• 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."

LA GENERACIÓN DE ELECTRICIDAD EN CUBA

Analysis Original: La generación de electricidad en Cuba

¿Qué es el esquema Boot y por qué no se utiliza más en Cuba para invertir en fuentes de energía eficientes?

Por Omar Everleny,

OnCuba, enero 13, 2022


El año pasado la prensa dio a conocer ampliamente la llegada a Cuba de una nueva central flotante para la generación de electricidad. Operada por una empresa de Turquía, se puso en funcionamiento en el Puerto de La Habana, cerca de las instalaciones de la termoeléctrica de Tallapiedra. Se trata de la segunda central flotante de este tipo después de otra de la misma empresa que ha estado funcionando en el puerto del Mariel.

Ante los problemas con la generación de electricidad para responder a la demanda sin los incómodos apagones y mantener los ciclos de mantenimiento de las termoeléctricas existentes, la decisión adoptada de contratar el buque turco parece muy adecuada a las circunstancias. La tecnología existente permite esta solución rápida y eficaz.

Pero también nos hace caer en una especie de déjà vu. Cuando hace unos años atrás estábamos en apagones y búsqueda de soluciones, se tomó la decisión de empezar la llamada Revolución Energética o “una Revolución dentro de la Revolución”. La salida en aquel entonces fue establecer plantas de emergencia o grupos electrógenos de diferentes tamaños y potencias de generación. Esto permitía, entre otras bondades, las siguientes:

  • Contar en poco tiempo con capacidad instalada, adecuada a las necesidades, sin grandes y costosas construcciones civiles.
  • Tener instalaciones desplazadas por toda la Isla, muy útiles en caso de desastres naturales, sabotajes o un conflicto externo.

No obstante, al parecer de algunos expertos esta decisión, si bien resultaba muy conveniente para soluciones inmediatas y hasta estratégicas, no parecía la mejor a largo plazo. Y la vida les ha dado la razón, toda vez que:

  • Las tradicionales termoeléctricas siguen siendo las plantas de generación más eficientes comparándolas con los grupos electrógenos. Los problemas de aquellos tiempos comenzaron con una importante rotura en la Central Termoeléctrica (CTE) Antonio Guiteras de Matanzas. Pero hoy la Guiteras sigue siendo de las más eficientes del país.
  • El costo del fuel-oil o del diésel, utilizados en los grupos electrógenos, es más elevado que el del crudo que emplean en las tradicionales Centrales Termoeléctricas, incluso cuando para estas últimas hay que adquirir disolventes/diluyentes para poder utilizar el pesado crudo cubano.
  • Los grupos electrógenos generan la capacidad instalada y se adaptan menos a los cambios en la demanda puntual. Las CTE pueden más fácilmente generar o reducir generación, según los picos de la demanda de electricidad.
  • Los grupos electrógenos funcionan con motores de combustión interna, menos duraderos que las unidades de generación de las CTE, es decir, se descapitalizan más rápido.

La decisión tomada en aquel entonces pudiera haber sido muy acertada para una solución inmediata y a corto plazo, pero no parecía una decisión que solucionara el problema a largo plazo. Los problemas de hoy parecen demostrar esta idea.

También pudiera pensarse que no había otra salida debido a lo costoso que sería erigir nuevas CTE, al margen de lo que demoraría su construcción. Es cierto que el país no pudo contar con financiamiento externo o recursos propios para construcciones de estas magnitudes. Sin embargo, hay variantes.

En el mundo hace tiempo existen los contratos conocidos como Boot (del inglés build, own, operate and transfer) o «construir, mantener la propiedad, gestionar y transferir», una forma moderna de conjugar recursos públicos y privados para viabilizar obras públicas de envergadura o para atender necesidades de infraestructura sin tener que invertir el dinero público. Esto permite que un inversionista construya algo, durante unos años mantenga la propiedad del bien construido, gestione el negocio y después le transfiera la propiedad al Estado.

Los años de conservación de la propiedad permiten al inversionista amortizar la inversión realizada y obtener una rentabilidad en unos años adicionales después de la amortización del bien. Este esquema le permite al país no tener que movilizar recursos frescos en nuevas y costosas inversiones, ni ocuparse del mantenimiento de los activos mientras son propiedad del inversionista extranjero.

Lo curioso del caso es que Cuba tiene experiencias de este tipo. En 1999, antes de la Revolución Energética, con un esquema similar se aprobó una empresa cubana de capital totalmente extranjero de Panamá, conocida como Genpower Cuba S.A., para la generación de electricidad en la Isla de la Juventud. Se cumplió todo lo pactado en ese tipo de negociación.

Han pasado 16 años desde el comienzo de la Revolución Energética en 2005, y se sigue con una solución que parece coincidir con el otro nombre común de los grupos electrógenos de emergencia.

No es de extrañar entonces que se haya tenido que acudir a las centrales flotantes turcas si en todos estos años no se ha encontrado una solución más estable y duradera a los problemas de generación de electricidad en la Isla.

¿Fue negativa la experiencia con Genpower Cuba? ¿En todos estos años no hubiese sido posible encontrar inversionistas extranjeros para erigir nuevas CTE bajo el esquema Boot? ¿No son las CTE más eficientes que los grupos electrógenos y más duraderas en el tiempo?

A los turcos hay que pagarles la electricidad comprada por Cuba, pero la propiedad del buque seguirá siendo del dueño extranjero. Mientras, una CTE construida bajo esquema Boot, al final pasaría a ser propiedad de Cuba. Es algo así como comparar la adquisición de una casa con financiamiento que al final del pago de la hipoteca será sin restricciones totalmente de uno con vivir toda la vida en alquiler.

Con el auge de las energías renovables, la intención es reducir la emisión de gases de efecto invernadero y cambiar la matriz energética, de manera que las primeras ocupen un mayor porcentaje en el total de la generación. Pero cabría también hacerse otras preguntas: ¿no es posible encontrar inversionistas extranjeros dispuestos a construir plantas eólicas, fotovoltaicas u otras de energías renovables bajo el esquema Boot? ¿En la Zona de Desarrollo del Mariel no se han acercado inversionistas extranjeros con propuestas de plantas de energía renovables? Aunque está la excepción de producir energía eléctrica por paneles fotovoltaicos por la empresa Mariel Solar Energy GSY Ltd. de Reino Unido, en proceso inversionista desde agosto de 2017.

En la más reciente Cartera de Oportunidades de Inversión para 2022 aparecen nueve proyectos para la construcción de Parques Solares Fotovoltaicos con la propuesta de producir unos 220 mw en conjunto en algunos territorios del país, sumado a cinco propuestas para construir bioeléctricas en algunos centrales, con un promedio de inversión de 130 millones de dólares, algunos de 120 millones y otros de 140 millones de dólares. ¿Estarán creadas las condiciones para que el inversionista extranjero invierta esas cantidades en el país?

Se espera que el Estado cubano esté pensando en no caer más en la necesidad de apagar amplias zonas del país, dada la falta de producción eléctrica en determinados momentos. Entiendo que las autoridades no lo deseen, pero esos deseos tienen que materializarse en inversiones sólidas y a más largo plazo. ¿Estarán en plan esas nuevas plantas de producción eléctrica en el futuro? Ojala que sí.

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DISCURSO PRONUNCIADO EN LA CLAUSURA DEL III PLENO DEL COMITÉ CENTRAL DEL PCC

DISCURSO COMPLETO,  17 de Diciembre de 2021

Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez

Discurso pronunciado por Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, Primer Secretario del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba y Presidente de la República, en la clausura del III Pleno del Comité Central del PCC, en el Palacio de Convenciones, el 17 de diciembre de 2021,  “Año 63 de la Revolución”.

(Versiones Taquigráficas – Presidencia de la República)

Explicarles que hace solo unos breves instantes recibimos una llamada del General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, quien me pidió que les trasmitiera que él había seguido por el circuito cerrado todos los detalles de las dos sesiones que hemos tenido del III Pleno del Comité Central del Partido, ayer y hoy, que elogiaba la calidad de la discusión y el debate realizado, y que les enviaba a todos un fuerte abrazo revolucionario (Aplausos).

Saludos, queridas compañeras y compañeros, hermanos todos en este arduo camino que solo puede emprenderse con claridad en las ideas que defendemos y confianza en los seres humanos que marchan a nuestro lado.

El socialismo es, hasta hoy, la única vía al desarrollo con justicia social. Una apuesta innegable a la inteligencia, la voluntad y la vocación solidaria de hombres y mujeres conscientes de que hacen “camino al andar”.

Otros lo han emprendido antes y nos han dejado lecciones, positivas o negativas, que no podemos ignorar, pero siempre atemperándolas a lo que singulariza nuestra experiencia concreta: historia, tradiciones, identidad y, por supuesto, el carácter y la cercanía de un adversario poderoso que lleva siglos al acecho.

Ese adversario no acepta la soberanía y odia nuestro sistema social.  Somos demasiado libres para lo que ellos consideran su patio trasero y demasiado atrevidos por elegir el camino del socialismo.

Cuba libre, soberana y socialista en las narices del imperio.  Eso somos. Y en ese somos que entraña una alta cuota de resistencia y creatividad heroica, al cierre de otro año difícil, llegó el momento de felicitarnos.

Las actuales generaciones de revolucionarios se están probando en la pelea.  La historia de Cuba está preñada de episodios de resistencia insuperables, pero ninguno de nosotros, desde las actuales responsabilidades, habíamos vivido años tan plagados de desafíos y amenazas.  Vencerlos es una proeza.

Rememoremos las batallas: Bloqueo reforzado con 243 medidas adicionales en medio de una pandemia con picos escalofriantes de contagiados y fallecidos, saturación de hospitales, escasa disponibilidad de medicamentos y déficit elevado de oxígeno terapéutico; problemas en la generación eléctrica; desabastecimientos de productos de primera necesidad, altos precios, crisis global en la transportación de mercancías; Guerra de IV Generación, apoyada en una campaña de descrédito vil y calumniosa contra las heroicas brigadas médicas, contra las leyes en curso, contra cada medida o acción de resistencia, contra el liderazgo revolucionario, contra las familias.

Adicionalmente, y tratando de fragmentar a una sociedad que debe su existencia a la unidad, han hecho todo por arrancarle el alma a la Patria, acosando a sus artistas y poniendo en venta el servicio de algunos a las peores causas.

PARA CONTINUAR

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HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: CUBA: EVENTS OF 2021

Original Document: HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, 2022 REPORT, Cuban Country Chapter

https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2022

January 14, 2022

The Cuban government continues to repress and punish virtually all forms of dissent and public criticism. At the same time, Cubans continue to endure a dire economic crisis, which impacts their social and economic rights.

In July, thousands of Cubans took to the streets in landmark demonstrations protesting long-standing restrictions on rights, scarcity of food and medicines, and the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The government responded with brutal repression.

Arbitrary Detention and Short-Term Imprisonment

The government employs arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate critics, independent activists, political opponents, and others.

Security officers rarely present arrest warrants to justify detaining critics. In some cases, detainees are released after receiving official warnings, which prosecutors may use in subsequent criminal trials to show a pattern of what they call “delinquent” behavior.

Over 1,000 people, mostly peaceful demonstrators or bystanders, were detained during the July protests, Cuban rights groups reported. Officers prevented people from protesting or reporting on the protests, arresting critics and journalists as they headed to demonstrations or limiting their ability to leave their homes. Many were held incommunicado for days or weeks, violently arrested or beaten, and subjected to ill-treatment during detention.

Gabriela Zequeira Hernández, a 17-year-old student, was arrested in San Miguel de Padrón, Havana province, as she was walking past a demonstration on July 11. During detention, two female officers made her strip and squat naked five times. One of them told her to inspect her own vagina with her finger. Days later, a male officer threatened to take her and two men to the area known as the “pavilion,” where detainees have conjugal visits. Officers repeatedly woke her up at night for interrogations, asking why she had protested and who was “financing” her. Days later, she was convicted and sentenced to eight months in prison for “public disorder,” though she was allowed to serve her sentence in house arrest. She was only permitted to see her private lawyer a few minutes before the hearing.

In October 2021, Cuban authorities said that a demonstration being organized by a group of artists and dissidents for November 15 was “unlawful.” Later that month, the Attorney General’s Office released a statement “warning” people that they would face criminal prosecution if they “insisted” on carrying out a demonstration on November 15.

Cuban officers have also systematically detained independent journalists and artists. Victims include members of the coalitions of artists known as the “San Isidro,” “27N,” and “Archipelago” movements, as well as those involved in “Motherland and Life” — a viral song that repurposes the Cuban government’s old slogan, “Motherland or Death” (Patria o Muerte) and criticizes repression in the country.  In many cases, police and intelligence officers appeared at critics’ homes, ordering them to stay there, often for days or weeks, in what amounted to arbitrary deprivations of liberty.

Officers have repeatedly used regulations designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to harass and imprison government critics.

Freedom of Expression

The government controls virtually all media in Cuba and restricts access to outside information. In February and August 2021, the Cuban government expanded the number of permitted private economic activities, yet independent journalism remained forbidden.  

Journalists, bloggers, social media influencers, artists, and academics who publish information considered critical of the government are routinely subject to harassment, violence, smear campaigns, travel restrictions, internet cuts, online harassment, raids on homes and offices, confiscation of working materials, and arbitrary arrests. They are regularly held incommunicado.

In 2017, Cuba announced it would gradually expand home internet services. In 2019, new regulations allowed importation of routers and other equipment, and creation of private wired and Wi-Fi internet networks in homes and businesses.

Increased access to the internet has enabled many to communicate, report on abuses, and organize protests in ways virtually impossible a few years ago. Some journalists and bloggers manage to publish articles, videos, and news on websites and social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. Yet the high cost of—and limited access to—the internet prevents all but a small fraction of Cubans from reading independent news websites and blogs.

The government routinely blocks access to many news websites and blogs within Cuba and has repeatedly imposed targeted restrictions on critics’ access to cellphone data. On July 11, 2021, when the protests began, several organizations reported countrywide internet outages, followed by erratic connectivity, including restrictions on social media and messaging platforms.

On August 17, the government published Decree-Law 35/2021 regulating the use of telecommunications. The decree, which states its purpose is to “defend” the Cuban revolution, requires providers to interrupt, suspend, or terminate services when a user publishes information that is “fake” or affects “public morality” and “respect for public order.”

A “cybersecurity” resolution accompanying Decree-Law 35 contains sweeping provisions labeling protected speech—including publications that “incite protests,” “promote social indiscipline,” and “slander that impacts the prestige of the country”—as “incidents of cybersecurity” that authorities are required to “prevent” and “eradicate.”

Pre-existing Decree-Law 370/2018 still prohibits dissemination of information “contrary to the social interest, morals, good manners and integrity of people.” Authorities have used it to interrogate and fine journalists and critics and confiscate their working materials.

Political Prisoners

Prisoners Defenders, a Madrid-based rights group, reported that, as of September, Cuba was holding 251 people who met the definition of political prisoners, as well as 38 others for their political beliefs; another 92 who had been convicted for political beliefs were under house arrest or on conditional release.

Cubans who criticize the government risk criminal prosecution. They do not benefit from due process guarantees, such as the right to fair and public hearings by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal. In practice, courts are subordinate to the executive branch.

Many people who protested peacefully in July were sentenced through “summary” criminal trials that lacked basic due process guarantees, including the right to legal representation. Protesters were often tried for vaguely defined crimes, such as “public disorder” and “contempt.” In August, authorities said 66 people had been convicted in connection with protests; most did not have a lawyer. Some were acquitted on appeal.   

In some cases, authorities sought or imposed disproportionate prison sentences against protesters whom they accused of engaging in violence, often by throwing rocks during protests.

On July 11, officers arrested José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Cuban Patriotic Union, the main opposition party, as he was heading to a demonstration. On July 17, a prosecutor sent him to pre-trial detention, charged with “public disorder” for “deciding to join” the demonstrations. In April 2020, Ferrer had been arbitrarily sentenced to four-and-a-half years of “restrictions on freedom,” for alleged “assault.” On August 14, 2021, a Santiago de Cuba court required him to serve 4 years and 14 days in prison, ruling he had failed to “strictly respect the laws” and “have an honest attitude toward work,” legal conditions for people sentenced to “restrictions on freedom.”

Several artists, including Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo, both of whom performed in the music video for “Motherland and Life,” remained in pretrial detention, facing arbitrary prosecution, at time of writing.

Travel Restrictions

Since reforms in 2013, many people who had previously been denied permission to travel to and from Cuba have been able to do so, including human rights defenders and bloggers. The reforms, however, gave the government broad discretionary power to restrict travel on grounds of “defense and national security” or “other reasons of public interest.” Authorities continue to selectively deny exit to dissenters.

In March 2021, Cuban authorities denied Karla Pérez, a Cuban journalist studying in Costa Rica, the possibility of returning home. An airline employee informed her during a stopover in Panama City that the Cuban government was refusing her admission. Pérez returned to Costa Rica, where she was granted refugee status.

Prison Conditions

Prisons are often overcrowded. Detainees have no effective complaint mechanism to seek redress for abuses. Those who criticize the government or engage in hunger strikes or other forms of protest often endure extended solitary confinement, beatings, restriction of family visits, and denial of medical care. The government continues to deny international human rights groups and independent Cuban organizations access to its prisons. In April 2020, to reduce the risk of the Covid-19 virus spreading in prisons, the government suspended family visits. This, coupled with authorities’ refusal to allow detainees to call their families, left many arrested during demonstrations incommunicado for days and, in some cases, weeks.

Labor Rights

Despite updating its Labor Code in 2014, Cuba violates International Labour Organization standards it has ratified on freedom of association and collective bargaining. While Cuban law allows the formation of independent unions, in practice the government only permits the operation of one confederation of state-controlled unions, the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba.

Cuba deploys tens of thousands of health workers abroad every year to help tackle short-term crises and natural disasters. They provide valuable services to many communities but under Cuban rules that violate their rights, including to privacy, liberty, movement, and freedom of expression and association. In 2020, Cuba sent some 4,000 doctors to help nearly 40 countries respond to the Covid-19 pandemic; they joined 28,000 health workers already deployed.

Human Rights Defenders

The government refuses to recognize human rights monitoring as a legitimate activity and denies legal status to local rights groups. Authorities have harassed, assaulted, and imprisoned human rights defenders attempting to document abuses.

In August, two officers appeared at the Havana home of the mother of Laritza Diversent, a human rights defender living in the United States, and threatened to prosecute Diversent and seek her extradition to Cuba. Diversent heads Cubalex, one of the main rights groups documenting abuses against people who demonstrated in July.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The 2019 constitution explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people suffer violence and discrimination, particularly in Cuba’s interior.

Early drafts of the constitution approved in February 2019 redefined marriage to include same-sex couples, but the government withdrew that proposal following public protests. The government said it would introduce a reform to the Family Code, which governs marriage, for legislative review and later carry on a referendum. In September 2021, the government made public a draft of the reform, which included a gender-neutral definition of marriage. It had not been approved at time of writing.

Sexual and Reproductive Rights

Cuba decriminalized abortion in 1965 and remains one of the few Latin American countries with such a policy. The procedure is available and free at public hospitals.

Key International Actors

The US embargo continues to provide the Cuban government with an excuse for problems, a pretext for abuses, and sympathy from governments that might otherwise more rigorously condemn repressive practices in the country.

In June 2021, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn the embargo, for the 29th consecutive year; 184 countries supported the resolution, while the US and Israel opposed it, and Brazil, Colombia, and Ukraine abstained.

Under former President Donald Trump, the US government limited peoples’ ability to send remittances to Cuba from the US and imposed new restrictions on travelling to Cuba, banning cruise ship stops, educational trips, and most flights. In January 2021, the Trump administration designated Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, arguing that it had refused to extradite to Colombia members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) who had travelled to Havana to conduct peace talks with the Colombian government and stayed there.

In July 2021, the administration of US President Joe Biden condemned Cuban government abuses against protesters and imposed targeted sanctions on several officers credibly linked to repression against demonstrations. However, as of September, the US had not taken significant steps away from the broader policy of isolation that was entrenched during the Trump era and has failed to improve human rights conditions in Cuba.

In February, the European Union held a human rights dialogue with Cuba. EU High Representative Josep Borrell said in July that demonstrations in Cuba “reflect[ed] legitimate grievances.” He expressed concern about government repression and urged Cuba to release all arbitrarily detained protesters. The European Parliament adopted resolutions deploring Cuba’s human rights violations in June and September.

The Lithuanian legislature voted in July to oppose ratification of the EU’s Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement with Cuba, signed in 2016 but never ratified, because of Lithuania’s human rights concerns.

Since being elected to the UN Human Rights Council in 2020—its fifth term in the past 15 years—Cuba has opposed resolutions spotlighting human rights abuses in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Syria, and Nicaragua, among other countries.

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‘THEY WANT TO MAKE AN EXAMPLE’: CUBA PROTESTERS HIT WITH SEVERE SENTENCES

Six months after demonstrations, courts have quietly started imposing harsh charges such as sedition

Ed Augustin in Havana

The Guardian, Last modified on Sat 15 Jan 2022 10.02 GMT

Original Article:  Cuban Protesters Sentenced

One Sunday last summer, 18-year-old Eloy Cardoso left his mother’s house on the outskirts of Havana to collect an Atari game console from a friend.  He’d stayed at home the previous day, while the largest anti-government demonstrations since the revolution had ripped through Cuba.

The authorities had managed to quell the protests in most of the country overnight, but not in La Güinera: unrest was still raging in the humble and normally calm neighbourhood, and Eloy walked out into a bloody brawl.  Shops were smashed and looted, party supporters wielded clubs, police wrestled with youths, and one man was shot dead. Amid the tumult, Cardoso began to throw stones at the police.

He was arrested a few days later, and at a closed trial earlier this week he was sentenced to seven years in prison.  The trial is one of scores currently playing out across the island, as, six months after the demonstrations, Cuban courts have quietly started imposing draconian sentences on the protesters who – sometimes peacefully, sometimes less so – flooded the streets last summer.

Though the state has a history of issuing stiff sentences to organised political dissidents, the punishments now being meted out are unusually severe.

“They want to make an example of him,” said Cardoso’s mother, Servillia Pedroso, 35, holding back tears.  Eloy Cardoso’s mother, Servillia Pedroso, left, and Migdalia Gutiérrez, whose son, Brunelvil, has been sentenced to 15 years.

Because her son is at college, police initially told her he would get a “second chance” charging him with “public disorder” and telling him he would get away with a fine.  But in October, the charge was upgraded to sedition: in other words, inciting others to rebel against state authority.

Since December, more 50 people in La Güinera have been sentenced for sedition, according to the civil society organisation Justicia 11J. Most are poor, young males.  Justicia 11J said more than 700 people were still being detained following July’s protests, with 158 of those accused of or already sentenced for sedition. Last week one man in the eastern province of Holguín was sentenced to 30 years.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said detainees have faced summary proceedings without guarantees of due process or a fair trial.  “Prosecutors have pushed for disproportionately long sentences against people who were arrested in the protests. In addition, many people stand accused of vague crimes that are inconsistent with international standards, such as ‘contempt’ which has been consistently used in Cuba to punish those who criticise the government,” she said.

“The state is trying to send the message that there are dire consequences to rebelling against the government,” said William LeoGrande, professor of government at American University in Washington.  “The fact that the government feels under and is under unprecedented threat – not just from increased US sanctions but from the pandemic and the global economic situation – makes it less willing to tolerate any type of dissidence.”

Trump-era sanctions contributed to the food and medicine shortages people were protesting against. The sanctions also slowed vaccine production, aggravating a Covid surge that was sweeping through the island at the time, and contributing to the fury. But many protesters also wanted freedom from Communist rule.

Economic complaints are a constant in La Güinera: it’s hard to afford shoes and medicine. A schoolbag costs 2,500 pesos – more than half a teacher’s monthly salary.

“I’m sure that if it wasn’t for the economy, none of this would have happened – but the economy never improves,” said Yusniel Hernández, 36, a teacher turned taxi driver, who said a dozen friends had been incarcerated for throwing stones and assaulting police officers.

Analysts say the government is using exemplary sentencing to snuff out any further protests because it is bracing for further economic hardship. As sanctions have hardened, a longstanding siege mentality among the leadership seems to have ossified in recent years. The fact that the Biden administration reversed its policy of normalisation with the island after July may be another contributing factor.

But the pain from the crackdown is palpable.  “None of these kids were activists, they don’t belong to any organisation,” said Migdalia Gutiérrez, 44, whose son, Brunelvil, 33, has been sentenced to 15 years.  If someone has nothing to do with politics, and you are accusing them of political stuff, then you are making them political prisoners,” she added.

Her nextdoor neighbour, María Luisa Fleitas Bravo, 58, lives in poverty. The roof of her kitchen, living room and second bedroom collapsed when Hurricane Irma struck in 2017. The state provided her with the breeze-blocks she needed to rebuild, but four years later the cement still hasn’t arrived.  Her rotting wood ceiling is covered with plastic sheets secured by clothes pegs, but it still leaks when it rains.   Her unemployed 33-year-old son, Rolando, was sentenced to 21 years for attacking a police officer during the protests (a charge he denies).

Pedroso has been running a small online campaign to free her son. But shortly after she and seven other local mothers made a video demanding justice , she received a visit from the police, who informed her that the video was being shared on Facebook for “counterrevolutionary” ends.

She has since been questioned by state security, and told that if she takes to the street to protest for her son’s release, she could be charged with public disorder.

Pedroso, a housewife, had applied for a job at Havana’s international airport, to work in immigration. The job was all but in the bag, she said, until she was asked about her son during a final check-up interview.  That was September. She hasn’t heard back since.

“Nobody who has a child accused of anything can work in the airport,” she said, before adding, with a touch of gallows humour: “In fact, yes: they can be accused of murder, but not of counterrevolution.”

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WHY CUBA’S EXTRAORDINARY COVID VACCINE SUCCESS COULD PROVIDE THE BEST HOPE FOR LOW-INCOME COUNTRIES

Published Thu, Jan 13 20221:18 AM EST Updated Thu, Jan 13 20225:05 AM EST

Sam Meredith@smeredith19

Original Article: CNBC, Cuba’s Covid Vaccine Success

  • Cuba’s prestigious biotech sector has developed five different Covid vaccines to date, including Abdala, Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus — all of which Cuba has said provide upwards of 90% protection against symptomatic Covid when administered in three doses.
  • The country of roughly 11 million remains the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean to have produced a homegrown shot for Covid.
  • The WHO’s potential approval of Cuba’s nationally produced Covid vaccines would carry “enormous significance” for low-income nations, John Kirk, professor emeritus at the Latin America program of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, told CNBC via telephone.

Cuba has vaccinated a greater percentage o of its population against Covid-19 than almost all of the world’s largest and richest nations. In fact, only the oil-rich United Arab Emirates boasts a stronger vaccination record.  The tiny Communist-run Caribbean island has achieved this milestone by producing its own Covid vaccine, even as it struggles to keep supermarket shelves stocked amid a decades-old U.S. trade embargo.

“It is an incredible feat,” Helen Yaffe, a Cuba expert and lecturer in economic and social history at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, told CNBC via telephone.   “Those of us who have studied biotech aren’t surprised in that sense, because it has not just come out of the blue. It is the product of a conscious government policy of state investment in the sector, in both public health and in medical science.”

To date, around 86% of the Cuban population has been fully vaccinated against Covid with three doses, and another 7% have been partly inoculated against the disease, according to official statistics compiled by Our World in Data.  These figures include children from the age of two, who began receiving the vaccine several months ago. The country’s health authorities are rolling out booster shots to the entire population this month in a bid to limit the spread of the highly transmissible omicron Covid variant.

I think it is clear that many countries and populations in the global south see the Cuban vaccine as their best hope for getting vaccinated by 2025.  Helen Yaffe  Lecturer in economic and social history at the University of Glasgow

The country of roughly 11 million remains the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean to have produced a homegrown shot for Covid.

“Just the sheer audacity of this tiny little country to produce its own vaccines and vaccinating 90% of its population is an extraordinary thing,” John Kirk, professor emeritus at the Latin America program of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, told CNBC via telephone.

Cuba’s prestigious biotech sector has developed five different Covid vaccines, including Abdala, Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus — all of which Cuba says provide upwards of 90% protection against symptomatic Covid when three doses are administered.

Cuba’s vaccine clinical trial data has yet to undergo international scientific peer review, although the country has engaged in two virtual exchanges of information with the World Health Organizationto initiate the Emergency Use Listing process for its vaccines.

Unlike U.S. pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna, which use mRNA technology, all of Cuba’s vaccines are subunit protein vaccines — like the Novavax vaccine. Crucially for low-income countries, they are cheap to produce, can be manufactured at scale and do not require deep freezing.  It has prompted international health officials to tout the shots as a potential source of hope for the “global south,” particularly as low vaccination rates persist. For instance, while around 70% of people in the European Union have been fully vaccinated, less than 10% of the African population have been fully vaccinated.

Vicente Verez, head of Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute, told Reuters last month that the U.N. health agency was assessing Cuba’s manufacturing facilities to a “first-world standard,” citing the costly process in upgrading theirs to that level.

Verez has said previously that the necessary documents and data would be submitted to the WHO in the first quarter of 2022. Approval from the WHO would be an important step in making the shots available throughout the world.

‘Enormous significance’

When asked what it would mean for low-income countries should the WHO approve Cuba’s Covid vaccines, Yaffe said: “I think it is clear that many countries and populations in the global south see the Cuban vaccine as their best hope for getting vaccinated by 2025.”  “And actually, it affects all of us because what we are seeing with the omicron variant is that what happens when vast populations have almost no coverage is that you have mutations and new variants developing and then they come back to haunt the advanced capitalist countries which have been hoarding vaccines,” she added.

Kirk agreed that the WHO’s potential approval of Cuba’s nationally produced Covid vaccines would carry “enormous significance” for developing countries.

“One thing that is important to bear in mind is that the vaccines don’t require the ultra-low temperatures which Pfizer and Moderna need so there are places, in Africa in particular, where you don’t have the ability to store these global north vaccines,” Kirk said.

He also pointed out that Cuba, unlike other countries or pharmaceutical companies, had offered to engage in the transfer of technology to share its vaccine production expertise with low-income countries.  “The objective of Cuba is not to make a fast buck, unlike the multinational drug corporations, but rather to keep the planet healthy. So, yes making an honest profit but not an exorbitant profit as some of the multinationals would make,” Kirk said.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned last month that a “tsunami” of Covid cases driven by the omicron variant was “so huge and so quick” that it had overwhelmed health systems worldwide.  Tedros repeated his call for greater vaccine distribution to help low-income countries vaccinate their populations, with more than 100 countries on track to miss the U.N. health agency’s target for 70% of the world to be fully vaccinated by July.

The WHO said last year that the world was likely to have enough Covid vaccine doses in 2022 to fully inoculate the entire global adult population — provided that high-income countries did not hoard vaccines to use in booster programs.

Alongside pharmaceutical industry trade associations, a number of Western countries — such as Canada and the U.K. — are among those actively blocking a patent-waiver proposal designed to boost the global production of Covid vaccines.  The urgency of waiving certain intellectual property rights amid the pandemic has repeatedly been underscored by the WHO, health experts, civil society groups, trade unions, former world leaders, international medical charities, Nobel laureates and human rights organizations.

An absence of vaccine hesitancy

The seven-day average of daily Covid cases in Cuba climbed to 2,063 as at Jan. 11, reflecting an almost 10-fold increase since the end of December as the omicron variant spreads.  This comes as the number of omicron Covid cases surges across countries and territories in the Americas region. The Pan American Health Organization, the WHO’s regional Americas office, has warned that a rise in cases may lead to an uptick in hospitalizations and deaths in the coming weeks.

PAHO has called on countries to accelerate vaccination coverage to reduce Covid transmission and has repeated its recommendation of public health measures, such as tight-fitting masks — a mandatory requirement in Cuba.

Yaffe has long been confident in Cuba’s ability to boast one of the world’s strongest vaccination records. Speaking to CNBC in February last year — before the country had even developed a homegrown vaccine — she said she could “guarantee”that Cuba would be able to administer its domestically produced Covid vaccine extremely quickly.  “It wasn’t conjecture,” Yaffe said. “It was based on understanding their public health care system and the structure of it. So, the fact that they have what they call family doctor and nurse clinics in every neighborhood.”

Many of these clinics are based in rural and hard-to-reach areas and it means health authorities can quickly deliver vaccines to the island’s population.  “The other aspect is they don’t have a movement of vaccine hesitancy, which is something that we are seeing in many countries,” Yaffe said.

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CUBA RATIFIES BAN ON PRIVATE TOURIST GUIDES & AGENCIES

January 14, 2022

By Ely Justiniani Perez (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES – Minister of Labor and Social Security, Marta Elena Feito Cabrera, ratified the ban on practicing as a tour guide in the private sector. A letter dated December 28, 2021, was delivered this week to the six representatives of a large group of tour guides who are calling for their activity to be granted legal status as self-employment. So far they are out of luck.

The letter rules that travel agencies and tour operators “are associated with tourism products developed and commercialized by Cuba’s state tourism business system and, according to the Ministry of Tourism’s policy, these cannot be commercialized by natural persons, nor are they able to work as part of private micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, cooperatives or as self-employed.”

This negative response comes after almost a year since over a thousand persons linked to the sector called for this activity to be legalized. They organized and sent petitions to the corresponding ministries and even engaged in conversations with officials from these institutions. Here is a summary of this process.

Driver, not a Tour Guide

TIMELINE of a NO

February 10, 2021 the Ministry of Labor and Social Security issued a list of 124 economic activities that banned in Cuba’s private sector; including tour operator services and travel agencies. This led to a heated debate from people linked to tourism services.

In the following weeks, dozens of people linked to the sector began to mobilize and send letters to the corresponding bodies. They also shared an online petition for the legalization of private travel agencies and the document was signed by over 1500 people.

May 20, 2021 In response, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security wrote a written response to one of its signatories saying that “with the new Social/Economic Strategy to push the national economy in the interest of encouraging local development and production linkages between the public sector and private forms of management, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, alongside the Ministry of Tourism, are analyzing whether to allow these activities and others relating to the tourism sector.”

June 7, 2021 the Cuban Republic’s Official Gazette published Resolution 132/21 by the Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR), a new series of regulations for “national travel agencies”.

While the regulations don’t explicitly state who can create these agencies; it does recognize that natural Cuban persons (including the self-employed) can be “providers of tour services” that offer “the sale of these in groups, programs, circuits, excursions or other tourist services” via national travel agencies. It doesn’t explain how this relationship would work; but the lack of clarity in these regulations was also a spark of hope for the more optimistic.

August 19, 2021 To many people’s disappointment, the activity of travel agencies and tour operators reappeared on the banned list again within a new series of decrees and resolutions that regulate private sector enterprises (including MSMEs, cooperatives and self-employment).

September 22, 2021 Faced with continuous complaints, officials from the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security agree to meet with six representatives from the Facebook group Guías Turísticos por su legalización como TCP (Tour Guides wanting legalization as the Self-Employed), which had over 800 members at the time (today, there are 1100). 

At this meeting, MINTUR asked the guides to hand in written project proposals so they can “better understand how far they want to go so they can identify the red-tape that the activity “tour guide” would face as self-employment, to legislate and find a solution to this red-tape and giving them wide-ranging and unrestricted participation,” according to a summary of the meeting that was posted by the group’s members. 

January 7, 2022 Group representatives from Guías Turísticos por su legalización como TCP  who took part in the meeting with MINTUR and MTSS receive a letter from Minister Feito, who ratified the ban on the practice of tour guides and travel agencies, both as self-employment activities, as well as MSMEs and cooperatives.

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CUBA IN TRANSITION: PERSPECTIVES ON REFORM, CONTINUITY, AND CULTURE

LATIN AMERICAN POLITICS AND SOCIETY 63: 4, 2021

Complete Review: Cuba in Transition]

Rubrick Biegon   (Lecturer in international relations at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. R.Biegon@kent.ac.uk.)

Books Included in this Review

 
Aviva Chomsky, Barry Carr, Alfredo Prieto, and Pamela Maria Smorkaloff, eds.,The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics. 2nd ed., revised and updated. Durham: Duke University Press, 2019. Figures, notes, index, 744 pp.; hardcover $129.95, paperback $32.95, ebook $32.95.


Carmelo Mesa-Lago, ed., Voices of Change in Cuba from the Non-State Sector . Pitts-burgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018. Abbreviations, appendixes, figures, tables, notes, bibliography, index, 178 pp.; paperback $29.95, ebook $28.76.


Scott Morgenstern, Jorge Pérez-López, and Jerome Branche, eds., Paths for Cuba: Reforming Communism in Comparative Perspective . Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018. Tables, figures, bibliography, index, 408 pp.; paperback $37.95, ebook $29.57.


Louis A. Pérez, Jr., Rice in the Time of Sugar: The Political Economy of Food in Cuba. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019. Tables, figures, bibliography, index, 264 pp.; hardcover $90, paperback $29.95, ebook $22.99.


Margaret Randall, Exporting Revolution: Cuba’s Global Solidarity . Durham: Duke University Press, 2017. Notes, bibliography, index, 270 pp.; hardcover $99.95, paperback $26.95, ebook $25.60.

Introduction

Cuban politics and society are in a period of extended transition. From 2006 to 2008, Fidel Castro transferred authority to his brother Raúl, who subsequently sought to “update” Cuba’s economic model. The younger Castro stepped down in 2018, not long after Fidel’s death in 2016. Miguel Díaz-Canel, born after the Cuban Revolution, became head of state. Raúl retired from his position atop the Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC) in April 2021. As the country settles into the post-Castro era, it wrestles with a myriad of social and cultural issues intertwined with ongoing processes of reform and modernization. Academic research has sought to make sense of these developments while situating new trends in the wide sweep of Cuban history.


Cuba’s foreign relations have also seen profound (if uneven) change in recent years. Most prominently, the dramatic events of December 2014, when Barack Obama and Raúl Castro simultaneously announced their intent to reestablish diplo-matic relations, ushered in a new dynamic with the United States, as leaders pledged to move beyond decades of animosity. The two countries formally reestablished full diplomatic ties in 2015. The following year, Obama became the first sitting US pres- ident to visit the island in nearly a century. Donald Trump was elected after pledg – ing to cancel Obama’s “deal,” however. The Trump administration retightened
Washington’s embargo on the country, which had been relaxed under Obama. Even as Havana has forged new international partnerships, scholars have been compelled to scrutinize the twists and turns in Cuba’s all-important, highly asymmetrical rela – tionship with the United States (Biegon 2020; Hershberg and LeoGrande 2016).


The six books under review offer a variety of perspectives on Cuba’s contemporary reality, the historical contexts structuring recent political and economic shifts, and the international currents shaping the country’s post-Castro trajectory. Published after the 2014–16 rapprochement with the United States, they reflect a broadly forward-looking atmosphere in Cuban studies. Written as the generation of revolutionary históricos exited the leadership scene, the texts reinforce the notion that Cuba’s transition is both real and ambiguous. Instead of painting a uniform picture, they offer critical and, at times, competing insights on the intersection of the political and economic reforms undertaken by Cuba’s leadership and the social,
cultural, and global dynamics beyond the scope of state authority. The authors cover a breadth of interrelated topics sure to motivate scholarly discussions of Cuba for the duration of the 2020s and beyond.

Continue Reading.

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NUEVAS RUTAS DE LA MIGRACIÓN CUBANA

El TOQUE, 7 / diciembre / 2021

por Aleiny Sánchez Martínez y Ely Justiniani Pérez

Articulo Original: La Migración Cubana

La última crisis migratoria protagonizada por cubanos ocurrió en 2015. En los primeros nueve meses de ese año cerca de 27 000 cubanos ingresaron al territorio estadounidense por la frontera sur según una nota del diario Granma. Miles de personas abandonaron el país cuando se normalizaron las relaciones diplomáticas entre Cuba y Estados Unidos e intentaron, por cualquier vía, llegar a tierras norteamericanas ante el inminente fin de la política «pies secos, pies mojados».

Migrar ha sido una salida para escapar de los problemas del país. Datos del Departamento de Asuntos Económicos y Sociales de Naciones Unidas (UN, DESA) confirman un aumento de la población de personas procedentes de Cuba en países centro y sudamericanos. Aunque Estados Unidos y España siguen siendo los principales destinos, en los últimos años se han diversificado las rutas migratorias, algunos utilizan mecanismos oficiales y otros se arriesgan con vías ilegales.

Al otro lado del Atlántico

Entre La Habana y el punto más occidental de Europa hay casi 7 000 km. El océano Atlántico ha marcado el ritmo de la migración cubana hacia el Viejo Mundo: la vía legal es la única alternativa para quienes salen de la isla hacia el continente, siendo España el principal destino. La relación histórica, los vínculos familiares y las facilidades del idioma hacen del país ibérico un lugar deseado.

Aunque Rusia ofrece libre visado a los cubanos, también se ha utilizado como trampolín para llegar por vías ilegales a Europa. Por ejemplo, de Moscú a Bielorussia y Polonia hasta Alemania, donde residen poco más de 14 000 isleños, o por los Balcanes rumbo a Italia o a España. Recientemente el Consulado de Cuba en Rusia informó que serían regresadas a la isla 71 personas detenidas en el aeropuerto Vnúkovo por no cumplir con los requisitos de las autoridades locales.

Incluso en los países africanos encontramos potenciales destinos migratorios para cubanos que buscan una alternativa a las condiciones de vida en el país.

«Realmente, fue la primera oportunidad que tuve y la tomé», dice Alina Brito (52 años) mientras prepara la clase del día siguiente. Como maestra de Geografía le apasionaba no solo describir el mundo, sino también la posibilidad de conocerlo, pero cuenta que nunca pensó vivir en Guinea Ecuatorial.

Comenzó a documentarse sobre el país después de que unos guineanos que conoció le ofrecieran un contrato de trabajo en una escuela primaria privada de Malabo, la capital. Hasta entonces pensaba en África solo como un continente pobre, con muchas zonas selváticas y enfermedades contagiosas.

Su indagación arrojó muchos aspectos que contradecían esa idea: Guinea tiene un clima agradable, muy similar al de Cuba, y es el tercer productor de petróleo del África subsahariana después de Angola y Nigeria, con un PIB que ha aumentado 10 veces en 10 años (1999-2009). Portales oficiales del país lo confirman. «Y también me sorprendió que había bastantes cubanos. Nunca pensé encontrar tanta gente de mi tierra en un país tan pequeño y lejano como este», comenta Alina.

Según la plataforma Datos Macro, solo en 2019 se reportó la entrada a Guinea Ecuatorial de 1 704 inmigrantes procedentes de Cuba, una cifra similar a las llegadas anuales que se registran desde 2005. No es el único país de África con presencia de ciudadanos de la Mayor de las Antillas. También destacan República del Congo, Namibia y Sudáfrica. Este último país encabeza el podio del continente, y se calcula que solamente en 2019 recibió casi 2 700 emigrantes cubanos.

«Para mí uno de los aspectos más favorables en Guinea es el idioma. Es uno de los poquísimos países de África que tiene el español como uno de sus idiomas oficiales. Si a eso se le suma la demanda de personal calificado, se vuelve una opción muy buena a explorar por los cubanos, sobre todo por los profesionales», agrega Alina.

En tierras sudamericanas

Guyana se ha convertido en uno de los destinos principales para cubanos que desean cruzar fronteras hasta llegar a Estados Unidos. Al tener libre visado para extranjeros, muchos isleños llegan hasta Georgetown, su capital, desde donde emprenden rumbo a Brasil o Venezuela para continuar el trayecto al Norte.

En la mañana del 3 de abril de 2020 Ernesto Abel Rodríguez (29 años) revisó su celular y respiró aliviado. Los mensajes de su familia en Cuba le contaban que solo dos días antes el Gobierno cubano había suspendido los vuelos comerciales y chárteres desde y hacia la isla.

«Si no hubiera salido antes, sabrá Dios por cuánto tiempo me hubiera quedado allá», comenta. Se especulaba que con la llegada de la COVID-19 a Cuba existía una gran posibilidad de que cerraran las fronteras, así que se apresuró a sacar su pasaje a Guyana antes de que eso sucediera. Aunque compró boletos de ida y vuelta (porque así lo exigen las autoridades), esta vez no regresaría.

Ernesto se encuentra ahora en la ciudad brasileña Santarém, a casi 900 km de la frontera con Guyana, ubicada en el Estado Roraima. Aunque este pueblo se aleja bastante de la frontera colombiana —la próxima que debe cruzar—, era su única opción para reunir un poco de dinero que le permitiera continuar su trayecto. En Santarém tiene un techo, comida y un trabajo en la construcción que le ha garantizado un amigo cubano que vive en Brasil como refugiado.

Brasil es uno de los países que más refugiados cubanos recibe. De 2000 a 2015 se procesaron alrededor de 1 300 solicitudes de asilo. Solo en el último lustro, esa cifra creció casi doce veces.

Los refugiados aumentaron con el fin del programa Más Médicos, integrado por casi 20 000 cubanos profesionales de salud. En 2018 el Gobierno de la isla canceló el convenio de cooperación luego de que el presidente brasileño Jair Bolsonaro decidiera cambiar las bases del acuerdo.

En medio de la euforia, Bolsonaro prometió otorgarle asilo político a todo aquel médico cubano que lo requiriera. En realidad, esto no sucedió; pero más de 2 500 profesionales abandonaron la misión y permanecieron en el país. La mayoría quedó desamparada y sin posibilidad de ejercer la medicina; algunos, incluso, se trasladaron a otros territorios.

Si bien este contexto propició el aumento de cubanos en Brasil, la principal causa de llegada irregular de migrantes es la cercanía de Guyana al Estado Roraima. La vía que utilizó Ernesto.

Por otra parte, aquellos que deciden continuar el viaje hacia el Norte para llegar a la frontera estadounidense con México deben enfrentar un largo recorrido por toda Centroamérica, atravesando previamente el Tapón del Darién, entre Colombia y Panamá.

Quienes han sobrevivido al trayecto relatan la crudeza del viaje: cadáveres en el camino, violaciones, hambre, naufragio, enfermedades… Miles de kilómetros a pie para cruzar un continente y conseguir «el sueño americano».

Hace poco varios medios difundieron la trágica historia de una familia cubana que perdió a dos de sus miembros, madre e hijo, mientras cruzaban la selva colombo-panameña. La progenitora murió en un naufragio; unas semanas después el niño de 14 años falleció a causa de un infarto. Escenas como estas se repiten…

Entre enero y septiembre de 2021 más de 91 000 inmigrantes han atravesado el Darién camino a Estados Unidos. Al menos 13 000 son cubanos.

Otros, para sortear la «ruta de la muerte», prueban la travesía marítima por el Pacífico y entran a Panamá por la costa de Jaqué, ubicada en el distrito Chepigana. La suerte depende de cuánto resistan las embarcaciones, casi siempre precarias y cargadas con más personas de las que pueden soportar.

«Emigrar cruzando fronteras es en sí una cuestión de suerte, dice Ernesto. Suerte de que no te asalten, de que no pierdas tu dinero, de no enfermarse o sufrir un accidente fatal. Suerte de poseer una visa para algún país de Centroamérica; lo cual te acorta meses de viaje, y si es para México ni hablar, porque solo te queda un pasito», comenta.

A las puertas de Estados Unidos

A decir de Laritza Beltrán (32 años), ella es una persona que no se puede quejar de su suerte. En 2017 la Embajada mexicana en Cuba le otorgó una visa de turismo por diez años. Al principio, viajaba a comprar mercancía para revender en la isla. Luego, valiéndose de métodos que prefiere no explicar, logró obtener la residencia en el país en poco tiempo y montó una tiendecita en Cancún, donde otros cubanos iban a comprar productos para llevar a la isla.

«Fueron tiempos muy buenos. Ni siquiera pensaba en irme a Estados Unidos porque ahí tenía todo lo que necesitaba, el negocio iba bien y podía viajar a Cuba cuando quería, de una forma rápida y barata, pues el pasaje de Cancún a La Habana costaba menos de 120 dólares».

Históricamente México ha sido una vía de tránsito hacia los Estados Unidos, sin embargo, el endurecimiento de las políticas migratorias durante el mandato de Donald Trump impidió que muchos migrantes cruzaran la frontera y se plantearan la posibilidad de residir en este país. En 2019 Trump estableció los Protocolos de Protección al Migrante (MPP, por sus siglas en inglés), conocidos como «Quédate en México»; un programa que obliga a los solicitantes de asilo estadounidense a esperar el fin de su proceso en el territorio azteca.

Aunque el actual Gobierno liderado por Joe Biden inhabilitó la medida a inicios de 2021, la orden fue revocada por la corte y, al margen de las críticas, este mes se reanudó el programa. El MPP no solo deja inseguras a las personas que aguardan una decisión, también las fuerza a establecerse de forma permanente en tierra mexicana y pedir asilo.

Sin embargo, con la llegada de la COVID-19 y su impacto en las economías nacionales y personales, muchas de las personas radicadas en esta nación consideraron partir hacia Estados Unidos.

«Con el coronavirus los precios de la mercancía que yo vendía aumentaron. Por otra parte, Cuba cerró sus fronteras y los vendedores cubanos quedamos prácticamente sin compradores durante varios meses. Vi como gran parte de nuestras tiendas en Cancún Centro comenzaron a desaparecer, así que muchos de los cubanos que estaban en esta área decidieron cruzar la frontera aprovechando que Biden había eliminado el «Quédate en México», y que el procedimiento era más fácil. Entre los que partieron hacia la frontera norteamericana para solicitar refugio estábamos mi esposo y yo», cuenta Laritza.

El Anuario de migración y remesas (2021) documenta que Cuba es el tercer país que más solicitudes de protección presenta en México, solo por detrás de Honduras y Haití. De enero a septiembre de 2021, 7 683 viajeros cubanos han pedido protección, de acuerdo con el reporte más reciente de la Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados (Comar).

La Convención sobre el Estatuto de los Refugiados define como «refugiado» a toda persona que debido al temor de «ser perseguida por motivos de raza, religión, nacionalidad, pertenencia a determinado grupo social u opiniones políticas, se encuentre fuera del país de su nacionalidad y no pueda o, a causa de dichos temores, no quiera acogerse a la protección de tal país».

En 2020, 24 694 cubanos reconocieron encontrarse «desplazados por la fuerza», de acuerdo con el Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (Acnur). El 84 % de ellos fueron acogidos por cinco naciones: Estados Unidos, México, Uruguay, Costa Rica y España.

El añorado «sueño americano»

El 78 % del total de migrantes cubanos vive en Estados Unidos; esto representa tres cuartas partes de la población cubana que reside en el extranjero. Además de la proximidad geográfica y los lazos familiares que existen entre ambos países, la llegada de inmigrantes procedentes de la isla está motivada por ventajosas y exclusivas políticas migratorias.

En Estados Unidos, los asilados tienen derecho a trabajar en el territorio, posean o no el documento que lo autoriza. Además, pueden obtener una tarjeta de Seguro Social, pedir asilo para la familia, solicitar residencia permanente e, incluso, orientación profesional y adiestramiento en el idioma.

Si la solicitud de refugio no les es concedida, pueden acogerse al año y un día a la Ley de Ajuste Cubano, vigente desde 1966, que facilita el proceso de elegibilidad para convertirse en residente permanente de los Estados Unidos.

Tras la crisis de los balseros (1994), el texto se modificó para incluir la política «pies secos, pies mojados». Al amparo de esta resolución, los cubanos que tocaran suelo norteamericano eran aceptados legalmente; en cambio, de ser interceptados en el mar, serían devueltos a la isla.

Este programa fue derogado en 2017 por la Administración de Barack Obama, sin embargo, esto no detuvo la salida ilegal de los cubanos por vía marítima. Según informa la Guardia Costera, en lo que va del año fiscal 2021 se han interceptado 838 migrantes cubanos en el mar, una cantidad diecisiete veces mayor a lo reportado en 2020.

Solo en 2019, la Oficina de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza de Estados Unidosregistró 11 798 detenciones en el paso fronterizo, una cifra récord en la última década, que se prevé aumente.

En febrero de 2021, ante el riesgo de una gran ola migratoria hacia EE. UU. tras la apertura de las fronteras cubanas, el presidente estadounidense Joe Biden se refirió a la necesidad de continuar con la Emergencia Nacional respecto a Cuba. La carta indica que la entrada ilegal de cubanos a los Estados Unidos a gran escala perturbaría las relaciones de este país con Cuba por permitir o proporcionar los medios para que ocurra una migración masiva. En caso de que suceda, sería considerado una amenaza a la seguridad nacional.

«No sé decir a ciencia cierta cuántas personas estaban en la frontera cuando yo crucé, pero eran muchísimas. Los cubanos se están apurando para cruzar porque saben que en algún momento esto volverá a restringirse. La gente tendrá que buscar otras vías, o irse a otros lugares, por suerte eso lo veré desde el lado de acá», dice Laritza.

***

Los expertos temen una nueva ola en los próximos meses como consecuencia de la actual crisis económica del país. Aunque el Anuario Demográfico publicado por la Oficina Nacional de Estadística e Información (ONEI) registró en 2020 apenas 4 474 nuevos cubanos radicados en el extranjero —la cifra más baja desde 2014—, la principal causa de este descenso fue la pandemia provocada por el SARS-CoV-2 y el cierre de fronteras.

La escasez de productos esenciales, la inseguridad alimentaria y los altos precios en el mercado informal —donde compra y vende la mayoría— podría acelerar la salida de miles de cubanos hacia destinos diversos.

Los cambios en la política migratoria y la flexibilización de los requisitos para viajar a algunas naciones han definido la ruta de los migrantes irregulares procedentes de Cuba en la última década. En el continente americano países como Granada, Trinidad y Tobago, Santa Lucía y Belice no exigen visado para los ciudadanos cubanos.

El 15 de noviembre de 2021 se abrieron las fronteras internacionales, luego de que los vuelos comerciales a la isla estuvieran limitados por más de un año debido a la pandemia.

Una semana después, el 22 de noviembre el Ministerio de Gobernación de Nicaragua informó que permitiría la entrada de los isleños sin necesidad de visa, «con el fin de promover el intercambio comercial, el turismo y la relación familiar humanitaria». Si seguimos la tendencia, todo indica que el territorio se convertirá en otro trampolín hacia el Norte, como sucedió antes con Ecuador (2008-2015) y Guyana ( 2016).

El libre visado establecido por el Gobierno de Daniel Ortega confronta la postura que asumió en 2015 cuando ordenó cerrar todos los accesos terrestres al país para interrumpir el paso de una caravana de cubanos varados en Costa Rica. De un año a otro, el flujo de migrantes pasó de ser un cuentagotas a torrente, ante el temor de que los privilegios de la Ley de Ajuste Cubano serán eliminados.

Aunque el gigante del Norte continúa acaparando las mayores atenciones de los migrantes cubanos, se pronostica también un aumento del número de cubanos en otros territorios muchas veces movidos por los juegos políticos y migratorios de turno; como la eliminación del visado, una frontera débil o el mensaje de un amigo o un familiar diciéndole que es el momento, que se vaya ahora y no espere más.

A fin de cuentas, marcharse de la isla ha sido una alternativa política, económica y social para los cubanos. La historia posrevolucionaria, marcada por tres grandes olas migratorias (la salida por Boca de Camarioca en Matanzas, en 1965; el éxodo del Mariel, en 1980, y la conocida crisis de los balseros en 1994), y la salida sistemática en pequeña escala de su población así lo demuestran.

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CUBAN ECONOMY IN 2022

It is essential to deepen the reforms where reality has shown that what has been done is not enough. Delaying that deepening is not healthy, as we know.

Juan Triana Cordoví

ON CUBA Newws, December 29 2021

Original Article: Cuban Economy in 2022

The good news that the decline in the national economy has stopped thanks to the good performance of the second and third quarters of this year, is doubly good because in general and due to the seasonal nature of our economy the first and the last quarter of each year are the busiest. So in 2021, that performance has changed.

It is also good news that a growth of 4% is planned for 2022, something that will require a significant effort if we take into account that the recovery conditions of the international economy are still far from reaching the years preceding COVID-19; that world inflation, and especially in the United States, seems to be turning into a big headache; and that world trade will continue to suffer from excessively expensive freight, a shortage of containers and high prices for them; foreign investment will continue to have a weak recovery and tourism flows on a world level will still be far from what they were three years ago.

Global inflows of FDI, forecast for 2021-2022. UNCTAD

Macroeconomic stability

Growth is much more than a goal, a slogan or an exhortation, and having done a good planning exercise is not enough. It is necessary to achieve a minimum of macroeconomic stability that reduces uncertainty for all economic agents, that guarantees that the rules of the game will be followed, that discretion will have adequate limits, that the adjustment will produce the necessary changes at the microeconomic level to transform the business system, clean it of inefficient enterprises — because not all those that are in losses are — and that the allocation of resources is guided by efficiency criteria. Efficiency and productivity must be rewarded, and the costs of this adjustment must be cushioned with adequate policies. Condemning efficient enterprises to losses is not the best decision in a country that needs to purge its production system.

Inflation, what to do?

Much has been written about inflation in Cuba this year. Today it is the factor that generates more instability, uncertainty, a reduction in the purchasing power of “reorganized” wages and, logically, social unrest. At least we economists know that speculation is not its cause, in the same way that we know that appealing to the good faith of sellers will not solve, even momentarily, this scourge.

Three exchange rates instead of one, as the design promised, the reincarnation of the CUC in the freely convertible currencies whose access is more restrictive and a passive monetary policy are among its monetary causes. If reality surpassed the design, then the design must be adapted to this new reality.

The other cause is historical, secular and structural, the insufficient supply that has accompanied us since the early 1960s, due to the weak production system and restrictions to import, especially as of the 1990s. Generating a significant increase in supply keeping in mind a speedy recovery of the production system does not seem achievable (500 state companies in losses, and 67% of cooperatives in an “unfavorable” situation indicate the opposite). Production, even in those economies that function with high dynamism, lags behind in relation to demand, it is less elastic in the face of a variation in income. It will not be there where in the short term prices can be dealt with. Improperly regulating them produces worse effects, it has also been proven. The other component of the supply remains, imports, also limited in the state sector by the availability of foreign exchange. But there are reservations and they involve sharing the consumer market and encouraging non-state agents — national and non-national — to have a greater participation and share the risks.

Consolidating and deepening the reforms

In the annual seminar of the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, my colleague Antonio Romero synthesized the characteristics of the environment we will have for 2022, taking into account the performance of recent years:

  1. Deep drop in global economic activity in 2020. Record for some regions/countries.
  2. Strong recovery process since late 2020/early 2021 in most regions/countries.
  3. The per capita income levels reached in December 2019 will not be exceeded until 2023.
  4. Asymmetric recovery, and with great risks/uncertainties:
  5. a) Recurrence of outbreaks/peaks of the pandemic
  6. b) High and rising inflation for some sectors/markets
  7. c) Dangers of the process of reducing monetary stimuli (liquidity) by the main central banks
  8.  Tensions in the international energy market
  9.  Problems with some supply chains/logistics internationally
  10. Growing conflict between major global actors (USA, China, EU and Russia).

Inflation in the United States and Mr. Biden’s “forgetting” his pre-election promises are the other two factors that complicate the national situation.

And at the same time he pointed out the opportunities that this same evolution offered to our country:

  1. -Increase in demand for goods and services in foreign partners,
  2. -Increase in the price of some basic export products (sugar and nickel) and
  3. -Revaluation of the health industry (especially the strategic importance of vaccines).

Sugar prices have gone up by 38% from January to October 2021. It is true that our restriction is on production. Save the sugarcane industry! The phrase deserves more than one book. Saving the sugar industry is not recovering it, it is making it new, from the furrow to the shipping terminal. From 2016 to 2020, this industry received investments of 1.035 billion dollars, less than the trade sector (1.563 billion and not to mention 15.541 billion in the real estate sector). Year after year we witness a new unfulfilled plan to recover the sugar industry, hopefully, this time it will be different.

Nickel prices also offer an opportunity (37% increase in their prices from January to October) and world demand seems to maintain a certain dynamism. Our limit is once again in the productive capacity. Mining was allocated 1.413 billion in the same period and not everything was for nickel mining.

Undoubtedly the greatest opportunity could be in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Despite the complicit silence of some international institutions regarding Cuban vaccines, it is indisputable that today it is our greatest strength in the industrial sector.

The recovery of tourist flows on a global scale will depend on the performance of the pandemic, which has once again shown its face in the omicron variant and complicates our source markets again.

World foreign investment flows will not reach the dynamics of before 2019. Competing for scarce flows with other markets is a difficult task. It is true that something has been announced in relation to FDI, but it seems that time does not count and the necessary reform of requirements and procedures did not arrive in 2021. It is not enough to recognize that “the little progress is not attributable only to the difficulties generated by the blockade and, in the last two years, by the international crisis derived from the COVID-19 pandemic, but also internal factors.” And if we know which ones, then why don’t we just eliminate them?

Because there are external factors on which there is no way to influence to achieve favorable changes to our economy, because there are structural failures that will not be resolved in the short term; consolidating the reforms will be decisive. It is a difficult exercise that requires many means, from the timely and adequate coordination of actions and organizations to the competence of the people who work in it; also agreeing to pay unavoidable costs until the resizing of the state business sector is promoted, not only in terms of its size, but also in the way it operates in the economy. This exhortation to achieve greater autonomy must be made really effective. And also that other that demands a greater relationship with the private and cooperative business sector. More than a thousand SMEs in three months, in the worst conditions in which an enterprise can be born, is enough to understand how dynamic this sector can be. More effective support, better incentives — especially tax incentives —, less prejudice and greater spaces for action are still necessary.

Today there are more than seven hundred local development projects. Local governments should understand that having more local development projects and promoting a greater number of small and medium-sized enterprises is decisive for the prosperity of their municipalities. Thinking of the local as the small, as the complementary, does not seem to be the best option. “The local is not the utopia of a development from the small, but the construction of capacities from the territory to promote sustainable development at the municipal, regional, national and international level”1 It is necessary to take a look at the curb of the well and look from there inward and outward.

It is essential to deepen the reforms where reality has shown that what has been done is not enough. Delaying that deepening is not healthy, as we know.

If a 4% growth is achieved, we will still be very far from the growth dynamics we need, far even from what was achieved in a year like 2019 and we all know that even in that year our production was not able to adequately satisfy that part of the demand that depended on it. It will be good to grow and it will be better if all Cubans manage to perceive it.


Note:

1 Carrizo Luis and Gallicchio Enrique (2006): “Desarrollo local y gobernanza. Enfoques transdisciplinarios. Investigación y políticas para el desarrollo en América Latina,” Uruguay, Latin American Center for Human Economy, CLAEH.

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RELIGION, CULTURE, AND SOCIETY: THE CASE OF CUBA Conference Report

Woodrow Wilson Center Reports on the Americas, 2003

Conference Organizer & Editor: Margaret E. Crahan

Complete Report: Religion, Culture, and Society: The Case of CubaT

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Executive Summary

Introduction

Part I Religion, Culture, and Society: Theoretical, Methodological, and Historical Perspectives

Chapter 1  Theoretical and Methodological Reflections about the Study of Religion and Politics in Latin America, Daniel H. Levine, University of Michigan.

Chapter 2  Civil Society in Cuba: A Conceptual Approach\, Ariel Armony, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars & Colby College.

Chapter 3 Cuban Diasporas: Their Impact on Religion, Culture, and Society Margaret E. Crahan, Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Chapter 4  The Evolution of Laws Regulating Associations and Civil Society in Cuba Alfonso Quiroz,Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars & Baruch College & The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Chapter 5 Foreign Influence through Protestant Missions in Cuba, 1898-1959:A Quaker Case Study Karen Leimdorfer, University of Southhampton

Chapter 6  The Jewish Community in Cuba in the 1990s Arturo López Levy, Columbia University

Part II Religion, Culture, and Society: Transnational Perspectives

Chapter 7  The Catholic Church and Cuba’s International Ties Thomas E. Quigley, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Chapter 8  Religion and the Cuban Exodus:A Perspective from Union City, New Jersey Yolanda Prieto, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Chapter 9  Cuba’s Catholic Church and the Contemporary Exodus Silvia Pedraza, University of Michigan

Chapter 10  God Knows No Borders:Transnational Religious Ties Linking Miami and Cuba Katrin Hansing & Sarah J. Mahler, Florida International University

Conclusion

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