Tag Archives: Emigration

NORMALIZATION OF RELATIONS WITH CUBA MAY PORTEND CHANGES TO U.S. IMMIGRATION POLICY

January 13, 2015 Policy Beat

 Original here: US :Cuba Immigration policy

By Marc R. Rosenblum and Faye Hipsman

 The historic December 2014 agreement by President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba may herald revisions to immigration policy and create changes that affect the future migration of Cubans to the United States. The decision to re-establish diplomatic ties with the island nation, severed more than half a century ago after the Cuban revolution in which Fidel Castro seized power and established a socialist government, will prompt a series of sweeping changes. The United States will reopen an embassy in Havana; greatly relax restrictions on trade, travel, remittances, and financial transactions; and re-evaluate Cuba’s decades-old designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The two countries have also agreed to greater cooperation on areas such as counter-narcotics, environmental protection, and human trafficking. Despite the long estrangement, the United States and Cuba have cooperated on migration issues for decades and have agreed to do so in the future. While the United States has stated that its immigration policy toward Cuba—which affords Cubans uniquely favorable treatment—will for now remain unaffected, improved overall relations will make today’s immigration arrangements difficult to sustain.

Currently, Cubans who arrive in the United States, even without proper authorization, are granted entry and benefit from a fast-track process that allows them legal permanent resident (LPR) status after one year in the country. This unique policy, based on a presumption that all Cuban emigrants are political refugees in need of protection, may need revision now that a détente is at hand. As the two countries improve relations and open their travel channels, policies that automatically welcome Cubans—including illegal entrants and visa overstayers—and accelerate their access to a green card may need to be revisited.

A Cold War mentality has dominated the U.S. approach to its small southern neighbor since the Cuban revolution in 1959, focused chiefly on isolating the country through economic sanctions in opposition to Cuba’s socialist model. The United States has also cited major human-rights concerns for maintaining a trade embargo and implementing tough travel and financial restrictions. In his December announcement, President Obama called this approach outdated, saying that five decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba had failed to achieve the objectives of promoting democracy, growth, and stability there.

The U.S.-Cuba Migration Relationship

Fraught political relations between the two countries, combined with their geographic proximity, have afforded Cuba a place that is sui generis in U.S. immigration law and policy. On the one hand, the United States has offered generous refuge to Cubans fleeing communism; on the other, it has discouraged illegal and dangerous boat migration from Cuba, which has occurred in large waves several times in recent decades.

The population of Cuban immigrants in the United States surged after the revolution, rising from under 71,000 in 1950 to 163,000 by 1960. In the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of the Fulgencio Batista regime by Castro-led revolutionaries, many wealthy Cubans and other opponents of the Marxist forces fled, particularly as Castro began nationalizing private property. Under Operation Pedro Pan, organized by religious organizations in Miami with the support of the U.S. government, approximately 14,000 unaccompanied children whose parents opposed the Castro regime were flown to the United States between 1960 and 1962. In September 1965, the first Cuban “boatlift” began when the Cuban government announced that people were free to leave for the United States from the port of Camarioca. When thousands sought to take advantage of the opportunity, many in unsafe vessels, the United States and Cuba reached an agreement to instead allow Cubans to fly to Miami on chartered “Freedom Flights;” about 300,000 Cubans arrived this way between 1965 and 1973.

The cornerstone of U.S. immigration policy toward Cuba is the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), which Congress passed to accommodate these flows after amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in 1965 limited the number of Cubans (and other Western Hemisphere immigrants) who could receive visas. Under CAA, all Cubans who arrive in the United States are presumed to be political refugees, and are eligible to become legal permanent residents (LPRs or green card holders) after one year, assuming they are otherwise admissible. Two decades later, when Congress passed the 1980 Refugee Act establishing the current U.S. refugee and asylum system, the CAA provisions were left in place. Under the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, the CAA will sunset once Cuba becomes a democracy.

Following termination of the Freedom Flight program, most Cubans seeking to enter the United States have traveled by sea, and the attempts of hundreds of thousands of Cubans to make the perilous journey across the Straits of Florida have played a large role in shaping U.S. immigration policy toward Cuba. In 1980, maritime departures surged dramatically during the Mariel boatlift, when Fidel Castro opened the Cuban port of Mariel, allowing anyone to depart the country—including several thousand criminals and mentally disabled individuals. In the six months the port remained open, 125,000 Cubans (along with 25,000 Haitians who joined the flotilla) arrived in South Florida. Boat migration again surged in the mid-1990s. U.S. Coast Guard interdictions of Cubans jumped from 2,882 in fiscal year (FY) 1993 to 38,560 in FY 1994.

The 1994 surge prompted a pair of far-reaching migration agreements between Cuba and the United States in 1994 and 1995. Before then, Cuban migrants interdicted at sea by the Coast Guard were admitted to the United States, a practice widely criticized for encouraging more Cubans to attempt the risky journey. Under the 1994 agreement, Cuba agreed to discourage boat departures, while the United States agreed to grant admission to at least 20,000 Cuban nationals annually and to place intercepted Cubans in safe havens to be considered for asylum. Under the 1995 agreement, the United States granted parole status to the roughly 30,000 Cubans awaiting an asylum determination, and changed its policy to returning future migrants interdicted at sea directly to Cuba. Cubans who expressed a fear of persecution upon return and were determined to meet the refugee definition would no longer be eligible for asylum in the United States, but resettled in third countries.

Combined with the CAA, the 1994 and 1995 migration accords set forth the current “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy. Cubans intercepted at sea are returned to Cuba, where the government has pledged not to retaliate against them. Those who successfully reach the United States are permitted to stay, and become eligible to apply for a green card after a year.

Furthermore, to meet the 20,000 admission floor negotiated in the 1994 accords, the United States instituted the Special Cuban Migration Lottery. The lottery, held in 1994, 1996, and 1998, allowed Cuban nationals between the ages of 18 and 55 to register for admission to the United States, provided they possess two of the three following characteristics: a secondary school or higher education, three years of work experience, or a relative residing in the Unites States. Up to 20,000 lottery winners per year (depending on the number of Cubans admitted through regular visa processing) are granted parole status, and may bring their spouse and children. With 541,000 Cubans entering the lottery between 1994 and 1998, Cubans selected in 1998 continue to be paroled into the United States today.

As a result of these policies, and in spite of the hostile relations between the two countries, Cubans represent one of the ten largest foreign-born groups in the United States, with an estimated 1.1 million immigrants (2.7 percent of the foreign-born population). Collectively, Cuban immigrants and their U.S.-born descendants represented a diaspora of 2.1 million in 2011. Cuba also ranks highly as a sending country for new green-card holders, which have numbered in the 30,000s in each of the past five years (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Annual Number of Cubans Gaining LPR Status, 1990-2013

AAASource: Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of Immigration Statistics, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2000-2013 (Washington, DC: DHS, Office of Immigration Statistics, various years), www.dhs.gov/yearbook-immigration-statistics.

Loosening Travel Restrictions

Travel between Cuba and the United States has been tightly controlled for much of the last half-century. Americans are only permitted to travel to Cuba for certain authorized purposes, such as educational, religious, humanitarian, or journalism trips. In 2013, Cuba changed a long-standing policy requiring its citizens to obtain an exit permit and letter of invitation from a country abroad in order to travel internationally, even temporarily. Most Cuban nationals now only need a valid passport and visa to depart, although certain skilled workers are excluded from the loosened rules. In response to Cuba’s policy change, the State Department extended the validity of B-2 tourist visas issued to Cubans from six months (single-entry) to five years with multiple entries permitted. Between 2012 and 2013, nonimmigrant visas issued to Cubans jumped 82 percent, from 20,200 to 36,787.

Future Implications

Cuba receives unique treatment under U.S. immigration law. No other nationality is given a blanket right to green-card eligibility, no other country has a floor below which visas may not fall, and no other group of immigrants is guaranteed admission to the United States if they appear at or between ports of entry. In effect, Cuban nationals are exempt from deportation and immigration enforcement policies affecting all other noncitizens. Furthermore, because Cuban arrivals are treated similarly to refugees, many are eligible for federal assistance and means-tested benefits from which most noncitizens are barred.

As the Obama administration and Cuba take steps to normalize their relations, trade and travel between the two countries is only expected to increase. While Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has stated that current immigration policy and law concerning Cuba will remain “for the time being,” expanded travel and trade raise questions about the viability of the wet-foot, dry-foot policy and the Cuban Adjustment Act: As visa issuance to Cuban nationals increases, will a growing number of Cubans overstay their visas in order to obtain green cards? A policy that rewards those who violate the terms of their visas is sure to invite questions of fairness. How will the U.S. policy of automatically treating Cubans who reach the United States as refugees affect bilateral relations once diplomatic ties are restored?

Indeed, the Coast Guard has already reported a spike in interdictions of Cubans at sea since the announcement, with 500 interdictions in December—three times the typical amount. The Coast Guard attributes the spike to fear among Cubans that the United States could soon repeal the wet-foot, dry-foot policy.

However, while improved relations may create a pressing need for normalized immigration policies toward Cuba, both Cuba and immigration are highly polarized political issues. Permanently changing these laws will ultimately require approval by the U.S. Congress, and faces a steep uphill climb.

 Playas deEste, August 1994. Did They Make it?

Cuba-leaving-1 Cuba-leaving-2

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A CUBAN BRAIN DRAIN, COURTESY OF THE U.S.

New York Times, THE EDITORIAL BOARD; NOV. 16, 2014

Leer en español (Read in Spanish) »

Secretary of State John Kerry and the American ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, have praised the work of Cuban doctors dispatched to treat Ebola patients in West Africa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently sent an official to a regional meeting the Cuban government convened in Havana to coordinate efforts to fight the disease. In Africa, Cuban doctors are working in American-built facilities. The epidemic has had the unexpected effect of injecting common sense into an unnecessarily poisonous relationship.

And yet, Cuban doctors serving in West Africa today could easily abandon their posts, take a taxi to the nearest American Embassy and apply for a little-known immigration program that has allowed thousands of them to defect. Those who are accepted can be on American soil within weeks, on track to becoming United States citizens.

There is much to criticize about Washington’s failed policies toward Cuba and the embargo it has imposed on the island for decades. But the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which in the last fiscal year enabled 1,278 Cubans to defect while on overseas assignments, a record number, is particularly hard to justify.

It is incongruous for the United States to value the contributions of Cuban doctors who are sent by their government to assist in international crises like the 2010 Haiti earthquake while working to subvert that government by making defection so easy.

American immigration policy should give priority to the world’s neediest refugees and persecuted people. It should not be used to exacerbate the brain drain of an adversarial nation at a time when improved relations between the two countries are a worthwhile, realistic goal.

The program was introduced through executive authority in August 2006, when Emilio González, a hard-line Cuban exile, was at the helm of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Mr. González described the labor of Cuban doctors abroad as “state-sponsored human trafficking.” At the time, the Bush administration was trying to cripple the Cuban government. Easily enabling medical personnel posted abroad to defect represented an opportunity to strike at the core of the island’s primary diplomatic tool, while embarrassing the Castro regime.

Cuba has been using its medical corps as the nation’s main source of revenue and soft power for many years. The country has one of the highest numbers of doctors per capita in the world and offers medical scholarships to hundreds of disadvantaged international students each year, and some have been from the United States. According to Cuban government figures, more than 440,000 of the island’s 11 million citizens are employed in the health sector.

Havana gets subsidized oil from Venezuela and money from several other countries in exchange for medical services. This year, according to the state-run newspaper Granma, the government expects to make $8.2 billion from its medical workers overseas. The vast majority, just under 46,000, are posted in Latin America and the Caribbean. A few thousand are in 32 African countries.

Medical professionals, like most Cubans, earn meager wages. Earlier this year, the government raised the salaries of medical workers. Doctors now earn about $60 per month, while nurses make nearly $40. Overseas postings allow these health care workers to earn significantly more. Doctors in Brazil, for example, are making about $1,200 per month.

The 256 Cuban medical professionals treating Ebola patients in West Africa are getting daily stipends of roughly $240 from the World Health Organization. José Luis Di Fabio, the head of the W.H.O. in Havana, said he was confident the doctors and nurses dispatched to Africa have gone on their own volition. “It was voluntary,” Mr. Di Fabio, an Uruguayan whose organization has overseen their deployment, said in an interview. “Some backtracked at the last minute and there was no problem.”

10-03-2014cuban_ebolaCuban Doctors Arriving in Sierra Leone

Some doctors who have defected say they felt the overseas tours had an implicit element of coercion and have complained that the government pockets the bulk of the money it gets for their services. But the State Department says in its latest report on human trafficking that reported coercion of Cuban medical personnel does “not appear to reflect a uniform government policy.” Even so, the Cuban government would be wise to compensate medical personnel more generously if their work overseas is to remain the island’s economic bedrock.

Last year, the Cuban government liberalized its travel policies, allowing most citizens, including dissidents, to leave the country freely. Doctors, who in the past faced stricter travel restrictions than ordinary Cubans, no longer do. Some 20,000 Cubans are allowed to immigrate to the United States yearly. In addition, those who manage to arrive here in rafts or through border crossing points are automatically authorized to stay.

The Cuban government has long regarded the medical defection program as a symbol of American duplicity. It undermines Cuba’s ability to respond to humanitarian crises and does nothing to make the government in Havana more open or democratic. As long as this incoherent policy is in place, establishing a healthier relationship between the two nations will be harder.

Many medical professionals, like a growing number of Cubans, will continue to want to move to the United States in search of new opportunities, and they have every right to do so. But inviting them to defect while on overseas tours is going too far.

New Picture

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CHANGES IN CUBAN LAWS LEAD TO A SURGE OF MIGRANTS ARRIVING IN U. S. BY LAND, SEA AND AIR

24327_1371008405656_1545135432_919318_8061963_nPlayas del Este, August 1994; Did this one make it?

Original: Surge of Migrants

HAVANA (AP) – The number of Cubans heading to the United States has soared since the island lifted travel restrictions last year, and instead of making the risky journey by raft across the Florida Straits, most are now passing through Mexico or flying straight to the U.S.

New U.S. Customs and Border Patrol figures show that more than 22,000 Cubans arrived at the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada in the fiscal year that ended last month. That was nearly double the number in 2012, the year before restrictions were lifted.

The changes in Cuban law eliminate a costly exit visa and make it easier for Cubans to both leave and return to the island legally. Reform of property laws now allows Cubans to sell homes and vehicles, helping would-be emigrants pull together the cash needed to buy airline tickets. With greater access to cash and legal travel documents, the historic pattern of Cuban migration is shifting from daring dangerous voyages at sea to making the journey by air and then land.

The Cuban government is struggling to bolster a dysfunctional centrally planned economy after decades of inefficiency and underinvestment. Recent changes intended to encourage entrepreneurism have borne little fruit and many people are seeking opportunities elsewhere.

While the number of Cubans trying to reach the United States by sea also grew to nearly 4,000 people this past year, the biggest jump by far came from people entering the U.S. by land. And the Cubans flying to Latin America or straight to the United States generally belong to the more prosperous and well-connected strata of society, accelerating the drain of the island’s highly educated.

U.S. officials say that before the recent surge, more than 20,000 Cubans formally migrated to the U.S. every year using visas issued by the U.S. government, while several thousand more entered on tourist visas and stayed. Adding in migrants who entered informally, U.S. officials believe more than 50,000 Cubans were moving to the U.S. every year, leaving behind their homeland of 11 million people.

Many Cubans are using an opportunity offered by Spain in 2008 when it allowed descendants of those exiled during the Spanish Civil War to reclaim Spanish citizenship. A Spanish passport allows visa-free travel to the U.S., Europe and Latin America. The number of Cubans holding a Spanish passport tripled between 2009 and 2011, when it hit 108,000. Many of those Cubans fly to Mexico or the U.S. on their Spanish passports, then present their Cuban passports to U.S. officials.

Thousands of other travelers make their first stop in Ecuador, which dropped a visa requirement for all tourists in 2008. The number of Cubans heading to Ecuador hit 18,078 a year by 2012, the latest year for which statistics are available. From there, many hopscotch north by plane, train, boat or bus through Colombia, Central America and Mexico.

The government last year extended the length of time Cubans can be gone without losing residency rights from one year to two. That means migrants now can obtain U.S. residency and still return to Cuba for extended periods, receive government benefits and even invest money earned in the U.S.

Particularly notable is the departure of young and educated people with the means to leave. In the capital, Havana, it seems most every 20- or 30-something has a plan to go sooner rather than later, mostly to the United States. Nearly everyone has a close friend or relative who already has left for the U.S. in the last few years.

Dozens of Cuban migrants show up every week at the Church World Service office in Miami seeking help. Those without relatives in the U.S. are resettled in other parts of the country, where they are connected with jobs, housing and English classes.

Raimel Rosel, 31, said he left his job at a Havana center for pig genetics and breeding when state security agents began questioning him about extra income he earned from private consulting. He flew to Ecuador in August and then traveled north for 30 days to the Mexican border. “It was really tense,” he said, describing the trip as “utterly exhausting.”

Another man at the church office said “going by boat is madness.” He and his wife and daughter all had Spanish passports, he said. After selling their home in Matanzas province, outside the capital, for $8,000, they flew to Mexico City and then Tijuana, where they crossed into the U.S. He declined to provide his name in order to protect relatives in Cuba from repercussions.

Cubans arriving at a U.S. border or airport automatically receive permission to stay in the United States under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows them to apply for permanent residency after a year, almost always successfully.

While the number of Florida-bound rafters jumped this year, the 2014 figure is generally in line with the average for the last decade. The U.S. Coast Guard says it stopped 2,059 Cuban rafters on the high seas as of Sept. 22, a few hundred more than the average of 1,750 interdicted each year since 2005. Roughly 2,000 more rafters made it to dry land this year. The figure of those stopped was higher from 2005 to 2008, dipped dramatically for three years, then starting climbing again in 2012. Statistics for all Coast Guard contacts with Cuban rafters were not available for years earlier than 2010.

Good weather may have prompted more rafters to attempt the journey this year, said Cmdr. Timothy Cronin, deputy chief of law enforcement for the U.S. Coast Guard district responsible for most interactions with Cuban rafters. “There haven’t been any major storms that have come through the area, no hurricanes,” he said. “We’ve been blessed and in a way cursed by every day being a good day for a mariner to take to the sea, whether for good or for bad.”

Those who reach Florida call home to Cuba, perhaps inspiring others to attempt the trip despite the risks.

Yennier Martínez Díaz arrived in Florida on a raft with eight other people after 10 days at sea in August. The group of friends and neighbors from Camaguey, on Cuba’s northern coast, built the raft with pieces of metal, wood and a motor belonging to an old Russian tractor.

Martínez Díaz, 32, earned about $10 a week cutting brush and sugarcane. He said he wanted to help a brother with cancer by finding a higher-paying job in the U.S. After the motor nearly ran out of gas, the rafters drifted for days in the open water. At one point, they hit a powerful storm and nearly drowned. “I caution everyone not to come by sea,” he said, his face still red from the sun.

24327_1371008365655_1545135432_919317_733453_nHopeful Travelers; Playas del Este, August 1994.

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Debating U.S.-Cuban Relations: Shall We Play Ball?

Debating U.S.-Cuban Relations: Shall We Play Ball?

Jorge I. Dominguez (Editor), Rafael Hernandez (Editor), Lorena G. Barberia (Editor)

New York: Routledge, August 2011;

ISBN-10: 0415893232 | ISBN-13: 978-0415893237



Book Description

Two decades ago, affairs between the United States and Cuba had seen little improvement from the Cold War era. Today, U.S.-Cuban relations are in many respects still in poor shape, yet some cooperative elements have begun to take hold and offer promise for future developments. Illustrated by the ongoing migration agreement, professional military-to-military relations at the perimeter of the U.S. base near Guantánamo, and professional Coast Guard-Guardafrontera cooperation across the Straits of Florida, the two governments are actively exploring whether and how to change the pattern of interactions.

The differences that divide the two nations are real, not the result of misperception, and this volume does not aspire to solve all points of disagreement. Drawing on perspectives from within Cuba as well as those in the United States, Canada, and Europe, these authors set out to analyze contemporary policies, reflect on current circumstances, and consider possible alternatives for improved U.S.-Cuban relations. The resulting collection is permeated with both disagreements and agreements from leading thinkers on the spectrum of issues the two countries face—matters of security, the role of Europe and Latin America, economic issues, migration, and cultural and scientific exchanges in relations between Cuba and the United States. Each topic is represented by perspectives from both Cuban and non-Cuban scholars, leading to a resource rich in insight and a model of transnational dialogue.

Editorial Reviews

Review

“This volume brings together twelve exceptional scholars on U.S.-Cuban relations to explore the key dimensions of that troubled relationship. By including the perspectives of both Cuban and U.S. scholars on topics ranging from national security to culture, the editors provide a fascinating look at the issues that still divide Washington and Havana half a century after the Cuban revolution.”
William M. LeoGrande, American University

Debating U.S.-Cuban Relations offers  an agenda that Washington and Havana should be embracing. It is a splendid primer which I hope will be useful when the United States and Cuba decide to bury an antagonism that has served neither well.”
Marifeli Pérez-Stable, Florida International University

“An excellent exploration of a topic which is important (and fascinating) not only in its own right, but also for its larger implications regarding U.S.-Latin American relations. The editors have assembled an A-List of Cuban specialists who bring to bear not only great expertise, but also a variety of perspectives which should interest people on all sides of this long-standing drama.”
Michael Erisman, Indiana State University

Book Launch:

Speakers: Jorge Dominguez and Rafael Hernandez; Discussant: John Coatsworth

When: 4:00pm; September 22, 2011

Location: IAB 802, Columbia University, 420 West 118th Street, 8th Floor IAB MC 3339, New York, NY 10027; Contact: Columbia University Institute of Latin American Studies, ilas-info@columbia.edu

List of Authors:

Jorge I. Domínguez, Profesor. Universidad de Harvard.

Rafael Hernández, Politólogo. Revista Temas.

Hal Klepak, Profesor. Royal Military College of Canada.

Carlos Alzugaray Tret, Profesor. Centro de Estudios Hemisféricos y sobre Estados Unidos, Universidad de La Habana.

Peter Kornbluh, Investigador. National Security Archive, Washington, DC

Susanne Gratius, Investigadora. Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior (FRIDE), Madrid.

Eduardo Perera Gómez, Investigador. Centro de Estudios Europeo. Universidad de la Habana

Archibald R. M. Ritter. Profesor. Universidad de Carleton, Ottawa.

Jorge Mario Sánchez Egozcue, Investigador y profesor. Centro de Estudios Hemisfericos y sobre Estados Unidos, Universidad de La Habana.

Lorena G. Barberia, Investigadora. Universidad de Harvard.

Antonio Aja Díaz, Historiador y sociólogo. Centro de Estudios Demográficos, Universidad de La Habana.

Sheryl Lutjens, Investigadora. Universidad del Estado de California, en San Marcos.

Milagros Martínez Reinosa, Profesora. Universidad de La Habana.

 

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Cheney Wells: “The Role of Remittances in Cuba’s Non-State Sector Expansion”

How recent changes in remittance policy by the US and Cuba may facilitate small-scale investment to support Cuba’s growing non-state sector

Attached is an interesting MA Thesis by Chaney Wells on remittances and their posible use for microenterprise in Cuba:
Abstract:
This study adds to the existing literature on the potential use of remittances for credit in a financially underdeveloped economy, focusing on Cuba, a country for which little is known about the relationship between remittances and investment. In the past, economic and legal conditions in Cuba, in addition to US and Cuban policies on financial transfers have resulted in a large majority of remittances to Cuba being used for basic consumption. The Cuban government’s changing stance on the non-state sector, as well as recent shifts in both US and Cuban policies on remittances have important  implications for remittance use in Cuba. This paper assesses the factors affecting remittance use, and makes the case that as a result of the concurrent shifts in US and Cuban remittance policy along with Cuba’s non-state sector expansion initiative, a more significant portion of remittances will be used for productive investment purposes, filling the void left by the underdeveloped financial sector.
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Up-Date on Canadian-Cuban Economic Relations

By Arch Ritter 1. Canadian Tourism in Cuba Canada continues to be the largest national source of tourists in Cuba, a position that it has had consistently since 1990. Canadian tourists numbered 555,872 out of a total of 1,179.963 from January to April 30, 2011, according to Cuba’s Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas. This is almost 10 times more than the second source country, Britain. Excluded from the ONE Chart are visitors from the United States who have been increasing rapidly and at this time must be a not-too-distant second to Canada Total Canadian tourism to Cuba will likely approach 1 million for all of 2011. It seems almost rare to encounter a Canadian who has not visited Cuba. While many visit only once, many others are repeat visitors, and obviously like their visits to Cuba. Tourism is of course a major source of foreign exchange earnings for Cuba, larger than any single merchandise export but also smaller than other service exports (mainly medical services.)  Foreign exchange earnings from Canadian tourism were likely in the area of US$ 882 million for 2008, (calculated as 37.6% of total tourism earnings of U.S. $ 2,347.  million.) If one takes both Canadian tourism plus Canadian merchandise imports (mainly nickel) from Cuba into consideration, Canada contributed about U.S. $1.6 billion in 2008, a substantial proportion of Cuba’s foreign exchange availability. One partial consequence of the steadily increasing contacts between the citizens of Cuba and Canada is the expansion in Cuban immigration to Canada. This has increased slowly but steadily reaching 1,421 individuals in 2009, up from 845 in 2000. (Citizenship and Immigration Canada www.cic.gc.cahttp://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/statistics/facts2009/permanent/10.asp) Chart 1.          Principal Sources of Tourists, January to April 2011 Source: ONE, Turismo. Llegada de Visitantes Internacionales Enero – Abril 2011 2. Canadian Foreign Investment in Cuba. The first trimester of 2011 has been good for Sherritt International, the largest Canadian investment in Cuba by far, as well as for the nickel sector in Cuba. As a result mainly of a 27.5% increase in nickel prices, metals’ earnings from operations were  $57.4 million for January to March 31, 2011 and were $18.6 million higher than in the same period in 2010. Higher operations costs had a small negative impact on metals earnings, however. (Sherritt International Corporation, 2011 FIRST QUARTER REPORT, for the January to March 31, 2011, p.21) Another major Canadian investor in Cuba is Leisure Canada – headed by the legendary Canadian mining financier Walter Berukoff.  This firm is planning the construction of at least three major hotels, namely Monte Barreto in Miramar Havana, Jibacoa between Havana abnd Varadero (with a small “boutique beach”) and Cayo Largo as well as a golf course and a marina.  Perseverance has won out for Leisure Canada which succeeded in obtaining the rights – a 99 year lease presumably – to a 34,000 square meter-oceanfront property in the Miramar section of Havana.

The Monte Barreto Project

Here is some description of the projects from Leisure Canada’s publicity:

“The Monte Barreto site is located on the last significant piece of oceanfront property in Havana’s Miramar business and trade district. The property is 34,500 square metres and sits across from the new Miramar Trade Center, and adjacent to Havana’s National Aquarium. The proposed 716-room hotel project will have a significant retail and convention/entertainment component. With a planned 737-room hotel accompanying significant convention and retail space, Monte Barreto will stand as Cuba’s foremost luxury hotel catering to the world’s most sophisticated traveler. “ http://www.leisurecanada.com/monte_barreto.htm

“Jibacoa – Leisure Canada’s site spans 5.5 square kilometers of oceanfront property, which is located 65 kilometers east of Havana. The site is being developed as the first high-end destination resort in Cuba, and it will host six luxury hotels, two PGA championship golf courses, and timeshare villas.”

Cayo Largo – This small limestone quay, located 50 kilometers south of the main island of Cuba, possesses the most spectacular white sand beaches in all of the Caribbean. Cayo Largo is also rated as one of the world’s best diving sites. Leisure Canada’s project will involve the construction of 900 rooms, and a central pedestrian village that will offer retail and amenity experiences currently not offered on the island.

Another Canadian enterprise Standing Feather International spear-headed by Vincent McComber from the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve outside Montreal, is planning a 36-hole golf course, a beachfront hotel, spas, shopping centres – and, in a first for the island, villas owned privately by foreigners. This will be in a joint venture arrangement. If the foreign ownership of villas is accepted, it will constitute a major change for Cuba.   3. Cuba-Canada Trade Canadian trade with Cuba has begun to recover from the sharp contraction of 2008-2009 that reflected the impacts of the world recession on commodity prices, notably nickel, and on Cuba’s reduced foreign exchange earnings and lower capacity to purchase imports. Cuba’s exports to Canada continue to far exceed Canada’s exports to Cuba largely because of the importation into Canada of nickel concentrate from the Sherritt operation for refining in Fort Saskatchewan Alberta.  

Perhaps Raul Likes Golf

 

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Ana Julia Faya: Nosotros tampoco viajamos libremente a Cuba

Los permisos de entrada y salida del país son una violación de los derechos de los cubanos.

Published originally on January 26, 2011 in  Diario de Cuba

Jose marti International Airport, Photo by A. Ritter, 1966

Primero fue en la Declaración del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores en respuesta a las medidas de Obama sobre los viajes a Cuba. Después fue la subdirectora de América del Norte de la cancillería cubana, Johana Tablada, en entrevista publicada en Cubadebate. Y más recientemente Fidel Castro en una de sus Reflexiones, o quizás Castro primero y Johana después. Para el caso, no importa. Repiten el mismo desaguisado: que los estadounidenses son los únicos ciudadanos de este mundo que no pueden viajar libremente a Cuba. Craso error.

Los ciudadanos cubanos que vivimos fuera del territorio nacional tampoco viajamos libremente a nuestro propio país, no solo desde Estados Unidos, sino desde Canadá, España, o cualquier otro de los cientos que ocupan el globo terráqueo. Y no es por voluntad del “imperio”, sino por las restricciones impuestas en Cuba por cubanos sobre viajes de cubanos, medidas que ya suman tantas décadas que si no somos especialistas en la materia no sabemos cuándo fue que empezaron, en qué período de la historia antigua de los Castro se decidió cerrarnos las puertas para salir y para entrar.

En la cancillería cubana se sabe muy bien que los cubanos que residimos en segundos países y no le pagamos al MINREX por un Permiso de Residencia en el Exterior, si queremos visitar a nuestra familia en Cuba debemos solicitar antes a las autoridades de la embajada cubana correspondiente que se nos “habilite” el pasaporte cubano. Porque para viajar a Cuba no se nos admite el del país donde tenemos segunda ciudadanía. Y en ese pasaporte se nos estampará un cuño que nos abrirá las puertas del Aeropuerto Internacional José Martí, si los funcionarios encargados de esa gestión no se oponen y no nos incluyen en un largo listado que el defenestrado ministro de Exteriores Felipe Pérez Roque denominara de “personas repugnantes”, y que hasta el momento no tenemos noticia de que Bruno Parrilla haya desechado.

Que Fidel Castro asegure que solo los estadounidenses no viajan libremente a Cuba, bueno, él predijo una guerra nuclear por los días del campeonato mundial de fútbol, el año pasado, y ahora, en medio de su senilidad, se regocija con la bondad de los delfines mientras sobre el modelo cubano dice lo mismo y lo contrario. Pero que el tema de los viajes se especifique en una Nota Oficial del MINREX y que una inteligente funcionaria lo asegure también, da que pensar. Porque si seguimos al pie de la letra lo declarado últimamente por el régimen, en esta nueva era inaugurada por el general Castro con Lineamientos, Congreso y sesiones en la Asamblea Nacional, rigen los llamados a que los funcionarios cambien la “mentalidad”, se enfatiza en la necesidad de eliminar “prohibiciones obsoletas justificadas en el pasado”, y sobre todo se exige actuar con disciplina. Quizás los funcionarios del MINREX se han salido del modelo de conducta exigido por el liderato del régimen y no han cambiado su mentalidad, quizás se debe a que en Cuba hay tantas cosas obsoletas que se confunden al dirigir los tiros, o quizás es ahora el general Castro el que dice lo mismo y lo contrario.

La abolición de los permisos de entrada y salida fue pedida en muchas de las asambleas celebradas en el país convocadas por Raúl Castro de 2007 a 2008, dizque para conocer qué pensaban los cubanos de la isla. “El permiso de salida y de entrada, eso debería abolirse completamente (…) se hizo con otro destino, por otras razones, y ha sobrevivido durante demasiados años en Cuba, y yo no creo que tenga razón de ser”, dijo Silvio Rodríguez entonces. Fueron tantas las declaraciones públicas en ese sentido de conocidos seguidores del régimen, y tantos los rumores de que “ahora sí”, que incluso el corresponsal de El País en La Habana aseguró haber visto el documento donde se levantaban las prohibiciones sobre viajes y que su presentación era cuestión de días. Pero, seguimos esperando.

Ahora pudiera ser un buen reclamo de los delegados al VI Congreso del Partido Comunista, aunque tengan que ser indisciplinados y salirse de la agenda prevista solo para los Lineamientos económicos. En definitivas, ¿no es el Congreso “el órgano supremo del partido y decide sobre todas las cuestiones más importante de la política”? Si es así, la discusión en abril no debiera circunscribirse a las reformas sobre los cuentapropistas, o la compra y venta de casas, sino ampliarse hacia otras cuestiones importantes reclamadas por la población desde hace rato, como los permisos de entrada y salida.

Soy de las que piensa que Obama debiera levantar todas las restricciones de viaje en su país, para que no sean violados los derechos de sus ciudadanos. Los permisos de entrada y salida en Cuba debieran levantarse por lo mismo. No en reciprocidad por las decisiones de Obama, sino por elemental respeto, para que no se sigan violando los derechos de los cubanos.

Playas del Este, Summer 1994 Preparing to Leave

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“Shifting Realities in ‘Special Period. Cuba”, LATIN AMERICAN RESEARCH REVIEW, volume 45 number 3, 2010

By Arch Ritter

Just Published: “Shifting Realities in ‘Special Period’ Cuba”

Archibald R. M. Ritter, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image. By Michael Casey. New York: Vintage Books, 2009. Pp. 388. $15.95 paper. ISBN: 9780307279309.

The Cuba Wars: Fidel Castro, the United States, and the Next Revolution. By Daniel P. Erikson. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2008. Pp. xiii + 352. $28.00 cloth. ISBN: 9781596914346.

Political Disaffection in Cuba’s Revolution and Exodus. By Sylvia Pedraza. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Pp. xix + 359. paper. ISBN: 9780521687294.

Looking Forward: Comparative Perspectives on Cuba’s Transition. Edited by Marifeli Pérez-Stable. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007. Pp. xx + 332. $27.00 paper. ISBN: 9780268038915.

Cuba in the Shadow of Change: Daily Life in the Twilight of the Revolution. By Amelia Rosenberg Weinreb. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2009. Pp. 272. $69.95 cloth. ISBN: 9780813033693.

Cuban Currency: The Dollar and Special Period Fiction. By Esther Whitfield. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. Pp. 217. $22.50 paper. ISBN: 9780816650378.

Revolutionary Cuba’s Golden Age ended in 1988-1990 when the former Soviet Union adopted world prices in its trade with Cuba, ceased new lending, and discontinued its subsidization of the Cuban economy. The result was the economic meltdown of 1989-1994. In1992, President Fidel Castro labeled the new époque the “Special Period in Time of Peace,” a title that has lasted almost two decades as of 2010. Many outside observers have imagined that Cuba would in time follow the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in making a transition toward a more market-oriented economic system and perhaps a Western style of pluralistic democracy. This has not happened. The modest economic changes of the early1990s have not led to sustained reform. Political reform has been almost undetectable. At times, rapid change has seemed inevitable and imminent. But at others, it has appeared that gerontocratic paralysis might endure well into the 2010s. Change will undoubtedly occur, but its trajectory, timing, and character are difficult if not impossible to predict. When a process of transition does arrive, it will likely be unexpected, confused, and erratic, and will probably not fit the patterns of Eastern Europe, China, or Vietnam.

The books included in this review focus mainly on changing realities during the Special Period and the nature of prospective change. They constitute a valuable contribution to our understanding of a range of dimensions of Cuba’s existence in this era which in fact is not “special” but is instead the “real world”.

The collection edited by Marifeli Pérez-Stable assumes that a transition will occur and asks what useful insights may be gleaned from the experiences of other Latin, Eastern European, Asian, and Western European countries. The analyses included in the collection constitute the best exploration of the key aspects of Cuba’s possible alternative futures yet available. Then Daniel P. Erikson examines the U.S.-Cuban relationship together with domestic U.S. policies toward Cuba during the Special Period, concluding with a chapter on “The Next Revolution.” His popular historical analysis also is probably the best available as well as most readable review of this tragically dysfunctional relationship.

The culture of the silent majority or “shadow public” is the focus of Amelia Weinreb. This sociological-anthropological analysis of Cuba’s silent majority fills a major vacuum in works on Cuba over the last 20 years, focusing as it does on the character, aspirations and behavior of a group that has been almost ignored even though it probably constitutes a majority of the population of Cuba. Sylvia Pedraza examines Cuba’s evolving domestic political situation and the consequences for emigration over the last half century, including the two decades of the Special Period. Her work is probably the seminal analysis of the motivations underlying and patterns of Cuba’s continuing emigration hemorrhage.

Michael Casey examines how the Cuban government has capitalized on Che Guevara’s “brand”—epitomized by the iconic photograph by Alberto Korda—and how Che’s image has been commercialized for both political and financial motivations, using property and trademark law, and the marketing mechanisms of the international capitalist system. While perhaps outside the common purview of mainstream social science research on Cuba, Casey’s examination of the Korda-Che image provides a novel and convincing examination of how the Cuban political regime has sought to commercialize the central martyr of the Revolution. Finally, Esther Whitfield explores cultural and literary changes in Cuba’s world of fiction during the Special Period. Her work is also ground-breaking in examining the impacts of the economic realities of the two-currency pathology on the incentive structure and orientation of Cuban writers of fiction.

Marifeli Pérez-Stable has assembled an all-star cast of authors to produce yet another fine contribution to our understanding of Cuba and its current situation.[1] Looking Forward aims to investigate the alternatives facing Cuba after a possible regime change or “poof moment”—as Jorge Domínguez puts it (7 and 61) —when such change might occur, as if by magic. The authors were asked to examine their particular areas of expertise for insights from other democratizing processes, the particular relevance of the conditions of the Special Period, and the “plausible and/or desirable alternatives . . . for a Cuba in transition” (7). Given the concision and richness of the twelve essays in this book, it is difficult if not impossible to outline and critique them in the detail that each of them merits in a brief review. All are substantively first-rate.

In opening, Pérez-Stable assumes that “a medium-term democratic transition is likely in Cuba though not certain” (19). She explores first the transitions of Eastern and Central Europe and Latin America for insights into the Cuban case, and second, the possible roles in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba of the Communist Party, the National Assembly, and the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution, Cuba’s veterans’ organization. Her central conclusion is that a hybrid regime is most probable, in which elements of marketization and some liberalization combine with continued authoritarianism.

In his examination of military-civil relations, Jorge Domínguez is reasonably optimistic that further downsizing of the Cuban military will occur with the normalization of U.S.-Cuban relations. He also argues that the military will be compatible with democratization under the last three of the four scenarios that he explores: 1. a dynastic succession with continued Communist Party monopoly and a market economy opening; 2. with removal of the external threat, the military could focus on internal security only; 3. the previous scenario, but with a stronger military to maintain public order in the face of serious domestic security threats; and 4. the second scenario again but with a major continuing role for professional armed forces for international peace-keeping. (61-70).

Gustavo Arnavat analyzes the legal and constitutional dimensions of moving toward representative democracy and a market economy, and argues that major constitutional amendments or a new constitution approved by referendum will be necessary.

Damián Fernández presents a thought-provoking and sobering analysis of the role of civil society, emphasizing the difficulty of political reengagement and the development of attitudes supporting participatory citizenship. Mala Htun puts forward a well-balanced discussion of Cuba’s achievements and lingering problems in the same area of transition politics, and of the impacts of the Special Period on women and gender equality. She concludes that “[a]chieving gender justice . . . requires greater economic growth and political reforms” (137). Alejandro de la Fuente also outlines the achievements of Cuba since 1959 and some of the setbacks for Afro-Cubans since 1990; these include a smaller share of remittances and relatively less employment in tourism and high-end self-employment. His main conclusion is that special antidiscrimination policies will be necessary in the transition to a market economy. Jorge Pérez-Lopez contributes a fine analysis of the economic policy reforms needed for transition. In his first-rate essay, Carmelo Mesa-Lago carefully reviews the impacts of the Special Period on social welfare—education, health, social services, poverty, and income equality—and outlines the range of policy approaches needed if Cuba is to maintain social justice while providing incentives to economic improvement.

Corruption has been a curse for Cuba since Independence. It has evolved in unique ways there since 1990, and has tended to escalate seriously in Eastern European transitions, as Dan Erikson shows in his contribution to Looking Forward. The politically complex and difficult role of Cuban émigrés in any future transition is addressed by Lisandro Pérez, though perhaps not with due emphasis on how Cuban-Americans are likely to contribute to institutional development, trade linkages, investment projects, return migration, and tourism. Rafael Rojas provides an insightful exploration of the psychological and political transformations that must occur in this same area, in which polarized and implacable enemies— each claiming ownership of historical interpretation—must become loyal adversaries, competing yet cooperating within democratic rules. Finally, William LeoGrande provides a superb survey of U.S.-Cuban relations during the Special Period and of U.S. relations with former adversaries, so as to address the future dealings of the two neighbors.

In its entirety, this fine volume sets a high standard that will be difficult to surpass. What one would also like to see, however, is another chapter on how Cuba might get to and through a transition to achieve genuine democracy and a mixed-market economy. One might also question the editor’s decision against the citation of sources so as to reach a broader, less academic audience. This book should indeed reach a wide public, but the absence of the citations hardly seems necessary for that purpose.

In a market well supplied with books and reports on U.S.-Cuba relations, Erikson’s The Cuba Wars is perceptive, objective, and engaging. His work is based on general political analysis from his vantage point at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington; on interviews with many key players on Cuban issues in Miami, the U.S. Congress, the policy community, and academics; and on his own knowledge of Cuba, attained in many visits to the island in the past decade. For those who have lived through the U.S.-Cuba relationship over the last decade or the last 50 years, Erikson’s discussion will be enjoyable as well as insightful. His narrative style is captivating and brings again to life various events at the center of U.S.-Cuban interaction: events such as the Elián González affair, the tenure of James Cason as chief of the U.S. Interests Section, Cuba’s shooting down of an aircraft operated by Brothers to the Rescue, the conviction of Cuban spy Ana Belén Montes, the “Five Cuban Heroes,” and the eviction of Cubans from a hotel in Mexico City by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control. Erikson’s discussions of the Chávez/Venezuela-Castro/Cuba relationship, the Cuban-American Community in Miami, and the pressures promoting and obstructing a greater role for market mechanisms in Cuba are all captivating and substantive. His vignettes of congressmen and women with important roles in policymaking with respect to Cuba are fascinating. If I have any quibbles with the book, it is with the title which seems over-amplified, as there has not been a war between the two countries. The “Next Revolution” referred to in the title is not impossible, but I would think that a difficult but orderly evolution toward Western-style participatory democracy, and a more centrist form of economic organization, are more probable.[2]

In Cuba in the Shadows, Amelia Rosenberg Weinreb (Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin) explores and analyzes the lives, behavior, and views of “ordinary Cubans.”[3] These Cubans are familiar to those who have come to know Cuba during the Special Period. They probably constitute a large majority of the population. These “unsatisfied citizen-consumers,” as Weinreb calls them (2 and 168.), strive to survive with some access to basic “modern” goods, above and beyond what the ration book provides in an amount insufficient for life maintenance since 1990. These modern goods perhaps include some luxuries, but they also include basics such as toilet paper and women’s hygiene products that are available only in the “dollar stores” or tiendas de recaudación de divisas (stores for the collection of foreign exchange). This “silent majority” has remained under-analyzed and largely ignored by scholars, perhaps—as Weinreb suggests—because they do not seem to merit special attention relative to indigenous peoples, the poor, or labor unions, or perhaps because they do not fit the orientations of New Social Movement and Structuralist Marxist approaches.

Weinreb’s ethnographic participant observation succeeds in producing an analysis from about as deep within Cuban realities as it is possible for an outsider to get. Her success can be attributed in part to her research assistants and neighborhood ambassadors, namely her three young children, Maya, Max, and Boaz, who helped to establish rapport, friendship, and shared parenting bonds with Cubans who empathized and wanted to help a young mother. This “family fieldwork” provides a unique window into Cuban society and the lives of Cubans.

Weinreb’s focus is a “shadow public,” somewhat analogous to the shadow economy, as the following explains:

[U]nsatisfied citizen-consumers . . . share interests, characteristics, a social imagery and practice, but their political silence, underground economic activity, and secret identity as prospective migrants casts a shadow over them. They are therefore a shadow public, an un-coalesced but powerful group that engages in resistance to state domination but without a public sphere, and only in ways that will allow them to remain invisible while maintaining or improving their families’ economic welfare. (168)

The roots of the shadow economy of course predate the Revolution, indeed going back to the colonial period and its unofficial economy of smuggling and contraband, as reflected in the expression obedezco pero no cumplo (I obey but do not comply). However, the expansion and pervasiveness of today’s shadow economy were generated by the character of central planning itself, and by the circumstances of the Special Period, as analyzed in chapter 1. Chapters 2 and 3 examine how citizens strive to maintain private space and personal control within the context of the state’s domination of personal life and economic activity. Chapters 4-6 explore a range of survival strategies. Chapter 4 focuses on the concepts and practices encapsulated by the terms resolver, luchar, conseguir, and inventar, each with unique connotations in the context of the Special Period. The significance of material things—and the lack thereof—are investigated in chapter 5. Chapter 6 treats the importance of access to foreign exchange or “convertible pesos.” Weinreb here presents a Cuban class system that puts the “red bourgeoisie” at the top, followed by artists with privileged access to travel and foreign exchange earnings, “dollar dogs” or cuenta propistas (own-account workers) with access to tourist expenditures or remittances from relatives or friends abroad, “unsatisfied citizen consumers,” and finally, at the bottom, the “peso poor” who lack access to foreign exchange and additional earnings. The final chapters examine the broad-based phenomenon of feeling trapped and the dream of escape via emigration. Chapter 8 explores “off-stage” expressions of dissatisfaction, criticism, and resistance, which remain purposely hidden, unorganized, and outside public space. This state of affairs may be changing, however, with the Damas en Blanco and bloggers courageously breaking into the public arena, spearheaded by Yoani Sánchez. Finally, chapter 9 draws together the strands of Weinreb’s analysis and explores the relevance of the concepts of shadow public and unsatisfied citizen-consumer in the broader context of Latin America.

Weinreb succeeds admirably in describing and analyzing Cuba’s silent majority, those “ordinary outlaws” who are decent, hard-working, entrepreneurial, and ethical, yet must defend themselves and their survival through a myriad of economic illegalities within the framework of a dysfunctional economic system. These people live within the doble moral, effectively cowed into acquiescence by a political system whose main escape valve is criticism, innocuous at first, but then increasingly bitter, followed by emigration. The shadow public perhaps constitutes a potential “shadow opposition,” but seems to be easily contained and controlled by the governments of the Castro brothers. One might conclude from Weinreb’s work that this population—currently disengaged and thinking incessantly about emigration—is ripe for public reengagement and that in time there may occur a surprisingly rapid mobilization for change.

Weinreb’s analysis raises some additional questions. Under what circumstances might a shadow opposition become organized, finding a strong voice to become a real opposition? Will the new citizen-journalists of Cuba’s blogging community—plus critics such as Vladimiro Roca, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Marta Beatriz Roque, Elizardo Sánchez, the Damas en Blanco, and some Catholic organizations—be able to break the control of the Communist Party and the current leadership? Will normalization of relations with the United States and the ending of the “external threat”—a siege mentality long used as a pretext for denying basic political liberties—further erode control of the Party and create new political alignments within Cuba?

Like the flag raised by Máximo Gómez in Cuba’s struggle for independence but sewn by Victoria Pedraza, her grandaunt, Sylvia Pedraza (Sociology, University of Michigan) intends her book to be a contribution to Cuban history. Political Disaffection in Cuba’s Revolution and Exodus,  Pedraza’s magnum opus so far,  is indeed a splendid contribution. It examines the political, social, and economic history of Revolutionary Cuba, exploring its impact on citizens and on emigration decisions and patterns from 1959 to midway through the first decade of the present century. The scope of the work of course goes beyond the Special Period, whose emigrants are the most recent product of a series of four waves from Revolutionary Cuba, following those of 1959-1962, 1962-1979, and 1979-1989.[4] These emigrations serve as organizing periods for Pedraza, who offers a careful reading of the history of the Revolution, using participation and observation from within the Cuban-American community and among Cubans on the island, 120 in-depth structured interviews with a representative selection of émigrés from 1959 to 2004, personal documents of émigrés, and census and polling information. Of special interest in this engaging and moving mix (which few academics manage to achieve) are Pedraza’s personal odyssey and insights as a child of the Revolution, quasi-Peter Pan émigré, and returnee with the Antonio Maceo Brigade in 1979. The account of her reunification with an extended family that she had not seen since leaving Cuba is particularly poignant.

In Che’s Afterlife, Michael Casey follows Korda’s famous photograph of a Christ-like Ernesto “Che” Guevara into the consciousness of people around the world. This image is a well-defended and trademarked icon (copyright VA-1-276-975) owned by Korda’s daughter, Diana Díaz, and used in collaboration with the government of Cuba. For some, it is a quasi-spiritual symbol of hope for a better future; for others, a symbol of undefined but earnest youthful rebellion; and for still others, an abhorrent symbol of authoritarianism. Casey, a Dow Jones Newswire bureau chief in Buenos Aires, has written an intriguing history of the image’s trajectory over the last half century. He brings together research into the lives of both Korda and Guevara, a command of the history of Revolutionary Cuba, knowledge of countries where the Guevara mythology is important, an understanding of copyright law, and original investigative interviewing and reporting.

Casey begins with the instant when the photo was taken on 5 March 1960. He sketches Che’s role in the new government—notably as chief of La Cabaña prison and overseer of the swift executions of prisoners—his secretive and disastrous Congo operation, and his guerrilla campaign in Bolivia, putting the launch of Che as icon and of the “Heroic Revolutionary” brand at the 18 October 1967 memorial ceremony at the Plaza de la Revolución. Casey also presents an account of Korda’s activities in Havana, the first publications of his photograph, and the cultural ferment of the early years of the Revolution, followed by the disillusionment of many in the mid-1960s. He traces the peregrinations of Korda’s Che through Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Miami, as well as in the student ferment of 1968 from Paris to Berkeley. His later chapters focus on the use of Che’s image as a brand by the government of Cuba; here, it no longer signifies a heroic guerrilla promoting revolution, but has instead become an advertisement, selling Cuba in the international tourist marketplace. The essence of the image ia now “the idea of revolutionary nostalgia” (306). After some thirty-seven years during which the photograph was freely available for use by anyone, copyright ownership now applies and control is exercised through legal means when necessary.

Casey takes us on a fascinating journey through the life and afterlife of Che and through a half century of international social and political history, using Che’s image as a prism. His book should find a wide readership, of all political stripes, who have an interest in Cuba or in major political and social movements. Those with interests in marketing, branding, and copyright law will also find this volume illuminating.

I must confess that when I agreed to include Cuban Currency: the Dollar and Special Period Fiction in this review, I thought it was an analysis of Cuba’s monetary system, not having read the title carefully. To my initial trepidation, Esther Whitfield focuses instead on literature, but in the context of Cuba’s dual-currency pathology. Her survey of recent fiction has turned out to be a delight, even for an economist with little direct knowledge of Cuban literature.

Whitfield’s central argument is that the Special Period generated a boom in cultural exports, including literature, due to the opening of Cuba’s economy and society, the subsequent expansion of international tourism and the popularity of all things Cuban, the decriminalization of the use of the dollar, its adoption as a legal currency, and its quick ascent to supremacy over the “old peso.” Special Period literature then became market-driven—like many other activities in Cuba—with authors’ incomes dependent on foreign sales and hard-currency contracts, rather than on Cuba’s literary bureaucracy and membership in the writers’ union. The dominance of the foreign market was further strengthened by the shrinkage of the domestic peso market for books because of declining incomes. This new foreign-market orientation was formalized by legislation in 1993 that permitted authors to negotiate their own contracts with foreign publishing houses and to repatriate their royalties under a relatively generous tax regime. Like other Cuban citizens, authors responded quickly to these new incentives. Special Period fiction is set in a “real Cuba” of interest to foreigners, namely in the Cuba of a behavior-warping dual-currency system, urban decay, dysfunctional Soviet-style economy, and political gerontocracy, together with a vibrant Afro-Latin culture and time-immemorial tropical eroticism. Ironically, the international boom in Cuban fiction during the sunset of the Revolution was a sequel to the literary boom of the 1960s, which was set in the confidence and vigor of the youthful Revolution.

Whitfield begins with an analysis of the circumstances of the Special Period that pushed authors into an external orientation. She then focuses on the works of Zoé Valdés, especially her award-winning I Gave You All I Had (1966), published in exile in Paris, which allows Whitfield to trace the central role played by a U.S. one dollar bill and its symbolic relevance for the culture of the Special Period. Short stories are the subject of the next chapter, with particular attention to the work of Ronáldo Menéndez. His story, entitled “Money,” is also set in the world of the doble moneda and doble moral, but criticizes the reliance on foreign markets and worries about the jineterización (translated imperfectly as “prostituting”) of the writer-publisher relationship and possible debasement of “true” Cuban literature. Whitfield goes on to examine the work of Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, notably the five books of his Ciclo Centro Habana. Gutiérrez writes for a foreign readership, but also critiques it, placing the reader in the position of voyeur into the “lives of sexual disorder, moral depravity and economic despair” of Havana (98). In her final chapter Whitfield meditates on artists’ depictions of Cuba’s urban decay and on critical analyses of such depictions.

Whitfield has produced a fine analysis of how economic circumstances generated new problems and new possibilities for Cuban authors, who have risen to the challenge and produced a literature of broad international appeal. Whitfield’s writing is engaging, her knowledge seems profound, and her subject is enchanting. However, I am not a competent critic of Cuban literature or literary criticism, and cannot tender a confident evaluation of its value for scholars in these fields. Her book, linking socio-politico-economic circumstances of the Special Period to Cuban literature, will nevertheless interest a broad range of social scientists, as well as the more literary-minded.

Is the international market for Cuban fiction as transitory as one might expect or hope that the Special Period itself may be? Perhaps. It may be that when Cuba escapes the Special Period and becomes a “normal country” with a normal monetary system, the special interest in its literary portrayal may diminish. However, the difficulties of economic and political reform are likely to continue for some time, and are likely to take various twists and turns that will hold our interest for some time to come. I hope that Cuba’s fiction writers are there to illuminate the process for a world readership.


[1] Full disclosure: I served as an evaluator for Marifeli Perez-Stable’s edited collection Looking Forward for the University of Notre Dame Press.
[2] One minor detail: Fidel Castro’s hometown was not Bayamo but Birán, not far from Cueto and Mayarí, both immortalized in the song “Chan Chan” by the Buena Vista Social Club.
[3] I also served as a reader for the Universities Press of Florida for the original manuscript of this volume. I was as impressed with it then as I am now.
[4] The emigrations of 1979-1989 were sparked in part by the return visits of Cuban Americans, who turned out not to be gusanos (worms)—the dehumanizing  label given to them by the Cuban government—but instead mariposas (butterflies), as they were relabeled with typical Cuban humor.

 

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Cuban Demography and Development: the “Conception Seasonality Puzzle”, the “Dissipating Demographic Dividend” and Emigration.

By Arch Ritter

Cuba’s Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas (O.N.E.) recently published the 2010 Edition of the Anuario Demográfico de Cuba 2009, available on line here: http://www.one.cu/anuariodemografico2009.htm. A wide-ranging listing of the web publications on demography and population is located at this address: Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas, LA POBLACION CUBANA . Comprehensive statistical information for Cuba is available quickly, comprehensively. ONE’s coverage and presentation of demographic statistics has been improving steadily in terms of quality and timeliness. (In contrast, basic information on the economy such as unemployment, the consumer price index, and GDP is opaque, minimalist, and not clearly defined.)

Numerous useful and interesting insights into Cuba’s development, past and prospective, are apparent in the ONE data – and other demographic sources. A few are mentioned here.

1. Cuba’s Seasonal Conception Puzzle

An interesting phenomenon. of which I have been unaware. is the seasonal character of the numbers of births in Cuba – and of course the causal seasonality of conception rates. As Chart 1 illustrates, births peak from August to December but decline sharply during the months of February to June. This means that Cuba’s amorous months of high conception levels are from about December to April.

One can venture a number of guesses as to why this might be the case. For example, perhaps the cooler weather of Cuba’s winter months is more conducive to activities related to conception. Or maybe there is greater optimism and dynamism during the more prosperous times of the tourist high season. If anyone has clearer insights into this phenomenon, please let me know!

Chart 1 also shows increasing numbers of births from 2007 to 2009.

2. From Baby Boom to Baby Bust and Beyond?

From 1960 to 1970 Cuba experienced a major “baby boom” with fertility rates rising to around 4.5 children per woman on average Chart 2. This may reflect the improvement in living conditions for many families, improved medical facilities and perhaps greater optimism about the future, leading women and families to choose to have more children during the first decade of the Revolution.  As is well known, however, the fertility rate began a long descent to levels a good deal below the minimum necessary for long-term population stability which is considered to be around 2.2 children per woman.  This baby “bust” commenced in 1970 and has continued to 2009, bottoming out at 1.39 children per woman in 2006 but rising somewhat to 1.70 in 2009. Cuba’s demographic experience is similar to that of numerous higher income countries such as Spain, with a fertility rate of 1.6 in 2005-2010: Italy, 1.4 ; Portugal, 1.4; Russia, 1.5; Canada, 1.6 and Germany 1.3.)

The causes of the declining fertility rates in Cuba undoubtedly included similar factors to the experience of other countries: higher female labor force participation rates (so that the income sacrifice for additional children was higher), better pension systems (so that one’s children were no longer necessary for income-support during old age), reduced opportunities for employing children as income earning assets due to urbanization and increased schooling, different career aspirations for women, easy availability of contraception including abortion etc.

The impact of the changing fertility rates can then be observed in the 2010 population pyramid (Chart 3.) The 1960-1975 “Baby Boomers” reached age 40 to 50 during the 2000s leading to the large cohorts in the 2010 pyramid. But since 1970, the declining fertility rate has led to ever-narrowing cohorts of younger age groups. Even the demographic “echo” of the 1960-1970 cohort was muted.

Chart 3  Cuba’s Population Pyramid, 2010

The consequences for Cuba of an aging population also are similar to those for other countries, though some other high income countries, large scale immigration changes the picture. The main consequences are:

  • The Old Age Dependency rate increased by almost 40% over the 1990-2010 period. Child Dependency rates declined by about 30% in the same period, reflecting the declining fertility rate.  (Table 1.).
  • The aging population will cause the Total Dependency Ratio (the sum of Child and Old Age Dependency as a proportion of the total population) to increase in future, burdening the economically active population for the support of pensioners and their health care.
  • The “aging population” in time will become a “dying population.” The population, previously increasing or stable, will decline sharply when the “baby boom” cohorts hit age 65 or so in 10 to 15 years. This could be modified by compensating changes in fertility or international migration, but not in life expectancy which is unlikely to rise much further in future..
  • The “Total Dependency Ratio” has been particularly low during the years when Child Dependency declined but the large “Baby Boom” age cohorts were still of working age. It is now at 42.2% (Table 1). Consequently the economically active population between age 20 and 60 as a proportion of the total population has been large.This so-called “demographic dividend” or “demographic window of opportunity” normally provides a stimulus to growth and development as in China. However, in Cuba’s case, it is passing quickly and so far has been partly wasted as it has been underemployed in low productivity activities.

Emigration

The Anuario Demográfico de Cuba 2009 also provides comprehensive information on internal migration and some general figures for external migration. Emigration numbers are illustrated in Figure 4. The “Special Period” since 1994 has been characterized by a steady hemorrhage of emigration. While ONE does not present information on the sociological character of the emigrants, casual observation suggests that they are well educated, entrepreneurial and perhaps disproportionately in the early adult 18 to 35 age grouping.

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Jump-Starting the Introduction of Conventional Western Economics in Cuba

By Arch Ritter

I.   Initiation of the Joint Havana-Carleton Universities Economics MA  

As the Cuban economy was sinking into the nadir of its depression following the ending of the “Special Relationship” with the former Soviet Union, the Faculty of Economics at the University of Havana decided that the time was right to introduce conventional economics into University curricula and into Cuba generally. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transition to mixed economies throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the Soviet version of the discipline of Economics virtually disappeared. Cuban economists were left orphaned with a discipline that had become extinct. They generally were unfamiliar with the near-universal language of economics and found it difficult to communicate in the discipline with their colleagues in Latin America and the rest of the world.

This move to introduce conventional economics was spear-headed by Dra. Lourdes Tabares, who was the Chair of the Economics Department at the University of Havana at the time. It had broad though far from unanimous support within the University.

A meeting was arranged in early December 1993 in Havana to discuss alternative approaches to accelerating the process of developing instruction in conventional economics. Financed by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and coordinated by Dr. Gary McMahon, this meeting brought together a number of academics and officials from Chile and Argentina and me from Canada, with University of Havana counterparts.

A decision was reached at that meeting to organize a joint MA program in Economics mainly for young faculty members from Cuban Universities to be given in Cuba at the University of Havana. An agreement was subsequently reached between the President of Carleton University, Dr. Robin Farquhar and the Rector of the University of Havana. Juan Vela, to provide the Carleton program adapted to the circumstances of Cuba.

The program was conceived in December 1993 and was up and running six months later in Havana.

The Economics MA was financed for the first two years by the IDRC and was supported by Gary McMahon and Pierre Beemans. Following that, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) financed another three years of the MA Program. The program received crucial support from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (UN ECLAC), which lent its good name as a co-sponsor of the program and provided about 40% of the faculty at its own expense. Particularly vital was the support of Francisco Leon and the Secretary General Gert Rosenthal of UN ECLAC. The Canadian Embassy in Havana, notably through Ambassador Mark Entwistle and Nobina Robinson, were instrumental in the extension of the program. CIDA was so pleased with the first two IDRC-financed years that it decided to extend the Economics MA for an additional three years.

It also agreed to expand collaboration between Carleton University and the University of Havana for five years and to five other units at the two Universities: Biology, Business, Linguistics, Women’s Studies and Public Administration. Professors were recruited from a number of Latin American countries as well as Canada. Among the contributing professors were

  • Canada: Keith Acheson, Zhiqi Chen, Donald McFetridge, Gary McMahon, Carl McMillan, Soo Bin Park, Simon Power, Arch Ritter, Nicholas Rowe, Larry Willmore (also with the United Nations), and Frances Woolley.
  • UN ECLAC: Ricardo Ffrench-Davis, Michael Mortimer, Bernardo Kosakoff Juan Carlos Lerda, Luis Felipe Jimenez, , Jorge Katz, , Joe Ramos, Daniel Titelman.
  • Argentina: Jose Maria Fanelli. Mario Damill, Guillermo Rozenwurcel
  • Bolivia: Juan Antonio Morales
  • Brazil: Ricardo Paez de Barras
  • Peru: Alberto Pasco-Font

Senior Cuban professors worked with the visiting Canadian and Latin American professors and took over some of the classes. Among the Cuban professors were Felix Marero, Elena Hernandez, Lourdes Tabares, Nelida Gancedo, Vilma Hidalgo, Manuel Miranda, Frank Hidalgo, Ela de Quezada, Raul Sandoval, Celia Fernandez, Ermida Gonzalez and, and Marta Madero.  

 

II. Impacts of the Program

The objective of the five years of the MA Economics Program was to support the introduction of conventional economics into the curriculum of Cuba’s universities. From this perspective, I think that it could be considered to have been reasonably successful. At the University of Havana for example, a program in conventional economics was initiated quickly and is in operation. Similarly the University of Oriente soon established a conventional economics program, under the leadership of the MA graduate Ulisses Pacheco who became Dean of the Faculty. These programs have been producing some impressive graduates and new academics for over a decade.

A substantial number of the MA graduates went on to earn Doctoral degrees in Economics both inside Cuba, notably in a program with the University of Barcelona and outside Cuba at Carleton University, Ottawa Canada. However, significant numbers of the graduates have emigrated and built their lives elsewhere. This is undoubtedly a loss for Cuba, as all were just at the early stages of their productive professional and family lives. (Remittances are small compensation for this loss.) 

Of the 76 graduates of the program, 16 now are employed in Cuban Universities, 22 have other employment in Cuba, most in government, 7 were citizens of other countries and have returned to their own countries, and 31 have left Cuba. The visiting professors were particularly happy with the level of qualification and the strong commitment and motivation of the Cuban students. It was a positive and pleasant experience for all the professors involved. There were of course some minor frictions in the implementation of the program but surprisingly few and most were resolved quickly and satisfactorily. 

One such issue was a conflict with the Ministry of Cooperation and Foreign Investment, MINVEC. The problem was that the University of Havana had entered into an agreement with Carleton and IDRC but had not gone through MINVEC. It was some five months after the beginning of the program in July 1994 that MINVEC finally gave its approval.

Another issue that had to be dealt with has been described by Luis Casaco in a his Blog entitled “historias mínimas – short tales, palabras, amigos y un poco de música”,  and can be seen at the following address: when carleton university knocked my door at  http://kaskouy.blogspot.com/2008/03/when-carleton-university-knocked-door.html.

 

III. Where are They Now: Graduates of the Havana-Carleton Economics MA, 1995-1999

As of October 15, 2010 This listing is based on information mainly from around 2002. Much has happened since then, and undoubtedly there are many inaccuracies. Please forward any corrections that you may be aware of regarding locations and employment or contact information. Please send any corrections or new information to Arch_Ritter@Carleton.Ca

1994-1995 COHORT

  • Raul Ávila Rodríguez, Ottawa Canadá
  • Regino Boti Llanes, Londres, RU
  • Idania Coello Caballero, La Habana, Cuba
  • Ledya Fernández Lleal, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de La Habana, Cuba
  • Luis René Fernández Tabío, Instituto de Investigaciones (CESEU), La Habana, Cuba
  • Nélida Lamelas Castellano. University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago, España
  • María Rosa Moreno Fernández, PNUD, La Habana, Cuba
  • Ulises Pacheco Feria, Decano, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de Oriente, Santiago de Cuba
  • Carmen Quintela F., (Facultad de Economía, Universidad de La Habana,) Cuba, Deceased
  • María C. Sabourin Jovel, Miami USA 
  • Mario Sánchez Egozcue, Centro de Estudios sobre la Economía Cubana, La Habana, Cuba
  • Juana Sánchez Mesa, PNUD, La Habana, Cuba
  • José Somoza Cabrera, Dpto. del Medio Ambiente, Universidad de La Habana, La Habana, Cuba
  • Magda Valera Cepero, Miami, Estados Unidos
  • Ignacio Vera Paneque, Naciones Unidas, Nueva York

Class of 1995-1996

  • Fausto Arias Araluce, “Interholdings” Spain
  • Even Chi Pardo (ciudadano panameño) Universidad de Panamá, Panamá
  • Pablo Crespo Brito, Barcelona, España
  • Bernardo Cutié Rizo, Miami, Estados Unidos
  • Gelvis de Armas O., Facultad, ISRI, La Habana, Cuba
  • Pierre Fils Aimee, (ciudadano haitiano) Toronto, Canadá
  • Idania Gancedo Gaspar, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de La Habana, Cuba
  • Eduardo Hernández Roque, Banco Central de Cuba, La Habana, Cuba
  • Nelson Lim Chang, Departamento de Economía, Universidad de Oriente, Santiago de Cuba
  • Boris Moreno Capote, Iglesia Católica, San Antonio de los banos, Cuba
  • Olga Pérez Soto, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de La Habana, Cuba
  • Amarylis Rodríguez R., Ferris Management Ltd., La Habana, Cuba
  • Maria Sanabria Pis, Banco Central de Cuba, La Habana, Cuba
  • Javier Tella Reyes, USA
  • Jorge A. Uriarte Landa, Gobierno de Canadá, Ottawa, Canadá

Class of 1996-1997

  • Alex Gay Cabrera, ¿Alemania?
  • Yuri Gracia Morales, Integral S. A., La Habana, Cuba
  • Arturo López Callejas, Universidad de Denver, Estados Unidos
  • Ricardo Mansilla Corona, Center for interdisciplinary Research in Sciences and the Humanities of the National University of Mexico (UNAM) Ciudad de Mexico. Web site :  http://www.ceiich.unam.mx/0/13PerCur.php?tblPersonalAcademico_id=12  
  • René Mujica López, España
  • Mahe Parodi Heydrich, Mississauga, Canadá
  • Karel Regalado Alonso, Tembec, Temiskiming, Canadá
  • Judith Rodríguez Marcial, FinTur (empresa financiera) La Habana, Cuba
  • Luciano Rondón Hernández, Montreal, Canada
  • Ana Julia Yanes Faya, Gobierno de Canadá, Ottawa, Canadá

Class of 1997-1998

  • Alexis Aguilera Borges, Cuzco, Peru  
  • Raysa Alcalá Martínez, Investigadora, Oficina Nacional de Administración Tributaria (ONAT), La Habana, Cuba
  • Alberto Baly Gil, ¿Cuba?
  • Luis Casaco, Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Vladimir Díaz, Empresa Seguridad y Protección, La Habana, Cuba
  • Yaimí Farías Dominguez, Miami, Estados Unidos
  • Tania García, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de Oriente, Santiago de Cuba
  • Abel Izquierdo Falcón, Profesor, Universidad Central de Las Villas, Cuba
  • Ernesto Landa Falcón, Gobierno de Cuba, La Habana, Cuba
  • Adrián López Denis, Profesor, Universidad Princeton, Princeton, Estados Unidos
  • Osmel Martínez Trujillo, Toronto, Canadá
  • Cristian Meneses Torres (ciudadano chileno), ¿Chile?
  • Hector Molina, Facultad de Economía, Universidad Central de Las Villas, Cuba
  • Antonio Ruiz Cruz, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de Las Villas, Santa Clara
  • Esteban Salido Gamboa, Miami, United States
  • Víctor Sombart, Faculty de Economía, Universidad de Oriente, Santiago de Cuba
  • Thanh Huong Tran (“Alina”), (ciudadano vietnamita) Viet Nam
  • Eileen Tur, Toronto, Canadá

Class of 1998-1999

  • Maritza Álvares Herrera, Miami, Estados Unidos
  • Hamma Bachra Ahmed, (ciudadano saharaui), Sahara Occidental
  • Maria Boiko, (ciudadana ucraniana) Ucrania
  • Vilma Cervantes R., La Habana, Cuba
  • Marco Díaz Díaz, La Habana, Cuba, (deceased)
  • Kim Frederick, (ciudadano granadino) Grenada
  • Antonio Galis-Menéndez, Estados Unidos Radamés Gonzáles, Santiago de Chile
  • Tatiana González, Ministerio de Comercio Exterior, La Habana, Cuba
  • Luis Gutiérrez Urdaneta, La Habana, Cuba
  • Zoe Medina Valdés, Facultad de Economía, Universidad de La Habana, Cuba
  • Yenniel Mendoza, Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Económicas, La Habana, Cuba
  • Mavis Morales, Rusia
  • Ana M. Pérez de la Cruz, Panamá
  • Heidi Portuondo C., Barcelona, España Eduardo Ramos D., n.a. Cuba
  • Lester Rodríguez, Business Analyst, Finantix (Italian financial software house),
  • Padua Italy Paul Valdes-Miranda, Market Research Analyst, Ciudad Mexico, Mexico
  • Katty Yeja López, Bahamas

At the Inauguration of the Program, Ambassador’s Residence,September 1994 Gary McMahon, Ambassador Mark Entwisle, Francisco Leon, and Lourdes Tabares

Nicholas Rowe, teaching a Macroeconomics class, October 1994

 

Class of 1996-1997 From left to Right: Nicki; Nicki’s son Junior, (Canadian, not known), Elizabeth Rohr (Carleton University), Rene Mujica, Victor Sombert,  Luciano Rondon,  Ana Julia Yanes Faya, Mahe Parodi, Karel Regalado, E. V. Diaz, Judith Rodriguez, Yuri Gracia,  

Class of 1997-1998   From left to right, Back:  Osmel Martinez, Yaimi Farias Dominguez, Raysa Alcala, Ernesto Landa, Belkis, Alberto Baly, Alina, Paul Valdes-Miranda, Tran Thang Huong, Esteban Salido, Eileen Tur, Alexis Aguilera and Arch Ritter. In front: Ricardo Mansilla, Adrian Denis with Luis Casaco’s son Mauri and Luis Casaco, Guabano, February 1998

Class of 1998-1999 Front row. left to right: M. Bachra-Ahmed, Maritza Alvarez,  Maria Boiko, Kim Frederick, Tatiana Gonzalez, Marcos Diaz Diaz Back row:  Radamez Gonzalez, Vilma Cervantes, Zoe Medina, Katty Yeja, Mavis Morales, Eduardo Ramos, Heidi Portuondo, Ana Margarita Perez. Luis Gutierrez, Paul Valdes-Miranda

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