Tag Archives: Cuba-European Union Relations

EU to start talks with Cuba on a co-operation accord

Original Essay here: http://www.bdlive.co.za/world/americas/2014/01/31/eu-to-start-talks-with-cuba-on-a-co-operation-accord

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BRUSSELS, JANUARY 31 2014 (Reuters) — The European Union (EU) will agree next month to deepen relations with Cuba in its most significant overture to the communist island since the bloc lifted diplomatic sanctions in 2008, people close to the matter have told Reuters.

Foreign ministers from the EU’s 28 countries will give the go-ahead on February 10 to launch talks with Havana on a special co-operation accord to increase trade, investment and dialogue on human rights. The pact could be agreed by the end of 2015.

“Cuba wants capital and the EU wants influence,” said one person involved in the talks who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. “This co-operation could serve as a prelude to much more.”

Two other people with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters that a consensus had been reached in Brussels to give momentum to Cuba’s market-oriented reforms under President Raul Castro and to position European companies for any transition to a more capitalist economy there in the longer term.

While the initial effect of a co-operation agreement will be limited, the symbolism is huge for the EU, whose ties with Cuba had been strained since it imposed sanctions in 2003 in response to Havana’s arrest of 75 dissidents.  Although the EU lifted those sanctions in 2008, the normalisation of relations has been tortuous because of resistance from Poland and the Czech Republic due to their communist past.

Havana has rejected the EU’s “common position” on Cuba that the bloc adopted in 1996 to promote human rights and democracy in the country.

Furthermore, the US, Cuba’s long-time foe that has kept an embargo against the Caribbean island since 1962, had exerted pressure on Brussels to try to isolate Havana. Washington has not sought to block the EU’s latest efforts, people close to the talks said, while Poland and the Czech Republic now back a deal with Cuba.

In a sign of impatience with the status quo, the Netherlands sent its foreign minister to Havana in January. This first such trip by the Dutch since the 1959 Cuban Revolution broke with EU policy to limit high-level visits. Spain, a former colonial power in Latin America and the Caribbean, has also been pushing for a change of approach since ailing, long-time Cuban leader Fidel Castro handed power to his younger brother Raul in 2008. Some EU countries see the 1996 “common position” policy as outdated because 18 EU governments have bilateral agreements with Cuba outside the common position, making it hard for the bloc to speak with one voice.

Still, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo has been adamant that the “common position” will remain for the time being while the European Commission, the EU executive, negotiates the co-operation pact.

“If Europe wants to have a presence when there’s a transition in Cuba, the EU has to start working now.

“It’s right to start dialogue now so that Europe isn’t absent when a transition happens,” said Carlos Malamud, head of Latin American research at the Real Instituto Elcano, a think-tank in Madrid.

A co-operation pact, which the EU has used as a tool in the past to strengthen relations with Central America and Asia, is not likely to increase trade greatly because Cuba sells very little to Europe. Besides cigars and rum, Cuba’s exports are not of huge interest to the EU, but Brussels believes developing business ties is the best way to press for change in Cuba. The EU is Cuba’s biggest foreign investor and Cuba’s second biggest trading partner after Venezuela, and a third of the tourists to the island every year come from the EU.

Cuba recently opened a Chinese-style special economic zone and is preparing a new foreign investment law. The country is seeking foreign investment at its port facilities in Mariel Bay to take advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal.

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Canadian, British executives face corruption charges in Cuba

By Mark Frank, Havana — Reuters, Globe and Mail, May 15, 2013

Canadian and British executives of three foreign businesses shut in 2011 by Cuban authorities, ostensibly for corrupt practices, have been charged after more than a year in custody and are expected to go on trial soon, sources close to the cases told Reuters.

The arrests, part of a broad government campaign to stamp out corruption, sent shock-waves through Cuba’s small foreign business community where the companies were among the most visible players.

Until then, expulsions rather than imprisonment had been the norm for those accused of corrupt practices.

The charges against the executives involve various economic crimes and operating beyond the limits of their business licenses on the communist-run island, according to the sources, who asked to remain anonymous and who include a close relative of one of the defendants. Some of the foreigners are alleged to have paid bribes to officials in exchange for business opportunities.

Dozens of Cuban state purchasers and officials, including deputy ministers, already have been arrested and convicted in the investigation into the Cuban imports business that ensued.

Cuba has mounted a crackdown on corruption in recent years as part of a gradual reform process to open up the state-run economy to greater private sector activity. Under Cuban law, trials must begin within a month of charges being filed, though small delays are common and postponement can be sought by the defendants’ lawyers.

“There is definitely movement and the trials could begin soon,” a Western diplomat said.

The crackdown began in July 2011 with the closure of Canadian trading firm Tri-Star Caribbean and the arrest of its chief executive, Sarkis Yacoubian.

In September 2011, one of the most important Western trading firms in Cuba, Canada-based Tokmakjian Group, was also shut and its head, Cy Tokmakjian, taken into custody.

In October 2011, police closed the Havana offices of the British investment and trading firm Coral Capital Group Ltd and arrested chief executive Amado Fakhre, a Lebanese-born British citizen. Coral Capital’s chief operating officer, British citizen Stephen Purvis, was arrested in April 2012.

All four men are being held in La Condesa, a prison for foreigners just outside Havana, after being questioned for months in other locations.

A number of other foreigners and Cubans who worked for the companies remain free but cannot leave the island because they are considered witnesses in the cases.

Cuban officials and lawyers for the defendants could not be reached for comment.

The legal limbo of the foreign executives has put a strain on Cuba’s relations with their home countries, where the legal process protects suspects from lengthy incarceration without charges, diplomats told Reuters.

Cuba says the cases are being handled within the letter of Cuban law. Attorney General Dario Delgado told Reuters late last year that the investigation had proved complex and lengthy.

“These cases, which involve economic crimes, are very complicated. They do not involve, for example, traffic violations or a murder,” he said.

Comptroller General Gladys Bejerano has said the length of investigations depended on the behavior of those involved.

“When there is fraud, tricks and violations … false documents, false accounting … there is no transparency and the process becomes more complicated because a case must be documented with evidence before going to trial,” she said.

Transparency International, considered the world’s leading anti-graft watchdog, last rated Cuba 58 out of 178 countries in terms of tackling corruption, ahead of all but eight of 33 nations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Soon after taking over for his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, President Raul Castro established the comptroller general’s office with a seat on the ruling Council of State, even as he began implementing market-oriented economic reforms.

The measure marked the start of the anti-corruption campaign. Since then, high-level graft has been uncovered in several key areas, from the cigar, nickel and communications industries, to food processing and civil aviation.

Rodrigo Malmierca, the minister of foreign commerce, last week delivered a report to the cabinet highlighting “irregularities” in foreign joint venture companies, according to state-run media.

Malmierca blamed “the lack of rigor, control and exigency” of the deals “as well as the conduct and attitudes of the officials implicated,” the reports said.

Castro has been less successful, however, in tackling low salaries and lack of transparency, which contribute to the problem, according to foreign diplomats and businessmen.

There is no open bidding in Cuba’s import-export sector and state purchasers who handle multimillion-dollar contracts earn anywhere from $50 to $100 per month.

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Foreign Business in Cuba: Beware the Dangerous Embrace: Havana is at the same time attracting and terrifying entrepreneurs

by Nancy Macdonald and Gabriela Perdomo

Original Article is located here: Maclean’s Magazine, August 8, 2012

Until this spring, Stephen Purvis had it all. The British architect, who’d helped launch the Saratoga, Cuba’s poshest hotel, was one of the more prominent figures in Havana’s business community. As chief operating officer of Coral Capital, one of Cuba’s biggest private investors, he was overseeing a planned $500-million resort in the sleepy fishing village of Guanabo. The Bellomonte resort, which would allow foreigners to buy Cuban property for the first time, was part of Havana’s ambitious, multi-billion-dollar plan to attract high-end tourists and badly needed foreign exchange. Everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. The musical Purvis produced in his spare time, Havana Rakatan, had a run at the Sydney Opera House last year before moving on to London’s West End. But in April, the 51-year-old was arrested on suspicion of corruption as he prepared to walk his kids to school in Havana.

Purvis’s arrest could have been anticipated. Coral Capital’s British-born CEO, Amado Fakhre, has been held without charges ever since his arrest in a dawn raid last fall. The investment firm is being liquidated, and both men have faced questioning at Villa Marista, Cuba’s notorious counter-intelligence headquarters. They are not alone. Since last summer, dozens of senior Cuban managers and foreign executives, including two Canadians, have been jailed in an investigation that has shocked and terrified foreigners who do business in the country.

Since replacing his brother Fidel as president in 2008, Raúl Castro has painted himself as a reformer, and Cuba as a place where foreign businesses can thrive. Over the last year, he has relaxed property rights, expanded land leases and licensed a broad, if random, list of businesses—everything from pizza joints to private gyms. And he’s endorsed joint venture golf courses, marinas and new manufacturing projects. Canadians are chief among those heeding Raúl’s call to do business with Havana. Hundreds have expressed interest in the Cuban market in the last year alone, according to Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service. Flattering reports in Canadian media have praised Raúl’s efforts. Yet they seem to overlook troubling signs that Cuba appears to be moving backwards.

Raúl’s sweeping changes were meant to pave the way for massive foreign investment in Cuba. The country, which was forced to lay off 20 per cent of its public workforce last year, is barely as developed as Haiti, and will need an influx of foreign cash to stay afloat. There is urgency to the project. Time is running out for Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Cuba’s benefactor, who funds the country to the tune of $10 billion a year, says José Azel, a University of Miami research associate. At home, Chávez, who is sick with cancer, is also fighting off a tough challenge from Henrique Capriles in presidential elections slated for October. His successor will almost certainly cut Cuba’s generous aid package to deal with Venezuela’s own needs.

So a strange incongruity exists in Cuba today: Havana is bending over backwards to attract foreign currency at the same time it is imprisoning some of its biggest Western investors. For all Cuba’s reforms, this Castro appears to be as intent on maintaining an iron grip on the country as the last one.

Few are more keenly aware of the pitfalls of doing business in the new Cuba as a pair of Canadians sitting in jail in Havana. It has been more than a year since Sarkis Yacoubian, the president of Tri-Star Caribbean, a trading firm with headquarters in Nova Scotia, was detained in the Cuban capital. And September will be the one-year anniversary of the arrest of Cy Tokmakjian, the president of a trading company based in Concord, Ont. He and Yacoubian have both been imprisoned without charges. Their assets now belong to Cuba. No trial date has been announced.

Both Yacoubian and Tokmakjian ran well-established businesses in Cuba, had years of experience in the country, and multi-million-dollar contracts with several government ministries. Yacoubian imported the presidential fleet of BMWs. Tokmakjian, who’d been in Cuba for more than 20 years and did $80 million in annual business there, had the rights to Hyundai and Suzuki, which are used by the country’s police.

So far, Raúl has scared off more joint ventures than he has attracted, jeopardizing the investment Cuba needs to succeed. Spanish oil giant Repsol quit the country in May. Canada’s Pizza Nova, which had six Cuban locations, packed its bags, as did Telecom Italia. The country’s biggest citrus exporter, BM Group, backed by Israeli investors, is gone. A Chilean who set up one of Cuba’s first joint enterprises, a fruit juice company, fled after being charged with corruption last year. He was convicted in absentia. Shipping investors are pulling out, even as Cuba prepares to open a new terminal on the island’s north coast.

Experts say Raúl’s crackdown is an attempt to reassert control. By targeting the biggest names in the business community, he’s sending a message, says Azel. “Raúl doesn’t want to be Gorbachev,” the Soviet statesman who brought down Communism in the former Soviet Union. “He wants to be the guy who makes socialism work.”

Yet as detentions pile up it remains unclear what exactly the jailed Canadians and Britons have done, or what the regime means by clamping down on corruption. “Cuba’s version of what is legal and proper is different from the rest of the world,” says Ted Henken, president of the Washington-based Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy. Even sales commissions are viewed as corrupt, says Yoani Sánchez, a Havana-based journalist. Foreign companies can’t pay their Cuban employees any more than the standard wage, about $20 a month, says Sánchez—barely enough for two weeks’ living in poor conditions with a poor diet. Many foreign bosses routinely top up pay with bonuses and commissions, which Havana considers bribery. For years, says Henken, corruption was the grease that made wheels turns. “You got what you needed to live from what was thrown off the back of the truck.”

It is not clear whether the detained Canadians are facing charges for salary top-ups, for example, or for legitimate corruption allegations. Canada’s Foreign Affairs department would only confirm that “consular services are being provided to two Canadian citizens detained in Cuba.” Executives at Tri-Star Caribbean and members of the Tokmakjian family declined comment, citing the “extremely sensitive” nature of the situation.

Azel’s advice to potential Canadian investors? Stay away. “You’re defenceless. There’s no independent judiciary to adjudicate any kind of claim,” he says. “Doing business with Cuba is a very risky proposition.”

So then why all the new resorts and planned golf courses? Why do so many Brits and Canadians take the personal and business risk? Because it’s widely believed that the days are numbered for the U.S. travel ban on Cuba, which has barred Americans from visiting the island for almost three decades. Predictions for tourism growth are off the charts—up to six million annual visitors, from two million today, says Gregory Biniowsky, a Canadian consultant who’s lived in Cuba for two decades. Cuba’s boosters believe the country, with its vast, undeveloped white sand beaches, just 45 minutes by plane from Florida, could come to rival Jamaica or the Dominican Republic as a tourist draw. “It’s just a matter of time before things boom here,” says Biniowsky. Five billion barrels of oil lie under Cuba’s waters, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. To some, getting in on the ground floor is worth the risk. But foreign investors who lose sight of the dangers could find themselves in serious trouble.

The old Royal Bank of Canada Building in Havana. The interior of the building is below.

Photos by Arch Ritter, April 2012

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Richard Feinberg via Brookings Institution: “Reaching Out: Cuba’s New Economy and the International Response”

FOREIGN POLICY at BROOKINGS

The full document can be found here:Richard E. Feinberg, Cuba’s New Economy and the International Response, Brookings, November 2011

“Reaching Out: Cuba’s New Economy and the International Response,” a new report by Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow Richard Feinberg, urges the international development community to reach out to Cuba to promote its economic renewal. The report offers a detailed pathway for a gradual, systematic rapprochement between Cuba and the international financial institutions (International Monetary Fund, World Bank,
and Inter-American Development Bank). In the first such survey, it also provides an overview of the existing foreign assistance programs sponsored by capitalist nations in Cuba.

The study further analyzes the reform process occurring in Cuba today and describes Cuba’s strategy of engaging with the dynamic emerging market economies, largely
overlooked by U.S. analysts. The report finds that since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Cuba has reached out to Europe and Canada, and most dramatically and successfully to the emerging market economies of China, Brazil, and Venezuela. Far from isolated by U.S. sanctions, the Cuban economy has become deeply integrated into global trading and investment markets.

Feinberg asserts that the international financial institutions (IFIs) house a wealth of accumulated knowledge and financial resources that fit well with the needs of a
reform-minded Cuba seeking greater economic efficiency and competitiveness. As
evident in their successful relations with Vietnam and Nicaragua, the IFIs –
having reformed their own terms of engagement – can perform effectively in
proud, strong states allergic to external interference. The study reviews the foreign assistance programs of donors such as the European Union, Spain, and Canada and concludes that development cooperation can achieve results in Cuba, improve the lives of beneficiaries, empower independent small producers, and promote decentralized decision-making to local communities.

Based on these research findings, Feinberg offers these specific policy recommendations:

· The international development community should support Cuba’s incipient economic reform process and bolster the struggling reformist factions within Cuba.

· The U.S. government should recognize that in Cuba today the opportunity is in economic reform, legitimized by the regime and openly debated by the Cuban public. Promoting economic reform is the most realistic option for advancing political pluralism in Cuba.

· The IFIs should complete their historical goal of full universality and bring Cuba in from the cold. The gradual warming of IFI-Cuba relations should begin with the provision of policy advice and technical training – prior to full membership.

· The US should not stand in the way of Cuba’s gradual re-admission to the IMF/World Bank. There is no better way to encourage progressive market-oriented reforms in Cuba.

According to Feinberg, the U.S. and international community can do more to help strengthen reform factions on the island. Feinberg concludes that inside Cuba, the forces of progressive change and the forces of bureaucratic inertia and resistance are locked in a fierce struggle. The United States should join with the international development community to bolster Cuba’s forces in favor of forward-looking economic reform.

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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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Debating U.S.-Cuban Relations: Shall We Play Ball?

Debating U.S.-Cuban Relations: Shall We Play Ball?

Jorge I. Dominguez (Editor), Rafael Hernandez (Editor), Lorena G. Barberia (Editor)

New York: Routledge, August 2011;

ISBN-10: 0415893232 | ISBN-13: 978-0415893237



Book Description

Two decades ago, affairs between the United States and Cuba had seen little improvement from the Cold War era. Today, U.S.-Cuban relations are in many respects still in poor shape, yet some cooperative elements have begun to take hold and offer promise for future developments. Illustrated by the ongoing migration agreement, professional military-to-military relations at the perimeter of the U.S. base near Guantánamo, and professional Coast Guard-Guardafrontera cooperation across the Straits of Florida, the two governments are actively exploring whether and how to change the pattern of interactions.

The differences that divide the two nations are real, not the result of misperception, and this volume does not aspire to solve all points of disagreement. Drawing on perspectives from within Cuba as well as those in the United States, Canada, and Europe, these authors set out to analyze contemporary policies, reflect on current circumstances, and consider possible alternatives for improved U.S.-Cuban relations. The resulting collection is permeated with both disagreements and agreements from leading thinkers on the spectrum of issues the two countries face—matters of security, the role of Europe and Latin America, economic issues, migration, and cultural and scientific exchanges in relations between Cuba and the United States. Each topic is represented by perspectives from both Cuban and non-Cuban scholars, leading to a resource rich in insight and a model of transnational dialogue.

Editorial Reviews

Review

“This volume brings together twelve exceptional scholars on U.S.-Cuban relations to explore the key dimensions of that troubled relationship. By including the perspectives of both Cuban and U.S. scholars on topics ranging from national security to culture, the editors provide a fascinating look at the issues that still divide Washington and Havana half a century after the Cuban revolution.”
William M. LeoGrande, American University

Debating U.S.-Cuban Relations offers  an agenda that Washington and Havana should be embracing. It is a splendid primer which I hope will be useful when the United States and Cuba decide to bury an antagonism that has served neither well.”
Marifeli Pérez-Stable, Florida International University

“An excellent exploration of a topic which is important (and fascinating) not only in its own right, but also for its larger implications regarding U.S.-Latin American relations. The editors have assembled an A-List of Cuban specialists who bring to bear not only great expertise, but also a variety of perspectives which should interest people on all sides of this long-standing drama.”
Michael Erisman, Indiana State University

Book Launch:

Speakers: Jorge Dominguez and Rafael Hernandez; Discussant: John Coatsworth

When: 4:00pm; September 22, 2011

Location: IAB 802, Columbia University, 420 West 118th Street, 8th Floor IAB MC 3339, New York, NY 10027; Contact: Columbia University Institute of Latin American Studies, ilas-info@columbia.edu

List of Authors:

Jorge I. Domínguez, Profesor. Universidad de Harvard.

Rafael Hernández, Politólogo. Revista Temas.

Hal Klepak, Profesor. Royal Military College of Canada.

Carlos Alzugaray Tret, Profesor. Centro de Estudios Hemisféricos y sobre Estados Unidos, Universidad de La Habana.

Peter Kornbluh, Investigador. National Security Archive, Washington, DC

Susanne Gratius, Investigadora. Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior (FRIDE), Madrid.

Eduardo Perera Gómez, Investigador. Centro de Estudios Europeo. Universidad de la Habana

Archibald R. M. Ritter. Profesor. Universidad de Carleton, Ottawa.

Jorge Mario Sánchez Egozcue, Investigador y profesor. Centro de Estudios Hemisfericos y sobre Estados Unidos, Universidad de La Habana.

Lorena G. Barberia, Investigadora. Universidad de Harvard.

Antonio Aja Díaz, Historiador y sociólogo. Centro de Estudios Demográficos, Universidad de La Habana.

Sheryl Lutjens, Investigadora. Universidad del Estado de California, en San Marcos.

Milagros Martínez Reinosa, Profesora. Universidad de La Habana.

 

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Iglesia formará expertos en pequeñas empresas y cooperativas en Cuba (AFP)

Espacio Laical has just announced a new Masters’ Program in Business Management for micro, small and mediaum enterprises and cooperatives. It will be run bythe Centro Cultural Padre Félix Varela, of the Archdiocise of Havana and the Universidad Católica San Antonio,  Murcia, Spain.

The Convocatoria is presented below, together with a commentary from Agence France Presse.

Presumably Espacio Laical, the Centro Felix Varela and the Archdiocise of Havana have all the necessary permissions to proceed. if this is indeed the case, it represents a break of the state monopoly of higher education and the emergence of independent University level graduate programs. This could be of major significance for Cuba, representing a further loosening of state controls in professional education.

Convocatoria

Suplemento Digital No.134 / Junio  2011
Convocatoria, Maestria sobre Dirección de EmpresasEspacio Laical

El Centro Cultural Padre Félix Varela, de la Arquidiócesis de La Habana, y la Universidad Católica San Antonio, de Murcia, convocan a un Máster sobre Dirección de Empresas (MDE). La maestría, de modalidad semipresencial, tiene entre sus objetivos conseguir que el egresado adquiera habilidades y conocimientos avanzados en dirección de empresas; con un enfoque especial en pymes, micro-pymes y cooperativas. Contará con un claustro de profesores españoles y cubanos.
El MDE sesionará desde septiembre de 2011 hasta junio de 2012 y estará estructurado en siete materias:

  1. ENTORNO ECONÓMICO
  2. MARKETING
  3. ORGANIZACIÓN DE LA PRODUCCIÓN
  4. COMPORTAMIENTO ORGANIZACIONAL
  5. ECONOMÍA FINANCIERA Y CONTABILIDAD
  6. ESTRATEGIA Y EMPRESA
  7. SISTEMA TRIBUTARIO DE LA EMPRESA

Requisitos para los candidatos:

  • Podrán participar personas con título universitario.
  • Deberán entregar un currículum detallado, así como una fundamentación del por qué quieren cursar el MDE.
  • En la primera página del documento se colocará una ficha con nombre y apellidos del aspirante, lugar de residencia, dirección y teléfono, especialidad de la que es graduado y labor que desempeña actualmente.
  • Deberán adjuntar fotocopia del título.
  • Los documentos podrán ser entregados en la sede del Centro Cultural Padre Félix Varela (antiguo Seminario San Carlos y San Ambrosio), en La Habana Vieja , de lunes a viernes, de 9:00 AM a 12:00 M.
  • El plazo de admisión para los interesados vence el 20 de julio de 2011.
  • Del total de aspirantes los coordinadores del MDE escogerán a 40 personas.
  • El 28 de julio se hará pública la relación de personas seleccionadas.

..

Iglesia formará expertos en pequeñas empresas y cooperativas en Cuba, Agence France Presse, 23 June 2011.

La Iglesia Católica convocó este jueves a universitarios cubanos a una maestría sobre dirección de pequeñas y medianas empresas (Pymes) y cooperativas, contempladas en las reformas que impulsa el presidente Raúl Castro.

La maestría “tiene entre sus objetivos conseguir que el egresado adquiera habilidades y conocimientos avanzados en dirección de empresas; con un enfoque especial en Pymes, Micropymes y cooperativas”, dijo la convocatoria publicada en la versión digital de la revista Espacio Laical.

El curso, para el cual se escogerán 40 personas entre los candidatos, está convocado por el Centro Cultural Padre Félix Varela, de la Arquidiócesis de La Habana, y la Universidad Católica San Antonio, de Murcia, España. Contará con profesores españoles y cubanos y se extenderá desde septiembre de 2011 hasta junio de 2012.

Las más de 300 reformas de Raúl Castro, aprobadas por el VI Congreso del Partido Comunista en abril (PCC, único), ampliaron el trabajo privado y abrieron las puertas para la formación de Pymes y cooperativas urbanas de producción y servicios.

Ahora el Gobierno se concentra en la elaboración y aprobación del sustento legal de esas empresas no estatales, pues en 1968, cuando la denominada “Ofensiva Revolucionaria”, fueron eliminadas.

La Iglesia Católica, que sostiene un inédito diálogo con el Gobierno desde mayo de 2010, cuyo resultado más importante fue la excarcelación de 126 políticos, ocupa cada vez más espacio en la sociedad cubana.

Ese proceso de acercamiento, iniciado tras la visita papal en 1998, ha ido superando cuatro décadas de relaciones ondulantes, con tiempos de fuertes tensiones y cohabitaciones, sobre todo desde la llegada de Raúl Castro al poder en 2006, tras una crisis de salud de su hermano, Fidel Castro.

 

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Ana Julia Faya: Nosotros tampoco viajamos libremente a Cuba

Los permisos de entrada y salida del país son una violación de los derechos de los cubanos.

Published originally on January 26, 2011 in  Diario de Cuba

Jose marti International Airport, Photo by A. Ritter, 1966

Primero fue en la Declaración del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores en respuesta a las medidas de Obama sobre los viajes a Cuba. Después fue la subdirectora de América del Norte de la cancillería cubana, Johana Tablada, en entrevista publicada en Cubadebate. Y más recientemente Fidel Castro en una de sus Reflexiones, o quizás Castro primero y Johana después. Para el caso, no importa. Repiten el mismo desaguisado: que los estadounidenses son los únicos ciudadanos de este mundo que no pueden viajar libremente a Cuba. Craso error.

Los ciudadanos cubanos que vivimos fuera del territorio nacional tampoco viajamos libremente a nuestro propio país, no solo desde Estados Unidos, sino desde Canadá, España, o cualquier otro de los cientos que ocupan el globo terráqueo. Y no es por voluntad del “imperio”, sino por las restricciones impuestas en Cuba por cubanos sobre viajes de cubanos, medidas que ya suman tantas décadas que si no somos especialistas en la materia no sabemos cuándo fue que empezaron, en qué período de la historia antigua de los Castro se decidió cerrarnos las puertas para salir y para entrar.

En la cancillería cubana se sabe muy bien que los cubanos que residimos en segundos países y no le pagamos al MINREX por un Permiso de Residencia en el Exterior, si queremos visitar a nuestra familia en Cuba debemos solicitar antes a las autoridades de la embajada cubana correspondiente que se nos “habilite” el pasaporte cubano. Porque para viajar a Cuba no se nos admite el del país donde tenemos segunda ciudadanía. Y en ese pasaporte se nos estampará un cuño que nos abrirá las puertas del Aeropuerto Internacional José Martí, si los funcionarios encargados de esa gestión no se oponen y no nos incluyen en un largo listado que el defenestrado ministro de Exteriores Felipe Pérez Roque denominara de “personas repugnantes”, y que hasta el momento no tenemos noticia de que Bruno Parrilla haya desechado.

Que Fidel Castro asegure que solo los estadounidenses no viajan libremente a Cuba, bueno, él predijo una guerra nuclear por los días del campeonato mundial de fútbol, el año pasado, y ahora, en medio de su senilidad, se regocija con la bondad de los delfines mientras sobre el modelo cubano dice lo mismo y lo contrario. Pero que el tema de los viajes se especifique en una Nota Oficial del MINREX y que una inteligente funcionaria lo asegure también, da que pensar. Porque si seguimos al pie de la letra lo declarado últimamente por el régimen, en esta nueva era inaugurada por el general Castro con Lineamientos, Congreso y sesiones en la Asamblea Nacional, rigen los llamados a que los funcionarios cambien la “mentalidad”, se enfatiza en la necesidad de eliminar “prohibiciones obsoletas justificadas en el pasado”, y sobre todo se exige actuar con disciplina. Quizás los funcionarios del MINREX se han salido del modelo de conducta exigido por el liderato del régimen y no han cambiado su mentalidad, quizás se debe a que en Cuba hay tantas cosas obsoletas que se confunden al dirigir los tiros, o quizás es ahora el general Castro el que dice lo mismo y lo contrario.

La abolición de los permisos de entrada y salida fue pedida en muchas de las asambleas celebradas en el país convocadas por Raúl Castro de 2007 a 2008, dizque para conocer qué pensaban los cubanos de la isla. “El permiso de salida y de entrada, eso debería abolirse completamente (…) se hizo con otro destino, por otras razones, y ha sobrevivido durante demasiados años en Cuba, y yo no creo que tenga razón de ser”, dijo Silvio Rodríguez entonces. Fueron tantas las declaraciones públicas en ese sentido de conocidos seguidores del régimen, y tantos los rumores de que “ahora sí”, que incluso el corresponsal de El País en La Habana aseguró haber visto el documento donde se levantaban las prohibiciones sobre viajes y que su presentación era cuestión de días. Pero, seguimos esperando.

Ahora pudiera ser un buen reclamo de los delegados al VI Congreso del Partido Comunista, aunque tengan que ser indisciplinados y salirse de la agenda prevista solo para los Lineamientos económicos. En definitivas, ¿no es el Congreso “el órgano supremo del partido y decide sobre todas las cuestiones más importante de la política”? Si es así, la discusión en abril no debiera circunscribirse a las reformas sobre los cuentapropistas, o la compra y venta de casas, sino ampliarse hacia otras cuestiones importantes reclamadas por la población desde hace rato, como los permisos de entrada y salida.

Soy de las que piensa que Obama debiera levantar todas las restricciones de viaje en su país, para que no sean violados los derechos de sus ciudadanos. Los permisos de entrada y salida en Cuba debieran levantarse por lo mismo. No en reciprocidad por las decisiones de Obama, sino por elemental respeto, para que no se sigan violando los derechos de los cubanos.

Playas del Este, Summer 1994 Preparing to Leave

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Cuba’s Best Friend: the Canadian Winter

Winter in Ottawa

By Arch Ritter

As I trudge through the snow to the University here in Ottawa with the temperature below minus 30 degrees Celsius (or about minus 25 Fahrenheit) in a Canadian “cold snap”, my thoughts turn towards the Tropics and Cuba and also to global warming. This is a characteristic shared by many Canadians in winter- though I also must confess that I am always thinking about Cuba. .

As everyone knows, Cuba has regained its position as a foremost tropical tourist destination. Canada has been the largest single national source of tourists consistently from 1990 to 2009. (See Chart 1) By 2009, Canadian citizens were by far the most numerous with about 915,000 tourist “arrivals”, or 37.6% of total (see Table1). Tourism is of course a major source of foreign exchange earnings for Cuba, larger than any single merchandise export but also smaller than other service exports (mainly medical and educational services.)

Most Canadian tourists head to the beach with a package tour – seldom making it to Havana or another city.  For this reason, they have been sometimes derided as “el cheapo” tourists who spend as little as they can in the Cuban economy.  There may be some truth in this, but most other tourists also are in similar package tours. Foreign exchange earnings from Canadian tourism were likely in the area of US$ 882 million for 2008, (calculated as 37.6% of total tourism earnings of U.S. $ 2,346.9 million.) If one takes both Canadian tourism plus Canadian merchandise imports (mainly nickel) from Cuba into consideration, Canada contributed about U.S. $1.6 billion in 2008, a substantial proportion of Cuba’s foreign exchange availability.

When US citizens are free to travel to Cuba, there undoubtedly will be a “tsunami” of curiosity tourism, sun, sea and sand tourism, “snowbird” tourism, convention tourism, cultural and sport tourism, medical tourism, “March-Break” tourism, and retirement tourism. Will Canadian tourists be squeezed out and priced out of the market as demand increases? Perhaps, for a while. But I expect that Cuba will continue to expand its tourist facilities of all sorts very rapidly. Until “global warming” has eliminated the winter up here in the True North, or until escalating jet fuel prices make air travel prohibitively expensive, my guess is that Canadians will continue to head south in winter and Cuba will continue as a top choice location.

Varadero Cuba

Guardalavaca, Cuba

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New Publication on US-Cuba Relations: Cuba-Estados Unidos, tan lejos, tan cerca

Revista TEMAS, Cultura, Ideologia Sociedad, La Habana,

número 62-63 abril-septiembre de 2010

Web Address: http://www.temas.cult.cu/index.php.

After some three or four years trying to win approval within Cuba, a joint US-Cuba project on the relations between the two countries has finally come to fruition.

Rafael Hernandez, Editor of Revista TEMAS in Havana and Jorge Dominguez, Professor of Mexican and Latin American Politics and Economics, and Vice Chancellor for International Relations at Harvard University have succeeded in bringing together a multinational team of authors and in producing a study already published in Revista TEMAS in Cuba.

An English-language version is in process of publication in the United States with the title Debating U.S.-Cuban Relations: Shall We Play Ball? This is Jorge Dominguez second successful collaboration with Cuban authors in recent years, the first being The Cuban Economy at the Start of the Twenty-First Century, edited with Omar Everleny Perez Villanueva of the Centro de Estudios sobre la Economia Cubana, Universidad de La Habana, and Lorena Barberia also of Harvard.

An essay of mine is included in the collection, namely Estados Unidos-Cuba: potenciales implicaciones económicas de la normalización,

I must confess that I was surprised – but pleasantly surprised – that my essay was included in the collection. My expectation was that the essay would be rejected for ideological reasons.This article contains criticism of current economic policy and institutional structures. though couched in terms of an argument that the gains to Cuba from normalization with the United States would be significantly greater if a series of economic reforms were adopted. The reforms considered include

  • legalization of small, medium and cooperative enterprises,
  • relaxation of taxation and restrictions on self-employment,
  • modification of foreign investment policy to permit majority foreign ownership,
  • relaxation of controls on financial flows from abroad, and of course
  • monetary and exchange rate unification, among other things.

The absence of labor rights – the right to form independent labor unions, to bargain collectively, and to strike – is also discussed as a possible impediment to direct foreign investment in view of the opposition that US groups will have to US firms investing in Cuba under current conditions of the absence of labor rights.

The vetting process that the article underwent was rigorous but surprisingly un-ideological. A long series of critiques were made of the draft that arrived in Havana by the editorial advisors of TEMAS. Some of the criticisms were useful, some were ideologically oriented and a few were neither ideological nor useful. However, following Jorge Dominguez advice, I answered all the queries and criticisms as carefully as I could. Some I accepted. I changed some wording to be less inflammatory. Some criticisms I rejected as diplomatically as I could. In the end, my revisions were accepted by the TEMAS Editor, Rafael Hernandez.

One interesting change that the editors proposed and that I accepted was to remove the name of president Fidel Castro who I had referred to in mentioning the ambiguity of Cuba’s policies towards direct foreign investment, promoting it on the one hand but pronouncing against “globalization” – of which DFI is a part – with President Castro taking lead roles at the podium of the “Anti-Globalization” conferences that occurred for a number of years. The editor wanted Castro’s name removed from that discussion, but did not object to the discussion itself. This seemed to be a version of the hesitancy of many Cuban citizens to  mention Fidel’s name, but to use the hand motion of stroking a beard instead.

I will have to modify my criticisms of freedom of expression within Cuba – though only somewhat!

Below is the Title, Table of Contents, and Web address for the issue. The essay titles are hyper-linked to the TEMAS Web site though the connection often seems very slow.

Cuba-Estados Unidos: tan lejos, tan cerca

Reconfiguración de las relaciones de los Estates Unidos y Cuba, Jorge I. Domínguez, Profesor. Universidad de Harvard.

Enemigos intimacy. Paradojas en el conflicto Estados, Unidos-Cuba, Rafael Hernández, Politólogo. Revista Temas.

Cuba y los Estados Unidos en  las esferas de la defensa y la seguridad, Hal Klepak, Profesor. Royal Military College of Canada.

La seguridad nacional de Cuba frente a los Estados Unidos: conflicto y ¿cooperación?, Carlos Alzugaray Tret, Profesor. Centro de Estudios Hemisféricos y sobre Estados Unidos, Universidad de La Habana.

El terrorismo y el acuerdo anti-secuestros en las relaciones de Cuba con los Estados Unidos, Peter Kornbluh, Investigador. National Security Archive, Washington, DC

La política de la Unión Europea en el triángulo Cuba-Estados Unidos-España, Susanne Gratius, Investigadora. Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior (FRIDE), Madrid.

La Unión Europea y su papel en las relaciones Estados Unidos-Cuba, Eduardo Perera Gómez, Investigador. Centro de Estudios Europeo. Universidad de la Habana

Estados Unidos-Cuba: potenciales implicaciones económicas de la normalización, Archibald R. M. Ritter. Profesor. Universidad de Carleton, Ottawa.

Las relaciones económicas Estados Unidos-Cuba. La normalización pendiente. Jorge Mario Sánchez Egozcue, Investigador y profesor. Centro de Estudios Hemisfericos y sobre Estados Unidos, Universidad de La Habana.

Cuba, su emigración y las relaciones con los Estados Unidos, Lorena G. Barberia, Investigadora. Universidad de Harvard.

Los Estados Unidos-Cuba: emigración y relaciones bilaterales, Antonio Aja Díaz, Historiador y sociólogo. Centro de Estudios Demográficos, Universidad de La Habana.

Corrientes académicas y culturales Cuba-Estados Unidos: temas y actores, Sheryl Lutjens, Investigadora. Universidad del Estado de California, en San Marcos.

La diplomacia académica: los intercambios culturales entre Cuba y los Estados Unidos, Milagros Martínez Reinosa, Profesora. Universidad de La Habana.

Jorge Dominguez and Rafael Hernandez

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