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CUBA’S COVID 19 DASHBOARD

Cuba’s Covid 19 Dashboard Website

The ultimate source for information on Covid 19 in Cuba

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WHY CUBANS PROTESTED ON JULY 11. Is this the beginning of the end of fear in Cuba?

Samuel Farber July 27, 2021

Original Article

he street demonstrations that broke out all over Cuba on July 11 are an unprecedented event in the more than 60 years since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. But why now? This essay explores the historic, economic and political factors that help to clarify the causes of Cuba’s July 11, considers the role of the United States, and briefly reflects on Cuba’s future.

On Sunday, July 11, Cuba erupted in street protests. Unlike the major street protest that took place in 1994 and was limited to the Malecón, the long multi-lane Havana road facing the Gulf of Mexico, the July 11 outbreak of protest was national in scope. There were protests in many towns and cities, including Santiago de Cuba in the east, Trinidad in the center of the island, as well as Havana in the west. The growing access to social media in the island played an important role in the rapid spread of the protests; no wonder the government immediately suspended access to certain social media sites and brought all telephone calls from abroad to a halt. 

The street presence and participation of Black women and men was notable everywhere. This should not be surprising since Black Cubans are far less likely to receive hard currency remittances from abroad even though over 50% of the population receive some degree of financial support through that channel. These remittances have become the key to survival in Cuba, particularly in light of the ever-diminishing number of goods available in the peso-denominated subsidized ration book. Cuban Blacks have also been the victims of institutional racism in the growing tourist industry where ​“front line” visible jobs are mostly reserved for conventionally attractive white and light skinned women and men. 

The demonstrators did not endorse or support any political program or ideology, aside from the general demand for political freedom. The official Cuban press claims that the demonstrations were organized from abroad by right-wing Cubans. But none of the demands associated with the Cuban right-wing were echoed by the demonstrators, like the support for Trump often heard in South Florida and among some dissident circles in Cuba. And no one called for ​“humanitarian intervention” espoused by Plattistas (Platt Amendment, approved by Congress in 1901and abolished in 1934, gave the United States the right to militarily intervene in Cuba), such as biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, himself a victim of government repression for his independent ecological activism. The demonstrators did speak about the scarcity of food, medicine and essential consumer items, repudiated President Díaz-Canel as singao—a phrase that in Cuba translates as ​“fucked” but means a wicked, evil person, and chanted patria y vida (fatherland and life). ​“Patria y Vida” is the title of a very popular and highly polished rap song by a group of Cuban Black rappers (available on YouTube.) I have seen and heard the song more than a dozen times to enjoy it as well as to search for its explicit and implied meanings including in its silences and ambiguities.

“Patria y Vida” counterposes itself to the old Cuban government slogan of ​“Patria o Muerte” (“Fatherland or Death”). While that slogan may have made sense in the 1960s when Cuba was faced with actual invasions, it borders on the obscene when voiced by second generation bureaucrats. It is certainly high time that the regime’s macho cult of violence and death be challenged, and this song does it very well.

But what does it mean to implicitly repudiate the year 1959, the first year of the successful revolution, as the song does? There was no Soviet style system in Cuba at the time and the year 1959 is not equivalent to the Castro brothers. Many people of a wide variety of political beliefs fought and died to bring about the revolution that overthrew the Batista dictatorship. The song does express many important democratic sentiments against the present Cuban dictatorship, but it is unfortunately silent about the desirable alternative, which leaves room for the worst right-wing, pro-Trump elements in South Florida to rally behind it as if it was theirs. 

True to form, President Díaz-Canel called on the ​“revolutionaries” to be ready for combat and go out and reclaim the streets away from the demonstrators. In fact, it was the uniformed police, Seguridad del Estado (the secret police), and Boinas Negras (black berets, the special forces) that responded with tear gas, beatings and hundreds of arrests, including several leftist critics of the government. According to a July 21 Reuters report, the authorities had confirmed that they had started the trials of the demonstrators accused of a variety of charges, but denied it according to another press report on July 25. These are summary trials without the benefit of defense counsel, a format generally used for minor violations in Cuba but which in this case involves the possibility of years in prison for those found guilty. 

Most of the demonstrations were angry but usually peaceful and only in a few instances did the demonstrators behave violently, as in the case of some looting and a police car that was overturned. This was in clear contrast with the violence frequently displayed by the forces of order. It is worth noting that in calling his followers to take to the streets to combat the demonstrators, Díaz-Canel invoked the more than 60-year-old notion that ​“the streets belong to the revolutionaries.” Just as the government has always proclaimed that ​“the universities belong to the revolutionaries” in order to expel students and professors that don’t toe the government’s line. One example is René Fidel González García, a law professor expelled from the University of Oriente. He is a strong critic of government policies, who, far from giving up on his revolutionary ideals, has reaffirmed them on numerous occasions.

But Why Now?

Cuba is in the middle of the most serious economic crisis since the 1990s, when, as a result of the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Cubans suffered innumerable and lengthy blackouts due to the severe shortage of oil, along with endemic malnutrition with its accompanying health problems.

The present economic crisis is due to the pandemic-related decline of tourism, combined with the government’s long term capital disinvestment and inability to maintain production, even at the lower levels of the last five years. Cuba’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) fell by 11% in 2020 and only rose by 0.5% in 2019, the year before the pandemic broke out. The annual sugar crop that ended this spring did not even reach 1 million tons, which is below the 1.4 million average of recent years and very far below the 8 million tons in 1989. The recent government attempt to unify the various currencies circulating in Cuba — primarily the CUC, a proxy for the dollar, and the peso — has backfired resulting in serious inflation that was predicted among others by the prominent Cuban economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago. While the CUC is indeed disappearing, the Cuban economy has been virtually dollarized with the constant decline of the value of the peso. While the official exchange rate is 24 pesos to the dollar, the prevailing black market rate is 60 pesos to the dollar, and it is going to get worse due to the lack of tourist dollars. This turn to an ever more expensive dollar, may be somewhat restrained in light of the government’s recent shift to the euro as its preferred hard currency. 

Worst of all, is the generalized shortage of food, even for those who have divisas, the generic term for hard currencies. The agricultural reforms of the last years aimed at increasing domestic production have not worked because they are inadequate and insufficient, making it impossible for the private farmers and for the usufructuarios (farmers who lease land from the government for 20 year terms renewable for another 20 years) to feed the country. Thus, for example, the government arbitrarily gives bank credits to the farmers for some things but not for others, like for clearing the marabú, an invasive weed that is costly to remove, but an essential task if crops are to grow. Acopio, the state agency in charge of collecting the substantial proportion of the crop that farmers have to sell to the state at prices fixed by the government is notoriously inefficient and wasteful, because the Acopio trucks do not arrive in time to collect their share, or because of the systemic indifference and carelessness that pervade the processes of shipping and storage. This creates huge spoilage and waste that have reduced the quality and quantity of goods available to consumers. It is for reasons such as these that Cuba imports 70% of the food it consumes from various countries including the United States (an exemption to the blockade was carved out in 2001 for the unlimited export of food and medicines to Cuba but with the serious limitation that Cuba has to pay in cash before the goods are shipped to the island.)

The Cuban economist Pedro Monreal has called attention to the overwhelming millions of pesos that the government has dedicated to the construction of tourist hotels (mostly in joint ventures with foreign capital) that even before the pandemic were filled to well below their capacity, while agriculture is starved of government investments. This unilateral choice of priorities by the one-party state is an example of what results from profoundly undemocratic practices. This is not a ​“flaw” of the Cuban system any more than the relentless pursuit of profit is a ​“flaw” of American capitalism. Both bureaucracy and the absence of democracy in Cuba and the relentless pursuit of profit in the United States are not defects of but constitutive elements of both systems.

Similarly, oil has become increasingly scarce as Venezuelan oil shipments in exchange for Cuban medical services have declined. There is no doubt that Trump’s strengthening of the criminal blockade, which went beyond merely reversing Obama’s liberalization during his second period in the White House, has also gravely hurt the island, among other reasons because it has made it more difficult for the Cuban government to use banks abroad, whether American or not, to finance its operations. This is because the U.S. government will punish enterprises who do business with Cuba by blocking them from doing business with the United States. Until the events of July 11,the Biden administration had left almost all of Trump’s sanctions untouched. Since then, it has promised to allow for larger remittances and to provide staff for the American consulate in Havana. 

While the criminal blockade has been very real and seriously damaging, it has been relatively less important in creating economic havoc than what lies at the very heart of the Cuban economic system: the bureaucratic, inefficient and irrational control and management of the economy by the Cuban government. It is the Cuban government and its ​“left” allies in the Global North, not the Cuban people, who continue, as they have for decades, to blame only the blockade. 

At the same time, the working class in the urban and rural areas have neither economic incentives nor political incentives in the form of democratic control of their workplaces and society to invest themselves in their work, thus reducing the quantity and quality of production. 

Health Situation in Cuba 

After the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in the early spring of 2020, Cuba did relatively well during the first year of the pandemic in comparison with other countries in the region. But in the last few months the situation in Cuba, for what are still unclear reasons except for the entry of the Delta variant in the island, made a sharp turn for the worse, and in doing so seriously aggravated the economic and political problems of the country. Thus, as Jessica Domínguez Delgado noted in the Cuban blog El Toque (July 13), until April 12, a little more than a year after the beginning of the pandemic, 467 persons had died among the 87,385 cases that had been diagnosticated as having Covid-19. But only three months later, on July 12, the number of the deceased had reached 1,579 with 224, 914 diagnosed cases (2.5 times as many as in the much longer previous period).

The province of Matanzas and its capital city of the same name located 100 kilometers east of Havana became the epicenter of the pandemic’s sudden expansion in Cuba. According to the provincial governor, Matanzas province was 3,000 beds short of the number of patients that needed them. On July 6, a personal friend who lives in the city of Matanzas wrote to me about the dire health situation in the city with a lack of doctors, tests, and oxygen in the midst of collapsing hospitals. My friend wrote that the national government had shown itself incapable of controlling the situation until that very day when it finally formulated a plan of action for the city. The government did finally take a number of measures including sending a substantial number of additional medical personnel, although it is too early to tell at the time of this writing with what results.

Cuban scientists and research institutions deserve a lot of credit for the development of several anti-Covid vaccines. However, the government was responsible for the excessive and unnecessary delay in immunizing people on the island, made worse by its decision to neither procure donations of vaccines from abroad nor join the 190-nation strong COVAX (Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access) sponsored by several international organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO), an organization with which the Cuban government has good relations. Currently only 16% of the population has been fully vaccinated and 30% has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The medical crisis in the province and capital city of Matanzas fits into a more general pattern of medical scarcity and abandonment as the Cuban government has accelerated its export of medical personnel abroad to strengthen what has been for some time its number one export. This is why the valuable family doctor program introduced in the 1980s has seriously deteriorated. While the Cuban government uses a sliding scale (including some pro bono work) in what it charges its foreign government clients, Cuban doctors get an average of 10 – 25% of what the foreign clients pay the Cuban government. Needless to add, Cuban medical personnel cannot organize independent unions to bargain with the government about the terms of their employment. Nevertheless, going abroad is a desired assignment for most Cuban doctors because they earn a significant amount of hard currency and can purchase foreign goods. However, if they fail to return to Cuba after their assignments are over, they are administratively (i.e., not judicially) punished with a forced exile of 8 years duration. 

The Political Context 

Earlier this year, the leadership old guard, who fought the Batista regime and are in their late eighties and early nineties, retired from their government positions to give way to the new leadership of Miguel Díaz-Canel (born in 1960) as president and Manuel Marrero Cruz (born in 1963) as prime minister. This new leadership is continuing Raúl Castro’s policy of economic and social liberalization without democratization. For example, in 2013 the government liberalized the regulations that controlled the movement of people to make it easier for most Cubans to travel abroad. However, at the same time, the government made it virtually impossible for many dissidents to leave the country, by for example delaying their departure so they could not make it on time to conferences held abroad, and by creating a list of some 200 ​“regulados” (people subject to regulatory rules) that are not allowed to leave the country at all. It is important to point out that as in the case of other measures adopted by the Cuban government mentioned earlier, these actions continue the policies of Fidel and Raúl Castro, in which political and administrative decisions are made outside of the regime’s own judicial system. The same applies to the hundreds of relatively brief detentions that the government of Raúl Castro carried out every year, especially to try to impede public demonstrations not controlled by the government (a police method that only works for previously planned political protests, unlike the ones that took place on July 11). 

The One-Party State

The one-party state continues to function as under Fidel and Raúl Castro’s rule. In reality, however, the Cuban Communist Party (PCC, its Spanish acronym) is not really a party — that would imply the existence of other parties. Neither is the PCC primarily an electoral party although it does firmly control from the top the periodic so-called elections that always result in the unanimous approval of the political course followed by the authorities.

Sometimes people disillusioned with the existing corrupt parties in Latin America and even in the United States itself, react with indifference if not approval to the Cuban one-party state because they perceive elections as reinforcing corrupt systems. Thus such people think that is better to have one honest political party that works than a corrupt multi-party system that doesn’t work. The problem with this type of thinking is that one-party bureaucratic systems do not work well at all, except perhaps to thoroughly repress any opposition. Moreover, corruption sooner or later works its way into the single party system as history has repeatedly shown. In the case of Cuba, Fidel Castro himself warned in a famous speech on November 17, 2005, that the revolution was in greater danger to perish because of endemic corruption than because of the actions of counterrevolutionaries.

The organizational monopoly of the PCC — explicitly sanctioned by the Cuban constitution — affects far more than elections. It extends its power in a highly authoritarian manner to control Cuban society through the so-called mass organizations that function as transmission belts for the decisions taken by the PCC’s Political Bureau. For example, the CTC, the official trade union, is the transmission belt that allows the Cuban state to maintain its monopoly of the organization of Cuban workers. Beyond enforcing the prohibition of strikes, the CTC is not an organization for the defense of working class interests as determined by the workers themselves. Rather, it was established to advance what the ruling PCC leadership determines are the workers’ best interests.

The same control mechanisms apply to other ​“mass organizations” such as the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and to other institutions such as editorial houses, universities and the rest of the educational system. The mass media (radio, television and newspapers) continue to be under the control of the government, guided in their coverage by the ​“orientations” of the Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the PCC. There are however, two important exceptions to the state’s control of media organs: one, is the internal publications of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the Cuban Catholic hierarchy is extremely cautious, and the circulation of its publications is in any case limited to its parishes and other Catholic institutions. A far more important exception is the Internet, which the government has yet been unable to place under its absolute control and remains as the principal vehicle for critical and dissident voices. It was precisely this less than full control of the Internet that made the nationwide politically explosive outbreaks of July 11 possible. 

Where is Cuba Going?

Without the benefit of Fidel Castro’s presence and the degree of legitimacy retained by the historic leadership, Díaz-Canel and the other new government leaders were politically hit hard by the events of July 11, even though they received the shameful support of most of the broad international Left. The fact that people no longer seem to be afraid may be the single largest threat for the government emerging from the events on July 11. In spite of that blow, the new leadership is on course to continue Raúl Castro’s orientation to develop a Cuban version of the Sino-Vietnamese model, which combine a high degree of political authoritarianism with concessions to private and especially foreign capital.

At the same time, the Cuban government leaders will continue to follow inconsistent and even contradictory economic reform policies for fear of losing control to Cuban private capital. The government recently authorized the creation of private PYMES (small and medium private enterprises), but it would not be at all surprising if many of the newly created PYMES end up in the hands of important state functionaries turned private capitalists. There is an important government stratum composed of business managers and technicians with ample experience in such sectors as tourism, particularly in the military. The most important among them is the 61-year-old Gen. Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, a former son-in-law of Raúl Castro, who is the director of GAESA, the huge military business conglomerate, which includes Gaviota, the principal tourist enterprise in the island. It is significant that he recently became a member of the Political Bureau of the PCC. 

Perhaps this younger generation of business military and civilian bureaucrats may try to overcome the rentier mentality that 30 years of ample Soviet assistance created among the Cuban leadership as witnessed the failure to modernize and diversify the sugar industry (as Brazil did) during those relatively prosperous years that ended in 1990. To be sure, the U.S. economic blockade contributed to the rentier mentality by encouraging a day-to-day economic survival attitude rather than of increasing the productivity of the Cuban economy to allow for a more prosperous future. 

Finally, what about the United States? Biden is unlikely to do much in his first term to change the United States’ imperialist policies towards Cuba that were significantly aggravated by Trump. Whether a possible second Democratic administration in Washington beginning in 2025 will do anything different remains an open question.

There is, however, a paradox underlying the U.S. government’s Cuba policy. While U.S. policy is not at present primarily driven by ruling class interests but, rather, by electoral considerations, particularly in the highly contested state of Florida, it is not for that reason necessarily less harsh or, what is more alarming, less durable. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, probably the most politically active business institution in the United States has advocated the resumption of normal business relations with Cuba for many years. Thomas J. Donohue, its long-time director who retired earlier this year, visited Cuba in numerous occasions and met with government leaders there. Big agribusiness concerns are also interested in doing business with Cuba as are agricultural and other business interests in the South, Southwest and Mountain States represented by both Republican and Democratic politicians. However, it is doubtful that they are inclined to expend a lot of political capital in achieving that goal.

This places a heavy extra burden on the U.S. Left to overcome the deadlock, which clearly favors the indefinite continuation of the blockade, through a new type of campaign that both zeroes in on the grave aggression and injustice committed against the Cuban people without at the same time becoming apologists for the political leadership of the Cuban state. 

Be that as it may, people on the Left in the United States have two key tasks. First, they should firmly oppose the criminal economic blockade of Cuba. Second, they should support the democratic rights of the Cuban people rather than an ossified police state, in the same way that they have supported the struggle for human rights, democracy, and radical social and economic change in Colombia and Chile in Latin America as well as Myanmar and Hong Kong in Asia.

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A Revolt Against The Revolution: THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT CRACKS DOWN ON PROTESTERS

The communist island has not seen such big displays of discontent for decades

Original Article: A REVOLT AGAINST THE REVOLUTION

On july 11th thousands of protesters took to the streets spontaneously in more than 50 Cuban towns and cities. They had a long litany of grievances: recurring electricity shortages, empty grocery shops, a failing economy, a repressive government and an increasingly desperate situation regarding covid-19. In a display of discontent not seen on the communist island for perhaps six decades, people of all ages chanted and marched, some of them to the tune of clanging spoons and frying pans. They shouted “Patria y Vida!” (Fatherland and Life)—a riff on the revolutionary slogan “Patria o Muerte” (Fatherland or Death), and the name of a rap song which criticises the government—along with “Libertad!” (Freedom) and “Abajo la dictadura!” (Down with the dictatorship).

Although protests continue, by the next day cities were quieter as the police went from house to house, rounding up the demonstration leaders. Riot police spread out across cities, plainclothes officers took to the streets and pro-government mobs brandishing images of Fidel Castro were called in to chant revolutionary slogans and wave Cuban flags. Miguel Díaz-Canel, the president and first secretary of the Communist Party, appeared on television to declare: “Cuba belongs to its revolutionaries.” Around 150 people have gone missing, and one protester has been killed. There are rumours that young men are being forcibly conscripted into the army.

The big question is how much staying power the protests will have. The coming weeks will show whether the regime’s stock response of swatting down any signs of dissent will work again. The government has little leeway to buy social peace. Cuba has been badly hit by covid-19 and by a precipitous drop in tourism, on which it heavily depends. A lack of foreign currency with which to buy imports has led to acute food shortages and blackouts. Under the administration of Donald Trump, the United States tightened sanctions on Cuba. These have added a little to the island’s longstanding economic troubles.

Cuba’s reluctance to buy foreign vaccines, born of a mix of autarky and a shortage of cash, means that only 16% of the population is fully inoculated. Home-grown vaccines are being developed, but have not yet been fully rolled out; meanwhile, pharmacies are short even of basics like aspirin. Whereas tourism has resumed in nearby places where covid-19 has receded, such as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, Cuba is suffering from rising infections. Even the official data show the number of new cases doubling every seven days. In a video posted to Facebook, Lisveilys Echenique, who lives in the city of Ciego de Ávila, described how her brother spent 11 days battling covid-19 without treatment because he could get neither medicine nor a hospital bed. After he died, his corpse remained in her home for seven hours before an ambulance arrived.

The Cuban economy came close to collapse in the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union brought foreign aid to an abrupt halt. There were public protests then, too, which were quickly dispersed. But Cubans now have access to the internet and are adept at using it to mobilise. Videos of police violence and arbitrary arrests have been circulating rapidly in recent days. At one point in the afternoon of July 11th, as the protests reached their height, the authorities appeared to block all internet access. Some social-messaging sites have also been suspended.

But much as the government may wish to turn the internet off, it cannot afford to: the exorbitant access fees charged by the state telecoms monopoly are an important source of foreign exchange. The internet is also a vital conduit for remittances from Cubans abroad. Mobile data and Wi-Fi charges bring in perhaps $80m a month for the government, estimates Emilio Morales of Havana Consulting Group in Miami.

“The government has closed itself up like an oyster,” says José Jasán Nieves Cárdenas, editor of El Toque, a Cuban magazine mostly published online. “Instead of acknowledging that it has to come out and establish a dialogue with its people, it has chosen repression.” Tear gas and rubber bullets were used against crowds, although in some instances security officers were so outnumbered by protesters that they were forced to retreat. As things escalated, police cars were overturned and some dollar stores, symbols of the regime’s economic incompetence, were ransacked.

Mr Díaz-Canel blames Cuba’s troubles on the embargo imposed by the United States, as the government always does. He has ignored the complaints of the protesters, dismissing them as mercenaries, and offered excuses rather than plans for reform. After the president gave a speech on July 12th more protesters gathered outside the Capitol building in Havana. Other than stepping down, there is not much Mr Díaz-Canel could do to make amends to his people, says the owner of a small business. “You can’t cover the sun with one finger,” she says. Rumours are circulating that even members of the police are starting to defy their orders, as some think the protesters have a point.

Alfred Martínez Ramírez, a member of 27n, a group of activists, artists and intellectuals campaigning for greater freedom of expression, joined a protest outside the Ministry of Culture in November. Some 300 people were present, which at the time seemed a huge number. Cubans rarely protest, not least because unauthorised public gatherings are illegal. Seeing thousands of people on the streets of Havana and elsewhere in Cuba gives Mr Martínez Ramírez hope that his group is not alone, and that they may have even helped many others overcome their fear of dissent. “There has been an awakening,” he says.

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LAS RAZONES DEL 11-J Y LAS OPCIONES POSIBLES.

julio 17, 2021

Autor: Mauricio de Miranda

Original Source: Las razones del 11-J y las opciones posibles.

En días pasados estallaron protestas sociales en diversas localidades de Cuba. Para los dirigentes cubanos y los medios oficiales de prensa que responden al gobierno cubano, se trata de “disturbios, desorden, causados por una operación comunicacional que se prepara desde hace tiempo”, propiciados por “mercenarios al servicio del imperialismo”. Sin embargo, más allá de una retórica que se basa en el no reconocimiento de la realidad política, económica y social que vive el país y en achacar la responsabilidad de las protestas, denominadas desórdenes -aunque los hubo como en todas las protestas-, a agentes al servicio de intereses extranjeros, Cuba enfrenta desde hace muchos años una crisis económica y social de graves proporciones que se ha transformado en una crisis política. Es imprescindible debatir acerca de las causas pero también abrir un debate sobre las alternativas y posibles soluciones, con el objeto de evitar que el país llegue a un callejón sin salida.

Las razones económicas.

La situación económica actual de Cuba es la más terrible desde el llamado Período Especial de los años noventa del pasado siglo. En 2020, el Producto Interior Bruto (PIB) cayó un 11,3% pero ya en 2019 se había producido una caída del 0,2% y el crecimiento promedio anual entre 2015 y 2019 fue de solo 1,7%, lo cual es insuficiente para asegurar una senda de desarrollo económico. El gobierno cubano ha insistido en responsabilizar al bloqueo estadounidense y a los efectos de la pandemia con la situación económica del país. El recrudecimiento de las sanciones económicas durante la administración de Trump y la aparición y ahora el empeoramiento de la pandemia han tenido efectos nocivos indudables en la economía cubana, sin embargo, no son los responsables de los graves problemas estructurales que ésta padece.

A lo largo de más de seis décadas se han ido acumulando serios problemas que dependen, principalmente, de los sucesivos errores de política económica cometidos por la dirección del país, que han conducido a un incremento de la vulnerabilidad externa de la economía cubana y han dificultado el desarrollo de la producción nacional, debido a la excesiva centralización de las decisiones económicas, a la incapacidad para generar suficientes estímulos al desarrollo productivo y a los frenos que se han impuesto al emprendimiento.

Las reformas económicas que se han realizado desde los años noventa han sido parciales e insuficientes, no han abordado los cambios estructurales de forma sistémica y no han apuntado a la promoción del emprendimiento empresarial. La mayor parte de las ramas de la industria nacional y varias de las más importantes producciones agropecuarias en 2019 tenían niveles inferiores a los de 1989. A partir de la crisis de los noventa el gobierno optó por el desarrollo del turismo. Fue una decisión parcialmente correcta pero lo que no debió ocurrir es que ese desarrollo obviara las necesidades del desarrollo industrial y agrícola del país.

La excesiva dependencia respecto al turismo es una causa estructural fundamental en la debacle actual de una economía que prácticamente carece de reservas y de alternativas productivas, con una industria azucarera que está produciendo a niveles de principios del siglo XX, con el resto de la industria prácticamente colapsada y con una agricultura afectada por una estructura de precios y excesivos controles que desestimulan el desarrollo de la producción de alimentos y de materias primas.

Con campañas políticas no se resuelven los problemas de la producción. El país está importando gran parte de los alimentos que podría producir y carece de las divisas necesarias para importarlos. Para colmo, se insiste en el control monopólico estatal del comercio exterior. Sigue sin dar los pasos necesarios para promover la legalización de pequeñas y medianas empresas privadas que promuevan el emprendimiento y canalicen el empleo superfluo que es una excesiva carga al presupuesto del Estado. Persisten en la planificación centralizada en condiciones de una inmensa escasez y no generan otras alternativas. En los años noventa el turismo fue una alternativa y a comienzos del siglo XXI, la exportación de servicios profesionales, principalmente a Venezuela, se convirtió en otra opción muy importante de ingresos en divisas. Estos junto a las remesas, aseguraron la subsistencia económica del país.

En la actualidad, el turismo está en niveles mínimos, las remesas afectadas por las limitaciones de sus fuentes debido a problemas económicos de los remitentes y al endurecimiento de las sanciones durante la era de Trump, mientras que los ingresos por exportaciones de servicios están afectados por su cierre en ciertos países pero sobre todo por la terrible crisis económica venezolana. Entonces, el gobierno no ha querido salirse del guión que ha determinado la política económica, ha actuado con muchísima lentitud y ha adoptado medidas económicas equivocadas.

Los errores más recientes de política económica.

A lo largo de estas décadas se han acumulado una serie de errores de política económica, pero en las condiciones actuales quisiera concentrarme en dos: 1) la llamada Tarea Ordenamiento y 2) la apertura de tiendas en monedas libremente convertibles (MLC) para la venta de productos que originalmente se describían como “suntuarios” pero que en realidad resultaron de primera necesidad, no solo para las condiciones de la vida moderna sino incluso para la subsistencia.

El llamado Ordenamiento monetario no fue tal. Desde hace tiempo muchos economistas hemos destacado la necesidad de abolir la dualidad monetaria por el desorden en los sistemas de costos, en el funcionamiento de las empresas y en el establecimiento de precios relativos respecto a la economía internacional. Adoptaron la unificación monetaria y cambiaria como un lineamiento del 6º Congreso del PCC en 2011 y finalmente en 2021 decidieron unificar los tipos de cambio a una tasa sobrevaluada, a la cual el Banco Central no puede asegurar la venta de la divisa extranjera, con lo que, inmediatamente, se desarrolló el mercado negro de divisas en el que el dólar se cotiza a varias veces por encima del valor oficial.

En lugar de establecer la soberanía del peso cubano como moneda nacional, crearon tiendas en MLC, re-dolarizando parcialmente la economía y vendiendo en ese mercado bienes a los cuales no tiene acceso la población que carece de remesas o de opciones de ingresos en divisas, generando un grave problema social debido a la marginación de un sector considerable de la población en la capacidad de adquirir dichos bienes.

La unificación cambiaria llegó acompañada de un incremento de salarios en el sector estatal y de pensiones en niveles claramente inferiores a los incrementos reales en los precios, producidos por una estampida inflacionaria, lo cual ha causado gran insatisfacción en una parte considerable de la ciudadanía que continúa sin asegurar sus necesidades básicas a partir de sus ingresos debidos al trabajo.

Los problemas sociales.

La insatisfacción creada por los errores de política económica y la persistencia de los mismos a veces ha podido canalizarse por los mecanismos controlados por el poder pero ni esas ni aquellas que ni siquiera han podido ser planteadas oficialmente sino que se expresan en redes sociales, han tenido una respuesta creíble más allá de achacar al bloqueo de todo cuanto no funciona. No se trata de anexionistas, ni de delincuentes, ni de agentes de alguna potencia extranjera. Se trata simplemente de ciudadanos cubanos que necesitan satisfacer aspiraciones en la única vida probada que tienen y que sienten que el gobierno del país no está siendo capaz de ofrecer las alternativas de solución necesarias.

La sociedad cubana de hoy es claramente diferente a la que decidió permanecer en el país tras el triunfo revolucionario. Existe un porcentaje creciente de jóvenes, que están a dos o tres generaciones de la que hizo la Revolución y que tiene esperanzas de vida, intereses, aspiraciones y proyecciones políticas y sociales propias y muy probablemente diferentes y a las que incluso la Constitución actual les priva del derecho a definir el tipo de Estado y de sociedad que prefiere. Y dentro de este grupo, existe una parte considerable de personas que viven en condiciones de subsistencia y no ve opciones de mejoramiento de las mismas.

En otras oportunidades, la emigración, incluso con cierto nivel de masividad, como ocurrió en los primeros años sesenta, en 1980 y en 1994, ha actuado como válvula de escape para solucionar las insatisfacciones individuales, pero también para reducir el factor de oposición social interna. En esta ocasión esta posibilidad está claramente muy limitada.

La emigración carece de derechos políticos, pero a ella se ha apelado, una y otra vez, para que haga valer sus derechos al envío de remesas familiares pero sin reconocerla socialmente como un factor importante para la solución de los problemas económicos del país y sin integrarla políticamente en un sistema democrático. La emigración es un factor decisivo en la solución de muchos de los problemas económicos del país y también debería ser un importante actor político a partir de su experiencia en otras realidades.

En la sociedad cubana existe una parte considerable que carece de opciones y de perspectivas, que vive en una situación de pobreza que no es reconocida públicamente por las autoridades cubanas. En consecuencia, gran parte de esa población salió a las calles como explosión de una situación de hastío. Sin embargo, hay que tener en cuenta que antes de eso ya se habían producido una serie de indicios de protesta pacífica en diversos sectores sociales, incluidos los artistas, reclamando espacios de diálogo que solo han encontrado la intolerancia y el rechazo como respuesta.

Los problemas políticos.

Todo este conjunto de cuestiones ha llevado a una crisis política de la cual estas protestas públicas han sido solo un primer momento, si consideramos su capacidad de difusión y su masividad. Sin embargo, existe una parte de la sociedad cubana inconforme con la situación del país que no se expresa por miedo a las consecuencias negativas que pueden sufrir debido a una cultura arraigada de exclusión de las opciones políticas diferentes a las defendidas desde las estructuras de poder. El gobierno cubano debería considerar esta realidad política y actuar en consecuencia si realmente quiere evitar que la fractura social y política en la sociedad cubana se profundice y supere el nivel de polarización que ya es gravísimo.

En 2019 se adoptó una nueva Constitución que establece en su artículo 1 que “Cuba es un Estado socialista de derecho y justicia social, democrático, independiente y soberano, organizado con todos y para el bien de todos como república unitaria e indivisible, fundada en el trabajo, la dignidad, el humanismo y la ética de sus ciudadanos para el disfrute de la libertad, la equidad, la igualdad, la solidaridad, el bienestar y la prosperidad individual y colectiva”. Sin embargo, existen ejemplos que demuestran que muchos de esos preceptos no reflejan la realidad política del país.

El artículo 5 de la carta magna le otorga al Partido Comunista de Cuba, la condición de “fuerza política superior de la sociedad y del Estado”, lo cual, en la práctica, coloca al Partido por encima de la sociedad. Esta realidad no tiene nada de democrática, toda vez que tampoco el Partido Comunista es una organización democrática en su vida interna.

En esa misma Constitución se garantizan el derecho a la vida, la integridad física y moral, la libertad, la justicia y la seguridad …. (artículo 46); el derecho a que se respete su intimidad personal y familiar … (artículo 48); a la inviolabilidad de su domicilio (artículo 49); a la inviolabilidad de la correspondencia y demás formas de comunicación (artículo 50); las personas no puede ser sometidas a desaparición forzada, torturas ni tratos o penas crueles inhumanas o degradantes (artículo 51); el Estado reconoce, respeta y garantiza a las personas la libertad de pensamiento, conciencia y expresión (artículo 54); se reconoce la libertad de prensa (artículo 55); los derechos de reunión, manifestación y asociación, con fines lícitos y pacíficos, se reconocen por el Estado siempre que se ejerzan con respeto al orden público y el acatamiento a las preceptivas establecidas en la ley (artículo 56); se reconocen a las personas los derechos derivados de la creación intelectual (artículo 62); los ciudadanos cubanos tienen derecho a participar en la conformación, ejercicio y control del poder del Estado, lo cual implica: estar inscriptos en el registro electoral, proponer y nominar candidatos, elegir y ser elegidos, participar en las elecciones, plebiscitos, referendos, consultas populares y otras formas de participación democrática, pronunciarse sobre la rendición de cuenta que le presentan los elegidos, ejercer la iniciativa legislativa y de reforma de la Constitución, desempeñar cargos públicos y estar informados de la gestión de los órganos y autoridades del Estado (artículo 80).

La mayor parte de estos artículos, relacionados con derechos humanos y políticos está sin reglamentar, pero al margen de esto, la propia Constitución contradice algunos de esos derechos. Por ejemplo, la libertad de elegir y ser elegidos, mediante el voto de los ciudadanos es restringida por el inciso “c” del artículo 205 que establece como excepción a “los que no cumplan el requisito de residencia en el país previstos en la ley”. Es decir, a los cubanos residentes en el exterior, que constituyen más de un 20% de la población actual del país y cuyas remesas han contribuido a la subsistencia del país, se les niega ese derecho elemental que está consagrado en la mayor parte de las constituciones de las repúblicas latinoamericanas. De igual forma, la iniciativa legislativa y la reforma de la Constitución, contenidas también en el artículo 80 son restringidas por el artículo 227 que trata sobre la iniciativa para promover reformas a la Constitución, porque la iniciativa de los ciudadanos debe ser “mediante petición dirigida a la Asamblea Nacional, firmada por un mínimo de 50.000 electores”, además de que la Constitución solo puede ser reformada por la Asamblea Nacional en una “votación nominal no menor a dos terceras partes del número total de sus integrantes”, es decir, que no permite que la Constitución sea reformada o elaborada por una Asamblea Constituyente, elegida libremente por la ciudadanía, tal y como ocurrió en 1940. Si la Asamblea Nacional es elegida con base a una lista única que responde a las orientaciones del Partido Comunista, es fácil intuir que sería imposible contar con ella para reformar una constitución hecha a la medida de los intereses de la dirigencia de dicho partido, que no necesariamente se corresponde con los intereses reales de parte de su membresía.

A diferencia de la mayor parte de los países latinoamericanos, los ciudadanos cubanos carecen del derecho a elegir, mediante sufragio universal y directo, entre varias alternativas, al Presidente y Vicepresidente de la República, a los diputados a la Asamblea Nacional, y a las autoridades de gobierno provinciales y municipales.

Las leyes cubanas posteriores a 1959 no han permitido el derecho a la huelga, ni a la formación de asociaciones sociales, profesionales o políticas que estén por fuera del control del poder político, con lo cual se conculcan los derechos proclamados en los artículos 54 y 56 de la Constitución.

Así, en las cuestiones relativas a los derechos políticos, la Constitución de 2019, al igual que la de 1976, retroceden respecto a la de 1940 que, dicho sea de paso, fue el resultado de una Asamblea Constituyente, elegida democráticamente, en la que también participaron delegados comunistas junto a otros del amplio espectro de fuerzas políticas que caracterizaba a la sociedad cubana de entonces.

La Constitución de 2019 fue aprobada en referendo nacional por una mayoría significativa de la población, pero en su proceso de discusión y debate, solo tuvo cabida la pedagogía del SI y en dicho referendo no se permitió votar a la población cubana residente en el exterior que aun ostenta un pasaporte cubano. Hasta en el régimen pinochetista en Chile se permitió la pedagogía del NO.

En los tiempos recientes han ocurrido varios episodios en los que autoridades cubanas han violado la Constitución aprobada por esa inmensa mayoría alcanzada entre aquellos que tuvieron la oportunidad de ejercer su derecho al voto. Se han producido detenciones de ciudadanos por el simple hecho de caminar por una calle portando un cartel que exige la libertad para alguna persona detenida; han sido detenidas personas por expresar su inconformidad y rechazo al sistema político; fuerzas de la policía han obligado, de forma ilegal, a ciudadanos que no están condenados judicialmente, a permanecer en sus casas en contra de su voluntad y cuando éstos se han negado alegando su derecho a la libre movilidad, han sido detenidos; no se han atendido solicitudes de hábeas corpus, a pesar de que esta figura jurídica está presente en la nueva Constitución y es un derecho universalmente reconocido en las sociedades civilizadas; se mantiene la práctica de expulsar de ciertos centros de trabajo a personas que expresan opiniones contrarias a las que se sostienen desde el poder político, incluso cuando en algunos casos esas opiniones ni siquiera han cuestionado la esencia del sistema político y social; se ha promovido y en otros casos, permitido situaciones de hostigamiento a personas identificadas como desafectas al gobierno del país; para solo mencionar algunos ejemplos de violaciones de la ley suprema de la República, generadas desde las estructuras de poder, que deberían ser sus garantes ante la sociedad.

Desde las estructuras de poder se ha dicho que las manifestaciones del 11-J han sido orquestadas desde el exterior. Es cierto y además público que algunos llamados “influencer” de ciertas redes sociales ha realizado llamados a la desobediencia civil y a la insurrección. Sin embargo, si fuera cierto que estas protestas fueron el resultado de estos llamados y de la labor de zapa del gobierno de los Estados Unidos, esto podría significar que el Partido Comunista carece del liderazgo y la influencia que en Cuba que se establece como precepto constitucional. Argumentar que las protestas fueron orquestadas desde el exterior es un insulto a la ciudadanía y a su derecho a expresar un descontento que antes no ha encontrado otras vías de canalización, debido a la soberbia, al autismo y al escaso espíritu autocrítico de muchos de los que ejercen responsabilidades de dirección en el país y que mantienen un discurso alejado de la realidad del país.

Las protestas sociales, a diferencia de lo que se sostiene desde el discurso oficial, fueron el resultado de la combinación de todos esos factores a los que se suma el hastío de muchos ciudadanos que no encuentran una salida esperanzadora a una situación de crisis que persiste en la sociedad cubana desde hace varias décadas pero que en las circunstancias actuales ha cobrado una gravedad extraordinaria.

En las protestas hubo saqueos y destrucción de propiedad pública y privada, que no fueron masivos. ¿En cuáles protestas no ocurren? Es lamentable y condenable. Sin embargo, vale la pena llamar la atención sobre cuales han sido los objetos de estos actos deplorables. En unos casos, fueron algunas tiendas en MLC, que son un símbolo evidente de la diferenciación social establecida en Cuba entre los que tienen acceso a ellas y los que no, por el solo hecho de no disponer de cuentas en una moneda que no se obtiene como resultado del trabajo sino que proviene de remesas desde el exterior. Se produjo el volcamiento y destrucción de algunos automóviles de la policía y de instituciones oficiales. También se produjeron enfrentamientos entre fuerzas antimotines y de policía, tanto uniformados como vestidos de civil y los ciudadanos que protestaban. Las imágenes de supuestos civiles, perfectamente organizados, transportados en vehículos públicos y armados de palos y bates de béisbol para golpear a quienes protestaban son una muestra del insulto que ese día se profirió contra el ideario de la Revolución Cubana. Y la orden fue proferida desde el más alto nivel de dirección del país. No es la primera vez que esto ocurre, sin embargo, si es la ocasión en la que alcanzó las mayores proporciones.

Las opciones.

A pesar de la profundidad de la fractura social y política del 11-J y del nivel de polarización que ha alcanzado la sociedad cubana, para bien del país, la política debería imponerse a la golpiza.

Me opongo a los llamados a una intervención militar extranjera que solo causaría sangre y dolor a las familias cubanas y también en las de quienes, eventualmente, pudieran intervenir. Y me opongo a la represión militar, policial y paramilitar ejercida por quienes tienen el deber de proteger la seguridad del pueblo y no mancillarlo. La vida y la dignidad deben ser preservadas.

Siento un profundo compromiso con la idea original que inspiró la Revolución Cubana, es decir, la democracia y la justicia social. La democracia nos ha sido confiscada y la justicia social se despedaza en cada medida que crea excluidos en nuestra Nación.

Una opción que parece imponerse en el discurso oficial es la de reprimir a quienes han sido identificados como participantes de las protestas y hacer caer sobre ellos el peso de cuestionables figuras jurídicas, y de paso, amedrentar a quienes pudieran protagonizar eventos similares en el futuro con medidas ejemplarizantes. Esta opción solo profundizará la fractura de la sociedad y solo postergaría una futura crisis política y social que podría tener gravísimas consecuencias.

Otra opción, que considero necesaria, sería liberar a todas las personas que han sido detenidas por las protestas y antes de las mismas, por expresar su desacuerdo con el gobierno o con el sistema político actualmente vigente. A fin de cuentas, ellos no realizaron un asalto armado a un cuartel del ejército. No hay que reprimir al descontento sino crear las condiciones para que el descontento pueda ser convertido en satisfacción y esperanza o que al menos ese descontento tenga vías legítimas de expresión, y ello pasa necesariamente por una reconfiguración pacífica de nuestro sistema político.

La Constitución actual no satisface las aspiraciones democráticas de todo el pueblo, precisamente porque excluye a una parte del mismo en el derecho a ejercer su soberanía por lo cual debe ser enmendada, aunque en mi opinión debería ser elaborada una nueva que garantice el establecimiento de un sistema democrático. Para esta enmienda, el elemento inicial debería ser la reforma de los artículos 205, 226 y 227.

En el 205 debería eliminarse la excepción en el derecho al voto de los ciudadanos cubanos residentes fuera del país. En el 226 debería permitirse que la Constitución sea reformada por una Asamblea Constituyente, elegida libremente por la ciudadanía, mediante sufragio universal, además de la actual facultad de la Asamblea Nacional. En el 227 debería modificarse el inciso f que le otorga iniciativa a la ciudadanía para la reforma constitucional solo como petición a la Asamblea Nacional, mediante la recolección de 50.000 firmas, y permitir que estas firmas puedan ser válidas para la convocatoria de una Asamblea Constituyente.

En tales circunstancias y para hacer valer el carácter democrático del Estado que define el artículo 1 de la Constitución, debería convocarse a una consulta nacional vinculante, en la que puedan participar todos los ciudadanos cubanos sin distinción de lugar de residencia e identificados con un pasaporte cubano válido vigente y en la que los electores puedan escoger una de dos alternativas que podrían ser: a) Desea Usted que la Constitución vigente se mantenga como está y que su posible reforma posterior solo sea una facultad de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular; y b) Desea Usted que se convoque a una Asamblea Constituyente, elegida mediante sufragio universal directo y secreto con candidatos nominados o auto-nominados libremente, que elabore una nueva Constitución.

Lo verdaderamente revolucionario, lo verdaderamente progresista, no solo es la urgente necesidad de liberar las fuerzas productivas y el emprendimiento productivo que pueda iniciar la recuperación de la economía y encauzar el proceso de desarrollo, sino también resulta urgente la construcción de un nuevo consenso político, sobre la base del establecimiento de una sociedad verdaderamente democrática en la que tengan cabida las diferencias políticas y el imperio de la ley y de la justicia social.

mauriciodemiranda

La Habana, 1 de abril de 1958. Doctor en Economía Internacional y Desarrollo, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, España. Licenciado en Economía, Universidad de La Habana, Cuba. Profesor Titular del Departamento de Economía de la Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Cali, Colombia. Ver todas las entradas de mauriciodemiranda

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CUBA SAYS ABDALA VACCINE 92.28% EFFECTIVE AGAINST CORONAVIRUS

Mon, June 21, 2021, 8:05 PM·2 min read

Marc Jranjk

Original Article: Abdala Vaccine

HAVANA, June 21 (Reuters) – Cuba said on Monday its three-shot Abdala vaccine against the coronavirus had proved 92.28% effective in last-stage clinical trials.   The announcement came just days after the government said another homegrown vaccine, Soberana 2, had proved 62% effective with just two of its three doses.

“Hit by the pandemic, our scientists at the Finlay Institute and Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology have risen above all the obstacles and given us two very effective vaccines,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel tweeted.

The announcement came from state-run biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma, which oversees Finlay, the maker of Soberana 2, and the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the producer of Abdala. Both vaccines are expected to be granted emergency authority by local regulators shortly.

Cuba, whose biotech sector has exported vaccines for decades, has five coronavirus vaccine candidates.

The Caribbean’s largest island is facing its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic following the arrival of more contagious variants, setting new records for daily coronavirus cases.

The Communist-run country has opted not to import foreign vaccines but to rely on its own. Some experts said it was a risky bet but it appears to have paid off, putting Cuba in position to burnish its scientific reputation, generate much-needed hard currency through exports and strengthen the vaccination drive worldwide.

Several countries from Argentina and Jamaica to Mexico, Vietnam and Venezuela have expressed an interest in buying Cuba’s vaccines. Iran started producing Soberana 2 earlier this year as part of late-phase clinical trials.

Cuba’s authorities have already started administering the experimental vaccines en masse as part of “intervention studies” they hope will slow the spread of the virus.  About a million of the country’s 11.2 million residents have been fully vaccinated to date.

Daily cases have halved in the capital, Havana, since the start of the vaccination campaign a month ago, using Abdala, according to official data.  Cuba has reported a total of 169,365 COVID-19 cases and 1,170 deaths.

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CUBA DEPLOYS HOMEGROWN COVID JABS BEFORE REGULATORS GIVE GO-AHEAD

Daily U.K. News, 14 May, 2021

DUK Editor Team

Original Article: Cuba deploys homegrown Covid jabs

Cuba has begun a mass Covid-19 vaccination drive using two homegrown shots before they have full regulatory approval, after declaring a health emergency as cases surge.

The government said it aimed to vaccinate the entire adult population with its Abdala and Soberana 2 shots. The programme began in Havana on Wednesday for residents aged 60 years or older, with frontline workers in other provinces also receiving the vaccines.

The Pan American Health Organization said this week that Cuba was driving most new Covid-19 infections in the Caribbean. Although case rates in the communist-ruled nation have been low by international standards, it recorded its worst month for infections in April since the pandemic began, with 31,346 cases and 229 deaths among its 11m population. The number has continued to creep up this month.

José Angel Portal Miranda, public health minister, said he expected full approval for both vaccines in June but that Cuban law allowed the step to be bypassed in an emergency. “This makes it possible to initiate intervention in risk groups and territories with Cuban vaccine candidates,” he said after announcing the emergency last Friday.

Abdala’s phase 3 trials — the final stage before regulatory approval is normally sought — ended on May 1 while those for Soberana 2 will be completed this weekend. More than 300,000 Cubans have been vaccinated to date, including trial participants and frontline workers.

Cuban health authorities say both shots have proved safe and highly effective but have not released trial data.

Cuba opted not to join the World Health Organization-backed Covax vaccine procurement facility or accept jabs from allies such as Russia and China. The island nation has been manufacturing vaccines for years and authorities cite long experience and a policy of not depending on others as behind the decision.

A scientist works on the Abdala vaccine at a Havana biotechnology centre © Ramon Espinosa/AP

All but bankrupted by US economic sanctions and the Covid-induced crisis, Cuba is suffering its worst economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago. The economy declined 11 per cent last year and local economists said it continued to lose ground during the first quarter as the pandemic crippled tourism, which accounts for about 11 per cent of gross domestic product.

Both of Cuba’s vaccines require two doses, and a third booster shot has been added to combat new variants of the virus.

Portal Miranda said 70 per cent of the population would be vaccinated by September and the remainder by the end of the year.

Patients and medics preparing for vaccination on Wednesday expressed confidence in the programme. Physiotherapist Vladimir Lahenes did not believe Abdala, named after a famous poem by national revolutionary hero José Martí, which he was about to receive in the Havana municipality of Playa de Este, would prove unsafe or ineffective.

“Here there’s lots of experience with Cuban vaccines. Everyone knows, everyone is confident,” he said.

Family doctor Yolanda, who asked that her full name not be used, said she had been preparing for weeks. “I have been giving Cuban vaccines forever. I’m already vaccinated and very glad my patients will now be too,” she said.

Eduardo Martínez Díaz, president of BioCubaFarma, the state pharmaceutical monopoly, said last week that Cuba “will probably be the first country to immunise its entire population with its own vaccine”.

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CUBA SAYS IT’S ‘BETTING IT SAFE’ WITH ITS OWN COVID VACCINE

“We are seeing a safety profile with the vaccine [Soberana 2] that is very good,” Dr. Vicente Verez, director of the Finlay Institute of Vaccines, told NBC News.

NBC News, April 10, 2021, 3:35 PM EDT

By Orlando Matos and Carmen Sesin

Original Article: Cuba’s Covid Vaccine

HAVANA — 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.

If the 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.

The other countries that have developed vaccines, including the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and India, have significantly larger economies and population sizes.

Two of 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.

Around 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.”

Unlike the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the Soberana 2 uses synthesized coronavirus proteins to trigger the body’s immune system.

“We are 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 mosquitoes.

The 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.  

In Cuba, “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.”

With its 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.

The final 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.

Verez said that while the vaccination won’t be mandatory, he thinks “the immense majority of the population wants the vaccine.”

For Cuba, 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 access.

Verez 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.

“They are 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 volunteers.”

Díaz 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.

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Nuevo Libro: APUNTES SOBRE ECONOMÍA CUBANAY COVID-19

CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS DE LA ECONOMÍA CUBANA, Universidad de la Habana.

COMPILADORES: HUMBERTO BLANCO ROSALES y BETSY ANAYA CRUZ

Febrero de 2021

ISBN: 978-9945-9278-3-2

Complete Text of Book

INDICE:

A modo de introducción: otra pelea cubana contra los demonios/ Humberto Blanco Rosales y Mayra Tejuca Martínez

Reflexiones en torno a la nueva estrategia para el desarrollo económico y social de Cuba/ Betsy Anaya Cruz

Implementación de la nueva estrategia económica y social: una mirada desde la gestión/ Humberto Blanco Rosales

IED en tiempos de COVID-19: ¿qué podemos esperar?/ Juan Triana Cordoví

Cuba: apuntes sobre comercio exterior y COVID-19/ Ricardo Torres Pérez

Alimentación en Cuba: impactos de la COVID-19/ Anicia García Álvarez

El turismo mundial y en Cuba pospandemia/ Miguel Alejandro Figueras

Teletrabajo en tiempos de COVID-19: oportunidades y desafíos para Cuba/ Dayma Echevarría León

Trabajo por cuenta propia. Pre y posCOVID-19/ Ileana Díaz Fernández

La banca comercial tras la COVID-19/ Francisco Fidel Borrás Atiénzar y Oscar Luis Hung Pentón

De los autores

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CUBA’S COVID-19 DASHBOARD

 Cuban Government Covid 19 Web Site and Dashboard

 https://covid19cubadata.github.io/#cuba

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CUBA AND COVID-19: WHY IS THEIR MODEL SO SUCCESSFUL?

Original Article: Cuba and Covid-19

McLeod Group guest blog by John M. Kirk, October 29, 2020 

Original Article: Cuba and Covid-19

As the cold winter looms, along with the dreaded “second wave” of COVID-19, Canadians are faced with some alarming facts. While pleased that our infection and death rates are only half those found in the United States, we are doing poorly compared with one country barely mentioned in our media: Cuba. Their death rate (adjusted to population differences) is roughly 1/25 what ours is, while Canadians are ten times more likely to become infected by the virus than Cubans.

How did they manage to do this? Is there anything that we can learn from them?

The world is in a parlous state. There is the possibility that 500,000 Americans might die by February. The intensive care wards are rapidly filling up in Europe. In Canada, we are now hitting almost 1,000 new cases daily in the two most populous provinces of the country, Ontario and Quebec.

Yet, Cuba has managed to control the situation there, with fewer than 7,000 people infected and 128 dead. It has also faced, and curbed, a second wave of infections. Cubans are also over 40 times less likely to contract the virus than people in the United States. Countries of a similar size to Cuba offer interesting data in terms of fatalities. As of October 25, Cuba has experienced 128 deaths, compared with 10,737 in Belgium, 2,081 in Switzerland, 2,297 in Portugal, 5,933 in Sweden, and 1,390 in Hungary.

While there are some aspects of the Cuban model that are not transferable to Canada – largely because of radically different political systems – there are things that we can learn from them.

Cuba is fortunate that it is a small country, with 11.2 million people in an island about twice the surface area of Nova Scotia. It also has an excellent healthcare system, with three times the number of physicians per capita as Canada – the highest rate in the world. Its system emphasizes preventive medicine, as opposed to the curative approach used here. The Cubans moved with enormous speed to limit COVID-19, in part because of a finely tuned system to respond to natural disasters.

When COVID arrived in the island in March, brought by Italian tourists, the government decided to forego the funds derived from the tourism industry, and closed the island to tourists. Healthcare for all was deemed far more important than economic growth.

Continue Reading: Cuba and Covid-19

John M. Kirk is Professor of Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University, and the author/co-editor of 17 books on Cuba, including two on its healthcare system.

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