that Canada continues to promote the advancement of democracy, good governance, and human rights in Cuba. Canada shares the U.S. goals of promoting democracy and human rights in Cuba, while maintaining its self-described policy of “principled engagement” with both the Cuban government and dissident elements. The GOC believes its approach allows it to have a positive impact on human rights and democracy in Cuba. Canada maintains a diplomatic presence in Havana and conducts aid programs worth about C$10 million/year.

2. (SBU) DFAIT Officials said that Canada has engaged and intervened on behalf of human rights and the advancement of democratization in Cuba a number of times over the past six months. According to DFAIT: — Canadian and Cuban officials meet regularly to discuss the harsh treatment of dissidents. Conversations were reportedly “firm and frank.” DFAIT officials said that meeting with dissidents is a normal part of Canadian diplomatic work in Cuba, with everyone from the ambassador downward engaging in human right outreach. DFAIT contacts assert that “Ambassador Juneau and other Embassy staff meet regularly with dissidents, journalists, economists” and that “the Ambassador also discusses human rights in his meetings with the Cuban government.” DFAIT contacts pointed to a Canadian embassy presence on the scene monitoring of “the siege of the house of dissident Vladimiro Roca” by a “Cuban government associated crowd” as typical of their on-going and continuous human rights outreach. DFAIT contacts did not have information on the status of the journalists and economists (independent versus government-affiliated) with whom embassy officers meet regularly. — The Canadian Embassy in Havana had been scheduled to open its eighth Canadian Studies Center in Cuba in July, but did not do so for budgetary reasons. These centers, funded by Canada and run by the Cuban Ministry of Education, reportedly inform the general populace about life in a democratic country with a market-based economy. The Canadian Government also regularly sends speakers to these venues, as well as funds economics professors teaching modern economic theory at the University of Havana. — the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL), a Canadian government-funded think tank, runs a series of programs (in Canada) on Cuba that focus on support for dissidents and democratization. FOCAL documents all Cuban government actions against dissidents, supports an active dialogue on planning for the post-Castro area, and assists civil society programs on human rights and democracy.

3. (SBU) According to DFAIT officials, high-level diplomatic visits between Cuba and Canada over the past six months have included a visit to Cuba by the Canadian Minister of State for the Americas Peter Kent. The Government of Cuba cancelled his previous visit, planned for mid-May, after Kent told reporters that he aimed to use his scheduled meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro to raise democratic reform and human rights. DFAIT contacts say the Cuban government had also taken offense at that time to strong pro-human rights statements by Prime Minister Harper.

4. (SBU) Kent visited Havana November 12-14, meeting with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, Trade and Foreign Investment Minister Malmierca, and the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Dagoberto Rodriguez, and the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Ortega. He did not meet with dissidents because the Cuban government would not have permitted his visit to go forward if he planned to do so, according to DFAIT contacts. DFAIT contacts say Kent did engage in lengthy discussions on human rights with all three of the senior Cuban government officials as well as the Archbishop. DFAIT contacts described the discussions as “good, substantive” ones, covering the need for Cuba to release all political prisoners, accede to a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and sign on to the two primary UN human rights covenants.

OTTAWA 00000845 002 OF 002

5. (SBU) Minister Kent also met with representatives of Cuban government-sanctioned civil society organizations, including the Centro Felix Varela, Inter Press Service, and the Centro Nacional de Educacion Sexual (the organization head by Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela).

6. (SBU) DFAIT interlocutors decline to provide us with information on specific Canadian companies operating in Cuba or confirm open source information about them. Media reports indicate that Canada remains Cuba’s third largest trade partner, with trade growing by 9.4% in 2008. Canadian companies operate in a variety of sectors of the Cuban economy, including tourism, construction, agriculture, bio-technology, and mining. According to Canadian Government statistics, annual two-way trade between Cuba and Canada was C$1.66 billion in 2008. Canadian exports to Cuba in 2008 were worth C$768,389,688. Canadian imports from Cuba amounted to C$895,242,425. Canadian merchandise exports to Cuba rose 36.3% in 2008 to $768.1 million and included machinery, inorganic chemicals, cereals, and vegetables. Imports from Cuba decreased 15.3% in 2008 to $895.2 million and included mineral ores, copper, tobacco, beverages, fish and seafood. Tourism is Cuba’s largest source of foreign exchange and Canada is Cuba’s largest source of tourists, with 818,000 Canadians visiting in 2008, nearly 35 per cent of all visitors to Cuba. Media reports indicate that leading Canadian firms doing business with Cuba: Sherritt International, Pizza Nova, Labatt. Sherritt is the largest foreign investor in Cuba, according to press reports.

7. (SBU) Canada has no bilateral trade agreements with Cuba. According to DFAIT, Canada and Cuba held exploratory talks on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) in February 2009. Canada is currently consulting with Canadian investors in Cuba before deciding whether to go ahead with further negotiations. In November 2009, Canada and Cuba concluded an expanded air transport agreement. The new agreement provides for up to five designated Canadian airlines (an increase from two) and unlimited points of destination in Cuba, an increase from four points previously available to scheduled carriers. On April 22, 2008, Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and his Cuban counterpart renewed an MOU on agricultural cooperation. This involves Canadian technical assistance in various areas of Cuba’s agricultural sector, for example providing Canadian expertise to train Cubans in livestock production practices and animal genetic techniques, as well as the management of irrigation systems.

8. (U) Canada has no formal exchange programs specific to Cuba. Canada has initiated academic exchanges, including scholarships for Cuban students under the hemisphere-wide C$18-million Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP) announced by Prime Minister Harper at the Summit of the Americas in April. In the first ELAP competition, Canada awarded scholarships to 11 Cuban students for study or research in Canada. Selected ELAP students will have the opportunity to attend a Canadian government designed “Democracy Study tour” in Ottawa to expose students to Canadian models of good governance, including the rule of law, human rights, government accountability, freedom of the press, and multiculturalism. In addition, many exchanges occur informally between organizations such as high school sports teams and cultural groups.

JACOBSON

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From Canada’s Conservative Government: More “Constructive Engagement”

The Canadian Press, 9 September 2012

OTTAWA — The Conservative minister for Latin America is softening some of the Harper government’s previous tough talk on Cuba.

This week, Diane Ablonczy, the junior foreign minister for the Americas, visits the communist Caribbean island — which, at 135 kilometres from the southern tip of Florida, is both the closest sworn enemy of the United States and the favoured vacation choice of a million sun-seeking Canadians each year.

Ablonczy praises the ongoing economic reforms that Cuban President Raul Castro has instituted — opening up private property ownership, new opportunity to hold select private sector jobs, the right to sell a used car — since he took over the country from his legendary and ailing brother, Fidel, almost four years ago. “We see a very significant process of economic reform and liberalization in Cuba,” Ablonczy told The Canadian Press in a pre-trip interview.

Ablonczy does not necessarily believe this will lead to greater democratic freedoms any time soon in a country where the government exerts Soviet-era control over its 11 million citizens. “Political change is not what Cuban leadership has in mind,” she said. “There’s a lot of debate around these things and there’s a lot of caution too. But Canada, as an investor in Cuba, with lots of people-to-people contact, wants to play as positive and constructive role as possible.”

Ablonczy said Canada stands ready to share experiences and best practices “as Cuba moves forward, very gradually, towards some needed changes and modernization.”

Her comments are a marked departure from the language employed by one of her predecessors in the portfolio, Peter Kent, who publicly chided the Castro regime on its human rights record almost three years ago. His comments prompted Havana to rescind an invitation to visit in the spring of 2009. Kent eventually travelled to Cuba in late 2009, and he reported a successful visit that included discussions on trade and human rights.

Cuba is Canada’s largest market in the Caribbean and Central American region, with two-way trade topping $1 billion in 2010. A Canadian oil and gas company, Sherritt International, is the largest foreign investor in Cuba.

Ablonczy, who has travelled widely in the region since her appointment last May, said she wants to form meaningful working relationships with her Cuban counterparts. She said it’s important to be very respectful of her hosts and “what they want to achieve and their own goals and objectives.”

A leading voice in Canada’s non-governmental agency community agreed there is opportunity for the government to have a meaningful impact on reform in Cuba. Robert Fox, head of Oxfam Canada, recently concluded his own working tour of projects in Cuba and said there is good progress being made in municipal governance and in opening up the farming sector to more local participation. That might not sound like much, but both are significant developments in Cuba, where the Castro regime allows no political dissent and virtually no capitalism.

Municipal councils are meeting and coming up with ideas on how they want to live in their communities, within the constraints of the central government’s edicts, said Fox. “In a country like Cuba, a decentralizing dynamic is also a democratizing dynamic.”

Meanwhile, Cuban farmers are working on ways to grow and sell local products locally — a significant step in a country that, despite massive swaths of fertile countryside, still imports most of its food. “Canada continues to be seen in a positive way in Cuba. Canada has never conditioned its aid to Cuba. Cubans are very aware that there are a million Canadians who come to their country every year,” said Fox.

“When we look to the changes in Cuba in terms of opening up to local markets and opening up to global markets, when we look to women’s leadership and gender equality, when we look to municipal governments and local authorities, when we look to the co-op movement — which are all areas that Cubans are taking to a new level — those are all areas where Canada has huge strengths, huge capacity.”

Canadian embassy diplomats in Havana expressed interest to Fox about strengthening municipal authorities and the agricultural sector. Ablonczy said Canada does have expertise to offer in those areas but she said she would wait to see what topics her Cuban hosts raise with her. Canada, she said, does not have all the answers and won’t “take a lecturing approach.”

Ablonczy is expected to have meetings with Cuba’s ministers for foreign affairs, trade and tourism, as well as paying visits to Canadian-funded aid projects. She will also visit Panama and Guatemala in the coming week as well.

Overall, Ablonczy is a staunch defender of her government’s efforts to open up economic opportunities throughout the region, even if it means trading and doing business with governments that have less-than-stellar rights records.

She said engagement can contribute to “important human rights advancement in these countries, providing the economic opportunity that is often key for people breaking free from tyranny and oppression… “We’ve taken a very strong stand on wanting to be an active and positive force while being very clear about our concerns and our desire to see human rights continually addressed and advanced in all countries, including our own.”

Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy

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Toronto Globe and Mail: “Scotiabank, Royal Bank eye Cuba operations”

Grant Robertson— Banking Reporter

Original Article Here:  Scotiabank, RBC eye Cuba operation

Published Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011 11:39PM EST

National Bank of Canada has operated an office in Cuba for 16  years, making it a rarity of sorts among Canadian banks, but it may soon have some company.

At least two other Canadian banks are said to be looking at setting up shop in Cuba, according to a report in the London-based Financial Times on Sunday night.

Amid economic reforms on the island, Bank of Nova Scotia has reportedly applied to Cuban authorities to set up a representative office in the capital. Royal Bank is also considering opening an office in Havana, the report said.

Scotiabank, which has extensive operations across South America and the Caribbean, and RBC, Canada’s largest bank, both had branches in the country before the 1959 Cuban Revolution ushered in Communism, and a subsequent U.S. embargo, which slowed foreign investment.

However, economic reforms in Cuba, stemming from the handover of power from long-time president Fidel Castro to his brother, Raúl Castro, are changing the country as the government looks for ways to boost Cuba’s economy.

If RBC and Scotia return to Cuba, they would join Montreal-based National, Canada’s sixth-largest bank, on the island. National opened a representative office in Havana in 1995. The small operation is not a bank branch though, and mostly handles trade finance.

Banco Central de Cuba, the country’s central bank, lists National as having a relationship with the country that dates back more than 28 years, including financing export development, securities and insurance businesses there.

The Cuba Trade and Economic Council lists more than 80 companies in Canada with business ties to Cuba, including Bell Canada, Bombardier, and dozens of oil and gas companies.

Old Bank of Nova Scotia, Havana

Interior, Old Royal Bank of Canada, Havana

The Vault, Banco Central de Cuba, Photo by Arch Ritter, 1993

 

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Canadian Professor John Kirk Receives a Medal from the Government of Cuba

GRANMA: Entregan Medalla de la Amistad a John Kirk

Original Granma Article here: http://www.granma.cubaweb.cu/2011/12/15/nacional/artic04.html

Dalia González Delgado

La Medalla de la Amistad que otorga el Consejo de Estado de la República de Cuba fue entregada este miércoles al canadiense John Kirk.

John Kirk agradeció el alto reconocimiento.

En la ceremonia, realizada en la sede del Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos (ICAP), Kirk agradeció el alto reconocimiento.

“Soy martiano”, dijo, “Martí me cambió la vida. Aunque he escrito de otros temas, la influencia martiana nunca se ha alejado de mi obra”.

Asimismo, se refirió a las relaciones entre Cuba y Canadá, especialmente al intercambio académico.

John Kirk es Catedrático de Estudios Latinoamericanos en la Universidad de Dalhouisie, Canadá, y especialista en la historia política de Cuba. Ha escrito varios libros sobre nuestro país y es miembro del consejo editorial de las revistas Internacional Journal of Cuban Studies, de Inglaterra y Cuban Studies, de Estados Unidos. Durante los últimos cinco años se ha dedicado a estudiar el internacionalismo médico de Cuba.

En la entrega de la medalla estuvieron presentes Matthew Levin, embajador de Canadá en Cuba, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, directora de la Dirección de América del Norte del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (MINREX), y Kenia Serrano, presidenta del ICAP.

 

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The “Home Hardware” Cooperative Model and its Relevance for Cuba

By Arch Ritter

As Cuba moves towards a mix of economic institutions with a greater role for the market mechanism as a means of social control over economic activity as well as for private ownership, various forms of co-operative organization have some appeal. Among the many forms of cooperative enterprise that exist and could be considered by Cuba, the Home Hardware variety may have a useful role to play. Already some academic analysts in Cuba are exploring the varieties of cooperative and their relevance for Cuba. ( See New Publication from Cuba: Cooperativas y Socialismo: Una Mirada DesdeCuba).

The Home Hardware Cooperative Model

Home Hardware, is a dealer-owned cooperative, in which about 1000 individual hardware store-owners also own the larger enterprise.  Membership in the cooperative permits the store owners to obtain major economies of scale in terms of purchasing and shared buying power, advertising, comprehensive inventory management and product delivery, and store management techniques. The cooperative has permitted small owner-operated hardware stores to remain viable in small towns and urban neighborhoods. It has permitted them to survive and thrive in the face of the competition from the massive “Big Box” hardware stores such as Rona (in Canada), Home Depot,  Lowe’s Companies Inc., or even Wal-Mart.

Original Home Hardware Store, now “Home Furniture”, St. Jacobs Ontario

The establishment of the Home Hardware co-operative was spear-headed by Walter Hachborn starting at the Hollinger Hardware store in the small town of St. Jacobs Ontario in 1938, working as a stock boy for $8 per week. When Gordon Hollinger died in 1948, Walter took over many of his responsibilities, and purchased the store in partnership with Henry Sittler and Arthur Zilliax in 1950. Hachborn then undertook the difficult task of persuading his fellow retailers to join forces in the Home Hardware’s cooperative – a task requiring diplomacy and determination. (Hachborn, who – full disclosure –  is my Father’s cousin, was awarded “The Order of Canada” as well as the “Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal” in tribute to his business achievements and community service.)

Relevance for Cuba – and Any Country

The Big Box chains exist because of their economic advantages, namely economies of scale in purchasing, marketing and advertising, and management systems plus bargaining power in their relationship with their workers. However there are also a variety of major disadvantages of the Wal-Mart type of Big Box model of retailing or of the “Starbucks” model of service provision.  Among these are:

1.      Major concentrations of income and wealth in the hands of the few owners of the chains. (The Walton family members have estimated assets of $US 92 billion making then the wealthiest family in the world. )

2.      Damage to local communities and neighborhoods as commercial live gets sucked out of them to the sites of the Big Box stores.

3.      Environmental costs as long distance driving to the big stores replaces closer access to community stores.

4.      Exclusion of smaller scale local sources of products in favor of massive low-cost purchases for all their stores from single sources – usually from China, thereby helping to kill off local producers.

5.      Unpleasant shopping experience, (e.g. wandering around large spaces looking for a particular item with no assistance or guidance to be found.)

Already Cuba has a number of state-owned chains of stores,restaurants and hotels such as Tiendas Universo (CUBANACAN S.A.), Tiendas Panamericanas (CIMEX S.A.), Tiendas Caracol (HORIZONTES  Hoteles S.A.), Tiendas y Supermercados de la Sociedad Meridiano S.A. (CUBALSE Corporation; closed in 2009), Tiendas TRD Caribe (GAVIOTA S.A. owned by the militayr), and Tiendas de Habaguanex. If these were to be privatized under concentrated ownership, some of the problems of the Wal-Mart or Starbucks types of conglomerate would be generated or continued.

Tienda Cimex

In the years ahead, it is likely that Cuba will continue to move towards greater private ownership in many areas. If a future government wishes to avoid some of the disadvantages of the Mammoth Enterprise Chain syndrome, it could consider providing encouragement to Cuban-owned cooperative networks or independent enterprises in various activities in retailing and service provision. Possible areas where such a form of organization could be useful might include hardware stores (of course), food stores, bars, coffee shops, variety stores, barber shops, estheticians services and clothing stores, among others.

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Crecimiento económico y sector externo en Cuba

A descriptive analysis of Cuba’s external sector and economic growth has been published by Jorge Mario Sanchez, of the Centro de Estudios sobre la Economia Cubana. Here is the hyperlink:

Jorge Mario Sanchez, Crecimiento económico y sector externo en Cuba

Jorge Mario Sánchez

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