• The objective of this Blog is to facilitate access to research resources and analyses from all relevant and useful sources, mainly on the economy of Cuba. It includes analyses and observations of the author, Arch Ritter, as well as hyper-links, abstracts, summaries, and commentaries relating to other research works from academic, governmental, media, non-governmental organizations and international institutions.
    Commentary, critique and discussion on any of the postings is most welcome.
    This Blog on The Cuban Economy is dedicated to Cuba's Generation "A". Although inspired by Yoani Sánchez' original blog "Generation Y" this is not dedicated to those with names starting with the letter "A". Instead, it draws from Douglas Coupland's novel Generation A which begins with a quotation from Kurt Vonnegut at a University Commencement:
    "... I hereby declare you Generation A, as much as the beginning of a series of astounding triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago."

TAKING PAGE FROM REGIME CHANGE PLAYBOOK, IT’S BACK TO CONFRONTATION WITH CUBA

Washington’s active support for dissidents puts everything in peril, most importantly, the people it wants to help

RESPONSIBLE STATECRAFT , October 27, 2021

William LeoGrande

Original  Article: Back to Confrontation with Cuba

In a speech to the Communist Party Central Committee on October 25, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel singled out the U.S. Embassy for “playing an active role in the efforts to subvert the internal order in our country.” Then he issued a warning:

“Faced with these behaviors, we will not stand idly by. We are determined to confront the subversive and aggressive work of that diplomatic representation,” adding “We have the experience of many years of diplomatic and operational work with the United States under the guidance of the historical leadership of the Revolution.”

The United States and Cuba are on a collision course over U.S. diplomats’ support for “democracy promotion” programs, and Cuban dissidents may end up as collateral damage, spending years in prison as a result.

Cuban officials were already frustrated earlier this summer by President Biden’s failure to keep his campaign promise to lift the punishing economic sanctions imposed by President Trump. Then on July11, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, spontaneous protest demonstrations erupted across the island, fueled by shortages of food, medicine, and fuel, and by people’s anger at the government’s failure to meet their needs.

Washington reacted by denouncing the arrest of protesters and imposing targeted sanctions against a number of senior Cuban officials in the military and police. In addition, President Biden pledged to step up support for dissidents on the island, signaling his embrace of the regime change strategy that has animated Washington’s policy for the past 62 years, with a brief hiatus during President Obama’s final two years.

In September, a group of Cuban artists and intellectuals calling themselves the Archipelago Project joined with traditional dissidents to call for nationwide “Marches for Change” on November 20, later moved to November 15, the day Cuba is scheduled to reopen its tourist industry. The government responded to this challenge by declaring the proposed marches illegal and threatening criminal charges against the organizers. The dissidents are not backing down, setting the stage for another confrontation.

It appears that the July 11 demonstrations have resurrected Washington’s pipedream that the Cuban regime is on the verge of collapse, and that the November 15 demonstrations will be a step toward its demise. By wholeheartedly endorsing the demonstrations, the Biden administration is  throwing gasoline on an already volatile situation and giving the Cuban government ample ammunition to accuse the dissidents of being mercenaries paid and directed by United States.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Havana, though still understaffed because the “Havana Syndrome” injuries U.S. personnel suffered in 2016-2017, has taken a leading role supporting dissident activists, pushing the boundaries of what’s normally allowed under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The Cuban government thinks U.S. diplomats have pushed well past those boundaries. Tension around this issue is nearing a breaking point.

Díaz-Canel’s October 25 warning about the behaviour of U.S. diplomats echoes the one Fidel Castro issued in 2003, another moment when Cuban officials felt under threat in the wake of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq — and amid semi-serious joking in Washington that Cuba would be next. As President George W. Bush intensified sanctions and stepped up support for dissidents, the U.S. diplomatic mission (then an Interests Section) served as a support base for regime opponents.

On March 6, 2003, Fidel Castro denounced the Interest Section as “a breeding ground for counterrevolutionaries and a command post for the most offensive subversive actions against our country.” But rather than close the mission, as the Bush administration hoped he would, Castro ordered the arrest of over 100 dissidents with whom U.S. diplomats had been in contact. Seventy-five were subsequently convicted of receiving U.S. support in violation of Cuba’s foreign agents laws and  sentenced to prison terms ranging from six to twenty-eight years.

There has been little real diplomatic engagement between Cuba and the United States since 2017, but the Cuban government is not likely to close the U.S. embassy in response to its support for dissidents. After all, the last time relations were broken (in 1961) it took 54 years to restore them. Instead, as Díaz-Canel hinted, the government is more likely to follow the “guidance of the historical leadership” and once again punish the people Washington has been helping.

In the past decade or so, the Cuban government had moved away from sentencing dissidents to long stints in prison, instead pursuing a strategy of harassment and short-term detentions to discourage opposition activity. But Cuban officials are feeling under siege from the combined forces of COVID, economic shortages, discontent spreading on social media, U.S. sanctions, and U.S. funding for dissidents. In this environment, the Biden administration’s aggressive support for anti-government activists runs a serious risk of provoking Cuban officials to resume handing out heavy prison terms for those receiving U.S. aid.

President Biden has a long history of justifiable skepticism about the feasibility of nation-building and regime change schemes — a realists’ recognition of the limits of U.S. power. But his deeply held belief that U.S. foreign policy should promote human rights and democracy collides with that realism when a small country like Cuba is involved. Realism gives way to the temptation to deploy overwhelming U.S. power to overthrow unfriendly regimes, especially in “our own backyard.” Yet the long history of U.S. efforts at regime change in Latin America and beyond offers ample evidence that interfering in the internal affairs of other countries —even when it succeeds — rarely ends well for either U.S. interests or the people we presume to help.

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THE MAGNITUDE OF THE ECONOMIC CRISIS IN CUBA AND THE CAUSES OF THE RECENT PROTESTS

Carmelo Mesa-Lago
Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Economics and Latin American Studies, University of Pittsburgh

Columbia Law School,  Horizonte Cubano / Cuban Horizon, September 10, 2021

Original Complete Article: Economic Crisis in Cuba

Cuba faces the worst economic crisis and public protests since the 1990s. This essay: 1) analyzes the multiple causes of the crisis and protests, 2) examines the factors that have facilitated the social unrest, and 3) measures the magnitude of the crisis using various socio-economic indicators.

Causes of the Crisis and Protests

Extremists reduce the causes of the crisis to a single culprit: for the Cuban government, it is the U.S. embargo (known in Cuba as the “blockade”). For the most radical exiles in Miami, only the communist system is to blame. In reality there are multiple causes, summarized below (Mesa-Lago and Svejnar, 2020).

  1. The inefficient centrally planned economic system and the deep state dominance over the market and non-state property, which has failed throughout the world including in Cuba. Raúl Castro attempted market-oriented structural reforms, but they happened very slowly and were plagued with obstacles, disincentives, taxes and policy zig zags, so they had no tangible effects on the economy. The government has rejected the successful Sino-Vietnamese “market socialism” model. President Miguel Díaz-Canel supports continuity, but at the beginning of 2021 he decreed the monetary-exchange unification. Although necessary, it was begun at the worst economic moment. So far, it has only generated adverse effects.
     
  2. The serious economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has radically reduced its financial relationship with Cuba: a 24% decrease in purchasing Cuban professional services (the island’s primary source of foreign-currency revenue); a 62% reduction in oil shipments with favorable terms (which covered 50% of Cuban needs); and an $8 billion drop in direct investment (Mesa-Lago and Vidal, 2019). This relationship reached its peak in 2012-2013 at US $ 16,017 million and decreased by half by 2018. In relation to GDP, it contracted from 22% to 8% and the decrease continued in 2019-2020. 
     
  3. The Cuban economy has been unable to finance its imports with its own exports due to the drop in domestic production, which makes it unsustainable. The total value of Cuban exports contracted by 65% in 1989-2019, while imports increased as did the merchandise-trade deficit. For example, Cuba’s economic relationship with China reached its zenith in 2015-2016, when it became Cuba’s primary trading partner, briefly surpassing Venezuela. Their trade relationship represented 17% and 20%, respectively, but decreased by 36% from 2015-2019 (14% of trade). The main reason was a negative trade balance—Cuba exports much less than it imports from China, representing a deficit of US $2 billion in 2015, leading China to reduce its exports to Cuba by almost half (ONEI, 2016 to 2020).
     
  4. The tough measures imposed by Donald Trump’s administration, which reversed President Barack Obama’s process of rapprochement with Cuba and reinforced the embargo, have paralyzed investment. This includes the application of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which had been suspended every six months by previous presidents (including Trump) and that allows the suing of foreign companies that have “trafficked” with assets confiscated by the Cuban government. Other measures were the restriction of flights to Cuba and the banning all cruises; the imposition of a limit on remittances and prohibiting Western Union from sending remittances to a Cuban agency run by the military; the tightening of sanctions on international banks that do business with Cuba; and the reinstatement of the country on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

    Thus far President Biden has not lifted those sanctions. Obama’s policy of rapprochement with Cuba, which I supported, resulted in numerous concessions from the U.S. without Cuba yielding one iota. On the contrary, the Cuban leadership continued to criticize the U.S. government for maintaining the embargo that Obama did not have the authority to eliminate, since the Republicans had a majority in both houses (Mesa-Lago, 2015).
     
  5. The pandemic is now at its highest number of cases and deaths despite inoculating the population with two vaccines produced in Cuba (the efficacy of neither has been proven). COVID-19 has virtually eliminated all international tourism. The government requires travelers to pay in advance for an “isolation package” to stay in hotels during a quarantine period.

    The pandemic has also prevented the travel of so-called “mules,” people who previously traveled back and forth carrying remittances, food, and other goods for relatives or for informal sale in Cuba. The combination of Trump’s measures and COVID-19 has led to the departure of Spanish tourism companies such as Meliá and Bankia.
     
  6. The implementation, at the beginning of 2021, of the “currency and exchange rate unification” which, although in the long term should yield positive results, in the short term has aggravated many of the previous problems, such as a huge increase in inflation, pressure to increase unemployment, a notable rise in the price of goods, and a severe shortage of food and medicine, which we describe in more detail below.
    CONTINUE READING
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DE CÓMO LOS MARIELITOS CATAPULTARON A DAVID CARD AL PREMIO NOBEL DE ECONOMÍA 2021

CiberCuba 17 Octubre 2021.

Articulo Original: Los Marielitos Y  El Premio Nobel

Los patrones de análisis del “caso Mariel” revolucionaron indudablemente los enfoques posteriores sobre la relación entre inmigración, oportunidades de empleo y educación, y consolidaron la fama de Card como un adelantado en el estudio de los mercados laborales.

El profesor y economista canadiense David Card Foto © University of California at Berkeley

La noticia se escurrió entre los agasajos y las exaltaciones que comporta el nombramiento de un Premio Nobel, pero el tema cubano se asomó este año en la selección de la Real Academia de las Ciencias de Suecia para determinar a los ganadores del galardón en la rama económica.

El pasado 11 de octubre, el Premio Nobel de Economía fue entregado, de manera compartida, al canadiense David Card, y al dúo compuesto por el israelí-estadounidense Joshua David Angrist y Guido Imbens, de origen holandés. Los tres considerados especialistas luminarias en materia de economía laboral.

En el caso de Card, profesor de la Universidad de California en Berkeley, se trata de una personalidad pionera en el uso de una original metodología de experimentos naturales para indagar los efectos de la inmigración y del salario mínimo en el mercado laboral. Pero muchos desconocen que lo que catapultó su fama, consolidó sus hallazgos científicos y lo posicionó como uno de los economistas prominentes en el ámbito internacional fue un estudio realizado sobre el éxodo del Mariel en 1980.

La historia de su interés en el fenómeno de los “marielitos” se remonta a 1983, cuando Card obtuvo un doctorado en Economía en Princeton bajo la tutela del profesor Orley Ashenfelter, uno de los adelantados economistas que se arriesgó a fomentar el uso de métodos empíricos para explorar los mercados laborales. El profesor Ashenfelter motivó a su nuevo estudiante de posgrado a que investigara si los programas de formación para trabajadores desfavorecidos o personas desempleadas resultaban realmente efectivos.

Card terminó por organizar el estudio como un experimento científico aplicando lo que él definió como “métodos estadísticos econométricos más sofisticados” para analizar los datos obtenidos. La investigación obtuvo resultados sorprendentes a los ojos del Departamento de Trabajo de Estados Unidos, que le posibilitó financiamiento para emprender otros proyectos de interés social.

Las bases de experimentación quedaron establecidas para que en 1990 Card viera la oportunidad de realizar una investigación más amplia que abarcara la relación entre los empleos, los salarios y la inmigración. La integración de la fuerza laboral de los marielitos en el área de Miami, que asimiló más de la mitad de los 125,000 cubanos llegados durante el éxodo de 1980, era el laboratorio perfecto para comprobar sus teorías nada convencionales.

Card se dio cuenta de que estaba ante un singular experimento natural que raramente los economistas se disponen a investigar. El foco de su estudio estuvo en indagar el efecto de la oleada de inmigrantes en las oportunidades de empleo de los trabajadores locales de Miami, toda vez que los marielitos aumentaron en un 7% la mano de obra en las ocupaciones e industrias menos cualificadas.

El economista diseccionó la manera en que Miami logró absorber la avalancha de inmigrantes cubanos y comparó los indicadores económicos locales con los de otras ciudades estadounidenses. Los resultados de la investigación causaron una verdadera conmoción en tanto desacralizaban mitos inamovibles sobre el impacto de los inmigrantes en las tasas de desempleo y los salarios.

Luego de estudiar los datos desde múltiples ángulos estadísticos, Card demostró, a contracorriente de las convicciones de varios de sus colegas, que los cubanos recién llegados no tuvieron ningún efecto ni en los salarios ni en los índices de desempleo de los trabajadores no cubanos de Miami, y consiguieron una “rápida absorción” en la fuerza laboral de la comunidad.

La revelación sobre el fenómeno del Mariel en Miami echó por tierra la teoría económica clásica y Card se vio envuelto entonces en un fuego cruzado de críticas. Pero el estudio sobre el Mariel fue durante años el más citado en materia económica en Estados Unidos y foros internacionales, y aún sigue desatando controversias entre sus antagonistas, quienes aseguran que el economista canadiense interpretó erróneamente los datos.

Pero los patrones de análisis del “caso Mariel” revolucionaron indudablemente los enfoques posteriores sobre la relación entre inmigración, oportunidades de empleo y calificación laboral.

En 1995 recibió la medalla John Bates Clark, concedida a “aquel economista estadounidense menor de 40 años que ha hecho la contribución más significativa al pensamiento y al conocimiento económico”, en referencia a su investigación sobre el éxodo del Mariel en Miami.

El comité del Premio Nobel reconoció a Card “por sus contribuciones empíricas a la economía del trabajo”, y justificó su designación con los argumentos siguientes:

“Utilizando experimentos naturales, David Card ha analizado los efectos en el mercado laboral de los salarios mínimos, la inmigración y la educación. Sus estudios de comienzos de la década de los 90 desafiaron la sabiduría convencional, dando lugar a nuevos análisis y conocimientos adicionales. Los resultados mostraron, entre otras cosas, que el aumento del salario mínimo no conduce necesariamente a un menor número de puestos de trabajo. Ahora sabemos que los ingresos de las personas que han nacido en un país pueden beneficiarse de la nueva inmigración, mientras que las personas que inmigraron en una época anterior corren el riesgo de verse afectadas negativamente. También nos hemos percatado de que los recursos de las escuelas son mucho más importantes para el futuro éxito de los estudiantes en el mercado laboral de lo que se pensaba”. 

La contribución de los “marielitos” a la sociedad estadounidense está fuera de toda discusión, como también resulta sustancial su aporte al sostenimiento de la familia cubana en la isla. Pero lo que nunca pudo vislumbrar Fidel Castro cuando lanzó la rotunda afirmación de que “no los queremos, no los necesitamos” es que 41 años después de la forzosa estampida estarían reconocidos como una inusual fuerza de renovación en la economía laboral de Estados Unidos, asociados nada menos que a la designación de un Premio Nobel de Economía.

Una conexión cubana que tiene sobradas razones para instalarse en el beneplácito nacional, aunque cueste todavía salir del asombro. 

Marielitows, Preparaciones, Verano de 1994
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EXCLUSIVE: CUBA, PARIS CLUB REACH DEAL TO SKIP 2021 DEBT PAYMENT

By Marc Frank

Reuters, October 20, 2021

Original Article: Cuba, Paris Club Reach Deal to Skip 2021 Debt Payment

HAVANA, Oct 20 (Reuters) – Cuba has reached a deal with the Paris Club of creditor nations to postpone an annual debt payment due in November until next year, according to diplomats from five of the governments involved, the latest sign the Communist-run country is suffering a grave foreign exchange crisis.

The historic 2015 Paris Club agreement with Havana forgave $8.5 billion of $11.1 billion in sovereign debt Cuba defaulted on in 1986, plus charges. Cuba agreed to repay the remainder in annual installments through 2033, but only partially met its obligations in 2019 and defaulted last year.

The outlines of an amended deal, worked out between the parties in June and not previously reported, calls for resumption of payments in 2022 and adjustment of the payment schedule, the diplomats said, requesting anonymity to comment.

The Cuban government and Paris Club had no comment on the matter.

The parties in June said in a statement that “this agreement provides more time to the Republic of Cuba to honor several payments due under the 2015 Arrangement, while maintaining the present value of these amounts.”

Banco Central de Cuba

Cuba has now fallen behind by around $200 million on payments, including this year, the diplomats estimated.

It is not clear if penalties will apply as the pandemic crunch has led lenders to waive fees on other debtor nations.  Cuba said this week it had vaccinated 99.2% of its population with at least one dose of its locally developed COVID-19 vaccines, and plans to reopen its borders to international tourism by mid-November after nearly two years of coronavirus-induced stagnation.

The Caribbean island nation depends heavily on tourism to inject much-needed foreign exchange into its otherwise inefficient state-run economy, and for the cash it needs to repay lenders.

“I expect a fairly robust return of tourists impacting other activities and that should improve the outlook somewhat for payment in 2022,” one of the diplomats said.

Over the last decade, Cuba also restructured debt with Russia, China, Germany, Mexico and Japanese commercial debt holders.

“Its my understanding most of those payments are also on hold,” another diplomat said, with a colleague seconding that view.

Harsh U.S. sanctions on vital foreign exchange earners such as tourism, remittances and foreign investment, many implemented under then-U.S. President Donald Trump and maintained under his successor, Joe Biden, also complicate inflows.

Foreign exchange revenues fell by some $4 billion beginning in 2020 and the import of basic goods and inputs for agriculture and production in general plunged nearly 40% as a result, the government reported.

The economy contracted 10.9% last year and another 2% through June, compared with the same period in 2020, resulting in shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods.  The government this year predicts the economy to grow 2%, just barely beginning to recoup last year’s downturn.

Under the original Paris Club agreement, seen by Reuters, interest was forgiven through 2020, and after that was just 1.5% of the total debt still due. Some of that money due was allocated to funds for investments in Cuba.  The diplomats who spoke to Reuters said they did not expect any significant changes to that portion of the agreement.

Cuba last reported foreign debt of $18.5 billion in 2018, and experts believe it has risen since then, especially to suppliers and investment partners who reported serious payment issues as early as 2018. The country is not a member of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank.

The Cuba group of the 22-member Paris Club comprises Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Britain, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Vault, Banco Central de Cuba
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THE REVOLUTIONARY CITY: SOCIALIST URBANISATION AND NUCLEAR MODERNITY IN CIENFUEGOS, CUBA

Gustav Cederlöf

Journal of Latin American Studies (2019), 1–24

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: CIENFUEGS, THE REVOLUTIONARY CITy

Abstract
During the Cold War, Havana symbolised the struggle for national liberation in Latin America. Yet in few other places on the island of Cuba did the Revolution’s visions of  development materialise as they did in the southern city of Cienfuegos. This article examines why two half-finished nuclear reactors and a decaying ‘nuclear city still remain in Cienfuegos. Through a comprehensive spatial and infrastructural transformation of Cuba, the revolutionary  government sought to remedy the evils of dependency and unequal exchange. Cienfuegos, and its shifting place in the Cold War political economy,  demonstrates how a radical critique of urbanisation merged with the spatiality of  centralised energy infrastructure in the pursuit of ultimately-failed nuclear modernity.  The history of Cienfuegos draws the academic gaze away from Latin America’s major cities to broaden the ‘geographies of theory’in urban, energy and Latin American studies.

Conclusion
The rationale behind the policy for urban restructuring and centralised energy development emerged from a critique of the colonial political economy. Embedded in the pursuit of nuclear modernity, it also took on distinct urban form. Ciudad Nuclear represented an article of faith in infrastructural integration, centralised redistribution and automated technology powered by oil and nuclear energy as determinants of social progress. However, Cuba’s spatio-infrastructural transformation was contingent on relations extending beyond its cities in space and time. iDeationally, Cienfuegos’ Cold War development was a success as long as Cuba was taking part in qualitatively different, equal-exchange relations
with the CMEA. The government’s inability to sustain these relations after the col lapse of the Soviet Union suggests that Cuba’s nuclear modernity ultimately was a failure, a failure manifested in the decay of Ciudad Nuclear and the ruins of the reactors in Juraguá. Despite this, Cienfuegos’vital position in the revolutionary economy invites us to look beyond Havana and Latin America’s major cities if we want to understand the Cold War in the region. Cienfuegos brings circulations of knowledge to light that broaden the ‘geographies of theory’in urban, energy and Latin American studies.113 The city’s history demonstrates the significance and dif iculty of achieving alternative, possibly more equitable, urban forms in Cuba and beyond.

Fort of San Francisco

Aerial View

Defunct Never-Complet4ed Nuclear Plant

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ENERGY PACT SEES CUBA SIGN UP TO CHINA’S BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE

Original Article: Cuba-China Energy pact

Stephen Gibbs, Caracas

The Times, Tuesday October 19 2021,

President Xi meets Fidel Castro during a visit to Cuba in 2014

Cuba has signed up to an energy cooperation pact with China, solidifying relations at a time when the US has been cautioning against the Asian giant’s growing influence in the region.

Chinese companies will be invited to upgrade Cuba’s ageing energy sector. The financing for the project is expected to be backed by the Chinese government.

The announcement comes as the Biden administration attempts to convince countries in Latin America to turn away from China’s Belt and Road trade and public works programme, which critics say traps recipients in unsustainable debt, while providing Beijing raw materials and geopolitical leverage for decades to come.

At a conference of the “Belt and Road energy partnership”, held in Qingdao, a delegation from Cuba said it would “deepen ties” between the two countries. Cuba’s industry minister, Liván Arronte Cruz, said the pact would “promote solidarity and international co-operations in favour of developing countries”. Green technologies will be prioritised, the minister said.

The other countries in the region which have signed up to the broad Chinese cooperation agreement are Bolivia, Suriname, and Venezuela, all of which have left-wing governments.

ver the past 15 years, China has become the biggest trading partner for most of the big economies in Latin America, overtaking the United States. More recently, China has spent billions of dollars buying up several key energy companies in the region, including the largest electrical company in Peru.

Earlier this month, President Biden’s deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh visited Colombia, Ecuador and Panama, all of which have conservative governments, as part of a pitch for US-backed infrastructure funding, called “Build Back Better World”. US officials say the so-far undefined projects on offer will be built to higher environmental and labour standards than those China is financing, with full transparency for the terms, in contrast to Beijing’s secrecy.

Singh however has insisted that Washington is not asking the region to make a stark choice between the US and China. “We’re there to compete because we do think we have a better product,” he told the Financial Times. China’s arrangement with Cuba, a political ally and one of the smallest economies in the region, is not seen as likely to trouble the Biden administration, given it maintains the US’s decades-old embargo on the communist island, prohibiting most American companies from doing any business with its ruling regime. But it is seen as symbolic of Beijing’s increased clout at the doorstep of the United States.

Already Cuba is China’s largest trading partner in the Caribbean. China is helping Cuba build a modernised port in the city of Santiago, as well as undertaking dredging operations, and setting up wind and solar farms. ChinaPetro, the state oil conglomerate, is running drilling rigs in Celimar and Boca de Camarloca. China’s direct investments in Cuba reached $149 million at the end of 2019.

President Xi last visited Cuba in 2014, when he met the former dictator of the island Fidel Castro. “The common dream and pursuits have brought China and Latin America closely together,” he told a conference later. “Let’s seize the opportunity, work hard, advance hand-in-hand and create a beautiful future for the China-Latin America relations”, he said.

Others suspect more nefarious aims, and there are suspicions that Beijing bases some of its regional intelligence on the island. US media reports have claimed a Soviet-era signals station near Havana is operated by China to intercept communications in the US.

Any further help China can offer to improve the Cuban energy network will be welcomed by its communist leadership. Electrical blackouts since June have fuelled discontent, which in July broke out into street protests, the largest seen since the 1959 revolution.

Following those protests, after the US sanctioned Cuba’s national revolutionary police and its top two officials, China said: “The recent US sanctions against Cuban institutions and officials severely violate the basic norms governing international relations.”

HAVANA IS A WILLING ALLY FOR XI
First it was the Soviet Union, then it was Venezuela (Stephen Gibbs writes). Will China now step in as Cuba’s next patron to ensure the survival of the last communist bastion in the western hemisphere?

Cuba’s dependence on China is growing. In 2014, President Xi visited Fidel Castro and assured the retired revolutionary that he would “inject new impetus” into bilateral relations.

By 2017, China had become the island’s main trading partner. Cuba joined China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative in 2018.

The evidence of Beijing’s influence is everywhere. Yutong buses and Geely cars are common sights in Havana. Modern Chinese trains can occasionally be seen on the island’s decrepit railways. A brand new Haier fridge or washing machine has become a status symbol among those few Cubans that can afford such luxuries.

Chinese companies have also played a key part in Cuba’s telecommunications infrastructure, a role which some see as having sinister undertones. During anti-government protests last July, the government shut off the internet in demonstration hotspots, using technology thought to come from China.

Those protests were partly fuelled by weeks of power cuts in high summer. Finding the fuel for Cuba’s old-tech power stations has long been a challenge.

During the Cold War, Cuba would get most of its oil from the Soviet Union in exchange for sugar, a spectacularly good deal on the Cuban side. More recently it has been receiving subsidised fuel from Venezuela, but its own economic collapse means Caracas has become far less generous, sending about half as many barrels per week as it once did.

China has far deeper pockets and sees Cuba as an important foothold to expand its influence in the Americas. Propping up an amenable Cuban regime is part of that strategy.

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CUBAN BASEBALL PLAYERS DEFECT DURING TOURNAMENT IN MEXICO

BBC, October 4, 2021

Original Article: Cuban baseball players defect

At least nine young Cuban baseball players have defected during a tournament in Mexico, officials say, in the largest defection of Cuban athletes in years.

Cuban officials called the players’ actions during the World Cup for athletes under the age of 23 “vile abandonments”, state media report.

The rest of the team, which originally had 24 players, will return on Monday.

Cuban athletes have a long history of defecting while competing abroad.

Baseball players often leave to sign up with Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs in the US, as strained relations between the US and Cuba prevent them from taking part in a regular hiring process.

The statement by Cuba’s National Sports Institute, published on the official JIT website and quoted by the Associated Press news agency, did not name the players who had stayed in Mexico.

But baseball journalist Francys Romero said a total of 12 players had defected.

A deal that allowed some Cuban players to sign with MLB clubs was cancelled by President Donald Trump in 2018, in an attempt to pressure the island’s Communist government to implement political changes. The agreement meant athletes no longer had to abscond and leave Cuba illegally.

Defections of high-profile sportsmen and women from Cuba is nothing new – but is always an indication of the extent of the problems at home. And if this latest round of pitchers, batters and catchers to flee their hotel in Mexico is anything to go by, economic conditions on the island are especially acute at present.

The mass defection is of particular frustration and embarrassment to the Cuban authorities not only for the number of players to defect at once, but also their ages. In their early 20s, they represented the future of Cuban baseball, charged with returning Cuba to the top after the island failed to qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo 2020 for the first time in its history.

Unsurprisingly, the government responded by attacked the players for being “weak” in morals and ethics. However, its main criticism was for the US for maintaining the decades-long economic embargo while offering such lucrative contracts that the cream of Cuban baseball can hardly refuse. Cuba also accuses the MLB of engaging in practices tantamount to human-smuggling in order to bring the players to the US.

The truth is, however, as long as those multi-million dollar contracts and endorsements are available just 90 miles (145km) away from Cuba, defection will remain a sorely tempting option for any aspiring baseball star on the increasingly impoverished island.

The most recent high-profile player to defect was 22-year-old César Prieto, one of the country’s top baseball stars, who abandoned the team earlier this year while in Florida for an Olympics qualifying event.

Ballet dancers and footballers are also among athletes who have fled during major competitions.

Cuba is in the midst of an economic crisis, with food and medicine shortages, and has been hit hard by US sanctions and Covid-19. In July, thousands of people joined the biggest anti-government protests in the island for decades.

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LOS GRANDES ERRORES DEL “COMANDANTE EN JEFE”

El profesor de economía Archibald Ritter, de la Universidad de Carleton, en Canadá, analizó a finales de 2010 los grandes errores que Fidel Castro cometió tras su llegada a La Habana en 1959.

Tania Díaz Castro

jueves, 16 de septiembre, 2021

Original Article: Errores

LA HABANA, Cuba. – Los líderes comunistas de Cuba aún no se ponen de acuerdo en decir por qué ocurrió el Período Especial: si fue a partir de 1959 cuando Fidel Castro cometió el gran error de no dejar títere con cabeza, acabando con los pequeños propietarios y poniéndolo todo en manos del Estado; o después, con la caída de la URSS, lo que acentuó la consabida ineficiencia del modelo cubano. 

El profesor de economía Archibald Ritter, de la Universidad de Carleton, en Ottawa, Canadá, analizó a finales de 2010, dos años después de la llegada al poder de Raúl Castro, el gran error que el “Comandante” cometió a su llegada a La Habana en 1959 con respecto a la industrialización instantánea, ya que esto requería de importación de maquinaria y equipos, materias primas, bienes intermedios, personal calificado y equipos de reparación y mantenimiento. 

Fidel Castro ignoró el sector azucarero, ocasionando que la zafra, entonces de 6,7 millones de toneladas de azúcar en 1961, fuera de 3,8 millones en 1963;y dando como resultado que Cuba se volviera más dependiente que nunca de la Unión Soviética.

Un poco después, cerca ya de 1970, cometió otro gran error: se le ocurrió la meta de los 10 millones de toneladas de azúcar, convirtiendo esa idea en una preocupación dominante en “defensa de su honor, su prestigio, la seguridad y la confianza en sí mismo”, como la gran campaña militar que nunca había librado.

Otro de sus grandes errores está en el invento del sistema financiero presupuestado, que no es otra cosa que empresas que operan sin autonomía financiera y sin contabilidad, sin recibir ingresos por las ventas de su producción ni pagar por sus insumos con tales ingresos. Con relación a este invento, el mismo Castro dijo el 7 de diciembre de 1970: “¿Qué es este pozo sin fondo que se traga los recursos humanos de este país, su riqueza, los bienes materiales que tanto necesitamos? No es otra cosa que ineficiencia, improductividad y baja productividad”. 

La lista de errores es larga, según Ritter. Un análisis breve de ellos arroja que se agravaron a partir de 1968, cuando el régimen expropió la mayor parte de las pequeñas empresas privadas que quedaban, tras llamarlas “capitalistas”. De esa forma, las empresas fueron empujadas a la economía subterránea y el robo y las ilegalidades se convirtieron en algo normal hasta ahora.

Varias décadas después el “Comandante en Jefe” decidió que no había futuro con el azúcar. Eliminó una gran parte de las tierras sembradas de caña y se deshizo de unos 100 000 trabajadores, sin pensar que los precios del azúcar aumentarían un poco después, cuando ya los bateyes estaban convertidos en pueblos fantasmas.

Otro de los grandes errores que señala Ritter es el medio siglo de controles monetarios sin convertibilidad por el cual responsabiliza al Che Guevara, entonces presidente del Banco Nacional de Cuba, y al propio Fidel Castro. 

Cabe aquí una pregunta imprescindible: ¿Tiene en realidad autoridad política suficiente el presidente Díaz-Canel, además de valor y amor por Cuba, para rectificar los errores de su maestro y guía? ¿O lo tienen quienes mandan en Cuba tras bambalinas, es decir, Raúl Castro y su vieja guardia militar?

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IT IS TIME TO STOP PLAYING JENGA WITH US FOREIGN POLICY

Imperial hubris leads the US to build towers doomed to fall.

Aaron Schneider, associate professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Relations, University of Denver.

Arturo Lopez-Levy, Assistant Professor of International Relations and Politics at Holy Names University

El Jazeera, 12 Sep 2021

Original Article: Stop Playing Jenga

US President Joe Biden meets his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani at the White House in Washington, DC on June 25, 2021 [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

“A terrible time for our country … I don’t know what you call it – a military defeat or a psychological defeat,” said former US President Donald Trump in an August 17 interview on Fox TV. He was referring to the decision of his successor, President Joe Biden, to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.

Some hours earlier it emerged that the Republican National Committee had removed a webpage from 2020 in which it praised Trump for the “historic peace agreement with the Taliban”.

Although the Republicans are struggling to cover up their support for pulling out of Afghanistan amid the fallout of the messy US departure, they, like the Democrats, have known full well that it was inevitable and had to be done. Media reports show many US government officials knew from early on the war was going wrong and was unwinnable – if the purpose was a political solution without the Taliban.

As the world watches the Taliban re-establish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan 20 years after it was toppled by a US-led invasion, one has to ask how is it that Washington harvested such colossal failure? How is it that 40 years after the Vietnam War, it repeated the same mistakes – having no clear goals or exit strategy? After so many US officials expressed doubts about the war, why was there so little courage to plan and execute properly?

Many see international politics as a game, and in this case, the game is clear – Jenga. In Jenga, players remove pieces from a tower and set them on top until the tower falls. Nobody wins at Jenga; one person loses.  Three administrations in a row knew the tower would fall and nobody would win. Still, they pretended in front of the American public that victory was possible and delayed losing by pumping trillions of dollars and sacrificing thousands of civilian and military lives.

They did not prepare for the moment the tower would fall or take steps to help successors manage the eventual collapse. The failure became bigger in the context of promises about nation-building, rule of law, women’s rights and education, cultural change, and “dialogue” with the Taliban. In the end, Afghanistan lost more than 100,000 lives (at least this is what is acknowledged), the US – 2,400.

Our history is littered with similarly doomed foreign policy fiascos in which a short-term bias in favour of coercion preempted the long-term benefits of a consistent policy of engagement and diplomacy.

Afghanistan and Iraq are the most recent examples and Vietnam is a classic one, but there are also the military occupations of Haiti (1915-34), the Dominican Republic (1916-24), Cuba (1906-09), and Nicaragua (1912-33). None of these occupations produced democracy, development, or peace. They all reflect the imperial hubris of the American belief in total victories, which fails to accept compromise or partial achievements (for instance, killing Osama bin Laden should have been enough).

The low politics of buck passing – “the tower will fall but not on my watch” mentality – ignores those like Congresswoman Barbara Lee who called for more time and reflection to take appropriate responses to the 9/11 attacks. Still, we play the game over and over, knowing full well that nobody can win.

It is worth asking what other Jenga predicaments bedevil US foreign policy? What are the other strategies everyone knows will fail but no president wants to take the blame for allowing the tower to tumble?

One place to begin is the raft of questionable unilateral US sanctions that cause tremendous pain and disarray but have never resulted in the intended outcome of regime change. Instead, sanctions cause suffering among large populations and are often counterproductive, providing a nationalist boost to otherwise tottering regimes.

Under the current conditions of the pandemic, sanctions are not only unproductive; they are cruel and they further drain American power. Worse, when unilateral comprehensive embargoes do not work, the typical response in Washington is not to question their rationale, but to expand them with secondary sanctions to third countries.

The most egregious example is the sanctions against Cuba. Most reasonable observers agree the embargo is ineffective, and almost every country in the world besides the US and Israel votes annually at the United Nations to condemn them. Still, no president wants to be the one responsible for reversing the embargo with extraterritorial secondary sanctions, now in place for 60 years.

One could even argue that it helps the Cuban government to rally its population and brings Washington into conflict with almost every major ally around the world. Rather than peeling away from Beijing and Moscow, it pushes Havana towards them. As a result, the US continues its embargo, causes unnecessary suffering to the Cuban people, fails to produce change, and turns the US (not Cuba) into an international pariah in conflict with its own allies.

There is only one way to win at political Jenga – don’t play. Imperial hubris leads us to build towers doomed to fall. Each administration piles on new resources and deaths, hoping to delay the inevitable at least until they leave office. It is time to recognise an unwinnable game as soon as possible – the US should not be an imperial power, should not occupy other countries, and should have the courage to end evidently unsuccessful strategies.

Diplomacy, trade and engagement, multilateralism, and peace, not war or sanctions, should be our default foreign policy tools.

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POLL: AMERICANS FAVOR DIPLOMATIC ENGAGEMENT WITH CUBA

THE HILL,  09/03/21

Original Article.

By Rafael Bernal

More Americans favor engaging Cuba diplomatically than any other approach to the island, according to a new poll by the online political platform Moxy.

The survey found that 41 percent of respondents favored diplomatic engagement, followed by 35 percent saying it should be easier for Cubans to migrate to the United States, 34 percent wanting to sanction Cuban human rights abuses in international courts, and 33 percent favoring ratcheting up sanctions on the communist regime.

“We presented 10 different policy measures, and the respondents can choose as many as they want,” said Cesar Melgoza, CEO of Moxy.

“The one that was chosen most often, overall as well as by Republicans and Democrats, was diplomacy,” added Melgoza.

The polling results come as the Biden administration is expanding its diplomatic footprint in Cuba. The State Department last month allowed diplomats on the island to be accompanied by adult relatives, but the White House has stopped short of the policy of rapprochement from the Obama era.

Meanwhile, Cuba remains in the political spotlight, particularly in Florida after protests on the island renewed interest in supporting the Cuban opposition among some U.S. groups.

But according to Moxy’s poll, Americans overall don’t see Cuba as a top issue.

On a scale of 1 to 5, Cuba received a score of 2.74 as a policy that affects how respondents vote.  Among Democrats, the average score was 3.01 and among Republicans it was 2.67.  Cuban-American voters were most likely to have their vote swayed by Cuba policy, with an average score of 3.75.

Former Rep. Joe García (D), a South Florida political veteran, said the poll results indicate a need for President Biden to engage more in Cuba policy.  “I’ll go so far as to say that if he does not, he will have missed a premium opportunity to endear himself to the Cuban people in South Florida, perhaps to impact the next election,” said García.

“I don’t know what his advisors are thinking. From my point of view, it’s the perfect opportunity, and it’s harmonic with democracy. It’s harmonic with human rights, it’s harmonic with the best political strategy. So there’s no reason not to pay more attention,” he added.

According to the poll, 24 percent of respondents think Biden proactively represents the interests of the Cuban people.  That puts the president behind Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), at 29 percent. But Biden is ahead of Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), at 17 percent, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), with 15 percent.

Although Republican politicians dominate the list of individuals who represent the interests of the Cuban people, almost 37 percent of voters said Democrats best represent Cuban Americans, and nearly 27 percent of voters said Republicans do.

García interpreted the poll results as an invitation for Biden to engage Cuba with a “carrot and stick” approach.

“And frankly, invite those Republicans who are most outspoken on the issue into the dialogue, because otherwise they’ll criticize probably anything he proposes anyway. But bring them in into it, make them part of the team, come up with a plan. And more importantly, do something about it,” he added.

The poll was conducted online Aug. 2-9, with 1,014 completed responses and an oversampling of Cuban-origin voters.

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