Tag Archives: Politics

WHICH WAY CUBA? THE 2013 STATUS OF POLITICAL TRANSFORMATIONS

Vegard Bye;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Picture (4)

CONTENTS

Foreword

Which Way Cuba? The 2013 Status of Political Transformations

By Vegard Bye

1. Introduction

2. Agricultural transformations and their implications

3. Widening space for employment-generating entrepreneurs?

4. Mariel: the new Cuban panacea?

5. The new cooperative sector

6. A dual state-private structure?

7. Social deteriorations and their possible impact

8. Cuban agents of change

9. International context Cuba towards Latin American normalcy?

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

11. The three scenarios

 Cuba: revisitando la Justicia Social en tiempos de reforma

By Armando Chaguaceda

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

Build Walls or Open Doors? Prospects for Cuba Dialogue

By Borghild Tønnessen-Krokan

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

ANNEX I:

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mariela Castro in Ottawa: “I believe in the project Cuba is developing”

The Ottawa Citizen, Jennifer Campbell Published on: July 8, 2014

Mariela Castro Espín is a Cuban professor and member of Parliament. She was in Ottawa recently before attending Toronto's World Pride 2014.Mariela Castro Espín, Heir Apparent in the Castro Dynasty? But she states that Cuba does not have a “monarchy.”

Ask the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro what it was like growing up with such a famous father and she’s quick to answer that being his daughter “is not a public position.”

Mariela Castro Espín, a professor and member of the Cuban parliament since 2013, says it with a laugh, but she does want to stress that she doesn’t always share her father’s opinions, nor does he dictate the way she votes on policy.

“I have responsibilities and I don’t like to be classified as the president’s daughter,” she says. “Ever since I’ve been a child, I’ve always said what I thought. I’m a part of my family and they have given me certain social values, the same values of Cuban society.”

For example, her brand of socialism is one where “humans organize themselves according to state policy.”  She believes, she says, “in the rights of the people to participate in public policy discussions and I believe in the project Cuba is developing, of experimenting to create a new society with the primary goal of emancipating the human being. I don’t think of it as a socialist model. I think instead of an experiment to discover more fair societies as an alternative to the capitalist system. No one has the right to tell Cuba to copy other models.”

Asked if it seems right for one family to be in power for decades, Castro Espín called the question “propaganda” and insisted that her country doesn’t have a “monarchy.”  Rather, she says, Cuba has “a democratic system of participation. I invite you to go to the Cuban election to see for yourself. It’s the population (that elects) and promotes the candidates. They are humble people, who are working as politicians solely because they are interested in helping the Cuban people.”

In other countries, she says, it’s those who have the biggest war chests who get elected, but Cuba is free of that problem.

Castro Espín admits Cuba still has a way to go, and to that end she’s been working with municipalities and universities to strengthen governance and improve people’s ability to make more effective changes at a local level.

When it comes to Cuba’s large neighbour to the North, Castro Espín says there are many in her country who would like to “normalize” relations with the U.S. but the will isn’t there on the part of American officials.

Castro Espín was in Canada to participate in World Pride 2014 in Toronto, so Cuban Ambassador Julio Antonio Garmendia Pena invited her to Ottawa as well.

“Maybe I can change some ideas among MPs and others who are interested in my work as the head of CENESEX (the Cuban National Centre for Sex Education),” a centre that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. “I think I will have to come back because they showed a lot of interest.”

She said gay rights advocates are making headway. Her centre, and other groups, are fighting for gay marriage and the right for gay couples to adopt children. “At least we’re having the conversation,” she said, adding that there are still many Cubans opposed to both.

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Comisión de Derechos Humanos publica listado de presos políticos, JUNIO DE 2014

New Picture (2)Comisión de Derechos Humanos publica listado de presos políticos, PRESOS-POLITICOS-JUNIO DE 2014

14ymedio, La Habana | Junio 23, 2014

Presos Politicos, Junio de 2014

La Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional ha hecho público un listado de presos políticos en Cuba. La entidad, presidida por Elizardo Sánchez , ubica en 114 el número de personas que están condenadas “por razones o implicaciones políticas”.

 

Según se asegura en el documento, la población penal total se estima entre 60.000 y 70.000 condenados actualmente en todo el país. De ellos “la gran mayoría por los llamados delitos comunes, lo cual representa entre el 0,6 y el 0,7% del total de habitantes de Cuba, una de las cifras más altas a escala mundial conforme al tamaño de las poblaciones”.

El informe asegura que de los 114 condenados o procesados por razones políticas, “al menos 80 son disidentes pacíficos, la mayoría de ellos reiteradamente hostigados por la policía política”. Sólo “ocho reclusos fueron condenados severamente por desembarcar en Cuba como parte de pequeñas expediciones armadas anticastristas procedentes de La Florida, entre 1991 y 2001. Estos últimos sufren condenas que oscilan entre 25 y 30 años”.

La lista de la CCDHRN incluye a un total de nueve funcionarios militares y civiles del gobierno  a los que se le han impuesto condenas sumamente severas.

Especial mención tiene en el texto el caso de la dama de blanco Sonia Garro y sus colegas de causa Ramón Muñoz y Eugenio Hernández, encarcelados sin juicio en prisiones de alta seguridad, desde el 18 de marzo de 2012.

También llama la atención que de los “114 condenados o procesados por razones políticas, 40 son miembros activos de la Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU)”, una organización opositora que tiene amplia presencia en el oriente del país.

El gobierno de Cuba, niega sistemáticamente la existencia de presos políticos e ilegaliza la labor de entidades como la CCDHRN.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Not Free But Comfy: Cuban Art Between State and Market

Yvon Grenier

 Original Article from Literal: Reflections, Art and Culture:  Pensamiento, Arte y Cultura here:  Not Free But Comfy: Cuban Art Between State and Market

aaMore Equal than Others

 Successful artists (painters, sculptors, and performers) are part of the wealthiest 1 percent of the population in Cuba. For two decades, they have been able to sell their works abroad, even to Americans (art is not covered by the US embargo). Cuban art is mostly for export and it is a lucrative business. Artists who play by the rules have been able to leave and return to their country, on their own, for two decades. Ordinary Cubans were only granted this basic universal right (see Art.13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) last January, and “exiled” Cubans are still denied the right to return to the island.

 In art, as in other forms of expression, everything is permitted in revolutionary Cuba. Except when it is not. As Fidel Castro proclaimed in 1961, in a famous speech to intellectuals, “Within the revolution, everything; against the revolution, nothing.” The Constitution stipulates: “Artistic creation is free, as long as its content is not contrary to the Revolution. The forms of expression in the arts are free.” Form and content are hard to dissociate in the visual arts. So, who is to make the call on “form” and “content,” and who figures out what is acceptably “within” La Revolución and what is not? Answer: La Revolución herself, that is to say, en dernière instance, Fidel and his brother Raúl.

 Since 1959 the ambitious goal of the new regime in Cuba has been to create “a new man in a new society.” Official documents talk about La Revolución as “the most important cultural fact of our history.” By and large, in this “new society” the range of what can be expressed has been reduced, which has hurt creativity, but the array of cultural activities accessible to the population in general has expanded in many areas, namely in music, visual arts and performing arts. The Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA-1976), for instance, produced many very well trained artists, who went on to have successful national and international careers. It is the only graduate school solely for the arts in Latin America. Many, perhaps most of the ISA’s graduates now live in exile.

 The visual arts are mostly for the happy few and they are typically less ideationally explicit in their “content” than other artistic or cultural forms. Consequently, in Cuba as in many other non-democratic countries, the government can cut visual artists a little slack. Visual artists have more “space” for expression than, say, writers or popular singers, who in turn enjoy a bit more leeway than academics. Nobody is less free than a journalist in Cuba. In other words, Cubans are all equal, in being denied their “right to freedom of opinion and expression” (Art.19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), but some are more equal than others.

 New Cuban Art

 Visual artists who have been working within institutional channels have tested the borders of the permissible more often than most other actors in the cultural field. The trend really started during the 1980s, when young painters such as Flavio Garciandia, Tomás Sánchez, José Manuel Fors, José Bedia, Gustavo Pérez, Ricardo Rodríguez, Leandro Soto, Israel León, Juan Francisco Elso, and Rubén Torres challenged the dominant revolutionary didacticism of the previous decade. They were not unlike the painters of the Generación de la ruptura in Mexico (Alberto Gironella, Vicente Rojo, José Luis Cuevas, Vlady, Pedro Coronel), who defied their own dominant ‘socialist realist’ tradition (Mexican muralism) during the 1950s.

 The exposition Volumen Uno in January of 1981 in Havana officially inaugurated the so-called “New Cuban Art.” For painter Flavio Garciandia: “When we did Volumen Uno we were very, very conscious of the fact that the ‘state of the arts’ in Cuba was just awful, precisely because of those ideas of programmatic contentism [contenidismo programático]. We knew that Volumen Uno was a political exhibition… very polemical, precisely because we were positioning the problems in another part, not in the ‘content’–we had a completely distinct focus and in that moment this was practically a political challenge. . . Given the circumstances of the context, it was an exhibition that was proposing… art as a totally autonomous activity, not as a weapon of the Revolution as the Constitution says.” This (relative) “autonomy” opened up new artistic possibilities. Arguably, it made it easier for artists to eschew controversial issues or events, such as the tragedy that took place only eight months earlier: the 1980 Mariel boatlift, in which 125,000 people left the country (among them many artists and intellectuals). No reference to this exodus (and the shameful actos de repudio that accompanied it) is made in Volumen Uno.

 The emergence of the New Cuban Art coincided with the twilight of the Cold War and the deepening of globalization in the field of art. The Soviet Union (and its annual four billion dollars-a-year subsidy to Cuba) came to an abrupt end and Cuba was forced to open up to market forces. Meanwhile, in the art world, the Post Cold War era saw the début of numerous new Biennials, far away from the traditional capitals of global art: i.e. Sharjah, UAE (1993), Shanghai (1996), Mercosur (Brazil, 1997), Dak’art (1998) and Busan (Korea 1998). The first Havana Biennial (1984) can be seen as an early manifestation of this trend, in addition to being the only one operated by a socialist country. In the new global market for art, the purported anti-imperialist and anti-consumerist mission of the Havana Biennial offered a refreshing choice for multicultural or postcolonial curators and critics, and a thrilling one for decadently rich consumers. For instance, in 1990 the German chocolate magnate and art collector Peter Ludwig acquired more than two thirds of the exhibition of contemporary Cuban art ‘Kuba OK,’ in addition to many other famous works of the artists of the 1990s generation.

aaaArt and the new Gatekeeper State

 The 1980s generation (especially during the second half of the decade) was arguably more audacious and politically driven than the subsequent ones. But most prominent members of this generation left the country at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. The artists who stayed in the country found a comfort zone, negotiating the terms of their subordination with what political scientist Javier Corrales calls the new “gatekeeper” state: e.g. a state that “decide[s] who can benefit from market activities and by how much.” Thus, the cultural field offered a testing ground for the kind of “segmented marketization” and limited liberalization of subsequent years, when brother Raúl inherited the presidency.

 Artists quickly learned to deal with the international market, giving it what it wants: Cubanía products, with muted and aestheticized political overtones that make both the artist and the viewer feel astute, all of which transacted with the global language of art of the time (mainly conceptual art and arte povera). For all the talk about postmodern art in Cuba, the country is literally stuck in modernity, with primary concerns about national identity, sovereignty, material well-being, basic freedom and security. These modern concerns are omnipresent in New Cuban art, where they are at once localized and transcended by postmodern aesthetics. This confers New Cuban Art a trendy “glocal” cachet that simultaneously insinuates and defuses “content.”

 Cuban artists are masters of double entendre and detachment (parody, irony, sarcasm, and pastiche). They know what the taboos are: play with the chain but not with the monkey; don’t challenge La Revolución and its metonymic association with the Castro brothers. (About Fidel: according to Andrés Oppenheimer, in the early 1990s the guidelines were revised: “it was forbidden to show him standing next to anybody taller or to show him eating, and it was forbidden to divulge any information on his personal life.”) Yet, the global market likes its Cuban art with a dash of political irreverence. The regime can afford to appear open-minded since it is largely inconsequential on the island.

Even though artists are pretty shrewd when guessing the “parameters,” it is still perilous to “play with the chain.” Expositions have been censored and cancelled; artists are reprimanded and sometimes jailed. The performance artist Angel Delgado got six months in jail for publicly defecating on a copy of the daily Granma, during the exhibition “El objeto esculturado” (1989). According to Luis Camnitzer, the exhibition at the Castillo de La Real Fuerza in February of 1989 was closed “when it was found to include a portrait of Fidel Castro in drag with large breasts and leading a political rally, and Marcia Leiseca, the vice minister of culture, was relocated to the Casa de las Américas.” Artists have been castigated for speaking their mind on the public issues (most recently, for instance, the painter and sculptor Pedro Pablo Oliva lost his studio and his seat in the provincial assembly). Admittedly, it is not simple for outsiders (such as this author) to fully appreciate the day-to-day courage of individuals who strive to work and live under very difficult circumstances in the country of their choice: their own.

Continue reading:  Not Free But Comfy

Yvon_Grenier_PhotoYvon Grenier

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Venezuelan Dialogue From a Cuban Point of View

By Yoani Sanchez in the World Post

Posted: 04/14/2014 11:58 am EDT Updated: 04/14/2014 11:59 am EDT

 Original here: The Venezuelan Dialogue From a Cuban Point of View

The dialog between the Venezuelan opposition and Nicolas Maduro is in full swing. Its critics are many, its most visible loser: the Cuban government. For a system that for more than half a century has disqualified and reprimanded its dissidents, this discussion table must present a sad acknowledgement of its own inabilities.

Last Tuesday stunned Cuban viewers could watch a debate between the opposition forces in Venezuela and pro-government representatives. The controversial meeting was broadcast on TeleSur, which is characterized by its tendency to back the work of Chavism with its reporting. On this occasion, however, it was forced to also broadcast the concerns and arguments of the other side.

The requirement that cameras and microphones would be present at the discussion proved to be a magnificent political move by Maduro’s adversaries. In this way the audience is engaged in the dialog and it’s more difficult to publish distorted versions later. The participants on both sides were allowed ten minutes each, an exercise in synthesis that the Venezuelan president, clearly, couldn’t accomplish.

For disinformed Cubans, the first thing that jumped out at us was the high level of the arguments the opposition brought to the table. Figures, statistics and concrete examples expressed within a framework of respect. The next day the most commonly heard comment in the streets of Havana was the popular phrase, “They swept the floor with Maduro.” A clear reference to the crushing critiques of his rivals. The government supporters, however, were notably timid, fearful, and offered a discourse plagued with slogans.

There is no doubt, this discussion table has been a bitter pill to swallow for those who up until a few hours before were accusing their political opponents of being “fascists” and “enemies of the nation.” Venezuela will no longer be the same, although the negotiations end tomorrow and Nicolas Madura will once again take the microphone to hand out insults right and left. He acceded to a discussion and this marks a distance between the path followed by the Plaza of the Revolution and another that recently began for Miraflores.

0010886523Maduro and Caprilles

New Picture (2)President Maduro

biXxJ.St.84The Opposition, Caprilles in the middle

And in Cuba? Is this also possible?

While the broadcast of the Venezuelan dialogue was airing, many of us asked ourselves if something similar could occur in our political scenario. Although the official press presents these conversations as a sign of strength on the part of Chavism, it has also kept enough distance so that we won’t get illusions of possible Cuban versions.

It is less chimeric to imagine Raul Castro getting on a plane and escaping the country than to project him sitting at a table with those he dubs counterrevolutionaries. For more than five decades, both he and his brother have been dedicated to demonizing dissident voices, such that now they are prevented from accepting a conversation with their critics. The danger posed by the impossibility of negotiations is that it leaves only the path to an overthrow, with its consequent trail of chaos and violence.

However, not only do the Cuban regime’s principal figures show reluctance before any negotiating table. The better part of the Island’s opposition doesn’t want to hear it spoken of. Before this double rejection, the agenda of a chimeric meeting fails to take shape. The opposition parties haven’t yet come together on a project for the country that can be coherently defended in any negotiation and look like a viable alternative. We members of the emerging civil society have reasons to feel concerned. Are the politicians now operating illegally in the country prepared to sustain a debate and capable of convincing an audience? Could they represent us with dignity when the time comes?

The answer to this question will only be known once the opportunity arises. Until now the Cuban political dissidence has concentrated more on tearing down than on elaborating foundational strategies; the greater part of their energy has been directed to opposing the governing Party rather than on persuading their potential followers within the population. Given the limitations on disseminating their programs and the numerous material restrictions they suffer, these groups have not been able to carry their message to a significant number of Cubans. It is not entirely their responsibility, but they should be aware that these deficiencies hinder them.

If tomorrow the table for a dialog was set, it would be unlikely that we would hear a speech from the Cuban opposition as well articulated as that achieved by their Venezuelan colleagues. However, although negotiation isn’t a current possibility, no one should be exempted from preparing for it. Cuba needs for the people before those possible microphones to be those who best represent the interests of the nation, its worries, its dreams. They may speak for us, the citizens, but please, do so coherently, without verbal violence and with arguments that convince us.

d8b426fb7787a00c41d72006c4bec2013c0a2b4f - CopyYoani Sanchez

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Cuban dissidents say political arrests top 1,000 in February

Daniel Trotta, Reuters, March 4, 2014

(Reuters) – Politically motivated arrests in Cuba topped 1,000 for a third straight month in February as the result of wider public demonstrations against the one-party state, a leading human rights organization said on Monday.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said arrests in the past three months have nearly doubled from the monthly averages of the previous two years.

The commission reported 1,051 arrests in February that it considered arbitrary and politically motivated, although all the people jailed were released, usually within a few hours. true

 

 

 

The February number was similar to the 1,052 reported in January and down from 1,123 in December.

Reuters could not independently verify the numbers, which the commission’s president, Elizardo Sanchez, said were based on first-hand reports from activists around the island. The commission excludes any arrest report that it cannot verify, Sanchez said.

CUBA WIVES OF PRISONERSDamas de Blanco, in 2011

The Cuban government says the commission is illegal and counterrevolutionary, and normally does not respond to its monthly reports. It generally considers dissident groups to be in the pay of the United States as part of the 55 years of hostility between the two countries since Fidel Castro came to power in a 1959 revolution.

A Reuters request for government comment was not immediately answered on Monday.

The commission said the December number was the highest on record since March 2012, when Pope Benedict visited Cuba. It has been keeping records since 2010, and says the arrests rise when there are international events in Cuba, such as a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders in late January.

The numbers have stayed high largely because a growing number of citizens now publicly oppose the communist government, Sanchez said.

The report details each case by name, date and reason for the arrest, with many detentions coming before, during or after organizing meetings or public protests. Other dissenters were held on their way to or from church, the report said.

“There are more demonstrations of the people’s discontent,” Sanchez said in telephone interview from Spain, where he is meeting with human rights activists from Cuba and other countries.

Human rights groups say Cuba in recent years has avoided jailing dissidents for lengthy periods, instead choosing to detain them for several hours or days. As a result, estimates of the number of political prisoners are in the single digits, compared with numbers in the thousands decades ago. Amnesty International reported seven new prisoners of conscience in 2013, of whom three were released without charge.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Time to hug a Cuban

Source:    http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21596532-rush-embrace-fading-outpost-communism-time-hug-cuban

A rush to embrace a fading outpost of communism

20140215_AMD000_0The Economist; Feb 15th 2014 |

HOW best to speed change in Cuba? The past few weeks have brought three different answers to that question, from the United States, the European Union and Latin America.

For more than 50 years the official American answer has been to try to asphyxiate Cuban communism through an economic embargo, and to encourage internal dissent. It was policy as tantrum, a counterproductive failure. Change is coming to Cuba—but from the top, not below. Since replacing his elder brother, Fidel, as Cuba’s president in 2008, Raúl Castro has unleashed economic reforms which, while officially aimed at “updating socialism”, are in practice introducing elements of capitalism. Some 450,000 Cubans work in a budding private sector of farmers, co-operatives and small firms.

Across the Florida Straits, the changes are causing long-monolithic support for the embargo to crumble. A poll taken in the United States for the Atlantic Council, a think-tank, published on February 11th found that 56% of respondents favoured normalising relations with Cuba. Days earlier Alfonso “Alfy” Fanjul, the patriarch of a pre-revolutionary sugar dynasty and long a pillar of anti-Castro Miami, told the Washington Post that he had made two trips to his homeland, talked to Cuban officials and would invest in Cuba “under the right circumstances”.

Barack Obama, who briefly shook Raúl’s hand at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December, has lifted some restrictions on travel and remittances to the island. Many observers expect him to take further steps in that direction and to revoke Cuba’s anachronistic designation as a state sponsor of terrorism—once November’s mid-term elections are out of the way. But only the United States Congress can fully dismantle the embargo.

On February 10th the European Union, whose members maintain economic ties with Cuba, announced that it wants to start talks on a “political dialogue and co-operation agreement”. In practice many of its members have already sloughed off a “common position” adopted in 1996, a kind of embargo-lite that predicated closer links on promoting a transition to democracy. The EU was at pains to stress that this was not really a policy change, but it is.

One thing the EU will keep doing is to complain about the lack of human rights in Cuba. Latin America has already stopped bothering. Last month Raúl hosted a gathering of the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), a body set up in 2011 explicitly to include Cuba and exclude the United States. In Havana the bloc’s leaders signed a declaration that stated that regional integration should “respect…the sovereign right of each of our peoples to choose its own form of political and economic organisation”.

Many Latin American leaders see being friendly to the Castros as a cost-free way of showing that they no longer take political direction from Washington, DC, let alone Miami. (A handful would like to go further and be like the Castros.) Yet their declaration was a cavalier disavowal of the democracy clauses inserted into many regional agreements over the past two decades. It smacked of double standards: so quick to condemn dictatorships of the right, today’s crop of centre-left leaders are happy to give the Castros a free pass.

Oddly this rush to hug a Cuban comes as reform shows signs of stalling. The pace of private-sector job creation has slowed. The government has shut down private cinemas; it has ejected several Western businessmen. A special economic zone at a new Brazilian-built port at Mariel has yet to attract foreign investors, because of the restrictions they still face. Many Cubans felt insulted when they were granted permission to buy new cars—at astronomical prices.

The aim of the reforms is to allow the private sector to create the wealth that the state can’t. But the Communist bureaucracy still resists the notion that this has to involve creating wealthy people. If Raúl were to die before the reforms have created a broad coalition of winners, there would be a risk of backsliding.

In fact, the key to speeding change in Cuba probably lies in Caracas. Thanks to an alliance forged by Fidel and Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan aid accounts for around 15% of Cuba’s GDP. Years of misrule have brought Venezuela to the verge of an economic implosion. It is the fear of losing Venezuelan petrodollars, as well as apprehension about the “biological factor” (as Cubans call the death of the elderly Castros), that drives the island’s halting process of change. For other powers the best way to help is through efforts that support Cuba’s budding capitalism without offering the Castros any political endorsement.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Publication of the Papers from the 2013 Conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy

 

The proceedings of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy’s 23rd Annual Meeting entitled  “Reforming Cuba?” (August 1–3, 2013) is now available. The presentations have now been published by ASCE  at http://www.ascecuba.org/.

The presentations are listed below and linked to their sources in the ASCE Web Site.

ASCE_logo_220

 Preface

Panorama de las reformas económico-sociales y sus efectos en Cuba, Carmelo Mesa-Lago

Crítica a las reformas socioeconómicas raulistas, 2006–2013, Rolando H. Castañeda

Nuevo tratamiento jurídico-penal a empresarios extranjeros: ¿parte de las reformas en Cuba?, René Gómez Manzano

Reformas en Cuba: ¿La última utopía?, Emilio Morales

Potentials and Pitfalls of Cuba’s Move Toward Non-Agricultural Cooperatives, Archibald R. M. Ritter

Possible Political Transformations in Cuba in the Light of Some Theoretical and Empirically Comparative Elements, Vegard Bye

Las reformas en Cuba: qué sigue, qué cambia, qué falta, Armando Chaguaceda and Marie Laure Geoffray

Cuba: ¿Hacia dónde van las “reformas”?, María C. Werlau

Resumen de las recomendaciones del panel sobre las medidas que debe adoptar Cuba para promover el crecimiento económico y nuevas oportunidades, Lorenzo L. Pérez

Immigration and Economics: Lessons for Policy, George J. Borjas

The Problem of Labor and the Construction of Socialism in Cuba: On Contradictions in the Reform of Cuba’s Regulations for Private Labor Cooperatives, Larry Catá Backer

Possible Electoral Systems in a Democratic Cuba, Daniel Buigas

The Legal Relations Between the U.S. and Cuba, Antonio R. Zamora

Cambios en la política migratoria del Gobierno cubano: ¿Nuevas reformas?, Laritza Diversent

The Venezuela Risks for PetroCaribe and Alba Countries, Gabriel Di Bella, Rafael Romeu and Andy Wolfe

Venezuela 2013: Situación y perspectivas socioeconómicas, ajustes insuficientes, Rolando H. Castañeda

Cuba: The Impact of Venezuela, Domingo Amuchástegui

Should the U.S. Lift the Cuban Embargo? Yes; It Already Has; and It Depends!, Roger R. Betancourt

Cuba External Debt and Finance in the Context of Limited Reforms, Luis R. Luis

Cuba, the Soviet Union, and Venezuela: A Tale of Dependence and Shock, Ernesto Hernández-Catá

Competitive Solidarity and the Political Economy of Invento, Roberto I. Armengol

The Fist of Lázaro is the Fist of His Generation: Lázaro Saavedra and New Cuban Art as Dissidence, Emily Snyder

La bipolaridad de la industria de la música cubana: La concepción del bien común y el aprovechamiento del mercado global, Jesse Friedman

Biohydrogen as an Alternative Energy Source for Cuba, Melissa Barona, Margarita Giraldo and Seth Marini

Cuba’s Prospects for a Military Oligarchy, Daniel I. Pedreira

Revolutions and their Aftermaths: Part One — Argentina’s Perón and Venezuela’s Chávez, Gary H. Maybarduk

Cuba’s Economic Policies: Growth, Development or Subsistence?, Jorge A. Sanguinetty

Cuba and Venezuela: Revolution and Reform, Silvia Pedraza and Carlos A. Romero Mercado

Mercado inmobiliario en Cuba: Una apertura a medias, Emilio Morales and Joseph Scarpaci

Estonia’s Post-Soviet Agricultural Reforms: Lessons for Cuba, Mario A. González-Corzo

Cuba Today: Walking New Roads? Roberto Veiga González

From Collision to Covenant: Challenges Faced by Cuba’s Future Leaders, Lenier González Mederos

Proyecto “DLíderes”, José Luis Leyva Cruz

Notes for the Cuban Transition, Antonio Rodiles and Alexis Jardines

Economistas y politólogos, blogueros y sociólogos: ¿Y quién habla de recursos naturales? Yociel Marrero Báez

Cambio cultural y actualización económica en Cuba: internet como espacio contencioso, Soren Triff

From Nada to Nauta: Internet Access and Cyber-Activism in A Changing Cuba, Ted A. Henken and Sjamme van de Voort

Technology Domestication, Cultural Public Sphere, and Popular Music in Contemporary Cuba, Nora Gámez Torres

Internet and Society in Cuba, Emily Parker

Poverty and the Effects on Aversive Social Control, Enrique S. Pumar

Cuba’s Long Tradition of Health Care Policies: Implications for Cuba and Other Nations, Rodolfo J. Stusser

A Century of Cuban Demographic Interactions and What They May Portend for the Future, Sergio Díaz-Briquets

The Rebirth of the Cuban Paladar: Is the Third Time the Charm? Ted A. Henken

Trabajo por cuenta propia en Cuba hoy: trabas y oportunidades, Karina Gálvez Chiú

Remesas de conocimiento, Juan Antonio Blanco

Diaspora Tourism: Performance and Impact of Nonresident Nationals on Cuba’s Tourism Sector, María Dolores Espino

The Path Taken by the Pharmaceutical Association of Cuba in Exile, Juan Luis Aguiar Muxella and Luis Ernesto Mejer Sarrá

Appendix A: About the Authors

logo

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Changing Slogans of Cuba’s Leadership

pedro_campos1December 17, 2013 |  “Down with Capital, Long Live Capital!” Pedro Campos HAVANA TIMES

Those in Cuba who once bet on the complete expropriation and nationalization of foreign capital today beseech foreign capital to come in their aid, offering investors every imaginable guarantee. The Cuban State economy is in crisis, but not as a result of the imperialist blockade or the collapse of the Soviet Union, as the defenders of “State socialism” often say. The main reasons for the crisis must be looked for in more than fifty years of nearly-absolute state control, in the extreme centralization of decisions regarding how and how much of the billions of rubles received as subsidies from the former Soviet Union and the billions of Cuban pesos and hard currency produced by the working class were spent over this period of time, in the all-encompassing intervention of the State in the economy through domestic and foreign trade monopolies. It is to be found, also, in the State’s almost complete control over the means of production, in the nationalization of international capital, the capital of Cuba’s high and petite bourgeoisie, of free, individual and family workers – recall the “revolutionary offensive” of 1968 – of cooperatives and worker associations. The low salaries of workers, the maintenance of wage labor for the State, the financial imbalances generated by high spending in gigantic State institutions – such as the Armed Forces, State Security, the Party’s political and grassroots apparatuses, propaganda networks entirely subordinated to the State / Party / government, the country’s unwieldy foreign service – and international campaigns aimed at securing support for the government are some of the other causes behind the crisis. All of this could be summed up as the catastrophic result of that series of aberrant, archaic and dogmatic conceptions that Stalinism developed under the banner of Marxism-Leninism. According to the Stalinist logic, a political and military elite is to determine and regulate a society’s laws, economy, way of life and just about everything else in the name of the communist Party, the revolution, socialism and the working class – so-called “real socialism”, whose only real characteristics have been the absence of democracy and the refusal to socialize political and economic power. I have insisted on this elsewhere: unless the economic, political and social failure of this false socialism is acknowledged, the mistakes made will never truly be rectified. Those who defend this unjust system and now unscrupulously try to “update” it mistakenly identify the Cuban revolution with the Cuban government/State/Party that has made and continues to make every absurd mistake, “validating” the claims of right-wingers worldwide regarding the “unviability of socialism” (perhaps the best help global capitalism could hope for). Today, Cuba’s State economy can no longer rely on massive subsidies from the Soviet Union, Venezuela is experiencing a serious economic crisis and cannot continue to provide the aid Chavez offered the island. Likewise, the governments of powerful allies such as Russia, China and Brazil only offer credits that must be repaid. The bureaucratic apparatus of Cuba’s government/Party/State has refused to consider the truly socialist option: it has refused to share the country’s economic power with the people, with Cubans at home and abroad, with the workers. It has refused to allow workers to participate in the administration, management and revenue-collection of State companies and to grant full freedom to the self-employed and cooperatives, instead subjecting these to regulations, experiments and all manner of toing-and-froing. Naturally, workers identify less and less with a State that only caters to the interests of an elitist, bureaucratic caste which continues to determine the country’s laws, investments, estates and the lives of people. Faced with this complex situation, torn apart by its own contradictions and flip-flopping, the Cuban government/State/Party has now decided to contract legal matrimony with international capital, in order to be able to continue exploiting Cuban workers with its aid. The ironies of history! The “revolutionary leadership”, thirsty for foreign capital, today assures us it will not nationalize foreign investments made at El Mariel, the immense commercial project dependent on the end of the US blockade / embargo. The same government that blamed international capital – and US capital in particular – of all the world’s evils, that once boasted of having nationalized (placed under State control, to be more accurate) all foreign properties, today swears blind that it will respect international capital and begs, beseeches its powerful northern neighbor to lift the restrictions that prevent US millionaires from showering Cuba with dollars. They are not concerned about the risk that big, transnational companies – particularly US companies – will take possession of the resources and wealth of the “Pearl of the Antilles”, the “Key to the Gulf”, the “World’s Cruise Ship”, offering foreign investors the sweat of Cuban laborers on a silver platter, in order to share with them the surplus value they can squeeze out of workers together. This is typical of the annexationist stance that Cuba’s new Right – which has taken power in “socialist” Cuba – cannot conceal. We are dealing with the same people whose slogan once was “down with Capital”, those who today yell: “long live Capital!” The traditional Cuban Right based in the United States does not conceal its intentions of restoring capitalism on the island. The new Right offers us a pig in a poke, painting itself a “socialist” red while acquiescing to Yankee capital, allegedly excluding the old, “imperialist” capitalists (no, the new ones are “anti-imperialists”), so that the nouveaux riches and bureau-bourgeoisie, allied to and financially dependent on international capital, can survive the inevitable collapse. This comes as no surprise. Many of us in Cuba’s democratic and socialist left have been saying for many years that the bureaucratic State has only two options: coming to an agreement with the Cuban workers and people or with foreign capital. The second alternative has been the one chosen in all places where “State socialism” was essayed, where the powerful, authoritarian elite re-converted back to capitalism and became a new type of bourgeoisie. We are not against foreign investment. The question is who these investments benefit and what type of economy they are to serve, whether they are aimed at overcoming the economic and financial problems of the bureau-bourgeoisie and Cuba’s new Right or at developing the mid-sized and small companies and cooperatives of a socialist economy. During a fund-raising campaign in Miami, President Barack Obama assured Cuban dissidents he would not negotiate with the Cuban government in what is left of his term in office, while speaking of the need to change the United States’ long-standing foreign policy towards Cuba. The Democrats are already scrambling to secure votes from the Cuban and Hispanic communities, in view of the fact that there is a good chance the Republicans will put forth a Cuban-born senator as presidential candidate in the coming elections. If that were to happen and the Republicans won… Many concerns, questions and disagreements must exist in the high echelons of Cuba’s leadership. What did the US president mean? If there are to be no negotiations, the blockade will not be lifted and American investments will not come. What will they do with the Mariel project, its three million containers and their debt to Brazil? What steps could be taken to ensure the inflow of US capital, without putting their political power at risk? If this US president doesn’t lift the blockade, is that possibility to be discarded by Cuba’s current leaders? If the Republicans were to win the coming elections and a man of Cuban origin were to take office, what would they do? Now, has anyone in Cuba’s distinguished government of generals asked the Cuban people what they want? With every new development, what becomes clearer and clearer is that Cuba needs to democratize society, allow all Cubans to freely express our thoughts and to peacefully and democratically fight for their realization, allow for freedom of expression and association, the free and democratic election of all public officials and full access to the Internet. This process of democratization would allow all Cubans of good will to take part in the building of a democratic future of peace, justice and harmony, with everyone and for everyone’s benefit, regardless of their political views, religion, skin color or sexual orientation. Let’s hope open debate and the interests of the people prevail over the petty interests of extremists. Socialism in defense of life.

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yoani Sánchez al 17 ª Conferencia Anual Fórum 2000 del 15 a 17 de septiembre de 2013 en Praga,

Yoani Sanchez Presentation to Forum 2000 in Prague, September 2013

Buenas noches:

Hace ya más de una década cayó en mis manos por primera vez el libro de Vaclav Havel “El poder de los sin poder”. Venía forrado con una página del periódico oficial de mi país, del diario del Partido Comunista de Cuba. Forrar los libros era una de las tantas formas en que escondíamos de la vista de informantes y policías políticos los textos incómodos y prohibidos por el gobierno. De esa manera habíamos estado leyendo en el clandestinaje las historias de lo sucedido con la caída del muro de Berlín, del fin de la Unión Soviética, la transformación checa y todos los otros sucesos de Europa del Este. Sabíamos de todas esas transiciones, algunas más traumáticas, otras más exitosas y muchos soñábamos con que la transición llegaría pronto a nuestra Isla en el Caribe, sometida por más de cinco décadas a un totalitarismo. Pero las transiciones más que añorarlas, hay que construirlas. Los procesos de cambio no llegan solos, los ciudadanos tienen que provocarlos.

Hoy estoy aquí, justo en la ciudad donde nació Vaclav Havel ese hombre que resume como pocos el espíritu de la transición. Estoy además frente a muchas personas que han impulsado, fomentado y personificado el deseo de cambio de sus respectivas sociedades. Porque la búsqueda de horizontes de mayor libertad, es un componente esencial de la naturaleza humana. Por eso se vuelve tan retorcidos y anti naturales esos regímenes que intentan perpetuarse sobre sus pueblos, inmovilizarlos, quitarles el deseo de soñar con que el futuro deberá ser mejor.

En la época que le correspondió a Vaclav Havel, a Lech Walesa y a tantos otros disidentes de los regímenes comunistas, fueron efectivos los métodos de la lucha pacífica, sindical, hasta la creación artística se puso en función del cambio. Ahora ha venido en nuestro auxilio también la tecnología. Cada vez que utilizo un teléfono móvil para denunciar un arresto o escribo en mi blog sobre la difícil situación de tantas familias cubanas, pienso cómo habrían ayudado estos artilugios de teclas y pantallas a los activistas de décadas anteriores. Cuán lejos hubieran podido llegar sus voces y proyectos de haber contado con las redes sociales y todo el ciberespacio que se abre hoy ante nuestros ojos. La WEB 2.0 ha sido, sin dudas, un impulso para ese espíritu de transición que habita en el interior de todos nosotros.

Hoy está aquí por primera vez en el Forum 2000 una pequeña representación de activistas cubanos. Después de décadas de encierro insular en que el régimen de nuestro país impedía a muchos disidentes, periodistas independientes y bloggers alternativos viajar al extranjero, hemos logrado la pequeña victoria de que nos abran el cerrojo de las fronteras nacionales. Es una victoria limitada, incompleta, porque todavía faltan muchas otras. La libertad de asociación, el respeto a la libre opinión, la capacidad de elegir por nosotros mismos a quienes nos representen, el fin de esos actos de odio llamados mítines de repudio que aún persisten en las calles cubanas contra los que piensan diferente a la ideología en el poder. Sin embargo, muchos sentimos que Cuba está en transición. Una transición que está ocurriendo de la manera más irreversible y aleccionadora: desde el interior del individuo, en la conciencia de un pueblo.

En esa transición habrán influido muchos de ustedes. Muchos de ustedes que han llegado primero a la libertad y han comprobado que no es el final del camino, sino que la libertad trae nuevos problemas, nuevas responsabilidades, nuevos retos. Ustedes que en sus respectivos países mantuvieron vivo el aliento del cambio, incluso poniendo en riesgo sus nombres y sus vidas.

Como el espíritu de la transición contenido en aquel libro de Vaclav Havel, forrado –para enmascararlo- con las páginas del periódico oficial más inmovilista y reaccionario que puedan imaginar. Como aquel libro, la transición puede prohibirse, censurarse, ser decretada casi una mala palabra, postergarse y satanizarse… pero siempre llegará.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment