Author Archives: Hare Paul Webster



In Cuba Today, August 29, 2016


Havana historian Eusebio Leal escorts U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry around Old Havana during a tour of the city last year. Ismael Francisco AP

Very few without Castro in their name have survived in the leadership of the Cuban Revolution as long as Eusebio Leal. And he didn’t do it by the conventional means of silence and obedience. He brought loyalty but also ideas to the Castros. Now the military-run business empire has asserted itself in Old Havana as elsewhere and Leal appears to have been outmaneuvered.

Uniquely among Cuban leaders Leal has cared about other things beyond preserving the Castro Revolution. He has been as fascinated by Cuba’s past as its future. He has received numerous overseas cultural awards but his stature in Cuba has been that he thought differently.

In 2002 the British embassy in Havana staged a two-month-long series of events to commemorate 100 years of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United Kingdom. We were told it was the largest such festival by an overseas country ever held in Cuba. Leal was our indispensable ally for venues, organization, contacts and vision. At times the Revolution’s agenda surfaced and he negotiated hard. But his heart was in the history of both our countries. Leal even created a garden in Old Havana in memory of Princess Diana. And as a historian he loved the story of the British invasion of Havana in 1762.

The military conglomerate GAESA will now assume business control over Leal’s beloved Old Havana project. This has been a labor of love and ingenuity. But it has also depended on his versatile role at the heart of revolutionary politics. He proved a man of taste, of determination but also shone as a contemporary entrepreneur in a Cuba which despises individualism.

His versatility served him well. A teenager at the time of the Revolution, he chose to prove that innovation and a love of past cultures and elegance could coexist with the new era. He admired Fidel, a fellow intellectual, and — not accidentally — he was chosen by the official Cuban media to eulogize his old friend again on his 90th birthday. Typically, the Revolution was extracting a declaration of loyalty from a man who was feeling pretty disgruntled.

Times are changing in Cuba and the undermining of Leal’s control has wider implications.

Times are changing in Cuba and the undermining of Leal’s control has wider implications. He may not be a household name outside Cuba and he may be in failing health. But his project showed he knew the Castros would never allow private sector growth to restore the largest area of Spanish colonial architecture in the Western Hemisphere.

His only chance was to harness funds from tourist visitors and foreign investors. There is still much to do but the current rush of tourists to Cuba owes much to achievement.

Leal’s fate is nothing new. Set in the 57-year context of the Cuban Revolution, many able and loyal leaders have been discarded. Felipe Pérez Roque, Carlos Lage and Roberto Robaina are recent examples. But Leal had survived and appeared to be growing in stature with Raúl. His walking tour of Old Havana with Obama received worldwide publicity.

Leal’s bonding with the U.S. president may have irked the Castros. The disintegration of Venezuela and loss of subsidies under Nicolás Maduro gave the military companies the opening they needed to swoop for Old Havana. Now, effectively Raúl Castro’s son-in-law will rule the roost and U.S.-operated cruise ships will soon be occupying many berths in the Old Havana harbor.

But perhaps the saddest lesson from Leal’s marginalization is the signal it sends to Cuban innovators and foreign investors. The restoration of the Revolution is still more important than the architectural jewels of past eras. Almost at the same time as Leal’s demise, a far less visionary but unquestioning loyalist, Ricardo Cabrisas, was promoted. These are indeed depressing times for Cubans hoping for some new ideas and less of the same.

Z11111Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, Historiador de La Habana

Paul W. Hare is a former British ambassador to Cuba and currently senior lecturer at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University

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Paul Hare: “Cuba: What Might Happen Now?”

Paul Hare has just published a valuable analysis on Cuba’s current overall economic and political situation. It is certainly worth some careful attention. Especially interesting is the Appendix which presents a detailed and comprehensive comparison of the positions of the Government with those of dissident groups on a broad range of issues.

Paul Hare was the British Ambassador to Cuba from 2001-2004. He is  currently a Lecturer in International Relations at Boston University.

Paul Webster Hare, Cuba, What Might Happen Now in Cuban Affairs: Quarterly Electronic Journal, Volume 6 Issue 2, 2011


It didn’t happen 20 years ago. It hasn’t happened so far in 2011. Despite massive popular uprisings against totalitarian governments elsewhere in the world, Cuba continues to buck the trend. If there are no mass protests and sit-ins at the Plaza de la Revolución, what might happen now in Cuba? What changes are taking place in Cuba, and what are the implications for its economic and political future?

This paper analyzes the new political and economic space that is opening up in Cuba. The space is developing because the government has recognized that it needs to salvage the economy if it is to salvage the Revolution. This paper argues that Cuba is unlikely in the near-term to see a grass roots movement that demands the wholesale replacement of its leadership. But the surge of interest in the economy, perhaps unwittingly stimulated by the government, is shifting activity to territory that favors the opposition. Raul Castro is promoting a language of reform, even though his own definitions require some linguistic contortions. His speeches are still more of the parade ground, rather than of a CEO growing a business in the world market. And there is no new product; instead a striving to perfect the old one – socialism – through greater efficiency, reducing state spending and cutting imports. But so far there is no acceptance by Raul Castro that by allowing individuals to get rich, the Cuban economy will grow.

None of this means that democracy with features such as freedom of expression, freedom of movement, and an end to communist party monopoly is around the corner in Cuba. Indeed there have been many times in the 52 year revolution when signals of greater openness were withdrawn. But in 2011 the scenario is moving away irreversibly from the communist comfort zone. The debate is not yet in the political center but it is hard to see how it can be contained, given the principles that are being discussed.

The government is seeking to implement limited reform, change economic calculations, revise revolutionary definitions, and deal with a potential explosion in cell phone use (now 25% of all Cubans) plus demands that internet access be unrestricted for economic and political reasons. The goalposts of 52 years of government are moving slightly. The objective remains a state-controlled economy where the ilitary/government dominates the strategic sectors and not one where a private sector will be given free license. This suggests that those who want an increase in fundamental freedoms in Cuba, and greater political and economic openness, need to engage and show by example in politics, economics and above all in business what works and what offers Cubans a better future. This paper examines how such actions might develop and how a new cadre of “civic entrepreneur” might have a significant influence. The annex provides a summary of what Cubans on the island are saying about current issues of debate.

Annex: How Far Apart are Cubans?

It is difficult if not impossible to gauge opinions on key issues of Cubans on the island. As an attempt to measure the scope of the debate, I have compared below what the government has been saying on a variety of issues with public comments of Cubans not in government positions who live on the island. Some are from members of the “opposition,” some from semi-official centers of studies, and some from popular cultural figures. All are producing the critical comments and new ideas which Raul Castro professes to value. These issues are some of those on which Cubans must join in a debate and where the civic entrepreneurs will have a key contribution.

Ambassador Paul Hare

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