Jump-Starting the Introduction of Conventional Western Economics in Cuba

By Arch Ritter

I.   Initiation of the Joint Havana-Carleton Universities Economics MA  

As the Cuban economy was sinking into the nadir of its depression following the ending of the “Special Relationship” with the former Soviet Union, the Faculty of Economics at the University of Havana decided that the time was right to introduce conventional economics into University curricula and into Cuba generally. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transition to mixed economies throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the Soviet version of the discipline of Economics virtually disappeared. Cuban economists were left orphaned with a discipline that had become extinct. They generally were unfamiliar with the near-universal language of economics and found it difficult to communicate in the discipline with their colleagues in Latin America and the rest of the world.

This move to introduce conventional economics was spear-headed by Dra. Lourdes Tabares, who was the Chair of the Economics Department at the University of Havana at the time. It had broad though far from unanimous support within the University.

A meeting was arranged in early December 1993 in Havana to discuss alternative approaches to accelerating the process of developing instruction in conventional economics. Financed by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and coordinated by Dr. Gary McMahon, this meeting brought together a number of academics and officials from Chile and Argentina and me from Canada, with University of Havana counterparts.

A decision was reached at that meeting to organize a joint MA program in Economics mainly for young faculty members from Cuban Universities to be given in Cuba at the University of Havana. An agreement was subsequently reached between the President of Carleton University, Dr. Robin Farquhar and the Rector of the University of Havana. Juan Vela, to provide the Carleton program adapted to the circumstances of Cuba.

The program was conceived in December 1993 and was up and running six months later in Havana.

The Economics MA was financed for the first two years by the IDRC and was supported by Gary McMahon and Pierre Beemans. Following that, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) financed another three years of the MA Program. The program received crucial support from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (UN ECLAC), which lent its good name as a co-sponsor of the program and provided about 40% of the faculty at its own expense. Particularly vital was the support of Francisco Leon and the Secretary General Gert Rosenthal of UN ECLAC. The Canadian Embassy in Havana, notably through Ambassador Mark Entwistle and Nobina Robinson, were instrumental in the extension of the program. CIDA was so pleased with the first two IDRC-financed years that it decided to extend the Economics MA for an additional three years.

It also agreed to expand collaboration between Carleton University and the University of Havana for five years and to five other units at the two Universities: Biology, Business, Linguistics, Women’s Studies and Public Administration. Professors were recruited from a number of Latin American countries as well as Canada. Among the contributing professors were

  • Canada: Keith Acheson, Zhiqi Chen, Donald McFetridge, Gary McMahon, Carl McMillan, Soo Bin Park, Simon Power, Arch Ritter, Nicholas Rowe, Larry Willmore (also with the United Nations), and Frances Woolley.
  • UN ECLAC: Ricardo Ffrench-Davis, Michael Mortimer, Bernardo Kosakoff Juan Carlos Lerda, Luis Felipe Jimenez, , Jorge Katz, , Joe Ramos, Daniel Titelman.
  • Argentina: Jose Maria Fanelli. Mario Damill, Guillermo Rozenwurcel
  • Bolivia: Juan Antonio Morales
  • Brazil: Ricardo Paez de Barras
  • Peru: Alberto Pasco-Font

Senior Cuban professors worked with the visiting Canadian and Latin American professors and took over some of the classes. Among the Cuban professors were Felix Marero, Elena Hernandez, Lourdes Tabares, Nelida Gancedo, Vilma Hidalgo, Manuel Miranda, Frank Hidalgo, Ela de Quezada, Raul Sandoval, Celia Fernandez, Ermida Gonzalez and, and Marta Madero.  


II. Impacts of the Program

The objective of the five years of the MA Economics Program was to support the introduction of conventional economics into the curriculum of Cuba’s universities. From this perspective, I think that it could be considered to have been reasonably successful. At the University of Havana for example, a program in conventional economics was initiated quickly and is in operation. Similarly the University of Oriente soon established a conventional economics program, under the leadership of the MA graduate Ulisses Pacheco who became Dean of the Faculty. These programs have been producing some impressive graduates and new academics for over a decade.

A substantial number of the MA graduates went on to earn Doctoral degrees in Economics both inside Cuba, notably in a program with the University of Barcelona and outside Cuba at Carleton University, Ottawa Canada. However, significant numbers of the graduates have emigrated and built their lives elsewhere. This is undoubtedly a loss for Cuba, as all were just at the early stages of their productive professional and family lives. (Remittances are small compensation for this loss.) 

Of the 76 graduates of the program, 16 now are employed in Cuban Universities, 22 have other employment in Cuba, most in government, 7 were citizens of other countries and have returned to their own countries, and 31 have left Cuba. The visiting professors were particularly happy with the level of qualification and the strong commitment and motivation of the Cuban students. It was a positive and pleasant experience for all the professors involved. There were of course some minor frictions in the implementation of the program but surprisingly few and most were resolved quickly and satisfactorily. 

One such issue was a conflict with the Ministry of Cooperation and Foreign Investment, MINVEC. The problem was that the University of Havana had entered into an agreement with Carleton and IDRC but had not gone through MINVEC. It was some five months after the beginning of the program in July 1994 that MINVEC finally gave its approval.

Another issue that had to be dealt with has been described by Luis Casaco in a his Blog entitled “historias mínimas – short tales, palabras, amigos y un poco de música”,  and can be seen at the following address: when carleton university knocked my door at  http://kaskouy.blogspot.com/2008/03/when-carleton-university-knocked-door.html.


III. Where are They Now: Graduates of the Havana-Carleton Economics MA, 1995-1999

As of October 15, 2010 This listing is based on information mainly from around 2002. Much has happened since then, and undoubtedly there are many inaccuracies. Please forward any corrections that you may be aware of regarding locations and employment or contact information. Please send any corrections or new information to Arch_Ritter@Carleton.Ca

1994-1995 COHORT

  • Raul Ávila Rodríguez, Ottawa Canadá
  • Regino Boti Llanes, Londres, RU
  • Idania Coello Caballero, La Habana, Cuba
  • Ledya Fernández Lleal, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de La Habana, Cuba
  • Luis René Fernández Tabío, Instituto de Investigaciones (CESEU), La Habana, Cuba
  • Nélida Lamelas Castellano. University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago, España
  • María Rosa Moreno Fernández, PNUD, La Habana, Cuba
  • Ulises Pacheco Feria, Decano, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de Oriente, Santiago de Cuba
  • Carmen Quintela F., (Facultad de Economía, Universidad de La Habana,) Cuba, Deceased
  • María C. Sabourin Jovel, Miami USA 
  • Mario Sánchez Egozcue, Centro de Estudios sobre la Economía Cubana, La Habana, Cuba
  • Juana Sánchez Mesa, PNUD, La Habana, Cuba
  • José Somoza Cabrera, Dpto. del Medio Ambiente, Universidad de La Habana, La Habana, Cuba
  • Magda Valera Cepero, Miami, Estados Unidos
  • Ignacio Vera Paneque, Naciones Unidas, Nueva York

Class of 1995-1996

  • Fausto Arias Araluce, “Interholdings” Spain
  • Even Chi Pardo (ciudadano panameño) Universidad de Panamá, Panamá
  • Pablo Crespo Brito, Barcelona, España
  • Bernardo Cutié Rizo, Miami, Estados Unidos
  • Gelvis de Armas O., Facultad, ISRI, La Habana, Cuba
  • Pierre Fils Aimee, (ciudadano haitiano) Toronto, Canadá
  • Idania Gancedo Gaspar, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de La Habana, Cuba
  • Eduardo Hernández Roque, Banco Central de Cuba, La Habana, Cuba
  • Nelson Lim Chang, Departamento de Economía, Universidad de Oriente, Santiago de Cuba
  • Boris Moreno Capote, Iglesia Católica, San Antonio de los banos, Cuba
  • Olga Pérez Soto, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de La Habana, Cuba
  • Amarylis Rodríguez R., Ferris Management Ltd., La Habana, Cuba
  • Maria Sanabria Pis, Banco Central de Cuba, La Habana, Cuba
  • Javier Tella Reyes, USA
  • Jorge A. Uriarte Landa, Gobierno de Canadá, Ottawa, Canadá

Class of 1996-1997

  • Alex Gay Cabrera, ¿Alemania?
  • Yuri Gracia Morales, Integral S. A., La Habana, Cuba
  • Arturo López Callejas, Universidad de Denver, Estados Unidos
  • Ricardo Mansilla Corona, Center for interdisciplinary Research in Sciences and the Humanities of the National University of Mexico (UNAM) Ciudad de Mexico. Web site :  http://www.ceiich.unam.mx/0/13PerCur.php?tblPersonalAcademico_id=12  
  • René Mujica López, España
  • Mahe Parodi Heydrich, Mississauga, Canadá
  • Karel Regalado Alonso, Tembec, Temiskiming, Canadá
  • Judith Rodríguez Marcial, FinTur (empresa financiera) La Habana, Cuba
  • Luciano Rondón Hernández, Montreal, Canada
  • Ana Julia Yanes Faya, Gobierno de Canadá, Ottawa, Canadá

Class of 1997-1998

  • Alexis Aguilera Borges, Cuzco, Peru  
  • Raysa Alcalá Martínez, Investigadora, Oficina Nacional de Administración Tributaria (ONAT), La Habana, Cuba
  • Alberto Baly Gil, ¿Cuba?
  • Luis Casaco, Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Vladimir Díaz, Empresa Seguridad y Protección, La Habana, Cuba
  • Yaimí Farías Dominguez, Miami, Estados Unidos
  • Tania García, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de Oriente, Santiago de Cuba
  • Abel Izquierdo Falcón, Profesor, Universidad Central de Las Villas, Cuba
  • Ernesto Landa Falcón, Gobierno de Cuba, La Habana, Cuba
  • Adrián López Denis, Profesor, Universidad Princeton, Princeton, Estados Unidos
  • Osmel Martínez Trujillo, Toronto, Canadá
  • Cristian Meneses Torres (ciudadano chileno), ¿Chile?
  • Hector Molina, Facultad de Economía, Universidad Central de Las Villas, Cuba
  • Antonio Ruiz Cruz, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de Las Villas, Santa Clara
  • Esteban Salido Gamboa, Miami, United States
  • Víctor Sombart, Faculty de Economía, Universidad de Oriente, Santiago de Cuba
  • Thanh Huong Tran (“Alina”), (ciudadano vietnamita) Viet Nam
  • Eileen Tur, Toronto, Canadá

Class of 1998-1999

  • Maritza Álvares Herrera, Miami, Estados Unidos
  • Hamma Bachra Ahmed, (ciudadano saharaui), Sahara Occidental
  • Maria Boiko, (ciudadana ucraniana) Ucrania
  • Vilma Cervantes R., La Habana, Cuba
  • Marco Díaz Díaz, La Habana, Cuba, (deceased)
  • Kim Frederick, (ciudadano granadino) Grenada
  • Antonio Galis-Menéndez, Estados Unidos Radamés Gonzáles, Santiago de Chile
  • Tatiana González, Ministerio de Comercio Exterior, La Habana, Cuba
  • Luis Gutiérrez Urdaneta, La Habana, Cuba
  • Zoe Medina Valdés, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de La Habana, Cuba
  • Yenniel Mendoza, Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Económicas, La Habana, Cuba
  • Mavis Morales, Rusia
  • Ana M. Pérez de la Cruz, Panamá
  • Heidi Portuondo C., Barcelona, España Eduardo Ramos D., n.a. Cuba
  • Lester Rodríguez, Business Analyst, Finantix (Italian financial software house),
  • Padua Italy Paul Valdes-Miranda, Market Research Analyst, Ciudad Mexico, Mexico
  • Katty Yeja López, Bahamas

At the Inauguration of the Program, Ambassador’s Residence,September 1994 Gary McMahon, Ambassador Mark Entwisle, Francisco Leon, and Lourdes Tabares

Nicholas Rowe, teaching a Macroeconomics class, October 1994


Class of 1996-1997 From left to Right: Nicki; Nicki’s son Junior, (Canadian, not known), Elizabeth Rohr (Carleton University), Rene Mujica, Victor Sombert,  Luciano Rondon,  Ana Julia Yanes Faya, Mahe Parodi, Karel Regalado, E. V. Diaz, Judith Rodriguez, Yuri Gracia,  

Class of 1997-1998   From left to right, Back:  Osmel Martinez, Yaimi Farias Dominguez, Raysa Alcala, Ernesto Landa, Belkis, Alberto Baly, Alina, Paul Valdes-Miranda, Tran Thang Huong, Esteban Salido, Eileen Tur, Alexis Aguilera and Arch Ritter. In front: Ricardo Mansilla, Adrian Denis with Luis Casaco’s son Mauri and Luis Casaco, Guabano, February 1998

Class of 1998-1999 Front row. left to right: M. Bachra-Ahmed, Maritza Alvarez,  Maria Boiko, Kim Frederick, Tatiana Gonzalez, Marcos Diaz Diaz Back row:  Radamez Gonzalez, Vilma Cervantes, Zoe Medina, Katty Yeja, Mavis Morales, Eduardo Ramos, Heidi Portuondo, Ana Margarita Perez. Luis Gutierrez, Paul Valdes-Miranda

This entry was posted in Blog, Featured and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Jump-Starting the Introduction of Conventional Western Economics in Cuba

  1. Thanks for this, Arch. It brings back many memories. And it is very useful to know the whereabouts of past students.

  2. Luis Casacó says:

    Excellent, Arch, and thanks to all of you, guys, who were involved from the beginning of the program and made it happen.
    I just want to make a precision and an update: As for me, I have never worked in Mercosur but in ALADI’s Secretariat. Both institutions are very related (in fact, Mercosur in one of ALADI’s dropouts) and have their headquarters in Montevideo, but are different entities.
    The update is about Marcos Díaz. Unfortunately, Marcos suffered from cancer (leukemia) and after fighting for his life as a hero, he passed away. It was about 8 – 9 years ago. As you might guess it was a devastating and a very sad news not only for his family but for all of us who had the privilege to meet him in life. We had a short, but very close relation after meeting in Carleton’s program. A nice and intelligent guy. So, this could be a tribute to his memories.

  3. Profesor Arch: Quizá este comentario complete su historia.
    En 1991-92 se le dio la tarea de crear el primer Programa de Economía de Mercado, a tres profesores de la Universidad de Oriente: Dr. Rafael Díaz Balaguer, Dr. Manuel Estevez Mártir y quien escribe, Asdrúbal Caner Camejo (actualmente residente en Ottawa, Canadá).
    Ese programa fue presentado a un grupo de profesores de diversas universidades, en la Universidad de Las Villas y luego discutido en la Universidad de La Habana. Terminado ese proceso, se envió al Buró Político del PCC, que aprobó ese programa, y se comenzó a aplicar en el próximo curso.
    Fue a partir de ese programa que la Universidad de La Habana -que como siempre, lo acapara todo- comenzó sus contactos con la Universidad de Carleton, para desarrollar esos cursos de Maestría, en los cuales, como se observa en su artículo, participaron sólo cinco profesores de la Universidad de Oriente.
    La elaboración de ese Programa inicial no fue facil. Se trataba de reducir 1000 horas de los programas de marxismo y, eso no era muy bien visto por los profesores que impartían esas asignaturas. Pero al final, logramos pasarlo y sacar el marxismo, incluso, de las clases en las Escuelas de Medicina de todo el país.
    Creo que esto complementa y explica el origen de esos cursos de la Universidad de Carleton.
    Saludos para usted.
    Asdrúbal Caner Camejp
    Ex Profesor de la Universidad de Oriente
    Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

  4. Lester Rodriguez Simon says:

    Wow…Thanks so much professor Ritter! I am very happy to have found this post and the blog (by accident to be honest) It certainly brings lots of sweet and happy memories of both that excellent program and of very special people, as Marcos Diaz Diaz for instance, who is gone from this world. I remember him not only as a brilliant guy but also a trully “buena persona” (close to being an Angel, for real)
    I hope more graduates get to see this. I will contribute to that purpose by sharing this post with those I am still in touch. Just a few corrections regarding myself. I have been living outside of the US for a while (although I go back every year at least once) I’ve lived in Barcelona for some years (there I saw and kept in touch with Heidi Portuondo, a good and incredibly brilliant friend) and right now I live and work (as IT Business Analyst for an Italian financial software house, Finantix) in Padova. Finally, my name is Lester (without “tilde” 🙂

    Again thanks a lot for this Arch! I wish we all (all graduates from all years) could meet some day to celebrate this program as it has become an important part of our collective history.
    Saludos cordiales a todos,


  5. Gary McMahon says:

    Dear Arch and everyone, Thanks for posting this which I luckily came across. I hope you and everyone else are doing well. I’m working on the impacts of mining sector on growth at different levels in various countries, particularly in Africa. Good memories of this program.

    Saludos, Gary McMahon



  7. Estimado profesor Arch Ritter:

    Le estaba dejando un largo comentario sobre el asunto, cuando los camaradas de La Habana consideraron que era absolutamente contraproducente y puff!!!, lo desaparecieron, lo borraron, lo esfumaron de la cloud y me resetearon la pc como ocurre con demasiada frecuencia para considerarlo simples coincidencias.

    Por ello sere mas conciso para no acabar nuevamente con la paciencia del cretino parametrado de turno.

    Llegue a esta entrada siguiendo un link referativo mientras concluyo la 3ra parte de mi ensayo sobre las reformas economicas en cuba y sus sujetos economicos. Y no he parado de sonreir al comprobar que la misma se refiere a la loable experiencia de las maestrias que la Universidad de Carlenton ha venido brindando “conjuntamente” con ese altar de la intolerancia servil y de doblez civica y academica que conocemos como Facultad de Economia de la Universidad de la Habana. Sonreia tambien con el comentario del colega Caner, otro prestigioso academico e investigador condenado al exilio inmisericordioso, aunque sea en Canada, no deja de ser exilio y me perdona por ello.

    Aplique a la primera convocatoria de la maestria y no solo por lo que apunta Caner, jamas recibi una respuesta, sino porque anos atras ya habia tenido el placer de haber sido expulsado de tan respetable claustro por haber venido abogando insistentemente por lo que unos anos mas tarde se logro por la Carlenton University. Mis mas expresivas gracias por ello. Me siento altamente recompensado de que hayan podido realizar lo que a mi me costo ademas un ano de “vacaciones” en la prision de alta seguridad de Ariza por problemas “ideologicos” y la expresa prohibicion de pisar nuevamente un estrado academico de cualquier tipo.

    No podian vislumbrar que desde el unico trabajo que me ofrecieron como ayudante de la construccion a pie de obra y sin militar en ninguna organizacion politica y de “masas” del regimen, y gracias precisamente a ello, iba a “especializarme” en gerencia empresarial y microeconomia reales, asesorar a figuras de primer nivel y rechazar propuestas de viceministro.

    Pero para ser honesto, llegue aqui intrigado por la referencia a Nelida Gancedo, quien fuera una de mis condiscipulas en la Facultad de Economia y lamentablemente una corroboracion de esa extrana regla de que es dificil que coexistan en un mismo craneo una cara bonita y un cerebro “normal”. Durante varios anos de persecucion, lo que en Canada conocemos como sexual harassment, el “distinguido” Osvaldo Martinez [el mismo que otorgaba notas en sus anos de profesor por la apariencia del rostro de sus alumnos], logra conquistarla luego de ser “nombrado” asesor economico del Fidel Castro en epocas de las Cumbres de los No Alineados. Este mismo senor que luego no resistiria las precisiones de la conduccion de una economia concreta al ser nombrado Ministro de Economia y Planificacion y retorno a su redil del Centro de Investigaciones de la Economia Mundial y “Jefe” de la Comision “Economica” de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular.

    Las personas solo con sentido comun [el menos comun de los sentidos, por cierto] conocen para que sirven la “Comision Economica” y el CIEM. La transmutacion del Castrismo en Neocastrismo lo corrobora una vez mas.

    Mis mas sinceros respetos. Gracias.

    Lazaro Gonzalez

    pd/ Muchisimos esfuerzos y contratiempos me hubiera evitado de haber podido acceder en su momento a la maestria de la Carlenton University.

  8. Maritza Alvarez says:

    Hola Ritter y a todos, me ha dado mucha alegría ver esta página que sinceramente llegué de casualidad. Son muchas las anécdotas que como grupo tenemos, fue un año intenso pero fructífero. Con una calidad académica de muy alto nivel. La maestría además de las buenas amistades que me dejó, con las cuales aun mantengo comunicación, me sirvió para seguir incursionando en el mundo académico, que es a lo que me dedico hoy en día. Hay un error en los datos míos, no me encuentro en Miami, trabajo en la Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas, México y terminé el Doctorado en Ciencias de la Administración en la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) en el 2009. Vivo en Tamaulipas, México. Sinceramente me ha emocionado mucho ver esta página. Gracias Arch por mantener la unión y recuerdos de este grupo, desde las 8 horas del examen de Willmore, el superdifícil de Acheson y para que hablar del de Econometría con Simon con su cara tan noble, el pizarrón lleno por Rowe. Las estrategias que como grupo hacíamos para estudiar y nos dividíamos los temas para desarrollarlos, aun conservo el original del ensayo en la clase de Ritter sobre IED. Me he quedado fría con lo de Marco (EPD), buen compañero.
    Nuevamente GRACIAS ARCH!!!!
    Un abrazo a todos,
    Maritza Alvarez
    p.d. no puedo ver las fotos

  9. thanks Arch; I’m in Seattle; USA with a lovely cuban girl friend.

  10. Maritza says:

    Noticia, Maria Boiko será mamá de una nena. Felicidades amiga!!!

  11. Every time I came to this page feel a great joy to watch the names of many dear friends and also the pride of belonging to this sui generis community. Thanks Ritter once again!
    In passing, the link to my web page has changed, I put the good one:

  12. Alexis Aguilera Borges says:

    Soy Alexis Aguilera del grupo del 1997-1998, yo también dejé Cuba en el 2001, ahora vivo en Cusco, Perú. Un abrazo a todos.

  13. Arch Ritter says:

    Hola Alexis:
    Que placer recibir tu mensaje despues de tantos anos!
    Ojala que todo anda muy bien para ti alla en el capital de los Incas!
    Yo mantengo contacto con Cuba, asistiendo en varios congresos y conferencias. Mi obsession con Cuba nunca morira.
    Abrazos del norte

  14. As time passes, I always return to this page with a mixture of nostalgia and joy. Also to do some upgrade to my position: Prof. Ritter my new website is:
    Now I’m the Vice Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and the Humanities, of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *