Tag Archives: Cuban Diaspora

ASSOCIATION FOR THE STUDY OF THE CUBAN ECONOMY, PAPERS AND PROCEEDINGS OF THE TWENTY-FIFTH ANNUAL MEETING, JULY 30-AUGUST 1, 2015

ASCE: Cuba in Transition: Volume 25

Papers and Proceedings of the Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting,  July 30-August 1, 2015

All papers are hyperlinked to the ASCE Website and can be seen in PDF format.

wwwPreface

Conference Program

Table of Contents

Reflections on the State of the Cuban Economy Carlos Seiglie

¿Es la Economía o es la Política?: La Ilusoria Inversión de K. Marx Alexis Jardines

Los Grandes Retos del Deshielo Emilio Morales

Preparing for a Full Restoration of Economic Relations between Cuba and the United States Ernesto Hernández-Catá

Economic Consequences of Cuba-U.S. Reconciliation Luis R. Luis

El Sector Privado y el Turismo en Cuba Ante un Escenario de Relaciones con Estados Unidos José Luis Perelló Cabrera

The Logical Fallacy of the New U.S.-Cuba Policy and its Security Implications José Azel

Why Cuba is a State Sponsor of Terror Joseph M. Humire

The National Security Implications of the President’s New Cuba Policy Ana Quintana

Factores Atípicos de las Relaciones Internacionales Económicas de Cuba: El Rol de los Servicios Cubanos de Inteligencia Enrique García

Entrepreneurship in Post-Socialist Economies: Lessons for Cuba Mario A. González-Corzo

When Reforms Are Not: Recent Policy Development in Cuba and the Implications for the Future Enrique S. Pumar

Revisiting the Seven Threads in the Labyrinth of the Cuban Revolution Luis Martínez-Fernández

La Economía Política del Embargo o Bloqueo Interno Jorge A. Sanguinetty

Establishing Ground Rules for Political Risk Claims about Cuba José Gabilondo

Resolving U.S. Expropriation Claims Against Cuba: A Very Modest Proposal Matías F. Travieso-Díaz

U.S.-Cuba BIT: A Guarantee in Reestablishing Trade Relations Rolando Anillo, Esq.

Lessons from Cuba’s Party-Military Relations and a Tale of “Two Fronts Line” in North Korea Jung-chul Lee

The Military, Ideological Frameworks and Familial Marxism: A Comment on Jung-chul Lee,“A Lesson from Cuba’s Party-Military Relations and a Tale of ‘Two Fronts Line’ in North Korea” Larry Catá Backer

Hybrid Economy in Cuba and North Korea: Key to the Longevity of Two Regimes and Difference Young-Ja Park

Historical Progress Of U.S.-Cuba Relationship: Implication for U.S.-North Korea Case Wootae Lee

Estimating Disguised Unemployment in Cuba Ernesto Hernández-Catá

Reliable Partners, Not Carpetbaggers Domingo Amuchástegui

Foreign Investment in Cuba’s “Updating” of Its Economic Model Jorge F. Pérez-López

Global Corporate Social Responsibility (GCSR) Standards With Cuban Characteristics: What Normalization Means for Transnational Enterprise Activity in Cuba Larry Catá Backer

Bienal de la Habana, 1984: Art Curators as State Researchers Paloma Checa-Gismero

Luchas y Éxitos de las Diásporas Cubana Lisa Clarke

A Framework for Assessing the Impact of U.S. Restrictions on Telecommunication Exports to Cuba Larry Press

Measures to Deal with an Aging Population: International Experiences and Lessons for Cuba Sergio Díaz-Briquets

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HOW FOES OF WARMER RELATIONS WITH CUBA SLOWLY CAME AROUND: Group of Businessmen Reversed Position, Helping Pave Way for Historic Move

By José de Córdoba

Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2016

MIAMI—On his historic visit to Havana on Sunday, President Barack Obama will be accompanied by a group of prominent Cuban-American businessmen who have one thing in common. For years, they all opposed the very kind of trip the president is taking.

The presence of this wealthy and influential group reflects the transformation of Miami, the capital of the U.S.’s economically successful and politically powerful Cuban-American community. For decades, these men opposed any attempt to soften relations with Cuba’s Communist government. And all, at different stages in their lives, changed their minds.

“We had to decide whether we were going to be an obstacle to a transition in Cuba or an asset to that transition,” says businessman Carlos Saladrigas, 68 years old, who in 2000 founded the Cuba Study Group, a nonprofit that pushed for U.S. engagement with Cuba.

Their change of heart mirrors a broader shift among Cuban-Americans. In Miami-Dade County, Cuban-American support for the U.S. trade embargo fell to 48% in 2014, from 87% in 1991, according to polling by Florida International University.

Having support from such an influential group of businessmen helped give the president political cover as he pursued a major shift of policy, say Cuban-Americans and former White House officials.

“They kept pushing us to do more,” recalls Dan Restrepo, a former national security adviser for the Western Hemisphere. Cuban-Americans “influenced the political climate in Miami at the time, and the president’s policies were made easier by the changed political environment.”

Their position is far from universally embraced and passions about the Castro brothers continue to run high. Earlier this week, Cuban-American Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R., Fla.) said President Obama was ignoring repression on the island to “promote more funds going in the pockets of the regime. U.S. policy must focus less on easing regulations and more on putting pressure on the Castro brothers.”

Support for the embargo is a fundamental issue for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the Republican presidential race this week. Republican candidate Sen. Ted Cruz also opposes rapprochement, which he says has thrown the regime an economic lifeline. Not until the 2016 presidential election contest is settled will the long-term prospects of the Obama administration’s policy be clear.

Among the Cuban-American businessmen to shift are sugar magnate Alfonso “Alfy” Fanjul, one of the owners of Fanjul Corp., one of the largest sugar producers in the U.S., Mike Fernández, a wealthy health-care entrepreneur who was a major donor to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign, and Carlos Gutierrez, who retired as chairman of Kellogg Co.after a 30-year career to serve as President George W. Bush’s commerce secretary, a position from which he supported the Bush administration’s hard line on Cuba.

Mr. Saladrigas, Mr. Gutierrez and Andres Fanjul, Alfonso Fanjul’s younger brother, will be among the Cuban-Americans accompanying Mr. Obama on the trip. Mr. Obama is expected to meet with Cuban President Raúl Castro, take in a baseball game between Cuba’s national team and the Tampa Bay Rays, and meet with dissidents, members of civil-society groups and Cuba’s fledgling entrepreneurs.

For each of the businessmen, Cuba is a personal and passionate matter. Some had family members executed by the Castro regime; others had relatives who spent years in prison. Some, such as Mr. Saladrigas, came to the U.S. as unaccompanied children, initially juggling lowly jobs and studying at night. All of them lost their homes.

Cuban-American businessman Carlos Saladrigas, seen in his Miami home, supported lifting the embargo and will travel to Cuba with President Obama. Photo: Josh Ritchie for The Wall Street Journal

“The one important thing we all share is that although we left Cuba, Cuba never left us,” says Mr. Saladrigas.

Messrs. Saladrigas and Fernández and a handful of the others involved in the outreach program have vowed not to do business on the island for fear of appearing to profit from their activism. “Because of the importance of what we are doing, we have to stay clear,” says Mr. Fernández.

In 1997, Mr. Saladrigas led Miami Cuban-Americans in opposition to plans by the Catholic archdiocese to send a cruise ship full of Catholics to greet the late Pope John Paul II in Havana the following year. Faced with Mr. Saladrigas’s opposition, the archdiocese dropped the plan.

Mr. Saladrigas says he changed his mind after seeing the pope make a plea in Havana to let “Cuba open itself to the world, and let the world open itself to Cuba.”

As decades passed, the Castro regime survived and pinned blame for the country’s economic failures on the embargo.

Mr. Saladrigas says he and other like-minded business people concluded backing the embargo wasn’t an effective strategy. “A lot of people felt good about beating their chests,” he says. “But it’s not about that. It’s about results.”

When Fidel Castro fell ill in 2006, eventually handing over power to his younger brother Raúl, many Cuban-Americans in Miami believed the elder Castro’s absence would open the door to change. The smooth transition of power led some to conclude that a new approach was needed.

“Nothing had changed,” says Enrique Sosa, 76, a retired executive in the oil and chemical industries. “I thought, this [embargo] is no way to knock these guys out.”ENLARGE

Alfonso Fanjul, one of the owners of Fanjul Corp., a large sugar producer in the U.S., is one of the influential businessmen who changed his mind and supported ending the trade embargo. Photo: John Parra/Getty Images

Many in Miami remain concerned that in pushing for normalized diplomatic relations, the Obama administration will neglect the quest for political and human rights that has long been a prime concern for Cuban-Americans.

“We want to get to the same place,” said senior Obama aide Ben Rhodes to a recent town-hall meeting in Miami filled with young Cuban-Americans, some of whom were skeptical of the opening. Mr. Rhodes was the point man in the negotiations that led to the agreement with Havana 15 months ago.

At the meeting, Mr. Rhodes reiterated the U.S. was no longer in the business of regime change in Cuba. He also said Mr. Obama’s policy would lead to change throughout Cuban society.

While Cuba is no longer their home, Cuban-Americans say it still lays claim to their hearts and memories.

“My father’s house, my grandfather’s house are in Havana. I don’t want them back,” says Pedro Freyre, a lawyer whose brother was one of 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban exiles who fought in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and spent almost two years in prison before he was ransomed.

“I want to see a Havana freshly painted, and I want to contribute my bucket of paint.”

On his first trip back in 2002, Mr. Sosa, the retired executive, and family members drove to Camaguey, a province on the eastern end of the island where his family had been cattle ranchers and sugar farmers.

“I realized I didn’t belong there anymore,” says Mr. Sosa, whose father and brother spent nearly two years in prison after being captured in the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Mr. Sosa believes Cuba faces daunting prospects, including the island’s obsession with maintaining tight control over the country’s economic and political life.

That said, “I came to the conclusion that if in order to help the Cuban people you ended up giving collateral help to the Cuban government, it was an acceptable price,” he says. “I crossed that bridge a long time ago.”

Saladrigas

Carlos Saladrigas

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

POLL: CUBAN AMERICANS FAVOR OBAMA’S POLICY OVER RUBIO’S

Original Essay: Cuban Americans: Obama over Rubio and Cruz zzzzzzz CUBA STANDARD

Bad news for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz: Most Cuban Americans support President Barack Obama’s normalization policy with Cuba, suggests a poll published by Miami-based Bendixen & Amandi International on Dec. 17, the anniversary of the normalization announcement by the presidents of the United States and Cuba.

The survey’s results suggest that presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both Cuban American Republicans espousing hardline views of U.S.-Cuba relations, do not represent the majority views of the Cuban community in the United States.

According to the poll, a clear 56% majority support Obama’s normalization policy, 12% more than a year ago, and 53% of Cuban Americans would like to see the embargo lifted, 9% more than last year. The majority is larger among younger Cuban Americans: Sixty-six percent of those age 18-49 favor an end of U.S. sanctions.

Bendixen conducted the survey Dec. 14-16 among 400 Cuban Americans. Florida, a center for histórico exiles who have been driving the U.S. sanctions policy, polls less favorable for Obama’s policy than the rest of the United States. Only 41% of Cuban Americans living in Florida said they had a favorable impression of normalization policies, compared to 56% of Cuban Americans living elsewhere in the United States. Despite broad support for his policy, 52% of Cuban Americans said they would oppose a trip to Cuba by Obama.

The U.S. president announced this month that he would like to visit the island, on condition of progress by the Cuban government on human rights issues.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

FINANCIAL TIMES SPECIAL REPORT ON CUBA, June 16, 2015

Financial Times, June 16, 2015

Document here: Financial Times SPECIAL REPORT on CUBA June 16 2015

Authors:

John Paul Rathbone, Latin America Editor; Geoff Dyer, US diplomatic correspondent; Richard Feinberg, Professor, UCLA San Diego; Marc Frank, Journalist based in Cuba; Cardiff Garcia, FT Alphaville reporter

obama-castroTHAW IN US RELATIONS RAISES EXPECTATIONS; Tentative signs of openness heighten hopes, but is the island ready to do business?

NEW CONNECTION DIVIDES OPINION; President Obama’s overtures play better than expected at home — although not with everyone

STRAITS DEALING BRIDGES MANY GAPS; Retailers in Florida cash in on items needed by customers across the water

GLIMMERS OF GLASNOST BEGIN TO WARM ISLAND; Government retains a firm grip, but there are signs it is loosening a little

NEW PORT ZONE HARBOURS BIG AMBITIONS; A would-be capitalist enclave in a socialist state, the Mariel project is emblematic of change

STATE EXPERIMENTS WITH CO-OPERATIVE THINKING; From garages and restaurants to dealers in exotic birds, co-ops are expanding

CUBA’S NASCENT KNOWLEGE ECONOMY; The island could capitalise on a wealth of expertise in science

US COMPANIES STILL FACE INVESTMENT HURDLES; Bureaucracy, eroded infrastructure and regulatory risk are among hurdles

GOVERNMENT LIKELY TO END TO DUAL CURRENCY; Change would be part of reforms to remove price distortins

COMPENSATION IS KEY TO FUTURE RELATIONS; What now for legal claims by those who lost property in the revolution?

OPINION: WHAT CUBA CAN LEARN FROM VIETNAM; The island has the resources and location to create a balanced economy

 There is a new entry among Cuba’s roll of important dates. Alongside Fidel Castro’s 26th of July movement and the January 1 1959 “triumph of the revolution”, there is now December 17 2014. That was the day when Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, the US and Cuban presidents, announced that they wanted to normalise bilateral relations and end more than 50 years of cold war enmity.

 To be sure, communist Cuba was already changing. After formally becoming president in 2008, Mr Castro began a tentative economic liberalisation process to boost the country’s flagging economy — especially urgent now that Venezuela’s growing crisis jeopardises the $1.5bn of aid it sends every year. But the December 17 announcement lit a bonfire of expectations among US businesses — even if Cuba’s $80bn economy, for all its exotic allure, is much the same size as the Dominican Republic’s. “There is a new sense of excitement, of US companies coming to look and thinking of starting seed businesses,” says one long-established European investor in Havana. “It makes sense. Start small, learn how the system works and then see how it all goes.”

 So, how might it all go? Continue reading:  Financial Times SPECIAL REPORT on CUBA June 16 2015

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CUBAN-AMERICANS AGREE: TIME TO END THE EMBARGO

The Cuban Research Institute of Florida International University has just released its 2014 Poll on Cuban-American views towards U.S. policy towards Cuba.

The complete write-up of  the poll can be found here: 2014-fiu-cuba-poll

New Picture (2)New PictureNew Picture (1)New Picture (3)

Majority of Cuban Americans want sanctions loosened: poll

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/17/us-usa-cuba-poll-idUSKBN0ES1CQ20140617

BY DAVID ADAMS

MIAMI Tue Jun 17, 2014 4:30pm EDT

(Reuters) – A survey of Cuban Americans in Miami shows eroding support for hardline Cold War-era policies adopted by the United States against Cuba, with a narrow majority in favor of closer ties with the communist-ruled island.

The poll, released on Tuesday by Florida International University (FIU), found that 52 percent of 1,000 Cuban Americans surveyed in Miami-Dade County oppose continuing the five-decade-old trade embargo against Cuba. That figure edges down to 49 percent among registered U.S. voters.

An even greater majority of those surveyed – 68 percent – favor diplomatic relations with Cuba. A similar number – 69 percent – favor lifting travel restrictions to Cuba for all Americans, according to the poll, which had a margin of error of 3 percentage points. Current U.S. policy allows visits to the island only under tightly controlled licenses for cultural and academic tours.

The results highlight the shift among members of the Cuban diaspora who fled the island nation to the United States to escape the rise of communism in the 1960s and show opinions have grown far less monolithic due to demographic changes.

Conducted between February and May as part of a periodic survey of Cuban Americans dating back to 1991, the poll found that younger exiles who left Cuba more recently were more favorable to changing policy than those who came in the 1960s.

The survey was funded by the Trimpa Group, a Democratic-leaning consulting firm based in Denver that promotes social change, and Open Society Foundations, which funds public policy causes and was founded by billionaire investor George Soros.

Miami represents the heart of the Cuban American community. “The Cuban enclave is changing at all levels,” Guillermo Grenier, an FIU sociology professor who helped lead the survey, told a news conference.

“The trends are clear,” Grenier said, noting that older exiles were dying while 20,000 new Cubans arrive in the United States every year under a migration accord with Cuba.

Only 8 percent of Cuban Americans ages 18 to 29 support continuing the embargo, compared to 60 percent of those ages 65 and older, the poll showed. In 1991, 87 percent of those surveyed backed the embargo compared to 48 percent now. Still, the latest poll found that a majority of Cuban Americans – 63 percent – support keeping Cuba on the United States’ annual list of state sponsors of terrorism, along with countries like Iran, Syria and Sudan.

“The results show that the (Cuban) government and the (Cuban) people are seen differently,” said Grenier. “There’s a certain willingness to throw the embargo under the bus, if there’s an alternative way to exert pressure on the government,” he added.

Asked if they would vote for a candidate who advocated replacing the embargo with support for private businesses in Cuba, 57 percent of registered voters said yes.

A larger majority – 81 percent – of registered voters said they would support a candidate who advocated replacing the embargo with a policy that increased pressure on the Cuban government over human rights.

Critics accused the FIU pollsters of ideological bias, highlighting the Trimpa Group’s lobbying ties to efforts to loosen the Cuba sanctions and promote travel to Cuba.

Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the pro-embargo group U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, pointed to a recent poll conducted for the Miami Herald newspaper that found Cuban Americans support the embargo by a 56 percent to 36 percent margin. That poll, conducted by Miami firm Bendixen & Amandi International, involved a smaller sample of 300 voters with a 5.6 percent margin of error.

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Publication of the Papers from the 2013 Conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy

 

The proceedings of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy’s 23rd Annual Meeting entitled  “Reforming Cuba?” (August 1–3, 2013) is now available. The presentations have now been published by ASCE  at http://www.ascecuba.org/.

The presentations are listed below and linked to their sources in the ASCE Web Site.

ASCE_logo_220

 Preface

Panorama de las reformas económico-sociales y sus efectos en Cuba, Carmelo Mesa-Lago

Crítica a las reformas socioeconómicas raulistas, 2006–2013, Rolando H. Castañeda

Nuevo tratamiento jurídico-penal a empresarios extranjeros: ¿parte de las reformas en Cuba?, René Gómez Manzano

Reformas en Cuba: ¿La última utopía?, Emilio Morales

Potentials and Pitfalls of Cuba’s Move Toward Non-Agricultural Cooperatives, Archibald R. M. Ritter

Possible Political Transformations in Cuba in the Light of Some Theoretical and Empirically Comparative Elements, Vegard Bye

Las reformas en Cuba: qué sigue, qué cambia, qué falta, Armando Chaguaceda and Marie Laure Geoffray

Cuba: ¿Hacia dónde van las “reformas”?, María C. Werlau

Resumen de las recomendaciones del panel sobre las medidas que debe adoptar Cuba para promover el crecimiento económico y nuevas oportunidades, Lorenzo L. Pérez

Immigration and Economics: Lessons for Policy, George J. Borjas

The Problem of Labor and the Construction of Socialism in Cuba: On Contradictions in the Reform of Cuba’s Regulations for Private Labor Cooperatives, Larry Catá Backer

Possible Electoral Systems in a Democratic Cuba, Daniel Buigas

The Legal Relations Between the U.S. and Cuba, Antonio R. Zamora

Cambios en la política migratoria del Gobierno cubano: ¿Nuevas reformas?, Laritza Diversent

The Venezuela Risks for PetroCaribe and Alba Countries, Gabriel Di Bella, Rafael Romeu and Andy Wolfe

Venezuela 2013: Situación y perspectivas socioeconómicas, ajustes insuficientes, Rolando H. Castañeda

Cuba: The Impact of Venezuela, Domingo Amuchástegui

Should the U.S. Lift the Cuban Embargo? Yes; It Already Has; and It Depends!, Roger R. Betancourt

Cuba External Debt and Finance in the Context of Limited Reforms, Luis R. Luis

Cuba, the Soviet Union, and Venezuela: A Tale of Dependence and Shock, Ernesto Hernández-Catá

Competitive Solidarity and the Political Economy of Invento, Roberto I. Armengol

The Fist of Lázaro is the Fist of His Generation: Lázaro Saavedra and New Cuban Art as Dissidence, Emily Snyder

La bipolaridad de la industria de la música cubana: La concepción del bien común y el aprovechamiento del mercado global, Jesse Friedman

Biohydrogen as an Alternative Energy Source for Cuba, Melissa Barona, Margarita Giraldo and Seth Marini

Cuba’s Prospects for a Military Oligarchy, Daniel I. Pedreira

Revolutions and their Aftermaths: Part One — Argentina’s Perón and Venezuela’s Chávez, Gary H. Maybarduk

Cuba’s Economic Policies: Growth, Development or Subsistence?, Jorge A. Sanguinetty

Cuba and Venezuela: Revolution and Reform, Silvia Pedraza and Carlos A. Romero Mercado

Mercado inmobiliario en Cuba: Una apertura a medias, Emilio Morales and Joseph Scarpaci

Estonia’s Post-Soviet Agricultural Reforms: Lessons for Cuba, Mario A. González-Corzo

Cuba Today: Walking New Roads? Roberto Veiga González

From Collision to Covenant: Challenges Faced by Cuba’s Future Leaders, Lenier González Mederos

Proyecto “DLíderes”, José Luis Leyva Cruz

Notes for the Cuban Transition, Antonio Rodiles and Alexis Jardines

Economistas y politólogos, blogueros y sociólogos: ¿Y quién habla de recursos naturales? Yociel Marrero Báez

Cambio cultural y actualización económica en Cuba: internet como espacio contencioso, Soren Triff

From Nada to Nauta: Internet Access and Cyber-Activism in A Changing Cuba, Ted A. Henken and Sjamme van de Voort

Technology Domestication, Cultural Public Sphere, and Popular Music in Contemporary Cuba, Nora Gámez Torres

Internet and Society in Cuba, Emily Parker

Poverty and the Effects on Aversive Social Control, Enrique S. Pumar

Cuba’s Long Tradition of Health Care Policies: Implications for Cuba and Other Nations, Rodolfo J. Stusser

A Century of Cuban Demographic Interactions and What They May Portend for the Future, Sergio Díaz-Briquets

The Rebirth of the Cuban Paladar: Is the Third Time the Charm? Ted A. Henken

Trabajo por cuenta propia en Cuba hoy: trabas y oportunidades, Karina Gálvez Chiú

Remesas de conocimiento, Juan Antonio Blanco

Diaspora Tourism: Performance and Impact of Nonresident Nationals on Cuba’s Tourism Sector, María Dolores Espino

The Path Taken by the Pharmaceutical Association of Cuba in Exile, Juan Luis Aguiar Muxella and Luis Ernesto Mejer Sarrá

Appendix A: About the Authors

logo

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Economist, Special Report on Cuba, March 24, 2012

 

The Castros, Cuba and America; On the road towards capitalism

Change is coming to Cuba at last. The United States could do far more to encourage it.

The Economist has produced one of its excellent surveys, this time focusing on Cuba.

Below are a set of hyperlinks to the various chapters of the Cuba Report. The chapter on the economy is presented following the Table of Contents.

Hyperlinked Table of Contents

  Revolution in retreat; Revolution in retreat

Under Raúl Castro, Cuba has begun the journey towards capitalism. But it will take a decade and a big political battle to complete, writes Michael Reid

  Inequality; The deal’s off

Inequalities are growing as the paternalistic state is becoming ever less affordable

Population; Hasta la vista, baby

The population is shrinking, ageing—and emigrating

The economy: Edging towards capitalism

Why reforms are slow and difficult

Politics; Grandmother’s footsteps

With no sign of a Cuban spring, change will have to come from within the party

Cuban-Americans; The Miami mirror

Cubans on the other side of the water are slowly changing too

After the Castros; The biological factor

Who and what will follow Raúl?

The Economy: Edging towards capitalism

Why reforms are slow and difficult

GISELA NICOLAS AND two of her friends wanted to set up an events-catering company, but that is not one of the 181 activities on the approved list for those who work por cuenta propia (“on their own account”), so in May 2011 they opened a restaurant called La Galeria. With 50 covers, it is a fairly ambitious business by Havana standards. They have rented a large house in Vedado and hired a top chef and 13 other staff who are paid two to three times the average wage, plus tips. The customers are mainly foreign businesspeople and diplomats, Cuban artists and musicians and visiting Cuban-Americans.

“This opportunity means a lot to us,” says Ms Nicolas, who used to work for a Mexican marketing company. “But they haven’t created the conditions for a profitable business.” There are no wholesalers in Cuba, so all supplies come from state-owned supermarkets or from trips abroad. Reservations are taken on Ms Nicolas’s mobile phone. Advertising is banned, though classified ads in the phone book will soon be allowed.

Across Cuba small businesses are proliferating. Most are on a more modest scale than La Galeria. Fernando and Orlandis Suri, who are smallholders at El Cacahual, a hamlet south of Havana, can now legally sell their fat pineapples and papaya from a roadside stall, along with other produce. Orlandis plans to rent space on Havana’s seafront to sell fruit cocktails and juice. In Santa Clara, Mr Pérez’s wife, Yolanda, sells ice-cream from their home. Having paid 200 pesos for a licence and 87 pesos in social-security contributions, she earns enough “to buy salad”. The streets around Havana’s Parque Central heave with vendors hawking snacks and tourist trinkets. Many of them are teachers, accountants and doctors who have left their jobs for a more lucrative, if precarious, life in the private sector.

No reason to work

This cuentapropismo is only the most visible part of Raúl Castro’s reform plan. “The fundamental issue in Cuba is production,” says Omar Everleny, a reformist economist. “Prices are high and wages are low because we don’t produce enough.”

Cuban statistics are incomplete, inconsistent and often questionable. But in a lifetime’s detective work, Carmelo Mesa Lago at the University of Pittsburgh has calculated that output per head of 15 out of 22 main agricultural and industrial products was dramatically lower in 2007 than it had been in 1958. The biggest growth has come in oil and gas and in nickel mining, largely thanks to investment since the 1990s by Sherritt, a Canadian firm. But output per head of sugar, an iconic Cuban product, has dropped to an eighth of its level in 1958 and 1989. Capital investment has collapsed. Raúl Castro has repeatedly lamented that Cuba imported around 80% of the food it consumed between 2007 and 2009, at a cost of over $1.7 billion a year.

The American embargo is an irritant, but the economy’s central failing is that Fidel’s paternalist state did away with any incentive to work, or any sanction for not doing so. So most Cubans do not work very hard at their official jobs. People stand around chatting or conduct long telephone conversations with their mothers. They also routinely pilfer supplies from their workplace: that is what keeps the informal economy going.

The global financial crisis in 2007-08 also took its toll. Tourists stayed away, the oil price plunged, and with it Venezuelan aid. Hurricane damage meant more food imports, just when world food prices were rising and those of nickel, now Cuba’s main export, were plunging. All this coincided with the political infighting in which Mr Lage was ousted, during which “all financial and budgetary discipline was blown away”, according to a foreign businessman. Having repeatedly defaulted on its foreign debt, Cuba has little access to credit. Instead of devaluing the CUC, which would have pushed up inflation, in January 2009 the government seized about $1 billion in hard-currency balances held by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and foreign joint ventures. It did not finish paying them back until December 2011.

The guidelines approved by the party congress contain measures to raise production and exports, cut import demand and make the state financially sustainable. This involves, first, turning over idle state land to private farmers; second, making the state more productive by transferring surplus workers to the private sector or to co-ops; and third, lifting some of the many prohibitions that restrict Cuban lives, and granting much more autonomy to the 3,700 SOEs.

The grip of the state on Cuban farming has been disastrous. State farms of various kinds hold 75% of Cuba’s 6.7m hectares of agricultural land. In 2007 some 45% of this was lying idle, much of it overrun by marabú, a tenacious weed. Cuba is the only country in Latin America where killing a cow is a crime (and eating beef a rare luxury). That has not stopped the cattle herd declining from 7m in 1967 to 4m in 2011.

In 2008 Raúl allowed private farmers and co-ops to lease idle state land for ten years. By December last year 1.4m hectares had been handed out. The government has now agreed to extend the lease-period to up to 25 years, allow farm buildings to be put up and pay for any improvements if the leases are not renewed.

Credit and technical assistance also remain scarce, says Armando Nova of CEEC. Farmers suffer in the grip of Acopio, the state marketing organisation. It is the monopoly supplier of inputs such as seeds, fertiliser and equipment and was the sole purchaser of the farms’ output, but its monopoly is being dented. Farmers can now sell surplus production of all but 17 basic crops themselves. Under a pilot programme in Artemisa and Mayabeque provinces, near Havana, new co-ops will take over many of Acopio’s functions.

The reformers want to see Acopio go. More surprisingly, so does Joaquín Infante Ugarte at the National Association of Economists and Accountants (ANEC): “It’s always been a disaster. We should put a bomb under it.” But in around 100 of Cuba’s 168 municipalities the economy is based on farming, so Acopio is a big source of power and perks for party hacks, and its future is the subject of an intense political battle. That makes farmers nervous. A year ago the 30 or so farmers in the Antonio Maceo co-op in Mayabeque leased extra land, got a loan and planted bananas, citrus and beans. The administrator says output is up, but “it will take time to see a real difference.” And with that he clammed up.

Official data suggest that output of many crops fell last year; the price of food rose by 20%. That may be partly because farmers are bypassing the official channels. Granma, the official—and only—daily newspaper, reported in January that a spontaneous, self-organised and regulated wholesale market in farm products has sprung up in Havana. That looks like the future.

Letting go is hard to do

Reducing the state’s share of the economy has been even more contested. Raúl originally said the government would lay off 500,000 workers by March 2011 and a total of 1.1m by 2014. That timetable has slipped by several years because the government has been reluctant to allow sufficiently attractive alternatives for workers to give up the security (and the pilfering opportunities) of a state job. But including voluntary lay-offs and plans to turn many state service jobs into co-ops (as has already happened with small barber’s shops, beauty parlours and a few taxi drivers), some 35-40% of the workforce of 4.1m should end up in the private sector by 2015, reckons Mr Everleny.

Raúl sees corruption as politically incendiary at a time of rising inequality

By October 2011, he says, some 338,000 people had requested a business licence, 60% of whom were not leaving state jobs, suggesting that they were simply legalising a previous informal activity. As happens to small businesses the world over, many fail in the first year. Few of the cuentapropistas have Ms Nicolas’s business experience. Many clearly find it hard to distinguish revenue from profit. ANEC is organising training courses. But the government has stalled an attempt by the Catholic church to set up an embryonic business school.

If cuentapropismo is not to be a recipe for poverty, the government will have to ease the rules. Mr Everleny wants to see private professional-service firms being established: architects, engineers, even doctors. Already the taxes levied on the new businesses have been cut, but they are still designed to produce “bonsai companies”, in the words of Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a dissident economist.

Lack of credit is another obstacle. Start-up capital for new businesses comes mainly from remittances. In a pilot scheme the government approved $3.6m in credits in January, nearly all for house improvements. As for deregulation, Raúl has taken some simple and popular steps, lifting bans on Cubans using tourist hotels and owning mobile phones and computers, and last year allowing them to buy and sell houses and cars.

But reforming SOEs is far more complicated. They have been told to introduce performance-related pay. The boldest step was last year’s abolition of the sugar ministry. In principle, SOEs that lose money will be merged or turned over to their workers as co-ops. But a planned bankruptcy law is still pending. So is the elimination of subsidies and the introduction of market pricing. Mr Ugarte of ANEC thinks much of this will happen this year, along with a new law to introduce corporate income tax.

The pace of change has picked up since the party congress set up a commission with 90 staff under Marino Murillo, a Politburo member and former economy minister, to push through the reforms, says Jorge Mario Sánchez at CEEC. “By 2015 there won’t be the socialist economy of the 1990s, nor the same society.” But there are several gaps.

For one, the government seems undecided what to do about foreign investment, a key element in the rapid growth in Vietnam and China. It has cancelled some of the joint ventures it had signed (often in haste) during the Special Period, and such new agreements as it is entering are almost exclusively with companies from Venezuela, China and Brazil. Odebrecht, a Brazilian conglomerate, has reached an agreement under which it will run a large sugar mill in Cienfuegos for ten years. Many foreign companies are keen to invest in Cuba but are put off by the government’s insistence on keeping a majority stake and its history of arbitrary policy change.

Officials worry that foreign investment brings corruption. Raúl has launched an anti-corruption drive with the creation of a powerful new auditor-general’s office. Several hundred Cuban officials, some very senior, have been jailed, as have three foreigners. Raúl rightly sees corruption as politically incendiary at a time of rising inequality. But he is tackling the symptoms rather than the cause. “People who were making $20 a month were negotiating contracts worth $10m,” says a foreign diplomat.

The guidelines involve only microeconomic reforms. Raúl’s macroeconomic recipe has so far been limited to austerity: he has managed to trim the fiscal and current-account deficits. The trickiest reform of all will be unifying the two currencies, by devaluing the CUC and revaluing the peso. It would help if Cuba were a member of the IMF and the World Bank and had access to international credit, but so far the government has shown no interest in joining. Mr Vidal of CEEC points out that for devaluation to provide a stimulus, rather than just generating inflation, the economy would have to be far more flexible. That will require a political battle.

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Asks That Cuban Emigrants Are Allowed To Contribute To Island’s Economy

(AFP) 19 Jan 12

A publication from the Catholic Church on 19 January called on all Cubans, those on the island as well as the “diaspora,” to contribute to President Raul Castro’s efforts to promote the national economy, and it asked authorities to create the legal conditions necessary to favor that.

“It is not only necessary to strengthen the economy of the State, but that of each and every citizen who makes up this country, allowing them to participate in development, those who are here as well as those who are in the diaspora, for whatever reason,” read an editorial in Pasos magazine, from the archdiocese of Cienfuegos, in the central-southern part of the island.

“Everyone should contribute according to their talents, qualities, and gifts and to the extent that they believe it is fair and necessary, and government and legislative agencies should create the laws and conditions suitable for that to happen, it added.

The publication said we must cultivate a culture of peace, where fair commerce replaces confrontation of any kind so that it can lead us to a shared historical destiny.

Since taking power in 2006 in place of his sick brother, Fidel Castro, Raul Castro has promoted economic reforms that have broadened the private sector, approved by the 6th Communist Party Congress in April 2011, in order to bring the exhausted Soviet economic model up to date.

Those changes include extending private work, authorizing small private businesses and cooperatives, autonomy for state businesses, and eliminating subsidies, as well as putting an end to a half-century ban on buying and selling houses and cars, among other things.

The Church, which since May 2010 has been in dialogue with the government, which released approximately 130 political prisoners, expressed its support for the reforms, but until now it had not publicly asked for an opening-up to investments from Cuban emigrants.

At least two million Cuban emigrants and their descendants live in 40 countries, over 80% of them in the US. They currently contribute to the islands economy by sending approximately $2 billion a year in family remittances, according to UN estimates.

The Catholic publication pointed out that “old evils are reluctant to go away and make way for new initiatives. Those initiatives, to the extent that they are deepened and extended, will allow for developing production that will benefit everyone.”

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New Publication: The Cuban Diaspora in the 21st Century

A new analysis of the potential role for the Cuban diaspora was made public today – October 7, 2011 – in Washington and will be presented in Miami on October 10. It was produced under the auspices of the Cuban Research Institute of Florida International University and more specifically, the Project entitled “The Cuban Diaspora and the Development of the Entrepreneurial Sector” of the Cuban Research Institute in cooperation with the Cuba Study Group.

As can be seen from the Table of Contents below, the Report, while concise, is wide ranging in scope and constructive in orientation. It may prove to be an important catalyst in generating changes in attitudes and eventually policy on both sides of the Florida Straits. At least, I hope that this is the case.

A distinguished group of scholars produced this Report, including Uva de Aragón (Florida International University), Jorge Domínguez (Harvard University), Jorge Duany (the University of Puerto Rico), and Carmelo Mesa-Lago (University of Pittsburgh).  Orlando Márquez, director of Palabra Nueva, a journal of the Havana Catholic Archdiocese, joined the committee in March. The coordinator for the project is Juan Antonio Blanco (Florida International University), who also coauthored the report.

The complete study is available here:

The Cuban Diaspora in the 21st Century, FIU, October 2011

From the Preface by Juan Antonio Blanco:

The authors have analyzed relations between several states and their diasporas and studied the problems and potentials associated with the Cuban diaspora’s potential role in Cuba’s national development. While this document does not attempt to evaluate the measures adopted by the Cuban government in August 2006, it suggests that Cuba’s so-called economic update would have a better chance of success were it accompanied by a parallel update of the island’s migratory policy.
The authors have reviewed the tensions, conflicts, and traumas in the history of Cuban state’s relationship with its diaspora, but their emphasis is always on the future. Without glossing over problems, they prefer to scan the horizon for possibilities that could bring about a genuine normalization of relations between the diaspora and its country of origin; in particular, changes in existing migratory policy to bring it in line with universally recognized standards. Their analysis also includes the obstacles posed by United States policy toward Cuba, especially for the Cuban diaspora, and the need for their removal.
The members of the committee—who volunteered their services to produce this report—have formulated a series of recommendations for respectful submission to the governments of Cuba and the United States, as well as to the Cuban diaspora and Cuban civil society.
As the authors note in the conclusion to this document, “Many of the observations, conclusions, and suggestions expressed in this report are aimed at tomorrow, with the hope that they will eventually be implemented in whole or in part. Tomorrow can begin today, however, if the actors with decision-making power in this area so choose, as Cuba so urgently needs.”

Table of Contents

Preface 5
Summary 7
Introduction 11

A Better, Shared Future 11
Points of Departure  12
Advantages of a Shared Future 13

State-Diaspora Relations 16

Haiti: A strategically selective state 18
The Dominican Republic: A Transnational Nation-State 20
Cuba: Between Disinterest and Denunciation 23
Policies for Improving State-Diaspora Relations 28
The Role of Government Institutions 33
Relations with Non-Governmental actors 34
Dual Citizenship Laws 34
External Voting 35
Investment Incentives  35
“Brain Circulation” 35
Ethnic Tourism 36
Nostalgic trade 36
Relations with Charitable and Voluntary Organizations 37

The Cuban Diaspora: Possibilities and Challenges 38

The Cuban Diaspora in the United States 38
New Policies and the Diaspora  45

The Diaspora: Resources and Possibilities 47

Economic Capital  48
Social Capita 50
Human Capital 50
Symbolic Capital 51
Possible Diaspora Support for the Non-State Sector  52
Venture Capital or Joint Investment in Small Enterprises  53
Using Symbolic and Social Capital to Attract Financial Capital  55
Access to Foreign Markets, Marketing, and Outsourcing 56
Tools, Inputs, and Technology 57
Training and Consulting 58
Obstacles and Challenges 59
Policy Framework: Updating Cuba’s Migration Laws 61
The Subjective Context  63

Conclusions and Recommendations .65

Conclusions 65
Recommendations 68
To the Government of Cuba  69
To the Government of the United States70
To the Cuban Diaspora 72
To Cuban Society. 72
Epilogue 73

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment