In response to crippling economic
stagnation, Cuba has passed regulations which hint at a turn towards a more
market-driven economy. However, political control over key sectors including
education and the media still lies heavily with the state. The most striking
policy, which allows thousands of professions to run outside the remit of the
state, will change the character of business within Cuba and may lead to
increased innovation and interaction with international markets. Could Cuba’s
economic liberalisation lead to further political freedoms?
Hints of Change
the number of tourists visiting Cuba dropped by 80% and its economy accordingly shrank by 11%.
Times are hard for Cubans, with queues growing outside grocery stores and
businesses being forced to close. The economic downturn has been lurking for
many years. In particular, Cuba has suffered from the Trump Administration’s
sanctions, imposed to placate the Republican voter base by designating the
Cuban government as a “sponsor of terrorism” from its support for
response to economic hardships and US sanctions, Cuba has indicated an
intention to liberalise the economy. A strong signal of change to Castroist
economic ideas are demonstrated by the Díaz-Canel government’s removal of the somewhat confusing dual currency system
in January 1, 2021, previously established in 1994 after the loss of Soviet
subsidies. This major change, which led to a surge in inflation and devaluation
of the peso, had costly implications for Cubans by placing downward pressure on
the purchasing power of salaries and pensions.
A Landmark Shift in Business Privatisation
currency change is just one part in a series of major reforms. On 6th February,
Labour Minister Marta Elena Feito Cabrera stated that the government would
allow private participation in more than 2000 professions; a stark contrast to
the previous limit of 127 professions. The expansion in private participation
means that previously illegal enterprises can now function openly.
hoped that this will unleash a wave of innovation in a wide range of sectors. This
could work in tandem with recovery from the pandemic. For instance, there
has been encouraging news regarding Cuba’s own “Soberana 2” Covid-19 vaccine: The government
believes that it can administer this vaccine to the whole of Cuba’s population
by the end of the year and export the vaccine to Latin America as a source of
the new private business law does have many caveats: private enterprises lack
certain resources and access to supply chains that state-owned enterprises
possess. For instance, the government maintains control of all large industries
and wholesale shops and monopolises 124 professions, thereby restricting
options for obtaining supplies. In the short-term, the large restructuring of
the economy will inevitably cause painful effects with bankruptcies and unemployment rising.
Yet, in the long-term, opening up may yield positive benefits through increased
opportunities for entrepreneurs. The sectors included within the 124 professions remaining under state remit (including
law enforcement, defence, the media, education) suggest that Cuba is looking to
follow the model of China or Vietnam through the
introduction of capitalist economic policies with the maintenance of tight
Could Improved Relations with the US Spur Political
Change in Cuba?
follow-on effect of Cuba’s economic liberalisation could be a strengthening of
relations with the Biden administration. Indeed, the recent theme of economic
policy changes would require more foreign investments and capital, for which
improved relations with the US would be important.
ties could have political liberalisation effects in Cuba. The Obama
Administration’s relationship with Cuba was emblematic of this trend: Obama’s approach
of normalising relations with Cuba, which was designed to “create economic opportunities for the Cuban people”,
increased US influence in other spheres of Cuban society. Citizens began to criticise issues such as access to medical care,
education, unemployment and domestic media sources while religious leaders and
artists started to articulate positions contrary to the official narrative. This
suggested that civil society was for the first time open to vocally opposing
the political system, despite the government responding with detentions of some dissidents and censorship of blog posts . A similar phenomenon
is possible if Havana’s new economic policies leads to a strengthening of
economic ties with the Biden Administration.
Is a new Cuba Realistic?
Cuba is ripe for change. The push and pull of reform efforts in recent years suggest disputes between traditionalists and more progressive, youthful factions. In April, Raúl Castro will step down as leader of the Communist party which will see the end of the Castro name in Cuban politics for the first time in over 60 years. This has major symbolic significance: Fidel Castro established the political and economic systems that endure today, such as the characteristics of a one-party state with complete control of the media. Combined with the election of Biden, who will likely take a more lenient approach to Cuba in comparison to Trump, and an array of free market policies in the midst of an economic crisis, it seems a realistic possibility that Cuba could undergo major structural change in the coming years.
Después de hacerse pública la decisión de efectuar el VIII Congreso del
Partido en abril de 2021, un evento extraordinario marcó de forma crucial la
vida de la nación. La pandemia de la COVID-19 puso a prueba la capacidad y la
voluntad de la Revolución, y el temple de nuestro pueblo para enfrentar
cualquier dificultad, por compleja que esta sea.
Una vez más se mostró ante el mundo la verdad de Cuba, sus valores, su
probada vocación humanista, solidaria y de justicia social que, junto a la
capacidad organizativa del país y el desarrollo científico alcanzado, nos ha
permitido traducir en resultados visibles el compromiso con la vida y el
bienestar de nuestros compatriotas y de otros pueblos, a pesar de la constante
agresividad del Gobierno de Estados Unidos.
El capitalismo y sus defensores neoliberales demuestran no tener
solución alguna ante problemas cardinales de la humanidad. Sus teorías del
papel mínimo del Estado y la magnificación del mercado, solo reforzaron su
incapacidad para salvar vidas.
Inmersos hoy los cubanos en la superación de los dísimiles obstáculos
derivados de la pandemia, en particular los vinculados a nuestra economía,
sumados a otros que ya venían gravitando sobre nosotros, el Comité Central del
Partido Comunista de Cuba ratifica con esta convocatoria la decisión de
desarrollar el VIII Congreso en la fecha prevista.
El Congreso centrará su atención en la evaluación y proyección de
asuntos medulares para el presente y futuro de la nación, lo cual incluirá la
actualización de la Conceptualización del Modelo Económico y Social Cubano de
Desarrollo Socialista, los resultados alcanzados y la actualización de la
implementación de los Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social del
Partido y la Revolución, así como los resultados económico-sociales obtenidos
del VII Congreso a la fecha; analizará de igual forma el funcionamiento del
Partido, su vinculación con las masas, la actividad ideológica y valorará la
situación que presenta la política de cuadros en el Partido, la Unión de
Jóvenes Comunistas, las Organizaciones de Masas y el Gobierno.
Será un escenario oportuno para la actualización de nuestra estrategia
de resistencia y desarrollo. Significará un estímulo a la participación de
militantes, revolucionarios y patriotas en las soluciones que se demandan para
enfrentar la aguda crisis mundial que nos impacta y continuar las
transformaciones que fortalezcan la economía nacional. Para lograrlo contamos
con una vasta experiencia de lucha en la construcción del socialismo como única
opción de desarrollo, y con el ejemplo imperecedero del Comandante en Jefe
Fidel Castro Ruz.
Digno heredero de la confianza depositada por el pueblo en su líder,
nuestro Partido, único, martiano, fidelista, marxista y leninista, asume una
alta responsabilidad en la preservación de la unidad, factor estratégico para
En estos años el Gobierno de Estados Unidos ha acentuado su hostilidad
contra Cuba, arreciando el genocida bloqueo económico, comercial y financiero,
y la subversión político-ideológica. A ello se suman las consecuencias de la
crisis económica mundial. Frente a estas dificultades, el pueblo ha respondido
con firmeza, disciplina y conciencia, lo cual requiere traducirse aún más en
aportes de eficiencia y superiores resultados en la economía. Ello implica
nuevas formas de pensar y hacer para alcanzar la prosperidad, fruto de nuestro
En este escenario, la implementación de los Lineamientos de la Política
Económica y Social del Partido y la Revolución enfrenta amplios desafíos. Se
afrontan problemas objetivos y subjetivos que influyen en el ritmo de
aplicación de las políticas y medidas aprobadas.
La situación actual no puede convertirse en justificante que retarde los
procesos; por el contrario, impone la necesidad de dar un impulso a la
actualización de nuestro modelo económico y social para cumplir lo que hemos
acordado y eliminar las trabas que aún persisten en el desarrollo de las
fuerzas productivas y la eficiencia, asunto definido como problema estratégico
principal por el General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz.
Urge incrementar la producción de alimentos en el país, empleando todas
las reservas internas, que incluye, como en el resto de los sectores de la
economía y la sociedad, la investigación, la innovación y el desarrollo
tecnológico, además de la sistematización de los resultados.
Los vínculos entre el sector estatal y el no estatal de la economía han
de seguir desarrollándose, como parte de la estrategia económica definida. La
industria nacional deberá responder cada vez más a la demanda interna. Es
imprescindible desterrar la inercia, la apatía y explotar con creatividad todas
las potencialidades existentes, estimulando el aporte de todo el pueblo, sus
ideas e iniciativas.
Debemos avanzar en la eficiencia de los procesos productivos y la
calidad de los servicios, así como en el ahorro de los recursos, el incremento
de las exportaciones, la sustitución de importaciones y la participación de la
inversión extranjera directa. En ese empeño, la empresa estatal socialista está
llamada a cumplir el papel principal que le corresponde en la economía
Nuestro objetivo es llegar al VIII Congreso con definiciones precisas y
concretas, que fortalezcan y den continuidad al programa de gobierno
emprendido, en cumplimiento de la Estrategia Económico-Social para el impulso
de la economía y el enfrentamiento a la crisis mundial provocada por la
La prevención y enfrentamiento constantes a la corrupción, el delito,
las indisciplinas sociales y otras manifestaciones negativas incompatibles con
las esencias del socialismo que construimos, deberá ser una tarea de todos.
Para alcanzar este y otros objetivos, debemos continuar fortaleciendo el
funcionamiento del Partido desde el núcleo hasta las instancias superiores, a
partir de la ejemplaridad de quienes militan en sus filas. A la par, resulta
imprescindible contar con cuadros que mantengan en todo momento una actitud
revolucionaria frente a los problemas, desarrollen la capacidad de análisis en
la búsqueda de soluciones, estimulen el diálogo franco y se caractericen por
una ética intachable en su actuación cotidiana.
El Partido mantendrá una prioritaria atención a la Unión de Jóvenes
Comunistas, sus cuadros, militantes y las nuevas generaciones, en cuya
formación y educación en valores tiene una responsabilidad especial.
Igualmente, apoyará a las organizaciones de masas y sociales, en sus misiones
de integrar, movilizar y representar a nuestro pueblo, propiciando una
participación superior de sus miembros en los procesos políticos y
socio-económicos que deciden nuestro futuro como nación.
Hoy adquiere mayor importancia el trabajo político-ideológico para
enfrentar los intentos de restauración capitalista y neoliberal. Las redes
sociales e Internet se han convertido en un escenario permanente de
confrontación ideológica, donde también deben prevalecer nuestros argumentos frente
a las campañas enemigas.
Ante la guerra cultural y de símbolos que se nos hace, la defensa de la
identidad nacional, y la cultura, así como el conocimiento de nuestra historia,
reafirman nuestra soberanía e independencia.
El imperialismo estadounidense no ha podido cumplir su objetivo de
destruir la Revolución Cubana. Insiste en provocar la inestabilidad en el país,
legitimar la oposición mercenaria y fracturar la unidad de los cubanos,
convertida en valladar infranqueable para garantizar la libertad, la justicia y
la democracia socialista que no se negocian.
Ratificamos una vez más la importancia estratégica de mantener la
defensa y seguridad nacional del país como asunto de máxima prioridad.
En el 64 Aniversario del Desembarco del Granma, fecha que trasciende por
mostrarnos el valor del sacrificio, la confianza en el triunfo de las ideas que
hace suyas el pueblo y la voluntad de vencer, ratificamos que este será el
Congreso de la Continuidad, expresado en el tránsito paulatino y ordenado de
las principales responsabilidades del país a las nuevas generaciones, con la
certeza de que la Revolución no se circunscribe a quienes la llevaron al
triunfo aquel glorioso Primero de Enero, sino a la voluntad y el compromiso de
quienes la han hecho suya en todos estos años y los que continuarán la obra.
El VIII Congreso del Partido, que realizaremos del 16 al 19 de abril de
2021, será de todo el pueblo. Como en Girón, 60 años después, frente al imperio
que nunca logrará doblegarnos, y ante dificultades presentes y futuras por
poderosas que sean, una vez más proclamaremos ante el mundo nuestra convicción
irreductible de Victoria.
Cuba is “betting it safe” with the later development of their own
Covid-19 vaccines and encouraged by what they’re seeing in late stage and experimental
studies, a top Cuban vaccine scientist said.
trials are successful, the relatively small, communist island of 11 million —
that has been sanctioned by the United States for decades — would be one of
just very few countries with vaccines to fight the coronavirus pandemic,
drawing worldwide attention to its potential feat.
countries that have developed vaccines, including the United States, the United
Kingdom, China, Russia and India, have significantly larger economies and
Cuba’s five vaccine candidates are in Phase 3 trials: Soberana 2, which
translates to ‘sovereignty,’ and Abdala, named after a book by the Cuban independence
hero José Martí.
44,000 people are getting the Soberana 2 vaccine as part of the Phase 3
double-blind study. An additional 150,000 health care workers are being
inoculated with Soberana 2 as part of an “interventional study.”
the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the Soberana 2 uses
synthesized coronavirus proteins to trigger the body’s immune system.
seeing that the vaccine is very safe, the potential risk for applying it to
more people is decreasing, and the potential benefits are increasing. There is
evidence of certain efficacy and that is why we decided to expand the
interventional studies,” Dr. Vicente Verez, director of the Finlay Institute of
Vaccines, told NBC News. The institute is named after the Cuban epidemiologist
Dr. Carlos Finlay who discovered yellow fever is transmitted through
institute was established in 1991 by the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro who
invested heavily in the country’s health care system and pharmaceutical sector.
Its cancer research center developed a vaccine being tested in the United
States and other countries.
“we began a bit later than the rest of the vaccines [in the world] because we
had to wait and know a little more about the virus and the mechanism though
which it infects cells,” Verez said. “We are seeing a safety profile with the
vaccine [Soberana 2] that is very good.”
economy ravaged by the pandemic, decades of sanctions and a decline in aid from
its ally Venezuela, the island has been grappling with shortages in food and medicine.
Its economy shrank 11 percent in 2020. But it has managed to keep the number of
Covid-19 infections and deaths down with strict measures and lockdowns,
compared to many developed countries around the world. In recent weeks, the
country has averaged around 1,000 cases per day, but it had very low infection
rates last year.
results of the Phase 3 trials are not expected for months. The government’s
plan is to have nearly all the inhabitants of the capital, Havana, vaccinated
by May through the interventional study, and the entire country’s population
inoculated before the year ends.
said that while the vaccination won’t be mandatory, he thinks “the immense
majority of the population wants the vaccine.”
the vaccine is as much about public health as it is a show of force; that a
small communist country sanctioned by the U.S. can compete on the world stage
with its own vaccine candidates. Cuba
could have acquired vaccines from its allies, China and Russia, but developing
its own gives it the opportunity to sell vaccines to underdeveloped countries
that have seen few doses, giving it a source of badly-needed hard currency. As
U.S. and British vaccines advanced in clinical trials last year, wealthy countries in North America and Europe preordered
large quantities, leaving poor and developing countries with a large gap in
said some countries have approached Cuban officials with the intent to purchase
more than 100 million annual doses of some of its vaccines. He said Cuba’s
vaccine production system is being reorganized to produce 100 million doses. Iran, which banned U.S. and British vaccines,
will host a Phase 3 trial of Soberana 2 as part of an agreement
that includes producing millions of doses there. Venezuela will produce Abdala
vaccines, its government announced Thursday. Mexico and Argentina have also expressed interest
in Cuba’s vaccines.
very safe,” Dr. Eduardo Martínez Díaz, president of the state-run BioCubaFarma,
said in emailed responses to questions. “After applying thousands of doses,
only slight and moderate side effects were seen in a small percentage of
added that both vaccines are creating a high amount of immunity. If exported,
the prices would be affordable, he said.
Verez said the vaccines will be adapted to the new variants, and extra doses could be required to boost immunity.
Author’s Note – This article originally appeared
in Spanish in La Joven Cuba (Young Cuba), one of the most important
critical blogs in the island, where the Internet remains the principal vehicle
for critical opinion because the government has not yet succeeded in
controlling it. The article elicited some strong reactions including that of a
former government minister who called it a provocation.
The New Economic Policy (NEP) introduced by the revolutionary government in
1921 was in fact an attempt to reduce the widespread discontent among the
Russian people with measures designed to increase production and popular access
to consumer goods. Even though the Civil War (1918-1920) caused great hardship
among the rural and urban populations, it was the politics of War Communism,
introduced by the Bolshevik government during that period, that significantly
worsened the situation. This led to a profound alienation among those who had
been the pillars of the October Revolution in 1917: the industrial workers, and
the peasantry that constituted 80 percent of the population.
In the countryside, the urban detachments, organized to confiscate from the
peasantry their agricultural surplus to feed the cities, ended up also
confiscating part of the already modest peasant diet in addition to the grain
needed to sow the next crop. The situation worsened when under the same policy
the government, based on an assumed class stratification in the countryside
that had no basis in reality, created the poor peasant committees (kombedy)
to reinforce the functions of the urban detachments. Given the arbitrary
informal and formal methods that characterized the operations of the kombedy,
these ended up being a source of corruption and abuse, frequently at the hands
of criminal elements active in them, who ended up appropriating for their own
use the grain and other kinds of goods they arbitrarily confiscated from the
Moreover, during the fall of 1920, symptoms of famine began to appear in the
Volga region. The situation became worse in 1921 after a severe drought ruined
the crops, which also affected the southern Urals. Leon Trotsky had proposed in
February 1920, to substitute the arbitrary confiscations of War Communism with
a tax in kind paid by the peasantry as an incentive to have them grow more
surplus grain. However, the party leadership rejected his proposal at that
The politics of War Communism was also applied to the urban and industrial
economy through its total nationalization, although without the democratic
control by the workers and the soviets, which the government abolished when the
civil war began and replaced with the exclusive control from above by state
administrators. Meantime, the workers were subjected to a regime of militarized
compulsory labor. For the majority of the Communist leaders, including Lenin,
the centralized and nationalized economy represented a great advance towards
socialism. That is why for Lenin, the NEP was a significant step back.
Apparently, in his conception of socialism, total nationalization played a more
important role than the democratic control of production from below.
The elimination of workplace democracy was only one aspect of the more general
clampdown on soviet democracy that the Bolshevik government launched in
response to the bloody and destructive civil war. Based on the objective
circumstances created by the war, and on the urgent need to resolve the
problems they were facing, like economic and political sabotage, the Bolshevik
leadership not only eliminated multiparty soviets of workers and peasants, but
also union democracy and independence, and introduced very serious restrictions
of other political freedoms established at the beginning of the
decade of the nineties, and especially since Raúl Castro assumed the maximum
leadership of the country in 2006–formally in 2008 – economic reform has been
one of the central concerns of the government. The logic of that
economic reform points to the Sino-Vietnamese model–which combines an
anti-democratic one-party state with a state capitalist system in the
economy–and not to the compulsory collectivization of agriculture and the
five-year plans brutally imposed on the USSR by Stalinist totalitarianism after
the NEP. The Cuban government’s decision to authorize the creation of the PYMES
(small and medium private enterprises), a decision frequently promised but not
yet implemented, would constitute a very important step towards the establishment
of state capitalism in the island. This state capitalism will very probably be
headed by the current powerful political, and especially military, leaders who
would become private capitalists.
now, the Cuban government has not specified the size that would define the
small and especially the mid-size enterprises under the PYMES concept. But we
know that several Latin American countries (like Chile and Costa Rica) have
defined the size in terms of the number of workers. Chile, for example, defines
the micro enterprises as those with less than 9 workers, the small-size with 10
to 25 workers, the medium-size with 25 to 200 workers, and the big size with
more than 200 workers. Should Cuba adopt similar criteria, its mid-size
enterprises would end up as capitalist firms ran by their corresponding
administrative hierarchies. If that happens, it is certain that the official
unions will end up “organizing” the workers in those medium size enterprises
and, as in the case of Chinese state capitalism, do nothing to defend them from
the new private owners.
political reform, there has been much less talk and nothing of great importance
has been done. As in the case of the Russian NEP, the social and economic
liberalization in Cuba has not been accompanied by political democratization
but, instead, by the intensification of the regime’s political control over the
island. Even when the government has adopted liberalizing measures in the
economy, like the new rules increasing the number of work activities permitted
in the self-employed sector, it continues to ban private activities such as the
publication of books that could be used to develop criticism or opposition to
the regime. This is how the government has consolidated its control over the
major means of communication –radio, television, newspapers and magazines –
although it has only partially accomplished that with the Internet.
government is also using its own socially liberalizing measures to reinforce
its political control. For example, at the same time that it liberalized the
rules to travel abroad, it developed a list of “regulated” people who are
forbidden to travel outside of the island based on arbitrary administrative
decisions, without even allowing for the right of appeal to the judicial system
it controls. Similar administrative practices lacking in means for judicial
review control have been applied to other areas such as the missions organized
to provide services abroad. Thus, the Cuban doctors who have decided not to
return to the island once their service abroad has concluded, have been victims
of administrative sanctions – eight years of compulsory exile – without any
possibility of lodging a judicial appeal.
pending is the implementation of the arbitrary rules and the censorship of
artistic activities of Decree 349, that allows the state to grant licenses and
censor the activities of self-employed artists. The implementation of the
decree has been postponed due to the numerous and strong protests that it
provoked. All of these administrative practices highlight the fact that the
much discussed rule of law proclaimed by the Constitution is but a lie. Let us
not forget that the Soviet constitution that Stalin introduced in 1936 was very
democratic … on the paper it was written. Even so, Cubans in the island should
appeal to their constitutionally defined rights to support their protests and
claims against the Cuban state whenever it is legally and politically
beginning of the Cuban revolutionary government there was a variety of
political voices heard within the revolutionary camp. But that disappeared in
the process of forming the united party of the revolution that established the
basis for what Raúl Castro later called the “monolithic unity” of the party and
country. That is the party and state model that emulates, along with China and
Vietnam, the Stalinist system that was consolidated in the USSR at the end of
the twenties, consecrating the “unanimity” dictated from above by the maximum
leaders, and the so-called “democratic centralism”, which in reality is a
Communist Party (CCP) is a single party that does not allow the internal
organization of tendencies or factions, and that extends its control over the
whole society through its transmission belts with the so-called mass
organizations (trade unions, women’s organization), institutions such as the
universities, as well as with the mass media that follow the “orientations”
they receive from the Department of Ideology of the Central Committee of the
CCP. These are the ways in which the one-party state controls, not necessarily
everything, but everything it considers important.
ideological defenders of the Cuban regime insist in its autochthonous origins
independent from Soviet Communism. It is true that Fidel Castro’s political
origin is different, for example, from that of Raúl Castro, who was originally
a member of the Socialist Youth associated with the PSP (Partido Socialista
Popular), the party of the pro-Moscow orthodox Communists. But Fidel
Castro developed his “caudillo” conceptions since very early on, perhaps as a
reaction to the disorder and chaos he encountered in the Cayo Confites
expedition in which he participated against the Trujillo dictatorship in the
Dominican Republic in 1947, and with the so-called Bogotazo in Colombia in
in a letter he wrote to his then good friend Luis Conte Aguero, Fidel Castro
proclaimed three principles as necessary for the integration of a true civic
movement: ideology, discipline and especially the power of the leadership. He
also insisted in the necessity for a powerful and implacable propaganda and
organizational apparatus to destroy the people involved in the creation of
tendencies, splits and cliques or who rise against the movement. This was the
ideological basis of the “elective affinity” (to paraphrase Goethe) that Fidel
Castro showed later on for Soviet Communism.
can we do? The recent demonstration of hundreds of Cubans in front of the
Ministry of Culture to protest the abuses against the members of the San Isidro
Movement and to advocate for artistic and civil liberties, marked a milestone
in the history of the Cuban Revolution. There is plenty of room to reproduce
this type of peaceful protest in the streets against police racism, against the
tolerance of domestic violence, against the growing social inequality and
against the absence of a politically transparent democracy open to all, without
the privileges sanctioned by the Constitution for the CCP. At present, this
seems to be the road to struggle for the democratization of Cuba from below,
from the inside of society itself, and not from above or from the outside.
lesson of the Russian NEP is that economic liberalization does not necessarily
signify the democratization of a country, and that it may be accompanied by the
elimination of democracy. In Cuba there has been economic and social
liberalization but without any advance on the democratic front.
Large cranes can be seen at Port Mariel inside the Mariel Special Economic Development Zone.
A generic-sounding company headquartered in the tax
haven of Liechtenstein has for the past 37 years served as the center of global
shipping operations for the Cuban government, functioning under the radar while
skirting a six-decade trade embargo, an investigation by the Miami Herald/el
Nuevo Herald and McClatchy shows.
When incorporated in 1984 in the principality of
Liechtenstein, Acemex Management Company Limited was created as a means of
survival. It grew into a business model, has been described as the work of a
genius and has proved enduring.
A new Miami Herald/el Nuevo Herald investigation
reveals the network of hidden shell companies and secretive jurisdictions that
allowed Fidel and Raúl Castro and now their military successors to borrow money
and to buy, sell and charter the ships that bring in chemicals, fuel and
construction supplies needed to build the growing tourism sector and export
The new investigation sheds light on little-known Acemex and the key players surrounding it — a pair of powerful Cuban brothers not named Fidel and Raúl, but Guillermo Faustino Rodriguez López-Calleja and hisyounger sibling Luis Alberto. The latter is a brigadier generalblacklisted by the United States in 2020.
Karla Pérez (Cienfuegos, 1998), the
young Cuban woman whom the Cuban government prohibited from returning to her country
yesterday, March 18, is 22 years old. She graduated with a degree in Journalism
in December 2020 from the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica.
The prohibition of her return to the
country where she was born in 1998 occurs almost exactly four years after she
was expelled for political reasons from the Journalism program of the
Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” de Las Villas (UCLV) on April 13, 2017.
According to a detailed report from
the Observatorio de Libertad Académica in November 2020, a few months before
entering UCLV, when Pérez was still only 17 years old, she joined the political
movement Somos +, an organization established in 2013 with the objective of
“building a modern, prosperous and free country.”
This dissident initiative has been
both disqualified and persecuted by the Cuban government, which classifies it
as a subversive and counterrevolutionary project financed by the United States.
According to Pérez, at that time she
was attracted to Somos + because: “There were many good people there, people
that I considered an example to follow. In the beginning, that movement was
like a mirror of the country that I wanted.”
As a consequence of her membership in
Somos + and as punishment for expressing herself openly on the group’s blog,
she was accused of having violated university regulations and expelled on the
morning of April 13 by a group of “decision makers” from the university, made up
of four journalism professors and six members of the University administration.
More shocking is the fact that a
brigade of FEU (University Student Federation) members from Pérez’s own cohort,
that is, the 14 other students who were studying journalism with her, also
signed onto her expulsion. All of them had already been informed that anyone
who opposed her punishment would themselves be “analyzed” at a later date.
Seeing all the channels for a
professional future closed to her on the Island, Pérez accepted the offer of
assistance from the staff of the Costa Rican newspaper El Mundo and
was able to continue and eventually finish her Journalism studies in that
country between 2016 and 2020. At the same time, she actively devoted herself
to the practice of independent journalism, collaborating with Diario de
Cuba and Havana Times in 2017 and serving as a
“community manager” and correspondent at Tremenda Nota starting
in 2018. She currently works with the magazine ADN Cuba.
As part of a larger project that I am
currently undertaking that traces the career paths of independent Cuban
journalists, I interviewed Pérez on March 15, three days prior to the Orwellian
migration ordeal she is currently experiencing. The interview tries to capture
the process of “conscientization” of a young Cuban woman attracted to the
profession of Journalism in a country like Cuba. Furthermore, it reveals in
gripping detail the many personal, family, and political costs that one must
pay when embarking on the tortuous path of free expression in Cuba.
Ted A. Henken: How and why
did you decide to study Journalism in college? What attracted you to the idea
of being a journalist in a country like Cuba?
Ted A. Henken: How and why did you decide to study Journalism in college? What attracted you to the idea of being a journalist in a country like Cuba?
Karla Pérez: It is not a very romantic
response at the beginning. I had always had an affinity for language and
literature since elementary school. History, Spanish, and literature all
fascinated me. The “romantic” came later, in high school. I managed to have
more access to an alternative civil society, to find out what was happening in
Havana and the “Oriente”, and also to become irritated because I could not read
about these things in the state press.
My nuclear family and I had broken
with the Cuban government a long time ago and I had long since decided that I
would never work in the official press. I wanted to write about what was being
marginalized from the “revolutionary” discourse and I knew that I couldn’t do
it in the permitted newspapers.
Could you describe
your family and social origins?
I come from a nuclear family (my
father, mother, and me) of professionals. My father is a civil engineer and my
mother is an economist. However, shortly after graduating, they began working
in the private sector due to the poor conditions provided by the state sector.
For my parents, there was never a break with the Revolution, because they
simply never believed in it.
My grandparents, as is quite common
in the Cuban family, are people integrated into the revolutionary process, and
I wouldn’t want to go much beyond that out of respect for their privacy.
In my childhood and adolescence, I
focused on going to school and getting good grades. I was already beginning to
develop a critical capacity of my own, but apart from a few controversies with
teachers in middle and high-school, it did not go beyond that. I was never a member of the UJC (Young
Communist League) or the FEU, for example.
In college, I was also like that; I never used the university as a
platform to criticize the government. I did that on the outside (through the
Somos + blog and in my on-line social networks).
What was your first
job as a journalist in the state sector?
I never worked in state newspapers,
although I did do an internship for a month, during my first semester of college
between January and February of 2017. The provincial newspaper 5 de
septiembre allowed me a lot of leeway within the “professional
Calvary” that working in the official media represented. They did not impose the topics I should write
about and I was able to focus on giving a voice to actors in the private sector
who were then emerging in the city (business owners and bicycle taxi drivers).
There was one time where I was directly censored when the then director of the
newspaper, Adonis Subit Lamí, called me into his office to ask me to “correct”
certain phrases of an interview.
I cannot share any articles from that
time with you because they have since been deleted from the newspaper’s
website. Just now, I went back to look for them and they do not appear. However,
in essence I interviewed an engineer who earned his living as a rickshaw
driver, because working in his profession paid little and the owners of a
private cafe known as “La Buena Pipa”; among other jobs that I don’t remember
very well now.
Regarding the censorship of Adonis
Subit Lamí, I remember that it was in the interview with the rickshaw driver
and focused on a passage that quoted him as saying: “there is lack of freedom
to do things[…]”. This was related to private sector work in Cuba. The official
told me that using the word “freedom” was too strong in that context and that I
should change it.
Why did you decide
to leave the state media and become an independent journalist?
Already ever since I was a student
working toward my degree, I wanted to work in the emerging alternative,
independent media sector. I had been watching the appearance of new outlets
like El Estornudo and Periodismo de Barrio.
How did you
discover these two independent media start-ups and how were you able to access
their content during these years?
Through the internet and through
friendships that I had been building through Facebook, which I have been on
since 2011. Also, remember that earlier the “weekly package” used to include
content from dissidents, activists, and independent journalists, especially as
part of programs produced in South Florida. That’s how I discovered figures
like Yoani Sánchez and Eliecer Ávila. Now, however, this kind of content is
systematically eliminated from the “package” by its distributors.
For me, it was just the dream of
being part of the independent media, not actually putting it into practice,
that led to my definitive expulsion from the world of higher education in Cuba.
That triggered my forced exile in
order to complete my university studies. At the same time, I have been
separated from my family for almost four years now (2017-2021). During that
time outside of Cuba, I have also done independent journalism based as I am in
a solid democracy like Costa Rica and have suffered no retaliation because of
Why do you say
Well, it seems enough to me to
qualify as “forced exile”, based on my expulsion at the age of 18 from the university
and the entire system of higher education in Cuba. At that age what you do is
study, right? What was left for me in a country where I could not continue to
achieve my academic goals?
What were the costs
and benefits of your decision to practice independent journalism?
It’s bad enough that haven’t been
able to see my parents, sister, and other relatives for four years. Perhaps the
greatest benefit has been to have a clear conscience for having fulfilled my
duty and feeling that I have served a useful purpose for Cuba, reflecting that
part of reality that never appears in the official media. And that is a big
part of what makes up Cuba.
What is it that
fundamentally differentiates independent journalism from official journalism?
The essential difference is that
independent journalism covers more of Cuban reality; it covers a much wider
spectrum of how life actually goes on in Cuba. Meanwhile, the official media
looks the other way when it comes to poverty, the repression of dissent, and
It is an automated operation and
anyone who has tried to push the limits suffers the consequences. Plus, the
salaries for official journalists are among the lowest in the state sector,
pushing its practitioners into precariousness.
You are a journalist,
but doing journalism outside the official media in Cuba turns you into a kind
of “dissident” in the eyes of the state, even when that is not your aim. Right?
For you, what is the key difference between being an independent journalist and
a dissident? Is it possible to be both at the same time?
I think that in a totalitarian state
like Cuba, I am both: a journalist and also a dissident; I “dissent” from the
established order because it affects me directly both on a personal and
professional level. So, I am not interested in distancing myself from one thing
or the other. Still, of course, I have established limits in my coverage of
dissidents, organizations, and movements.
I am not an active member of those groups, but I do advocate for causes
that I consider just.
And even if a democracy were founded
on the island tomorrow, I would always work to hold the government and its
leaders to account. I would continue being a “dissident” vis-à-vis policies
that seem wrong or arbitrary to me. Injustice
is not automatically eliminated with the arrival of democracy.
For a time, some
blogs and then later independent media outlets emphasized the fact that they
were produced “from Cuba,” in contrast to others that were produced “from
abroad.” For you, does this distinction still have importance, significance, or
relevance given the increasingly “transnational” reality of both journalism and
the Cuban nation itself?
To advance in our common goals, the
inside and outside should no longer be thought of as separate settings.
Although, of course, I consider the
people who do journalism from within the island of greater value based on their
resistance, and I never would, from my position of privilege, minimize them or
try to tell them what to do.
In the end, I think we complement one
another very well. Exiled professionals have always pushed those who fight, in
this case journalists, from within totalitarian regimes.
In all parts of the
world, the model of media financing is in crisis. In Cuba, there is also an
official discourse that argues that the independent journalists and media are
actually “subversives” or “mercenaries” because they have developed alternative
financing. How do you navigate in this extremely polarized and politicized
The key in my work is that there is
no imposition of agendas, editorial lines, or approaches that betray my values
and what I believe is fair. Everything can be discussed in the newsrooms.
There must be openness, of course, but there are basic principles that are
non-negotiable. This is a conversation that we have (and must have) within our
The defamations and slanders that are
showered down from Cuban officialdom no longer affect us. What concerns me is
clarity within myself and with my nuclear family.
What are your experiences
of harassment, intimidation, or detention and interrogation by state security?
Has your free movement been prevented or “regulated” within or outside the
I was interrogated three times
(between September 2016 and January 2017) when I was 18 years old when I was a
Journalism student at the Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” de Las Villas
What were the
reasons behind these interrogations?
My posts and denunciations on social
networks; my collaboration on the blog of the Somos + Movement; my relationship
with figures like Eliecer Ávila and Iliana Hernández; my absence from
political-indoctrination events at the University, such as those that occurred
with the death of Fidel Castro. Later in
April 2017, I was expelled from UCLV and permanently from the entire system of
higher education in Cuba.
I have seen the
document that was given to you justifying your expulsion. Are there other
similar cases of students or professors who have been expelled from Cuba’s
Journalism schools for ideological reasons?
I personally know of the case of a professor from my own University (UCLV), Dalila Rodríguez, a Master of Linguistic and Editorial Studies, who was expelled just weeks after I was. She did not belong to any opposition movement, but the repression occurred because she was the daughter of a religious leader, Leonardo Rodríguez, an opposition leader associated with the Instituto Patmos.
Ted A. Henken (Pensacola, 1971) is an associate professor of sociology at Baruch College, CUNY. His most recent academic works include Cuba’s Digital Revolution: Citizen Innovation and State Policy (University of Florida Press, 2021) and Cuba empresarial: emprendedores ante una cambiante política pública (Editorial Hypermedia, 2020). He is currently working on a history of independent journalism in Cuba.
Revolution: Citizen Innovation and State Policy (Reframing Media, Technology,
and Culture in Latin/o America), June 1, 2021
by Ted A. Henken and Sara Garcia Santamaria
In spite of having
a slow, expensive, government-controlled Internet infrastructure, Cuba is
undergoing what Ted Henken and Sara Garcia Santamaria refer to as a digital
revolution might be said to have begun in 2007 when Yoani Sánchez launched her blog “Generation
Y.” Internet access was difficult — she would get illegal connectivity at
tourist hotels, and the blog was initially hosted in Germany. Soon, the
Huffington Post began publishing her posts, and she has subsequently received
many international awards, including the Ortega y Gasset Award for Digital Journalism in
I recall reading of
her teaching others to blog at her home, and other blogs followed, but that was
just the start of the digital revolution. Today, she publishes a daily digital
newspaper 14Ymedio which is available in Spanish
and English, and there are many independent (non-government) media sites that
cover fashion, sports, art, music, and technology as well as news, commentary,
and current events.
Since Cuba had and
still has very poor Internet infrastructure, one might ask how this digital content
is distributed. The digital-distribution revolution began in 2008 with el Paquete Semanal, the “weekly
package” of digital material distributed on hard and flash drives that
became a nation-wide sneakernet. El Paquete is financed by advertising and
customer fees and it has been suggested that it is the nation’s largest private
employer. In 2015, the Government began opening public-access WiFi hotspots. Cubans hackers
also created local community networks which did not have a connection to the
global Internet. The largest, Havana’s SNET, had an estimated 100,000 users before it was taken over by the government. More
recently, 3G mobile service was introduced and
now 4G is beginning to roll out.
I’ve been speaking
of media, but Henken estimates that there is also a digitally-convened movement
or protest in Cuba every two months or so. He describes several of these and
their leaders in this article.
If you are
interested in more on Cuba’s digital media revolution, check out Henken’s recent
interview at Tulane University. (It’s over an hour-long, but he
speaks clearly so you can listen at 2X speed). He talks about Cuban media and
introduces a forthcoming anthology he and Santamaria edited. In his presentation,
Henken discusses independent Cuban media and summarizes each chapter of the
book, which will be available from the University Press of
Florida on June 1.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In Medias Res: Who
Will Control Cuba’s Digital Revolution?, Ted A. Henken
Part I. History,
Media, and Technology
1. The Past,
Present, and Future of the Cuban Internet, Larry Press
Itineraries and Cyclic Trajectories: Alternative Media Communication
Technologies, and Social Change in Cuba, Edel Lima Sarmiento
Part II. Politics
3. Information and
Communication Technology, State Power, and Civil Society: Cuban Internet
Development in the Context of the Normalization of Relations with the United
States, Olga Khrustaleva
4. Ghost in the
Machine: The Incompatibility of Cuba’s State Media Monopoly with the Existence
of Independent Digital Media and the Democratization of Communication, Alexei
Padilla Herrera and Eloy Viera Cañive
5. The Press Model
in Cuba: Between Ideological Hegemony and the Reinvention of Civic Journalism,
Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Arechavaleta
6. Digital Critique
in Cuba, Marie Laure Geoffray
7. From Generación
Y to 14ymedio: Beyond the Blog on Cuba’s Digital Frontier, Ted A. Henken
Journalism in Cuba: Between Fantasy and the Ontological Rupture, Sara Garcia
9. Perceptions of
and Strategies for Autonomy among Journalists Working for Cuban State Media,
Media on the Margins: Two Cases of Journalistic Professionalization in Cuba’s
Digital Media Ecosystem, Abel Somohano Fernández and Mireya Márquez-Ramírez
Part IV. Business
Marketing of Touristic Cuba: Branding a “Tech-Free” Destination,
12. A Una Cuba
Alternativa”? Digital Millennials, Social Influencing, and Cuentapropismo
in Havana, Jennifer Cearns
Part V. Culture and
Initiation Ceremonies: Cuban Literary and Cultural E-zines, 2000 — 2010,
14. Images of
Ourselves: Cuban Mediascapes and the Post-socialist “Woman of
Fashion,” Paloma Duong
Sara García Santamaría Blanquerna – Universitat Ramon Llull (Spain)
(Reuters) – Five years after former U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic
visit to Havana, many Cubans hope Joe Biden will also pursue detente but fret
he will not do so as energetically after recent White House announcements.
visited Havana in March 2016, the first trip by a U.S. president to Cuba in 88
years. It was the culmination of a diplomatic opening towards the Communist-run
country, seeking to put an end to years of Cold War-era hostility.
successor Donald Trump unraveled that detente and tightened the crippling U.S.
trade embargo on Cuba, arguing that he would force democratic change.
who was vice president under Obama, vowed during his campaign to reverse
Trump’s policy shifts that “have inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done
nothing to advance democracy and human rights.”
White House said earlier this month a broader Cuba policy shift was not currently
among Biden’s top priorities, even if it was “carefully reviewing policy
decisions made in the prior administration, including the decision to designate
Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.”
very concerned that Biden will not continue in the same vein as Obama and will
allow himself to be influenced by the politics of Cubans in Miami,” said
retired Cuban economist Ileana Yarza.
have lost last year’s election but he did win the swing state of Florida, in
part due to a Republican campaign to paint Biden as in hock to the radical
left, a charge that hit home with the state’s large Cuban-American population.
economy is now suffering its worst crisis since the fall of former benefactor
the Soviet Union, partly due to a slew of new U.S. sanctions under Trump which
ended cruises to Havana, limited flights, reduced remittances and dampened
separated by the Florida Straits are more divided than ever after he reduced
the Havana embassy to skeletal staffing, following a series of unexplained
illnesses among diplomats. Consular services for Cubans have been moved to
Batista, who runs a souvenir crafts shop in Old Havana, said private
entrepreneurs like her had especially benefited from the detente and ensuing
tourism boom. “With Trump, please!
Everything has been declining, you know? And now with the pandemic it is even
more so,” she said. “Hopefully, with
this other president (Biden), we can have the same luck and the same
opportunity that we had with Obama.”
sanctions have hurt a state-run economy already smarting from its own
inefficiencies and a decline in aid from ally Venezuela. Proponents of the sanctions say it is these
and the resulting economic squeeze that have forced Cuba to pick up
market-style reforms once again lately. Critics underscore the cost to a
population dealing with shortages of basic goods like food and medicine.
say it is still early days and Biden has many more pressing foreign policy
issues after four years of the turbulent Trump presidency. But for Cubans,
every extra day counts.
already, the policies aren’t the same because there are no new sanctions,” said
Carlos Alzugaray, a former Cuban diplomat.
“But everything that the previous (Trump) administration did that stands
in the way of a return to the path of normalization has not begun to be
Las relaciones entre Cuba y
Estados Unidos han estado determinadas por el embargo a la isla que el gobierno
de Washington estableció tras el triunfo de la revolución en 1959. Esa política
no ha cambiado, aunque ha sufrido endurecimientos y también flexibilizaciones.
Al llegar Barack Obama a la Casa Blanca inició una fase de normalización,
coincidiendo con el avance de las reformas aperturistas en la Gran Antilla,
iniciadas en la década de 1990, pero hasta hace poco discontinuas. Sin embargo,
para ello empleó los recursos de relajación de las medidas que ofrecen las
propias leyes del embargo. Es decir, sin modificarlo, lo que ha permitido a su
sucesor, Donald Trump, restablecerlas en su versión más dura. Este libro
estudia el problema de los vínculos entre los dos países desde comienzos del
siglo XX desde la perspectiva de lo económico, que fue razón esencial de los
mismos, y muestra cómo la falta de un sentido de estado y de conformidad con la
influencia tuvo en la constitución de otro –Estados Unidos ocupó Cuba entre
1898 y 1902, tras su guerra de independencia– implicó dejarlas al juego de
intereses particulares que rige el funcionamiento del sistema político
norteamericano y que tal defecto los ha dotado de un asimetría que ha
prevalecido a los cambios de coyuntura y circunstancias desde entonces, al
triunfo de la revolución, al fin de la Guerra Fría.
Capítulo I. 90 millas. Relaciones
económicas Cuba-Estados Unidos en perspectiva histórica. Antonio Santamaría
García; José Manuel Azcona Pastor
Capítulo II. Avance y retroceso
de los capitales norteamericanos en la industria cubana del azúcar, 1890-1959.
Alejandro García Álvarez
Capítulo III. Proteccionismo y
restricción de la oferta: los orígenes de los controles de producción de azúcar
en Cuba y la relación comercial con Estados Unidos, 1921-193. Alan D. Dye
Capítulo IV. Ajustes al modelo de
dominación: la política de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba tras la revolución de
1933. Oscar Zanetti Lecuona
Capítulo V. “Cuba sería un cementerio de deudores”. El problema de la moratoria en la década de 1930. Julio César Guanche
Capítulo VI. El nacionalismo
moderado cubano, 1920-1960. Políticas económicas y relaciones con Estados
Unidos. Jorge I. Domínguez
Capítulo VII. Relaciones
comerciales azucareras Cuba-Estados Unidos, 1902-1960. Jorge Pérez-López
Capítulo VIII. Las relaciones
Cuba-Estados Unidos desde la revolución hasta el periodo especial.Victor
Capítulo IX. Failed on all
counts. El embargo de Estados Unidos a Cuba. Andrew Zimbalist
Capítulo X. La ventana de oportunidad que se abrió y se cerró: historia
de la normalización de relaciones Estados Unidos-Cuba. Carmelo Mesa-Lago
Capítulo XI. El bloqueo económico en el contexto de las agresiones de
Estados Unidos contra Cuba. Historia no contada y evolución reciente.José Luis
Capítulo XIII. Cuba-Estados Unidos: la gestión de las empresas cubanas.
Ileana Díaz Fernández
Capítulo XIV. Viajes, remesas y trabajo por cuenta propia. Relaciones
económicas entre los cubanos emigrados y su país de origen.Jorge Duany
Capítulo XV. El papel de los visitantes de Estados Unidos en la economía cubana. Historia y realidad. Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva; José Luis Perelló Cabrera