Author Archives: Arch Ritter

CUBA REVIEW: TRUMP LEAVES GRIM LEGACY IN CUBA

Ricardo Herrero <ricardo.herrero@cubastudygroup.org>  
Cuba Review, 2021-01-19
Original Article: Trump Legacy for Cuba  

In 11th hour move, U.S. State Secretary Pompeo returns Cuba to State Sponsors of Terrorism List
As anticipated for months, “the State Department designated Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism on [January 11] in a last-minute foreign policy stroke that will complicate the incoming Biden administration’s plans to restore friendlier relations with Havana. In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited Cuba’s hosting of 10 Colombian rebel leaders, along with a handful of American fugitives wanted for crimes committed in the 1970s, and Cuba’s support for the authoritarian leader of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. Mr. Pompeo said the action sent the message that ‘the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of U.S. justice.’ The action, announced with just days remaining in the Trump administration, reverses a step taken in 2015 after President Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, calling its decades of political and economic isolation a relic of the Cold War.” (The New York Times, January 11, 2020)

“The inclusion of Cuba on the blacklist alongside North Korea, Syria and Iran is the culmination of the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign launched by the Trump administration to punish the Cuban government for its support of Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro and to dismantle the engagement policies of former President Barack Obama.” (Miami Herald, January 11, 2021)

“[The] reaction in Havana was swift and vociferous. The Cuban government accused Washington of hypocrisy, and called the label an act of ‘political opportunism’ by President Trump to obstruct relations between Cuba and the incoming administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Beyond indignation, though, Cubans are ready to move on, a sentiment underlined by their president, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, who tweeted on Tuesday that the American decision had been made in ‘the death throes of a failed and corrupt administration.’” (The New York Times, January 12, 2021)

Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “If a country risks being placed on a terrorism list as a result of facilitating peace efforts, it could set a negative precedent for international peace efforts.”: ‘The Trump administration’s decision to include Cuba on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List is regrettable. Placing Cuba on the list will make it difficult to normalise relations between the US and Cuba, and will impede efforts to promote positive change and development in Cuba,’ said [Norway’s] Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide. ‘We note that one of the reasons given for placing Cuba on the list is that the negotiating delegation from the Colombian guerrilla movement National Liberation Army (ELN) has remained in Cuba after peace negotiations between the ELN and the Colombian Government broke down in January 2019. Cuba has been Norway’s partner in the Colombian peace process. It is unreasonable that the outgoing US administration holds the Cuban government responsible for the delegation not being able to leave Cuba. If a country risks being placed on a terrorism list as a result of facilitating peace efforts, it could set a negative precedent for international peace efforts,’ said Ms Eriksen Søreide.” [Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release, January 13, 2021)

OUR TAKE: “There is no compelling, factual basis to merit the designation. Instead it appears to be another shameless, last-ditch effort to hamstring the foreign policy of the incoming Biden administration and set the stage for the next election in Florida, all at the expense of the Cuban people and relations between our countries…It can take months for the incoming Biden administration to reverse this measure, as the State Department must first order a review of the designation and then submit a report to the U.S. Congress justifying a decision to rescind at least 45 days before the rescission would take effect. We call on the Biden administration to order an apolitical review of this designation immediately upon taking office, and reverse all executive orders imposed by the Trump administration that have pointlessly inflicted immeasurable harm to the Cuban people over the past four years.” Read the Cuba Study Group’s full statement here.

“The designation could also limit the range of exports from the U.S. to Cuba, including software and technology and other items for the support of the Cuban people, said Ric Herrero, executive director of the Cuba Study Group. In addition, it triggers a Florida state law prohibiting state universities from using state funds for travel or research activities in blacklisted countries.” (Miami Herald, January 11, 2021)

“Contrary to what Trump and his advisers declare, not only the business network ‘controlled by the military’ will suffer the effects: ‘One of the new restrictions resulting from this designation is related to the export of software and technology from the United States to Cuba even its private sector, which largely prefers American over Chinese. This is no way to support tech entrepreneurs (or our national security),’ tweeted the executive director of the Cuba Study Group, Ricardo Herrero.” (El Toque, January 12, 2021)

“While [the designation] can be reversed, it could nonetheless spell further economic trouble for the island, which is already suffering its worst economic contraction since the fall of the Soviet Union. ‘Transactions with the Republic of Cuba would have an increase in scrutiny, resulting in fewer governments and companies wanting to engage with it,’ said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a New York-based nonpartisan organization. Although the measure does not entail more economic sanctions, the announcement may further reduce foreign investment on the island, as most companies prefer to avoid possible fines or the legal costs of doing business in blacklisted countries. Kavulich said insurance companies could either suspend coverage of transactions and operations of ships and aircraft going to Cuba, or increase prices.” (Miami Herald, January 11, 2021)

Days later, the Trump administration also sanctioned Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT) and its minister General Álvarez Casas: “The Trump administration sanctioned Cuba’s interior minister and the agency overseeing the island’s state security apparatus Friday in a final push to punish the island’s government before leaving office. The U.S. Treasury Department accused Brigadier General Lázaro Alberto Álvarez Casas of ‘serious human rights abuses’ in making the designation. Also sanctioned is the Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the prison system, police and state security agency…The Treasury Department sanction freezes any U.S. assets. The list includes individuals and companies sanctioned for drug trafficking, terrorism, human rights violations, and other crimes. Companies or individuals under U.S. jurisdiction cannot engage in transactions with those blacklisted. The U.S. government…castigated the Cuban minister under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which carries similar implications.Pompeo accused Álvarez Casas of being ‘an accomplice in harassing and monitoring journalists, dissidents, activists, and members of civil society groups, including more recently members of the San Isidro Movement.’…The new sanctions could hamper future cooperation between U.S. federal agencies and MININT, which also includes a Cuban Coast Guard branch. In 2016, during a brief thaw in relations under then-President Barack Obama, a MININT delegation visited U.S. military installations in Key West.” (Miami Herald, January 15, 2021)

Biden transition team has “taken note of these last minute maneuvers”: “An official with Biden’s transition team said the incoming administration has ‘taken note of these last minute maneuvers…The transition team is reviewing each one, and the incoming administration will render a verdict based exclusively on one criterion: the national interest,’ said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations on the matter. The incoming president is widely expected to restore at least some of Obama’s opening with Cuba. While it can be reversed, it could nonetheless spell further economic trouble for the island, which is already suffering its worst economic contraction since the fall of the Soviet Union.” (Miami Herald, January 11, 2021
For the Cuban people, January 20th can’t come soon enough
“Though Mr. Trump’s company had been looking into investing in Cuba shortly before he took office, as president he has hit the Communist-ruled island with the harshest sanctions in more than a half-century. American cruise ships were prohibited from docking on the island, remittances from the United States were banned and tankers carrying oil from Venezuela were prevented from arriving with their cargo. ‘The only thing left is diplomatic relations,’ [Ted Henken of Baruch College] said. ‘We still do officially have diplomatic relations with Cuba, even though they are on ice in actual practice.’ These efforts by the Trump administration to reverse the Obama initiatives have set back the development of the private sector in Cuba and short-circuited efforts by American businesses that had tried to build relations based on the Obama détente, he said.” (The New York Times, January 12, 2021)

“Mr. Trump’s hard-line approach to the Cuban leadership has led to an array of restrictions on tourism, visas, remittances, investments and commerce, which have worsened an already poor economy. The pandemic has compounded the problems, in large part by bringing tourism, a major source of foreign currency, to a grinding halt. Facing profound shortages of necessities like medicine and food, Cubans have been forced to stand in lines for hours in the hope of getting their hands on the meager stocks that exist. Supplies have gotten so thin that the government made it illegal for people to buy rice beyond their government-restricted monthly allotments.

“Amid this hardship, many in Cuba are hoping that Mr. Biden will shift American policy in ways that might ease the economic duress. The president-elect has said little publicly about his policy goals for Cuba, though during the campaign he attacked Mr. Trump’s approach to Havana, saying, ‘Cuba is no closer to freedom and democracy today than it was four years ago.’ And Mr. Biden’s advisers have allowed that a normalization of relations with Cuba — essentially a return to the Obama-era détente — was the best strategy for effecting positive change.” (The New York Times, January 12, 2021)

“For the Cuban government and its people, the change in American presidential administrations can’t come soon enough...Mr. Díaz-Canel has been mostly silent, at least publicly, on the potential for a thaw after Mr. Biden takes office. But on Nov. 8, he acknowledged Mr. Biden’s victory with a suggestion of hope, writing on Twitter: ‘We recognize that the US people have chosen a new direction in the presidential elections. We believe in the possibility of having a constructive bilateral relation while respecting our differences.’” (The New York Times, January 12, 2021)
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¿UNIFICACIÓN MONETARIA Y CAMBIARIA EN CONDICIONES DE RE-DOLARIZACIÓN?

Fecha: septiembre 8, 2020

Autor: Mauricio de Miranda

Articulo Original: Unificación Monetaria

Desde hace varios días en diversos medios de prensa cubanos han comenzado a aparecer argumentos sobre la necesidad de proceder a la unificación monetaria y cambiaria, haciendo énfasis en las consecuencias negativas del establecimiento de una dualidad monetaria en los años 90 del siglo XX. A esto se suman muy recientes rumores, no confirmados, que indicarían la posibilidad de que en poco tiempo se suprima la circulación del peso convertible y la unificación de precios en pesos cubanos de los bienes y servicios que se ofrecen en las redes comerciales estatales, así como una nueva tasa de cambio única que devaluaría considerablemente el tipo de cambio oficial actual de 1 USD = 1 CUP que solo funciona para las empresas del Estado, pero que, al parecer, revaluaría la actual tasa de mercado, también oficial, de 1 USD = 24 y 25 CUP (según se trate si es tipo de cambio de compra o de venta de la moneda extranjera). A estos rumores se suma la existencia de una supuesta nueva escala salarial que funcionaría para el sector estatal y que multiplicaría en varias veces todos los niveles salariales actuales (sin que se diga nada de las pensiones de jubilación antiguas).

Lo curioso es que todo esto ocurra unos meses después que el gobierno cubano decidiera abrir tiendas minoristas en las que se venderían una serie de artículos, considerados de “alta gama”, pero que después se ampliaron a bienes de primera necesidad, usando tarjetas magnéticas, respaldadas por depósitos en dólares u otras monedas libremente convertibles (MLC), lo que ha significado, en la práctica, una nueva segmentación del mercado en productos que se venden en divisas extranjeras y productos que se venden en las monedas nacionales y que, eventualmente, se venderían en una sola, como resultado de la “unificación”. Así las cosas, vale la pena aclarar que toda vez que circulen diversas monedas en un mercado, así sea a partir de la existencia de depósitos a la vista, no estamos en presencia de una real unificación monetaria.

Uno de los problemas de la dualidad monetaria existente ha sido la multiplicidad de tipos de cambio, pero sobre todo la persistencia, durante 60 años, de un tipo de cambio fijo, artificialmente sobrevaluado, del peso cubano respecto al dólar estadounidense, que no refleja las condiciones económicas reales de la economía nacional en relación con la economía internacional y que ha distorsionado seriamente la competitividad de todo el sistema empresarial cubano.

Se puede establecer una nueva tasa de cambio, se pueden modificar los precios y se pueden reformar los salarios y jubilaciones, pero con ello solo se pondrá un orden momentáneo a las relaciones monetarias y a los sistemas de precio y de salarios en el país, pero no necesariamente se pondrá fin a las distorsiones del sistema económico cubano ni del sistema monetario en particular.

La existencia de un mercado, por limitado que pueda resultar, en el que el peso cubano no cumple sus funciones como dinero va a generar una demanda adicional de las divisas extranjeras en el mercado informal, generando opciones de beneficios extraordinarios para quienes operen este mercado informal. Si, como es usual, se persigue a estos actores económicos con medidas punitivas solo se conseguirá aumentar la brecha entre los tipos de cambio entre los mercados formales e informales. Por tanto, sería prudente adelantarse a este tipo de escenarios con la adopción de medidas económicas adecuadas.

¿Cuáles deberían ser este tipo de medidas?

  1. Será necesario definir qué tipo de sistema cambiario va a establecerse. ¿Una caja de conversión como la que determinó la paridad del peso cubano con el dólar antes de 1959 o como la que produjo el establecimiento del llamado CUC? Esto significaría un anclaje nominal del peso con el dólar, en la cantidad que se defina, y la variación del tipo de cambio con las demás divisas, siguiendo el curso del dólar. Esta medida, no evitaría que el país afronte una crisis cambiaria cuando se produzca una nueva crisis de balanza de pagos, lo cual puede ser algo previsible en el caso cubano, si no se solucionan los problemas estructurales, no se alcanza un mayor ritmo de crecimiento económico y no se logra una mejor inserción internacional de la economía. ¿Un tipo de cambio flexible? Podría resultar lo más lógico para que el tipo de cambio fuera el que absorbiera los choques externos y la política macroeconómica no quedara supeditada al sostenimiento de una determinada paridad cambiaria. Sin embargo, en este escenario habría que estar preparados para una depreciación sostenida del peso cubano en la medida en la que no mejoren las condiciones de producción de bienes y de servicios y con las consecuentes presiones inflacionarias.
  2. La realidad indica que tanto el peso cubano como el peso convertible están sobrevalorados, tanto en el tipo de cambio del primero como del segundo, lo cual significa que ambos valen más de lo que deberían valer. El tipo de cambio oficial con el que funcionan las empresas es absurdo y no guarda relación alguna con la realidad. El tipo de cambio de las CADECA, que durante mucho tiempo se ha mantenido estable, parece mostrar signos de sobrevaloración ante la reaparición de un mercado informal con valores que en estos momentos han estado oscilando entre 1,30 y 1,80 CUC por dólar. Esto es consecuencia de dos fenómenos muy concretos: a) la ruptura de la “caja de conversión” que sustentaba la condición de convertibilidad del CUC a una paridad de 1 USD = 1 CUC y según la cual solo se emitirían CUC como USD existieran para respaldarlos y b) la reaparición de un mercado en el que solo se opera en MLC, por lo que la demanda por las divisas foráneas aumenta considerablemente. La sobrevaloración de una moneda nacional desestimula las exportaciones porque las encarece y estimula las importaciones porque las abarata relativamente. Si se adopta un tipo de cambio de partida, de forma administrativa, que no refleje las condiciones reales de la economía, se reproducirán las distorsiones actuales, porque el tipo de cambio es el precio relativo que permite conectar la economía de cualquier país con la economía internacional. Por esa razón, en lugar de adoptar medidas administrativas sería mucho mejor tener en cuenta las señales que ofrece el mercado. Así las cosas, el CUP podría cambiarse a 25 por CUC actuales para efectos internos, pero el tipo de cambio del USD con el CUP que se establezca como nivel de partida, debería considerar esas señales del mercado y, por tanto, devaluarse en lugar de revaluarse.
  3. Para que el peso cubano (CUP) sea realmente convertible debe asegurar su plena convertibilidad interna, garantizando el funcionamiento adecuado del mercado cambiario y permitiendo que la moneda nacional opere de manera plena con fuerza liberatoria ilimitada y curso forzoso en todo el territorio nacional, lo cual cuestiona el funcionamiento de las nuevas tiendas en MLC, fuertemente criticadas por la población por justas razones.
  4. Nada de esto tiene sentido si no se adoptan las medidas económicas necesarias para impulsar la producción de bienes y de servicios. Si no se adoptan las medidas para aumentar la oferta de bienes y de servicios, se corre el riesgo de una espiral inflacionaria, que si se pretende impedir de forma artificial, con los racionamientos o con topes de precio, se manifestará en la forma ya conocida de “inflación reprimida”, que no es otra cosa que la escasez y las colas y la dinamización del mercado subterráneo. Así las cosas, lo más adecuado sería eliminar todas las cortapisas que han impedido el desarrollo de la producción de bienes y de servicios por parte de productores privados y cooperativos, junto a la autonomía operativa y financiera de las empresas estatales. En tal sentido, es imprescindible adoptar la secuencia adecuada y ello significa que lo primero sería eliminar las restricciones actuales al funcionamiento de las pequeñas y medianas empresas (PyMES) privadas y cooperativas, las cuales, en un clima adecuado podrían absorber la fuerza de trabajo que actualmente resulta excesiva en el sector estatal y podría producir bienes y servicios que el sector estatal se ha mostrado incapaz de producir. Para ello es necesario crear el clima institucional adecuado para promover el ahorro interno y la inversión tanto foránea como doméstica, sin restricciones de tipo de propiedad. Esto debería ir acompañado de la modificación de las normas adoptadas recientemente para regular la participación del sector privado y cooperativo en el comercio exterior que son, a todas luces, inadecuadas.

El costo económico y político de continuar despreciando las leyes económicas puede ser muy grave para el país. La política económica debería orientarse a la adopción de las medidas que permitan salir de la crisis y conducir a una ruta de crecimiento sostenido que tenga un efecto positivo en el mejoramiento del nivel de desarrollo económico y social, superando las barreras ideológicas derivadas de concepciones dogmáticas.

Publicado originalmente en La Joven Cuba. https://jovencuba.com/unificacion-monetaria/

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UNITED STATES AGRICULTURE COALITION FOR CUBA ENCOURAGES BIDEN ADMINISTRATION TO IMPROVE U.S. / CUBA AGRICULTURE RELATIONS

For Immediate Release January 14, 2021

Contact: Paul Johnson Phone: 773-814-2493; Email: usagcoalitionforcuba@gmail.com

Original Letter: USACC

United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba Encourages Biden Administration to Improve U.S. / Cuba Agriculture Relations

The United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) today wrote to President-Elect Biden to urge a return to policies of engagement toward Cuba, for the sake of the U.S. national interest, to boost U.S. food exports to Cuba, and to support the development of beneficial relations between our countries’ agricultural sectors.

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Mr. President-Elect: The undersigned members of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba congratulate you on your election victory and wish you every success in office.

We would like to offer our views on U.S. relations with our neighbors in Cuba.

We share your view that six decades of economic sanctions against Cuba have been ineffectual. Our sanctions hurt the Cuban people, limit American influence in Cuba, and antagonize friends and allies, while doing nothing to advance any U.S. interest.

A turn to policies of engagement will serve our national interest and benefit U.S. agriculture, which has long practiced many forms of engagement on a global scale. Freed of restrictions, we expect that ties between our agricultural sectors will produce important economic and humanitarian benefits and contribute to better relations between our peoples and governments. American strength in agricultural exports has been built over the years on the principle that all markets matter.

Cuba is an opportunity for U.S. farmers and ranchers: it imports $2 billion in food each year, less than ten percent from the United States. U.S. exports of potatoes, wheat, animal feed, dairy, poultry, rice, and other products stand to grow significantly.

U.S. farmers, businesses, private organizations, NGOs, and universities can work with Cuban counterparts on the challenges of increasing productivity, adapting to climate change, and building sound commercial strategies.

With Cuba now allowing its private sector to import and export, and also inviting foreign investment in private farm cooperatives, the opportunities for Americans to assist in the growth of that private sector have expanded

We offer these recommendations.

First, we urge you to resume efforts to normalize relations. We hope you make clear that neither our principles nor our interests are served by harming the Cuban economy and increasing hardship for the eleven million neighbors who live in it. We urge you to inform Congress that your Administration would welcome legislation to end the embargo entirely, should Congress choose to act.

Second, we urge early action to restore the Cuban Asset Control Regulations to those in place January 20, 2017 and to suspend Title III of the Helms-Burton Act of 1996. These regulatory steps are important to U.S. agriculture, to business generally, and to any Americans seeking to make a positive difference. Recent experience shows that U.S. travelers propel growth across Cuba’s private sector, benefiting many thousands of Cuban families.

Third, we urge you to support legislation to put U.S. exporters on an equal footing with our competitors by allowing us to negotiate trade terms including private financial credit.

Fourth, we urge resuming full operation of our Embassy in Havana as health considerations permit. The lack of consular and other operations impedes travel, business, and effective diplomacy. A full Embassy staff, which we hope will include U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel, can support continued work on the 2016 agriculture memoranda of understanding, especially in plant and animal health, and to create conditions for two-way trade, including Cuban exports. American agriculture supports a Cuba policy based on our broad national interests, enabling citizens and business across our country to engage freely.

We are confident that such a course will have strong bipartisan support, and we urge you to take it.

We appreciate your consideration of our views.

Sincerely,

 USA Rice Federation

National Corn Growers Association

American Soybean Association

US Grains Council

U.S. Wheat Associates

National Sorghum Producers

National Potato Council

National Association of Wheat Growers

National Onion Association

National Turkey Federation

US Dry Bean Council

Keesling Farms-Chase,

Kansas Isbell Farms-England,

 Arkansas American Feed Industry

Michigan Agri-Business Association

 Minnesota Department of Agriculture

 Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

Iowa Corn Growers Association

Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture

Kansas Wheat Commission

 Hoverson Farms-Larimore,

North Dakota Sietsema Farms, Allendale,

Michigan Allied Potato-Bakersfield, California

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THE CRIMINALIZATION OF OPPOSITION POLITICS IN CUBA

Against the Soviet Model

Sam Farber

SPECTRE JOURNAL, January 13, 2021; Original Article

This is a translation of an article that appeared on December 28, 2020 in La Joven Cuba, a left-wing critical blog, one of the most important in Cuba. The article immediately created a stir in social media. The Cuban government has so far failed to entirely control the Internet, which remains the main outlet for critical political views in the island. –SF

There are anti-democratic states that not only repress political opposition, but also criminalize it – a very effective method to avoid the dissemination and discussion of political ideas that diverge from the ideology of the state. That was the case of the Soviet Union and continues to be the case in those regimes that adopted the principal structures of the Soviet model, such as China, Vietnam, and our own Cuba.

That is how, under the direction of the Cuban government, the members of the San Isidro Movement were recently arrested by the police on criminal charges for supposedly having violated “the health protocols of international travelers” adopted by the government to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. In reality, they were arrested for political reasons: for publicly protesting as a group against state repression of one of its members. This is a typical example of how the Cuban government faces its critics: replacing political language with administrative-police language.

Cuba was once part of the longstanding Latin American tradition that sets apart political conduct and avoids reducing it to common crime. That is why this tradition supports the right of political asylum as well as the differential treatment of political and common prisoners.

Batista’s dictatorship, for example, respected the political asylum that hundreds of Cubans opposed to the dictatorship claimed, in order to save their lives, by taking refuge in many of the Latin American embassies in Havana. He certainly violated that right on many occasions, as in the notorious case of the police assault on the Haitian Embassy that he ordered on October 29, 1956, where all his political opponents who had taken asylum there were murdered. The chief of the National Police, Rafael Salas Cañizares, one of the most notorious henchmen of the dictatorship, also died in that incident when one of the asylum seekers shot him to death with a gun he had in his possession.

In the case of Latin America, the most notable exception to the general practice of conceding political asylum was that of the Peruvian Victor Raúl Haya de la Torre, founder and leader of the APRA (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana) who, in order to protect himself from the Peruvian government under the dictatorship of Manuel Odría, obtained asylum in the Colombian embassy at the beginning of 1949. Haya de la Torre remained in that embassy for five years until he finally obtained safe passage from the Peruvian government to leave the country for Mexico, although only after the International Court of Justice rejected Odría’s demand for Colombia to hand over the Peruvian opposition leader.

The revolutionary Cuban government abandoned the tradition of recognizing political asylum when it adopted the Soviet model at the beginning of the sixties. A clear example of that turn were the events that took place in the Peruvian Embassy in Havana in April of 1980, when under the orders of Fidel Castro, the government forces surrounding the periphery of the embassy blocked the entrance of the Cubans seeking asylum there. The only ones who were initially able to enter the embassy were the survivors of an armed clash that ensued with the government guards where several people were killed. The government eventually withdrew the guards from the embassy. It was then that approximately ten thousand Cubans were able to get in and ask asylum in order to leave the country, which they did, along with more than one hundred thousand other Cubans, between April and June of 1980.

Continue reading: The Criminalization of Opposition Politics in Cuba

Sam Farber
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TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PUTS CUBA BACK ON ‘SPONSOR OF TERRORISM’ BLACKLIST

Tom Phillips Latin America correspondent and agencies

Mon 11 Jan 2021 22.30 GMT

The Guardian. ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Donald Trump has reclassified Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” in a last-minute move that could complicate efforts by Joe Biden’s incoming administration to re-engage with Havana.

The controversial step was announced by secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Monday, at the start of Trump’s final full-week in office, and places Cuba alongside Iran, North Korea and Syria.

Pompeo justified the move – which reverses Barack Obama’s 2015 decision to remove Cuba from the list after more than three decades – by accusing Havana of “repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbour to terrorists”.

That is partly a reference to the former Black Panther Assata Shakur who was jailed in the US for the 1973 killing of a police officer and later escaped to Cuba where she was granted asylum by its then leader Fidel Castro. It is also based on Cuba’s refusal to extradite a group of guerrillas from Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) for alleged involvement in a 2019 bomb attack in Bogotá.

Pompeo also alleged Cuba was engaging “in a range of malign behaviour across the region”, highlighting its support for Venezuela’s authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro who Trump has unsuccessfully tried to overthrow.

But most observers and many US allies are unimpressed by Trump administration claims that Cuba is guilty of sponsoring terrorism.

“These are trumped up charges,” said Christopher Sabatini, a senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House. “Terrorism as an international definition is committing acts of violence against unarmed civilians intended to frighten the population. Cuba doesn’t do that. Yes, it represses its own people – but so does Saudi Arabia.”

Sabatini said he saw Trump’s move as “a parting gift to hardliners” in Florida and a deliberate attempt to make life difficult for his successor, who takes office on 20 January. The same rationale lay behind the recent decision to lift restrictions on contacts between US officials and their Taiwanese counterparts, a move that angered Beijing and will be awkward for Biden to reverse without appearing soft on China.

“It’s like when departing armies leave scattered mines in a field,” Sabatini added. “They are planting these political mines for the Biden administration that will be very difficult to be rolled back and to lock in, at least temporarily, their policy preferences.”

Havana reacted angrily to what its foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, called a “hypocritical and cynical” move. “The US political opportunism is recognized by those who are honestly concerned about the scourge of terrorism and its victims,” Rodríguez tweeted.

Ricardo Herrero, head of the a US-based non-partisan association called Cuba Study Group, said there was “no factual basis” for Trump’s decision.

“This is a malicious, last-ditch effort to handicap Biden’s foreign policy, and reward Maga supporters in Florida for sticking with Trump even after he incited terrorist attacks against the US Congress,” Herrero tweeted.

The new sanctions will include major restrictions that will bar most travel from the US to Cuba and transfer of money between the two countries, a significant source of income for Cubans who have relatives in the United States.

Removing Cuba from the blacklist in 2015 had been one of Obama’s main foreign policy achievements as he sought better relations with the communist island, an effort endorsed by Biden as his vice-president. Ties had been essentially frozen after Fidel Castro took power in 1959 while Cuba had been on the terror list since 1982 because of its support for guerrilla groups.

As with Iran, Trump has sought to reverse many of Obama’s decisions involving Cuba. He has taken a tough line on Havana and rolled back many of the sanctions that the Obama administration had eased or lifted after the restoration of full diplomatic relations in 2015. Since Trump took office ties have been increasingly strained, with his administration also suggesting Cuba may have been behind or allowed alleged attacks that left dozens of US diplomats in Havana with brain injuries starting in late 2016.

Biden is expected to work to improve ties, although immigration and Venezuela’s economic, political and humanitarian crises are believed to be higher up his agenda.

“He wants to get back to the policies that were in place at the end of Obama’s term. He believes that closer connections in trade and personal connections between the two countries are more likely to lead to political opening and freedoms, as well as giving the US leverage on other issues, including Venezuela,” Sabatini said. “This is going to be much more complicated now.”

In an article last year Biden’s recently appointed chief adviser on Latin America, Juan S Gonzalez, said Trump’s policies on Cuba and Venezuela were based on political self-interest and had failed the people of those countries “by every metric”.

“In Cuba, engagement is not a gift to a repressive regime. It is a subversive act to advance the cause of human rights and empower the Cuban people as protagonists of their own future,” Gonzalez wrote in the Americas Quarterly magazine last July.

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EL COVID EN CUBA , EN LINEA ASCENDENTE E IMPLANTANDO RÉCORDS (GRÁFICOS)

Por Humberto Herrera Carles

Articulo Original: Cuba y la Economía,  EL COVID EN CUBA,  Enero 10 de 2021

Decía Jose Martí, nuestro héroe nacional, que “En prever está todo el arte de salvar “, y además dijo que “Gobernar es  prever”.

Al parecer  los modelos matemáticos de pronósticos publicados por nuestras autoridades,  hasta el presente, han fallado, no se han cumplido y se han ignorado otras recomendaciones a las cuales he tenido acceso producto de las preocupaciones que todos tenemos con esta pandemia, por ejemplo de un INDICE de Alarma Epidemiológica (IAE) que predice mejor el comportamiento que nos presentan, así como el ” Método estadístico matemático para identificar el estado de la COVID-19 con relación al pico epidémico publicado en este sitio ( tomado de la Revista Información Científica)  de la autoría del Profesor Javier Pérez Capdevila.

Ahora bien, no me detendré en las comparaciones, pero evidentemente cuando se introdujo en los modelos oficiales, la variable  exógena que representaban la necesaria apertura de nuestras fronteras y la incidencia de los visitantes externos, al parecer una vez más no fueron correctos los pronósticos.  Se trataba de prever  (ex ante), y las medidas previstas hacerlas cumplir. Sin embargo, con solo observar que desde el 16 de diciembre del 2020, excepto un día, pasaban del centenar  el número de confirmados diarios, y ver que la última semana de diciembre 2020 ya era de 165 confirmados diarios como promedio, era suficiente para adoptar las medidas correctoras días atrás.  Así en los últimos 7 días de este 2021, en cinco días los casos diarios han sido por encima de 300, y los últimos 4 días es de 314, 344, 365 y 388 confirmados, además de los récords lamentables, la cota máxima no sabemos hasta donde llegará. Deberían pedir  colaboración nuestras autoridades a los que tienen otros pronósticos y metodos, para tomar las decisiones correctas en tiempo real.  Las ciencias matemáticas en estos momentos  juegan un papel fundamental, esencial.

Ayer se comunicaron varios retrocesos a diferentes fases en las provincias más comprometidas con el rebrote, la Habana paso a fase I de recuperación , cuando se encontraba en la III. 

El presente escrito solo pretende llamar la atención,  con los gráficos elaborados , de la gravedad en que nos encontramos, porque al final esto es tarea de todos. He vistopor ejemplo,  en otros países en colas a los super  que guarda distancia de 1.5 m para entrar entre las personas, e incluso es uno solo por familia y no pueden entrar los menores. En nuestro país, son “molotes” fuera de las tiendas.¿?

Los gráficos a continuación y tablas son elaboración propia con datos del MINSAP. 


Como se observa en el gráfico # 1 desde el día uno de la pandemia, muestra que este tercer rebrote hasta ayer, es casi 5 veces mayor que el momento peor del primero, y que la línea de tendencia polinómica de grado 4 (roja)  de excel va en  ascenso. Aquí es donde se requieren los “otros” pronósticos. 

Los Activos acumulados diarios ( los que tienen la enfermedad y no se han recuperado) en el gráfico # 2 y su línea de tendencia, se han incrementado desde la anterior cota máxima de 847 activos el 25 de abril del 2020 en el primer brote , en 2.99 veces, significando , al no incrementarse el número de fallecidos, que el tiempo de hospitalización- recuperación es menor ( días) ¿ nuevo protocolo médico  ?. Sin embargo, no se publican los casos activos por provincias como una información oficial del MINSAP.  El día cero de casos activos, parece cada vez más lejos, primero hay que aspirar a casos cero de confirmados durante días, y desde que empezó la Covid en nuestro país solo hemos tenido un día con caso cero, el 19 de julio del 2020, esa es la meta a lograr, otra vez.

Observar que la tasa de incidencia con importados (azul) y sin (azul) del gráfico # 3 del MINSAP , desde que empezó la pandemia eran similares, sin embargo hay una diferencia  que inició  diciembre -enero , y esto demuestra dos cosas 1- la tasa de incidencia con los casos importados es mucho mayor que la  autóctona,y 2- que sin los importados (roja) no obstante, hay igualmente un incremento de la tasa de incidencia, es decir el incremento se dio aunque no se hubieran abierto las fronteras. 

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RUSIA SUSPENDE HASTA NUEVO AVISO LA MODERNIZACIÓN DEL FERROCARRIL CUBANO

El secretario ejecutivo de la Comisión Intergubernamental Ruso-Cubana de Comercio, Oleg Kucheriáviy,  lamentó el “silencio” y “dilación” de las autoridades de la Isla.

14ymedio, La Habana | Diciembre 29, 2020

Original Article: RUSIA SUSPENDE

Rusia ha suspendido el proyecto de modernización de los ferrocarriles cubanos “debido a las dificultades económicas y las restricciones de cuarentena en la Isla”, según informó al diario Gudok el director de la empresa estatal de ferrocarriles del país euroasiático (RZD), Serguéi Pávlov.

“Lamentablemente, hemos tenido que suspender nuestro proyecto de modernización integral de la infraestructura ferroviaria cubana debido a las dificultades económicas y las restricciones de cuarentena en la Isla, pero esperamos reanudar las obras después de que la situación se haya estabilizado”, apuntó Gudok.

En octubre de 2019, RZD firmó con la Unión de Ferrocarriles de Cuba un convenio para modernizar toda la estructura ferroviaria cubana, que ha sufrido un profundo deterioro en las últimas décadas. Según el acuerdo, Rusia financiaba completamente el proyecto, valorado en 2.314 millones de dólares.

En los planes iniciales estaban el diseño, la reparación y la modernización de más de 1.000 kilómetros de la infraestructura ferroviaria

En los planes iniciales estaban el diseño, la reparación y la modernización de más de 1.000 kilómetros de la infraestructura ferroviaria con materiales, tecnologías y equipos de producción rusa. También la creación de un centro único de control de circulación de trenes y la formación, en centros educativos rusos, de personal de la Isla.

La noticia llega menos de una semana después de que el ministro de Transportes de Cuba, Eduardo Rodríguez, el embajador de Rusia en La Habana, Andrei Guskov, y el representante comercial ruso en la Isla, Alexander Bogatyr, recibieran en La Habana siete locomotoras, en medio de fuertes dudas sobre el futuro de la cooperación entre los viejos aliados.

“La llegada de estas locomotoras a Cuba coloca al ferrocarril en una mejor posición para enfrentar los retos de transporte del próximo año; vemos a este proyecto, que se ha desarrollado como parte de los acuerdos de la Comisión Intergubernamental Cuba-Rusia con la compañía rusa Sinara, como ejemplar”, dijo entonces Rodríguez a la agencia rusa Sputnik.

Los funcionarios presentes en el acto de recibimiento de los equipos se esforzaron en declarar que la cooperación seguía adelante aunque “los efectos del covid y de esta crisis derivada de la pandemia nos han obligado a extender los plazos y a reorganizar los proyectos, pero la voluntad y continuidad de estos proyectos se mantienen vigentes y continuaremos en 2021 trabajando en esa dirección”, remarcó Rodríguez.

El mensaje apoyado por Bogatyr, que lamentó que fuera “la única entrega de locomotoras este año, pero estamos seguros de que el año próximo será más fructífero (…) así que los planes de colaboración son importantes en la esfera de los ferrocarriles, no solamente con Sinara, sino con otras importantes empresas rusas que tienen proyectos y esperan continuar desarrollándolos”.

Ninguno de los dos hizo alusión a las palabras del secretario ejecutivo de la Comisión Intergubernamental Ruso-Cubana de Comercio, Cooperación Económica, Científica y Técnica, Oleg Kucheriáviy, que unos días antes dejaban entrever una cancelación masiva de inversiones en Cuba por incumplimientos por parte de La Habana.

El funcionario detalló a la prensa rusa que, de los 60 proyectos conjuntos, apenas diez estaban llevándose a cabo

El funcionario detalló a la prensa rusa que, de los 60 proyectos conjuntos, apenas diez estaban llevándose a cabo y señaló en una reunión de la Comisión de Asuntos Internacionales del Senado que la última sesión de la comisión intergubernamental, que debía celebrarse en la Isla, fue cancelada por “silencio” y “dilación” de las autoridades cubanas.

Yuri I. Borisov, viceprimer ministro de Rusia y encargado desde 2018 de las relaciones económicas con Cuba ya dijo aquel año a la televisión de su país, tras un viaje a la Isla, que los funcionarios cubanos no tenían interés en poner dinero para las inversiones necesarias y que en las negociaciones imperaba una mentalidad de la Guerra Fría que en la Rusia postsoviética ya no tiene lugar.

“Son negociantes complicados, no lo voy a esconder, la mentalidad del pasado pesa sobre ellos constantemente. Durante las negociaciones, en las posiciones que llevan, siempre aparece que somos un puesto de avanzada de la revolución mundial y simplemente nos tienen que ayudar”, señaló.

La pausa en el acuerdo llega en un mal momento para el transporte de pasajeros y cargas en la Isla, muy afectado por la obsolescencia tecnológica y los problemas de infraestructura. El total de locomotoras que tenía previsto suministrar Rusia en el marco del acuerdo era de 75, de las cuales ya han llegado 60. Según el ministro de Transportes, muchas de ellas ya “participan en los principales tráficos de transportes del ferrocarril en Cuba”.

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CUBA’S LOOMING MONETARY REFORM SPARKS CONFUSION, INFLATION FEARS

By Sarah Marsh, Nelson Acosta

Reuters, December 2, 2021

Original Article: Cuba’s Looming Monetary Reform

HAVANA (Reuters) – A major monetary reform that will hike prices and state wages in Cuba starting on Friday is sparking widespread uncertainty as the Communist-run island resumes market-oriented changes to its Soviet-style economy after years of flip-flopping.  The reform, announced earlier this month by President Miguel Diaz-Canel, will eliminate a complex dual currency and multiple exchange rate system that masked a host of government subsidies, pegging the remaining peso currency at a single rate.

To reflect the resulting steep devaluation and reduced subsidies, Cuba is raising prices on goods and services ranging from transport to electricity at varying rates. It will also quintuple pensions and wages in the state sector, which employs around two-thirds of the working population, from the current low rates to better reflect the real value of labor.

The measures, which will accelerate the transition from late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro’s paternalistic model, will bring more transparency to the economy and should help raise competitiveness over time, economists say, albeit only if combined with other reforms. Yet the immediate impact of the changes remains a worrying puzzle to many Cubans already struggling to get by amidst the country’s worst economic crisis in decades, one that has spurred a partial dollarization of the cash-strapped, import-dependent economy.

Hours-long queues outside shops amid shortages of even the most basic goods have lengthened as some Cubans rush to buy what they can before the measures go into effect, the value of the dollar on the black market has risen and banks have been overwhelmed with queries.

Private businesses and foreign investors also are scrambling to gauge the impact on their operations and whether they can adjust prices and wages. “It’s going to be tight, so I’m just buying what I can now,” said Sulema Sotto Rojas, a 57-year-old cleaner for a state firm, as she waited in line to buy cooking oil and tomato sauce at one store after waking up eight hours earlier to queue at another for chicken.

While she could actually stand to gain from the monetary reform, her company has still not confirmed her new wage level and the government has been making last-minute tweaks to some electricity and gas rates in response to widespread consternation that they were too high.

INFLATION WORRIES

The reform is part of a package of measures Communist Party leader Raul Castro unveiled a decade ago to make the economy self-sufficient after decades of dependence on Soviet and then later Venezuelan aid in the face of domestic inefficiency and a crippling U.S. trade embargo.

The government had stalled or even backtracked on some of the changes due to opposition from entrenched bureaucratic and ideological interests, but a new generation of leaders headed by Diaz-Canel has opted to resume them amid the current crisis. That means, however, more short-term pain will be inflicted on an economy that already has shrunk 11% this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the tightening of U.S. sanctions.

Many state companies working with an exchange rate of one peso to the dollar likely won’t be able to survive at the new rate of 24 to one. The government says it will give these enterprises a year to become competitive, subsidizing them in the meantime, though that could prove too little, especially given the feeble global economy and Cuba’s lack of capital to upgrade its creaking infrastructure.

“If the government had taken structural reforms to boost the agricultural, private and state sectors first, the economy would be in a much better condition to face this,” said Ricardo Torres, an economist with the Havana-based Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy.

The Communist Party has resisted such moves because doing so would reduce its political power, said Pedro Monreal, author of a popular blog on Cuban economics. Now it will have to pay the price, Monreal said, as a wage-fueled rise in demand for goods and services in the absence of an increase in supply will lead to inflation and further hardship in an economy with a flourishing black market.

“This is a purgative we need to take,” said Mauricio Alonso, who rents out rooms in his apartment in Havana. “Obviously it will generate inflation.”

BRAVE NEW WORLD

While Cubans are still struggling to figure out whether they will be better or worse off, one thing seems clear: those who have savings in a local currency or who work in the non-state sector, which will not automatically hike wages, stand to lose.

The government has set price caps on agricultural produce and said the fledgling private sector cannot raise prices more than threefold, with anything above that considered “abusive” and violators subject to fines.

Several business owners told Reuters they would need time to gauge the compensatory impact of smaller recent reforms, such as being able to import and export via state companies and to offset all costs against their taxes.

“There are many challenges at the same time,” said Liber Puente, the owner of a private tech firm, who hired a financial strategist to help him map a strategy. The entrepreneur, who wants to keep wages competitive vis-a-vis those in the state sector, said he would hold off on developing other projects until the dust settled, predicting six months of uncertainty.

One important unknown worrying all Cubans is the value of the greenback on the black market, as many basic items like shampoo and cheese can now only be purchased with dollars at special stores or with hard currency on the informal market supplied by “mules” from abroad.

The black market dollar rate has appreciated to around 1.5 times the official rate this year, given that it has become almost impossible for residents to acquire dollars through state financial institutions.

“Already prices are rising everywhere and not because of the currency reform, but because of the lack of dollars,” said Maykel Suarez, who owns a private cellphone repair shop.

The government says the controversial dollar stores, which were opened this year, are a temporary solution to its cash crunch. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has said he will loosen the existing sanctions on Cuba, and Cuban officials expect tourism and trade to pick up slightly next year.

Havana has also tinkered with some other minor economic reforms over the past year, including allowing firms to retain a larger share of their export revenue rather than depend on the centralized allocation of hard currency.

Economists, though, are urging the government to quickly enact further-reaching structural reforms like the legalization of small and medium enterprises and the liberalization of the ailing farm sector to solve underlying problems.  “I just hope the measures that need to be taken in parallel to this (monetary reform) to increase production and services will be approved in a short time period,” said Omar Everleny, a Cuban economist.

Banco Central
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WHO WILL CONTROL CUBA’S DIGITAL REVOLUTION?

TED A. HENKEN

South Florida SUN SENTINEL, DEC 28, 2020

Original Article: Cuba’s Digital Revolution

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the subsequent global proliferation of new information and communication technologies, including the internet and social media, the Cuban government’s mass media monopoly has progressively eroded and Cuban citizens — working independently of and sometimes in open opposition to the government — have increasingly become active participants in the worldwide digital revolution, remaking the Cuban media landscape in the process.

This second, digital revolution has erupted within the Cuban Revolution, leading to a dynamic and unpredictable struggle over the meaning, impact, scope and direction of both. Who will control Cuba’s digital revolution? Who will benefit from it? To what ends will it be applied? Who will be left behind?

The San Isidro Movement (#MSI), which burst into international notoriety in late 2020 thanks in part to its members’ savvy use of digital technology, is a loosely affiliated group of independent artist-activists that emerged in late 2018 demanding the revocation of Decree-Law 349, a measure that extends Ministry of Culture control over the island’s thriving independent artistic community.

The group’s central figure, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara (whose home in the Old Havana district San Isidro doubles as the group’s headquarters), has been detained more than 20 times between 2018 and 2020. This is a result of his often provocative and always unauthorized public art performances, including one in which he paraded around the city wearing a construction helmet to protest a building collapse in Old Havana in January 2020 that killed three young girls.

In early November, rapper and group member Denis Solís was sentenced in a summary trial to eight months in prison on the trumped-up charge of “disrespect” after he broadcast via social media his altercation with a police officer who illegally entered his home. This provoked MSI members to stage a hunger-strike at Alcántara’s home demanding Solís’ release, which state health and security agents raided on Nov. 26 on the pretext of controlling “the propagation of the pandemic.”

Despite government efforts to block access to social media, the real breakthrough of the MSI was its effective breakdown of the government-erected wall of fear and isolation that had previously separated such marginalized “artivists” from Cuba’s state-sanctioned artistic mainstream. After learning of the previous day’s violent raid via their cellphones, on Nov. 27, more than 500 mostly young artists and intellectuals from a broad array of disciplines staged an unprecedented, music-fueled, day-long “clap-in” (giving birth to the moniker, “La revolución de los aplausos”) outside Havana’s Ministry of Culture in solidarity with the MSI.

They demanded a meeting with the cultural minister to address not only the MSI’s original aims but also the more fundamental issues of artistic freedom, freedom of speech and the right to dissent.

While this mass gathering briefly forced Ministry officials to the table, in subsequent weeks they reneged on their promises of open dialogue and safeguards from retribution against the protesters. Instead, the government unleashed a wave of character assassination in the official media against movement leaders as supposed “terrorists” and “mercenaries.”

This is only the latest digital-age ordeal for the Cuban government. Prior to the recent MSI breakthrough, but since the coming of 3G mobile internet in December 2018, Cuba saw several inventive cyber-denunciations of the government that left an impact. Among them:

  • the digital campaign urging Cubans to either vote against (#YoVotoNo) or abstain from voting (#YoNoVoto) on Cuba’s new constitution on Feb. 24, 2019;
  • an independent LGBT march spontaneously organized in spring 2019 via social media after the island’s officially controlled “pride” march was inexplicably cancelled via a Facebook post by Mariela Castro herself;
  • an online demand that Cuba’s telecom monopoly Etecsa lower its costly internet prices (#BajenLosPreciosDeInternet); and
  • a gathering outside the Ministry of Communications together with an expression of digital solidarity (#YoSoySNET) with the netizen founders of Cuba’s SNET (street-net), an enormous unauthorized patchwork of local area networks, after these independent online communities were outlawed and dismantled starting in August 2019.

Both MSI and all of these previous protests have unleashed pent-up netizen demands and eroded two of the key pillars of government information control on the island: fear of the consequences of speaking out of turn and isolation from others who harbor similar complaints.

However, we should not assume that a handful of Twitter hashtags linked tenuously to brief marches and protests by a relative handful of “connected” and politicized Cuban citizens (however unprecedented they may be) amounts to a social movement capable of posing an existential threat to a regime that remains entrenched in power with no well-known or widely credible political alternatives.

Still, one lesson the short-term success of Cuba’s San Isidro Movement teaches us is that national culture and political context matter when evaluating the political impact of new technologies on any given society.

The same digital platforms and social networks that have come under increasing scrutiny and justifiable regulation in the United States and Europe for their monopolistic practices, abuse of user privacy and spread of “fake news,” retain their democratizing and indeed revolutionary potential in the hands of a new generation of artists and activists, facilitating their loss of fear, overcoming isolation and penetrating the information blockade built over the last 60 years by the Western Hemisphere’s oldest gerontocracy.

Ted A. Henken, an associate professor of Sociology and Latin American Studies at Baruch College, City University of New York, is the co-editor of the forthcoming book Cuba’s Digital Revolution: Citizen Innovation and State Policy, to be published in June 2021 by the University of Florida Press.

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CUBA SAYS ECONOMY SHRANK 11% IN 2020, THWARTS ‘SOFT COUP’ ATTEMPTS.

By Sarah Marsh

Reuters December 17, 2020

Original Article: Cuba Says Economy Shrank

HAVANA, Dec 17 (Reuters) – Cuba’s already cash-strapped economy shrank 11% in 2020 due to the pandemic and tougher U.S. sanctions but the government thwarted attempts by anti-communists to exploit this momentary weakness in a bid to topple it, President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on Thursday.

Addressing a year-end session of the Communist-run country’s parliament, Diaz-Canel celebrated Cuba’s successful management of its coronavirus outbreak despite “exceptional economic conditions” and predicted 6% to 7% economic growth next year.

Yet the government’s estimate for this year’s contraction was even more dire than that of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, which this week predicted an 8.5% contraction for Cuba compared to a 7.7% regional decline.

Cuba received just 55% of the hard currency it had planned this year, Economy Minister Alejandro Gil told the assembly earlier in the day. Gil did not provide data on the debt, trade or current account but earlier this week had told a parliament commission that imports were down 30% compared to last year.

Cuba imports more than 50% of its fuel, food and many other vital inputs and this decline, coming on top of a 15% drop in 2019, has resulted in a scarcity and long lines for even the most basic products, from food and medicine to fuel.

Diaz-Canel said the government had thwarted attempts by anti-communists to capitalize on this moment of economic weakness to “destroy” the Cuban leftist revolution.

Over the past three weeks, state-run media have run shows on what they say are attempts directed and financed from the United States to create unrest on the island, like attacks on state shops and a hunger strike by an artists collective.

“New provocations are on the way and we will vanquish those too,” the president said.

Critics say the government is trying to undermine legitimate discontent among some Cubans and requests for greater civil liberties underscored by a rare rights protest by artists outside the culture ministry late last month.

Diaz-Canel warned on Thursday of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and said attempts at non conventional warfare and a soft coup by the “industry of counterrevolution” would fail.

Nothing, he said, should distract the country from its “most complex task” of recent decades, pointing to the monetary reform taking place from January including a steep devaluation in bid to revitalise the economy.

Earlier in the day, Gil said a gradual recovery would begin in 2021, based mainly on that reform and a 50% increase in tourist arrivals to 2.2 million in 2021, compared with more than 4 million in 2019.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has also promised to unravel some of President Donald Trump’s sanctions on Cuba aimed at forcing political reform such as restrictions on travel and remittances.

Diaz-Canel said the Trump administration’s attempts had “roundly and notoriously failed”. However, the government remained open to improving relations with the United States, he said, without explicitly referring to the incoming Biden administration. (Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Additional reporting by Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta; Editing by Bernadette Baum & Shri Navaratnam)

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