Tag Archives: Fidel Castro

GRANMA, OFFICIAL RECORD OF THE SEVENTH CONGRESS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA.

GRANMA, EDICIÓN ESPECIAL, SÁBADO, 14, M AYO 2016

“El desarrollo de la economía nacional, junto a la lucha por la paz y la firmeza ideológica, constituyen las principales misiones del Partido”

The complete document in a PDF File is here: GRANMA, EDICIÓN ESPECIAL, SÁBADO, 14, M AYO 2016

Or Here: http://www.granma.cu/file/pdf/gaceta/congreso%20pcc.pdf

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The Economist: “FIDEL’S LAST STAND”

The Economist, April 29, 2016

Original Article: Fidel’s Last Stand

WHEN Fidel Castro made a brief appearance at the Cuban Communist Party’s seventh congress on April 19th he was greeted with prolonged applause. “Well, let’s move to another subject,” he eventually said, his stentorian voice distorted by age. It was a joke. But he might as well have been turning the page on the historic visit to Havana by Barack Obama in March and the expectations it generated among Cubans of speedy changes. Having reminded his audience that he would soon turn 90 and that death comes to all, Fidel went on: “The ideas of Cuban communists will endure.”

No serious student of Cuba imagined that Mr Obama’s visit and his televised call for free elections would prompt overnight change. But the party congress proved to be a disappointment even by the cautious standards of the reforms that Raúl Castro, Fidel’s slightly younger brother, has set in train since he took over as president in 2008.

The stasis was symbolised by the retention as second party secretary (behind only Raúl) of José Ramón Machado Ventura, an 85-year-old Stalinist ideological enforcer. Even officials had hinted that his powerful post might be passed to Miguel Díaz-Canel (56), the vice-president and Raúl’s putative successor as president in 2018. Five new, youngish members joined the politburo, but none is known to be a reformer. Earlier hopes in Havana that the congress might approve an electoral reform and a bigger role for the rubber-stamp parliament were dashed.

Raúl Castro devoted part of his opening report to the congress to answering Mr Obama. Complaining of a “perverse strategy of political-ideological subversion”—a reference to Mr Obama’s call for the empowerment of Cuba’s small businesses and incipient civil society—Raúl told the delegates that “we must reinforce anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist culture among ourselves.” As for free elections, he twice insisted: “If they manage some day to fragment us, it would be the beginning of the end…of the revolution, socialism and national independence.”

He insisted that the “updating” of Cuba’s economy, to give a bigger role to the non-state sector and remove distortions and subsidies, would continue “without haste but without pause”. In fact, the reforms have all but halted: of the 313 “guidelines” approved at the previous congress in 2011, only 21% have been fully implemented. The government recently reintroduced price caps on some foodstuffs.

Days before the congress Omar Everleny Pérez, the most prominent of the reformist economists advising Raúl, was sacked from his post at the University of Havana. His alleged fault had been to share information with American academics. Mr Pérez has often called for the reforms to go faster.

One hypothesis is that Raúl can afford to move more slowly because of the injection of dollars from Mr Obama’s loosening of restrictions on tourism, remittances and investment. That may be true in the short term. But Raúl himself offered a withering critique of Cuba’s underlying problems, criticising “out-of-date mentalities”, “a complete lack of a sense of urgency” in implementing change and the “damaging effects of egalitarianism” in failing to reward work or initiative. He lamented the economy’s inability to raise wages, which “are still unable to satisfy the basic needs of Cuban families”.

So what explains Raúl’s caution? He said that he had joked with American officials that “If we were to have two parties in Cuba, Fidel would head one and I the other.” Joking apart, that rings true. Many of the Communist Party’s 670,000 members are terrified of change, fearing the loss of security, perks and privileges. They see Mr Obama’s opening to Cuba as an existential threat. Fidel is their reference point. He acts as a brake on reform.

What Raúl, in his neat and tidy way, is doing is to institutionalise the Cuban system, which long depended on Fidel’s whims. He has set out a gradual process of transition to a post-Castro leadership. He is no liberal democrat: he praises the balance between state planning and the market in China and Vietnam. He has initiated both a “conceptualisation” of Cuba’s socioeconomic model and a revision of the constitution to incorporate his reforms. These will be the Castro brothers’ political testament.

But Raúl, unlike Fidel, is a realist. He knows that the system does not work and that the steps he has taken, especially the opening to the United States, have unleashed expectations of change and a better standard of living. Cuban society is evolving fast, even as the political leadership remains as stodgy as a government-supplied lunch. In the medium term, something will have to give.

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UPDATING THE PARTY: CUBA’S NEW (AND NOT SO NEW) LEADERS

Original Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-m-leogrande/updating-the-party-cubas_b_9766014.html

By William M. LeoGrande, Professor, American University in Washington, D.C.

Huffington Post, April 24, 2016

Alluding to his own mortality, Fidel Castro told the delegates to the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party he founded that this would probably be his last speech to such a gathering. When the members of the new Central Committee were announced the following day, Fidel was not among them. Generational succession is high on the agenda of Cuba’s leadership, still dominated at the highest level by “los historicos“ — the generation that fought together against the Batista dictatorship and founded the revolutionary regime.

At the previous Party Congress in 2011, Raúl Castro emphasized the need to build a contingent of experienced young men and women for the inevitable succession. To ease out the old guard, he introduced term limits for top government and party positions — no more than two five-year terms — and pledged to abide by the limit himself by stepping down as president in 2018.

At the Congress this month, Raúl reiterated the importance of rejuvenating the party. An aged leadership was “never positive,” he said, reminding listeners that three leaders of the Soviet Communist Party died within months of one another a few years before it collapsed. Henceforth, Castro proposed, 60 would be the maximum age for admission to the Central Committee, and 70 would be the maximum age for assuming any leadership position. Nevertheless, renovating the leadership will involve a “five-year period of transition to avoid doing things in haste,” Castro explained, echoing his watchword for updating the economy: “without haste, but without pause.”

The blend of old and young was visible in the new Political Bureau. Only two of the fourteen members in the old body were dropped — General Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, who retired as minister of the Interior in October 2015 because of ill-health, and Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez, who was removed as Minister of Economy and Planning in 2014. José Ramón Machado Ventura, the architect of the party apparatus over preceding decades, retained his post as second secretary despite the fact that he is widely seen as a conservative, skeptical of economic reform. In 2013, Machado stepped down as first vice-president of the Council of State, replaced by heir apparent Miguel Díaz-Canel. Machado’s retention as party second secretary suggests that Raúl Castro is intent on maintaining unity at the top — despite differences in opinion — as the party navigates the politically treacherous waters of economic change.

Five new young members were added and their professions signal the issues the leadership sees as critical going forward. Three are technocrats: one is minister of Health, one works in biotechnology, and one works in information technology — all high value-added fields that Cuba hopes will form the foundation for its 21st Century economy. The other two new members are the leaders of the trade union federation and the women’s federation, organizations that, between them, comprise almost all Cuban adults. The inclusion of these two leaders speaks to the party’s need to keep ears to the ground for early warning signs of grassroots discontent unleashed by the economic reforms. y   yy The composition of the new Central Committee also suggests how the leadership is preparing its team for the future. Twenty-five percent of the old committee was dropped, but the membership was expanded from 116 to 142 to accommodate the addition of 55 younger members, all below the age of 60, bringing the average age of the body down to 54.5 — younger than the committee elected in 2011. The new committee is also 44.4% women, up from 41.7% in 2011 and just 13.3% in 1997; and 35.9% Afro-Cuba, up from 31.3% in 2011 and just 10.0% in 1997.

The Central Committee of the party represents an extended leadership group, the members of which typically hold other important posts in various state institutions. The relative bureaucratic influence of those institutions can be seen in the Central Committee’s changing composition. The biggest increase in representation in the new committee is for government officials working in economic and scientific fields (Table 1). They represent 23.2% of the new Central Committee, up from just 19.8% in the 2011 committee. Presumably, these people are more technocratically minded, and more likely to support economic reform. Representation of the party apparatus increased only slightly, to 32.4% of the committee, up from 31.0% in 2011.

Contrary to pundits who insist that the Cuban regime is really run by the military, the armed forces and police were the big losers in the renovation of the Central Committee. Even though the committee expanded from 116 to 142 members, the number of military and security officials fell in absolute terms. They comprise just 9.2% of the membership, down from 13.8% in 2011. Moreover, the long term trend in the number of active duty military and security officials in the Central Committee has been downward ever since 1965 (Figure).

Fidel Castro wasn’t the only prominent Castro not included in the new Central Committee. Neither Raúl’s son, Col. Alejandro Castro, who negotiated the December 17 agreement to normalize relations with the United States, nor Raúl’s daughter, LGBT activist Mariela Castro, were included. Their absence was, no doubt, a disappointment to opponents of the U.S. opening to Cuba who have been predicting that Alejandro would succeed his father, thereby consolidating a Castro family dynasty — North Korea in the Caribbean.

The new Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party reflects the priorities and style of its First Secretary. The party itself maintains the leading role, but the committee has a more technocratic tilt, positioning it for the complex economic tasks ahead. It combines a large new cohort of younger members, while retaining a core of experienced elders to smooth the generational transition. The increased representation of women and Afro-Cubans reflects their important role in society and politics, connecting the party to these key constituencies. In short, the new leadership exemplifies a party updating itself for the future without renouncing its past. yyy yyyyy yyyyyy

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CUBA’S AGING LEADERS TO REMAIN IN POWER YEARS LONGER

zzqqFidel Castro is applauded by his brother, Cuba’s President Raul Castro, right, and the second secretary of the Central Committee, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, left, during the closing ceremonies for the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, April 19, 2016.)

By Michael Weissenstein | AP April 20, 2016

Original article: Cuba’s Gerontocracy Continues

 HAVANA — The former guerrilla fighters who founded Cuba’s single-party government will hold power for years to come after a twice-a-decade Communist Party congress kept President Raul Castro and his hardline deputy in the top leadership positions.

Fidel Castro, who held power for nearly five decades before ill health led him to make way for his brother, delivered a valedictory speech to the congress Tuesday and called on it to fight for his communist ideals despite the fact that he is nearing the end of his life.

“I’ll be 90 years old soon,” Castro said in his most extensive public appearance in years. “Soon I’ll be like all the others. The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain as proof on this planet that if they are worked at with fervor and dignity, they can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need, and we need to fight without a truce to obtain them.”

Raul Castro, 84, said he would remain the party’s first secretary and Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, 85, would hold the post of second secretary for at least part of a second five-year term.

Castro currently is both president and party first secretary. The decision means he could hold a Communist Party position at least as powerful as the presidency even after he is presumably replaced by a younger president in 2018. Castro indicated that he and Machado may also step down before the next congress in 2021, saying this year’s session was the last to be led by Cuba’s revolutionary generation.

Machado Ventura, who fought alongside the Castro brothers to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, is known as an enforcer of Communist Party orthodoxy and voice against some of the biggest recent economic reforms.

Despite the ascension of five younger party officials, including three women, to the party’s powerful 17-member Political Bureau, the day’s events disappointed many Cubans who had been hoping for bigger changes at the top of the single-party state.

“I would have liked younger people with fresh minds,” said Luis Lai, a 31-year-old printing-company worker. “The same party, but able to articulate ideas of people of my generation. Older people should retire.”

Fifty-five years after Fidel Castro began installing a single-party system and centrally planned economy, younger Cubans complain bitterly about low state salaries of about $25 a month that leave them struggling to afford food and other staple goods. Cuba’s creaky state-run media and cultural institutions compete with flashy foreign programming shared online and on memory drives passed hand-to-hand. Emigration to the United States and other countries has soared to one of its highest points since the revolution.

Limited openings to private enterprise have stalled, and the government describes capitalism as a threat even as it appears unable to increase productivity in Cuba’s inefficient, theft-plagued networks of state-run enterprises.

The ideological gulf between government and people widened last month when President Barack Obama became the first U.S. leader to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years. He gave a widely praised speech live on state television urging Cubans to forget the history of hostility between the U.S. and Cuba and move toward a new era of normal diplomatic and economic relations.

The Cuban government offered little unified response until the Communist Party’s Seventh Party Congress began Saturday, and one high-ranking official after another warned that the U.S. was still an enemy that wants to take control of Cuba. They said Obama’s trip represented an ideological “attack.”

Shortly after the congress ended, government-run television showed rare images of 89-year-old Fidel Castro seated at the dais in Havana’s Convention Palace, dressed in a plaid shirt and sweat top and speaking to the crowd in a strong if occasionally trembling voice. State television showed at least one delegate tearful with emotion, and the crowd greeting the revolutionary leader with shouts of “Fidel!”

“This may be one of the last times I speak in this room,” Fidel Castro said. “We must tell our brothers in Latin America and the world that the Cuban people will be victorious.”

 

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ARTÍCULO DE FIDEL, “EL HERMANO OBAMA”

No necesitamos que el imperio nos regale nada. Nuestros esfuerzos serán legales y pacíficos, porque es nuestro compromiso con la paz y la fraternidad de todos los seres humanos que vivimos en este planeta

28 de marzo de 2016

Granma 30 de marzo de 2016

Articulo original y completo: ARTÍCULO DE FIDEL

 

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RIGHT AND LEFT, FROM A CUBAN PERSPECTIVE

Juan Antonio Blanco | Diario de Cuba | 2 Mar 2016

Original Article: Right and Left, from a Cuban Perspective

 zraulfamily28216iRaúl Castro, accompanied by a son and grandson. (Diario de Cuba)

From Havana I get an email seeking to address the challenges facing the country applying the binary axis of “Left” and “Right.” I imagine that two factors lead to this interest. One is an incipient ebb in regional populism. Another is the congress in April of the island’s only legal party – the same one that imposes on Cuba these dubious semantics and focus, exercising a monopoly over all State institutions.

But the language of the Jacobins and Girondins from the 18th century does not allow us to understand what is happening in the 21st century, in any geographical region.

The dilemmas facing humanity today cannot be solved applying the outmoded concepts of Left and Right. Neither do the labels of socialism or capitalism apply. As I stated in Tercer Milenio (Havana, 1993) what we are experiencing today is a change of eras, not an era of changes. This period is characterized by the rapid obsolescence of all that we knew. As Moisés Naim recently reminded us, everything is now extraordinary. From the fall of the USSR and the Eastern bloc, to Kodak being sunk by Instagram, and taxis by Uber.

Discussing the future of Cuba – or of any country – based on the conceptual coordinates of the last century is a futile and even dangerous exercise.  It is not possible to address and resolve these current challenges if they are not designated lucidly.

Cuba today is simply a poor country, disconnected from global processes; with a dreadful physical, communications and financial infrastructure; two decades behind in the acquisition of reliable and fast internet connections; public services (health, education, transport, water, electricity, sewage), whose quality is plummeting; degraded land, and the lowest wages in the hemisphere. It is also a closed society, where there is no basic freedom to exercise the right to free expression, association, movement, the forming of unions, or political choice, such that citizens have no way to peacefully alter this sorry state of affairs and achieve prosperity.

The policies that could resolve this mess are not socialist or capitalist, but rather good or bad, efficient or inefficient. Those in force today are terrible and counterproductive.

Revolution? The “Cuban Revolution” was already being quashed even as forces were fighting Batista, when a group of totalitarians yearning for a caudillo began to plot how to liquidate their comrades after their victory. Talking about this in 2016 is a big scam. What exists in Cuba is a totalitarian regime in the hands of a family, a clan.

Sovereignty? How can one uphold it in the 21st century to oppose citizens’ civil rights when Cuban society as a whole is deprived of the right to self-determination?

Nationalism? It is difficult to defend the government’s administration based on this outdated concept, nurtured in the late 18th century, when Havana prefers to negotiate with foreign powers and refuses to even dialogue with its own citizens.

I do not share the idea that the “bureaucracy” is the Big Culprit. Power in Cuba is held by two families with the same surname: Castro. Around them is a select military cadre. Together they constitute a permanent elite wielding power. Below them is a bureaucracy that serves only to “manage” their interests, not to make key decisions that benefit the country.

Lage, Robaina —and Díaz Canel today— were never members of the governing elite. They are simply CEOs, always expendable. Cuba’s real owners exercise their privileges as if the island were a private company registered under the trade name “Cuban Revolution.” They attach to this corporate appellation a series of qualifiers —”progressive,” “leftist,” “anti-capitalist” and others— which only serve to distract from reality.

I laugh when I think about Bernie Sanders and Podemos speaking, terrified, of a casta that represents 0.1% of the population but owns more than half of the economy. In this regard, as in others related to human rights, they suffer from a severe moral hemiplegia by selecting the victims they prefer to “defend.” When the offender is in their political camp, they choose to look the other way. In Cuba some 100 people rule the roost, lording it over the rest of the island. What percentage do they represent in relation to the 11.5 million citizens on the island, and the other two million off it?

Invoking the abstraction “state ownership of the means of production,” the “shareholders” of this dubious corporation, and the family presiding over it, claim permanent and unlimited exploitation rights over Cuba, not even needing to be the formal owners of work or recreational facilities, or real estate. They also have unlimited powers to do whatever they please vis-a-vis all other Cubans. The demand for freedom and human rights is the only solution that goes to the heart of the problem.

Modernity died in the ovens of Auschwitz. Absolute respect for the sovereignty of Germany allowed Hitler’s government, first, to deprive citizens of their freedoms and rights, and, then, under the shadow of a closed society, to undertake a forbidden process of rearmament. The Soviets and the Cuban government were able to secretly install nuclear missiles on the island because there existed no basic freedoms to denounce that operation in time. The Khmer Rouge initiated a national genocide —which rendered any dissent impossible, even within the party— and then turned on its former ally and neighbor: Vietnam. Hanoi, incidentally, did not hesitate to adopt a policy of “regime change” to install, at gun-point, a government that would be friendly to it in Cambodia.

The human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of 1948 take as their reference point those adopted by the French Revolution, but with a substantial difference: thereafter it was established that such rights were not just a national affair, but a good that was to be protected by the international community. It is not a question of moralizing. Respect for these rights is vital for international stability and security. The signers of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the various international agreements for the protection of citizens’ rights have recognized that their sovereignty in this regard has limits.

Without freedoms and rights Cuban society will be neither socialist or capitalist, left-wing nor right-wing, but rather remain a sort of disastrously managed private Estate, employing slave labor. And a country whose owners can again pose a serious danger to their neighbors.

This, I think, is what we need to talk about.

zCaptureJuan Antonio Blanco Gil

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CUBA AFTER THE CASTROS: THE LIKELY SCENARIOS

JOSÉ AZEL, June 14, 2015 – The Wall Street Journal –

Original here:   http://www.wsj.com/articles/cuba-after-the-castros-the-likely-scenario-1434319520

RaulMiguelDiaz-CanelPresident Raul Castro and First Vice-President and Probable Successor  Miguel Díaz-Canel

 The 2008 succession from Fidel to Raúl Castro was efficient and effective. But the popular hallucination outside the island—in which Gen. Castro intervenes forcefully to end the communist era and inaugurates a democratic, market-oriented Cuba—is not going to be how the story ends.

Given Raúl’s age—84—there will be another succession in the near future. The critical question is not what economic reforms Raúl may introduce, but what follows him.

José Ramón Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Communist Party, is also 84 years old and Cuba watchers do not see him as the next leader. If Miguel Díaz-Canel, 55, the first vice president of Cuba, ascends to the presidency, he will most likely be a “civilian” figurehead for the generals to present to the international community.

Raúl was head of the armed forces for nearly 50 years and now, as head of the country, he has appointed his military officers and military family members to positions in government and industry. One possible scenario after he is gone would be a reversion to a military dictatorship such as Cuba under Batista, Brazil from 1964-85, or Egypt today. Yet another outcome, equally disquieting, is possible.

By some estimates, including the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces controls over 70% of the economy. Enterprise Management Group (GAESA), the commercial holding company for the Cuban Defense Ministry, is involved in all key sectors of the economy. Through government-owned subsidies, the company is heavily involved in tourism, retail sales, mining, farming and energy, and joint ventures with foreign investors.

Raúl, as a matter of survival not ideology, has introduced some tentative economic reforms, while continuing to expand the metamorphosis of his officers into businessmen. Some might present this as a positive development, where warriors exchange their weapons for calculators. But what does it mean for the future of Cuba when the Raúl era comes to an end and military officers are in political and economic control?

In a system where enterprises are state-owned and managed, the military officers-turned-business executives will enjoy the privileges of an elite ruling class. Yet it will not take long for the military elite to realize that managing government-owned enterprises offers only limited benefits—owning the enterprises is a far more lucrative option.

Once the Castro brothers are no longer in the picture, the military oligarchy might decide to champion a far-reaching but phony reform—that is, a manipulated privatization of the industries under their managerial control. Not unlike the rigged privatizations in Russia in the 1990s, an illegitimate and corrupt privatization process would give birth to a new class of government-created oligarchs—instant capitalist millionaires, the new Cuban “captains of industry.”

The Cuban population might not view these ownership changes as particularly undesirable or nefarious, mistakenly viewing them as a positive transition toward free markets and prosperity. The international community would likely also acclaim the mutated generals as agents of change bringing market reforms to Cuba. In the United States, of course, the change in U.S.-Cuba policy introduced by President Obama would be declared a success.

Cuban Communism, to be sure, would come to an end, leaving in its wake generals, new captains of industry and assorted other nouveau riche in charge of country devoid of democratic culture. And like Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s economy would be riddled with monopolies and oligopolies whose owners would have the power to stifle any pro-competitive policies or international investors that might threaten their position.

It is often argued that the introduction of economic reforms, even without political reforms, will lead sequentially and inexorably to democracy. As in the case of China after Mao, this is not necessarily, or even probably, the case.

Without profound political reforms, putative economic changes conducted by Cuba’s military will only transfer wealth from the state to a ruling military and party elite. It will not lead to democracy or prosperity.

Mr. Azel is a senior scholar at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami, and the author of “Mañana in Cuba” (AuthorHouse, 2010).

Fidel-and-raul-Castro- as múmias do CaribeFather Time:  Always At Work

 

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CUBA’S CHALLENGE: WHAT DID THE CUBAN REVOLUTION ACCOMPLISH AND WHERE CAN IT GO FROM HERE?

BY SAMUEL FARBER, June 10, 2015

Original Essay from “JACOBIN” Here:  Cuba’s Challenge

Samuel Farber was born and raised in Cuba. He is the author of Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959: A Critical Assessment.

When in the 1950s, along with many of my high school classmates, I became involved in the struggle against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, one of our teachers remarked that we had no real reason to criticize the state of our country because so many other nations in the region — such as Bolivia and Haiti — were much worse off than us.

His description of Cuba’s comparative position was accurate, but incomplete. On the eve of the 1959 Revolution, Cuba had the fourth highest per capita income in Latin America, after Venezuela, Uruguay, and Argentina.

And although average per capita income is an insufficient, and sometimes misleading, indicator of general economic development, other indicators support his picture of the pre-revolutionary Cuban economy: in 1953, Cuba also ranked fourth in Latin America according to an average of twelve indexes covering such items as percentage of labor force employed in mining, manufacturing, and construction, percentage of literate persons, per capita electric power, newsprint, and caloric food consumption.

Yet, at that time the country’s economy was also suffering from stagnation and the pernicious effects of sugar monoculture, including substantial unemployment (partly caused by the short sugar cane season of three or four months). Most importantly, the national indexes of living standards hid dramatic differences between the urban (57 percent of the population in 1953) and rural areas (43 percent), especially between Havana (21 percent of Cuba’s total population) and the rest of the country. The Cuban countryside was plagued by malnutrition, widespread poverty, poor health, and lack of education.

For my teacher, it seems, the fact that other people were worse off made him more accepting of his own life circumstances. But he was the exception. To the extent that Cubans compared themselves with the people of other countries, they preferred to look up to the much higher standard of living of the United States rather than console themselves by looking down at the greater misery of their Latin American brethren.

As a 1956 report of the United States Bureau of Foreign Commerce put it: “the worker in Cuba . . . has wider horizons than most Latin American workers and expects more out of life in material amenities than many European workers . . . His goal is to reach a standard of living comparable with that of the American worker.”

This underlines the fundamental mistake of assuming instead of ascertaining that comparisons of economic performance have any meaning to the people who live in those economies. Taken to an extreme, this mistake leads to an “objectivist” analysis that stands outside history as it is actually lived by its actors and is likely, as in the case of my high school teacher, to result in a conservative commitment to the existing social order, as opposed to a questioning of, or opposition to, the existing social order and its ruling group.

For those who are affected by it, economic development has a meaning that goes beyond economic data and requires an understanding of popular aspirations and expectations, which are based in part on the existing material reality and in part on past history.

In terms of its material reality, the Cuba of the fifties was on the one hand characterized by uneven modernity, fairly advanced means of communication and transportation — especially the high circulation, by Latin American standards, of newspapers and magazines — and the rapid development of television and radio. On the other hand, there were abysmal living conditions in the Cuban countryside.

As far as its history, the Cuba of the 1950s was still living the effects of the frustrated revolution of 1933, a nationalist revolution against dictatorship with an important anti-imperialist component and the participation of an incipient labor movement, then under Communist leadership.

Although this revolution had achieved some significant reforms equivalent in the Cuban context to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, it failed to achieve major structural changes in Cuban society, such as real national political and economic independence from US imperialism (beyond the abolition of the Platt Amendment in 1934) or any meaningful agrarian reform and diversification away from the one-crop sugar economy with all it implied in terms of economic instability, large-scale unemployment, and poverty.

These were the economic issues brandished by the Cuban opposition at that time to struggle for more or less radical reforms to the existing order, instead of pondering and celebrating Cuba’s comparative high rank among Latin American economies. Thus Eduardo Chibás, the leader of the reform Ortodoxo Party, of which Fidel Castro was a secondary leader, proposed in 1948 a series of modest reforms to improve the life of the Cuban rural population.

Five years later, after Batista’s coup against the constitutional government, Castro — in his “History Will Absolve Me” speech at his trial for his failed attack against one of Batista’s military installations — proposed a more radical series of measures, including giving property titles to peasants holding up to 165 acres of land, with compensation granted to landlords on the basis of the average income they would have received over a ten-year period. He also added new elements to his reform agenda, such as his radical plan for the employees of all large industrial, mercantile, or mining concerns, including sugar mills, to receive 30 percent of profits.

Fidel, 1956

Fidel and Rebels, 1956

After 1959

Immediately after the victory of January 1, 1959, in response to many Cubans’ pent-up expectations, Castro’s revolutionary government engaged in a vigorous policy of redistribution. There was an urban reform law to substantially reduce rents, a left-Keynesian policy of public works to combat unemployment, and a radical, albeit not a collectivist, agrarian reform law proclaimed in May 1959.

Then, in late 1960, in part in response to the hostility of US imperialism and in part based on the political inclinations of the revolutionary leaders, the large majority of both urban and rural property was nationalized by the Cuban state.

In April 1961, Castro declared Cuba to be “socialist,” and it became, in structural and institutional terms, a replica of the model in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Although Cuba’s one-party state placed more emphasis on popular participation than its equivalents in the Eastern Bloc, its political control was before long just as absolute.

Like the supporters of the Cuban status quo before the revolution, the supporters of today’s Cuban system assert that it is economically superior to other countries, particularly in Latin America. In terms of GDP — which, as previously mentioned, is not by itself a reliable indicator of economic well-being, although the Cuban government relies on it in a modified form — Cuba has fared poorly in comparison with its neighbors.

Whereas in 1950 Cuba ranked tenth in per capita GDP among the forty-seven countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, almost sixty years later, in 2006, it ranked near the bottom of the list, only ahead of Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Bolivia, El Salvador, and Paraguay. GDP has increased little since then with a 2 percent average rate of growth in the last five years.

The government’s supporters point to Cuba’s achievements in education and health (in particular, its low infant mortality) as conclusive evidence for its more progressive economic policies. And indeed Cuba has performed very well in the Human Development Index (HDI), which combines income, health, and education statistics.

But while this index does a good job of measuring critical aspects of well-being in the less developed capitalist countries, it does not adequately capture the shape of state-socialist economies such as Cuba. It does not quantify the hardships that people suffer in countries where the economic problems of underdevelopment intersect with those particular to Soviet-style societies.

Take income, for example. Unlike capitalist societies, in Cuba, access to many luxury or high-cost goods is often obtained by the ruling groups through extra-economic, in kind, political means, rather than through the expenditure of monetary income. Although this situation has become more complicated since Raúl Castro took office in 2006 and expanded private economic activity to cover approximately 25 percent of the labor force, obtaining high-end goods still depends to an important degree on political access.

One example is traveling abroad. For the majority of Cubans who don’t have sufficiently wealthy relatives overseas, it is political access to state-sponsored travel — for example, officially sanctioned attendance to political, economic, cultural, or academic conferences — rather than private income that remains the principal way to venture outside the island.

A similar situation exists in terms of Internet access. In Cuba — a country with one of the lowest levels of web availability in Latin America and the Caribbean — many people can connect to the Internet only at their workplace or school, but only for strictly work-related purposes. Otherwise, they run the serious risk of being reprimanded or even losing their ability to go online.

Privately, they can get on the Internet by paying rates unaffordable to average Cubans, and only at tourist hotels or at the centers sponsored by the state telephone monopoly. However, free access to the Internet is the norm for those who are well-situated in terms of political power or have connections to those who do.

Besides the issue of monetary income, the HDI ignores other factors that make living conditions in Cuba difficult. These include the irregular supply and quality of food, housing, toiletries, and birth control devices for women and men. The same applies to the poor state of roads, inter-urban bus and railway transport (premium transportation services exist but are costly and therefore out of the reach of most Cubans), and the delivery of basic necessities such as water, electricity, and garbage collection.

The HDI does not quantify the hardships of daily life associated with these inadequacies either — for example, the amount of time people have to spend going from place to place and standing in line to obtain a wide variety of goods. Economic indexes can also be deceptive insofar as they don’t take into account the maintenance and upkeep of systems that deliver key services.

Take water, for example. Viewed in one way, Cuba ranks well in that regard, with 95 percent of its population officially having access to drinking water. But serious water shortages are a normal condition of life in Cuba. This is partially due to seasonal droughts in certain regions, particularly in the eastern half of the island. But the most important cause of that shortage is the deteriorated infrastructure — broken pipes and numerous leaks — going back to well before the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

For these reasons, more than half of the water pumped by the country’s aqueducts is lost, especially in the Havana metropolitan area. This is much of the daily material reality Cubans face, and it shapes their aspirations and expectations.

Strong Thumbs, No Fingers

The Cuban government and its supporters claim that most of these economic problems are the result of the criminal economic blockade of the island imposed, for more than fifty years, by the United States and which remains mostly in force despite the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

There is no doubt that the embargo has been damaging, particularly in the early years of the revolution, as Cuba was forced to reorient most of its economic activity towards the Eastern Bloc. Repealing the 1996 Helms-Burton Act and ending the blockade would be a very welcome development for both principled and practical reasons. Such a move would also considerably increase economic activity in Cuba, most likely in the fields of tourism and, possibly, biotechnology and the production and export of certain types of agricultural commodities such as citrus.

However, the US blockade did not prevent Cuba from trading with industrialized capitalist countries in Asia and Europe, and particularly with Canada and Spain. The principal obstacle to Cuba’s economic relations with those non-US industrial capitalist countries was Cuba’s own lack of goods to sell and thus its lack of hard currency with which to pay for imports, whether capital or consumer goods. Nevertheless, Cuba received more than $6 billion in credits and loans from many of the industrialized capitalist countries until Cuba suspended the service of these debts several years before the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

More important than the damage caused by the US economic blockade is Cuba’s inadequate capital, as well as other problems typical of economically less developed countries — the export of commodities such as nickel and sugar amid unstable world prices — which in turn interact with the myriad economic shortcomings and contradictions of Soviet-style economies, including the failures of agriculture and the scarcity and poor quality of consumer goods.

In truth, Cuba’s achievements and failures resemble those of the Soviet Union, China, and Vietnam before these countries took the capitalist road, suggesting that systemic similarities are more significant than national idiosyncrasies and variations on the general Soviet model.

Konstantin Chernenko fidel castro cuba ussr Soviet Leonid BrezhnevFidel and Leonid

Cuba shares with the USSR what the political scientist Charles E. Lindblom called “strong thumbs, no fingers.” Having “strong thumbs” allows the government to mobilize large numbers of people to carry out homogeneous, routinized, and repetitive tasks that require little if any variation, initiative, or improvisation to adapt to specific conditions and unexpected circumstances at the local level — precisely the tasks that require subtle fingers rather than undiscriminating thumbs.

This explains how a Soviet-style government can organize a massive vaccination campaign, while at the same time its bureaucratic, centralized administration and lack of “nimble fingers” prevent it from acquiring the necessary precision for timely coordination of complicated production and distribution in all economic sectors — especially agriculture, among the least homogeneous and predictable areas of the economy.

Cuba’s deficiencies, particularly in the production of consumer goods, also stem to a large extent from its principal leaders’ ideological inclinations. While these leaders have clearly favored the production and delivery of certain collective goods like education and health care, they have tended to be indifferent if not hostile to goods normally consumed by individuals or families.

This is rooted in a deeply ascetic strain of some leftist traditions. The most prominent and consistently austere among the revolutionary leaders was Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who as minister of industry in the early days of the revolution shaped many aspects of the Cuban economy.

When serious shortages of consumer goods began to occur in Cuba in the early 1960s, Guevara spoke critically of the comforts that Cubans had surrounded themselves with in the cities, comforts which he attributed to the way of life to which imperialism had accustomed people, and not to a standard of living resulting from the relative economic development of the country and especially to the working class and popular struggles in the pre-revolutionary era.

Guevara argued that countries such as Cuba should invest completely in production for economic development, and that because Cuba was at war, the revolutionary government had to ensure peoples’ access to food, but that soap and similar goods were non-essential. It is clear however, that his hostility to consumer goods was by no means specific to a war economy.

As he put it in his private reflections shortly after he left the Cuban government in the mid-1960s, “in Cuba, a television set that does not work is a big problem but not in Vietnam where there is no television and they are building socialism.” He added that “the development of consciousness allows for the substitution of the secondary comforts which at a given moment had transformed themselves into part of the individual’s life, with the overall education of society allowing for the return to an earlier era that did not have this need.”

Later, after the failure of the grandiose plans for economic growth that Guevara and other revolutionary leaders articulated, these ascetic politics came to be shared by the entire Cuban government leadership. They were soon consecrated in the Cuban revolutionary ideology as hostility to the “consumer society” of the economically developed world, a view that was never part of the ideology of the pre-revolutionary Cuban left, Communist or otherwise.

It was therefore entirely fitting that during the Cuban economic cycles associated with the spirit and politics of Guevara, the emphasis was always on capital accumulation instead of increased consumption. This was the case, for example, with the Guevarist-type economic period of 1966–1970 (shortly after he left the Cuban government).

As the prominent Cuban economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago points out, at this time the national plan called for a sharp increase in national savings that was to be generated by a cut in consumption through the expansion of rationing, the export of products previously assigned for internal consumption, and the reduction of imports considered unnecessary.

Material incentives sharply decreased, and the population was exhorted to work harder, save more, and accept deprivation with revolutionary spirit. Accordingly, the share of state investment going to the sphere of production increased from 78.7% to 85.8% between 1965 and 1970. This was indeed a Cuban high point of what the Hungarian theorists Ferenc Fehér, Agnes Heller, and György Márkus have called the “dictatorship over needs.”

The Special Period

Until the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the Cuban government was able to deliver for the majority of its people an austere standard of living that, on the whole, guaranteed a minimum of economic security and the satisfaction of basic needs, in spite of serious deficiencies in areas such as housing and consumer goods.

Notwithstanding the serious problems and contradictions of a Soviet-style economy, this was made possible by the USSR’s massive economic subsidies, which helped the Cuban government finance a generous welfare state with an extensive education, health services, and social security system. These massive subsidies were the result of Cuba joining the Soviet state as its junior partner in an international alliance that did confront strategic obstacles in Latin America (because the USSR was reluctant to challenge the US in its own sphere of influence), but that ended up being much more viable and successful in Africa despite some tactical differences.

Although overall literacy was at 76.4% before the revolution, it was much lower in the countryside; the government has succeeded in almost entirely wiping out illiteracy. It has also expanded secondary and higher education, promoting a substantial degree of social mobility facilitated by the massive emigration from the island of its upper class and large segments of its middle classes.

The dramatic enlargement of the military also allowed for the rise into officialdom of many Cubans of humble origin. Black Cubans in particular benefited, with the elimination of the informal but substantial racial segregation that had existed in pre-revolutionary Cuba, especially in the area of employment.

Racism was by no means eliminated. The Cuban government, implicitly identifying racism only with its segregationist form, soon declared the problem solved, with policies of “affirmative action” not even considered, in a context where blacks were not allowed to organize independently to defend their interests.

In general, however, Cuba became a more egalitarian society, attaining in the mid-1980s a Gini coefficient of 0.24 (although this measure also suffers from the political access problems discussed above). It was this, along with the growth of a nationalist and anti-imperialist consciousness that ensured a large base of popular support for the government. At the same time, however, critical voices even inside the Castro administration were systematically suppressed, and political dissidents (as well as petty offenders — Cuba has one of the highest imprisonment rates for common crimes) were jailed in large numbers.

The collapse of the Soviet bloc provoked a massive economic crisis, reflected in the quick and sharp 35 percent GDP drop. Cubans went very hungry in the first half of the nineties, the worst years of the crisis, leading to serious nutritional deficiencies that provoked an outbreak of optical neuropathy in 1991 that affected more than fifty thousand people until it was partially controlled in 1993.

Services such as public transportation went into a tailspin, from which they have only partially recuperated. Inequality has grown significantly, particularly between those with and without access to the hard currency provided by remittances from abroad. Real wages in the public sector, which still accounts for at least 75 percent of the labor force, dropped precipitously, and as late as 2013 they had only reached 27 percent of 1989 levels.

The “Special Period” also had a noticeable impact on the health care system, reducing the gains achieved in the previous thirty years. There are shortages of medical supplies and of family doctors and specialists, who are often working abroad as a part of international programs.

Patients have to even bring their own bedding to the hospitals, and “gratuities” to medical personnel have become increasingly common. Teachers have fled the education field in search of higher wages in other sectors such as tourism; at one point the government even tried to replace those educators with television sets and quickly trained high school graduates, with predictably negative results.

The system of social security, which made great advances in the 1960s with universal coverage and the unification of the previously existing patchwork of pension and retirement plans, went into a sharp crisis as the peso-denominated pensions fell to a fraction of their previous purchasing power.

Most importantly, during the quarter century that has elapsed since the fall of the USSR, the support of the regime has fallen quite substantially, particularly among young people. This does not mean that they have begun to openly oppose the government. They are far more likely to look for individual ways to resolve these problems. They would rather leave the island than politically confront a government that despite having released most political prisoners and allowed for a significant degree of social liberalization (for example, in terms of religion and emigration) still maintains a one-party state and an apparatus of repression. (Although it typically employs close monitoring, harassment, and frequent short-term arrests of dissidents instead of the long prison terms that were the norm under Fidel Castro’s rule.)

The Critique from the Left

Supporters of the government, especially abroad, continue to defend the system as if nothing happened during the last twenty-five years, and keep pointing to poor countries such as Haiti — which were worse off than Cuba before the 1959 Revolution — as evidence of how better off Cuba is. But for the most part, the Cuban people are not comparing their standard of living to those of other less developed countries.

Older Cubans are much more likely to compare their current hardships with the greater security and predictability they experienced before the Special Period, and remember nostalgically the early 1980s when the opening of the farmers’ markets, after the mass exodus from the Port of Mariel in spring 1980, allowed Cubans to reach perhaps their highest living standards since the 1960s.

For many Cubans, and particularly for the disenchanted young who are keenly aware of contemporary cultural trends in fashion, music, and dance, the existence of a large Cuban-American community in South Florida has also become a major standard of comparison.

And the nascent critical left in Cuba — like the oppositionists of the 1940s and 1950s — does not celebrate, in the manner of the official Communist party press and foreign supporters, Cuba’s good performance in the HDI. Instead, it is trying to organize under extremely difficult conditions, on behalf of the political liberties necessary to defend the standard of living of the Cuban people and open up the possibility for a popular and democratically self-managed economy and polity.

sam-farberSamuel Farber

 

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ANALYSIS: CUBA POLL — HANDLE WITH CARE

 Original Here: Kunzman on Cuba Poll

By Marcel Kunzmann

from Cuba Feute via The Cuba Standard

Bendixen-normalizationThe vast majority of Cubans welcome the current rapprochement with the United States and are optimistic about their future, according to a recent survey conducted in March on the island. On behalf of The Washington Post, Miami-based public opinion research firm Bendixen & Amandi International surveyed 1,200 Cubans on a wide variety of topics.

The survey produced a unique mosaic of opinions from the country. However, the results have to be looked at carefully.

Cuba – a difficult place for public opinion researchers

Opinion surveys are nothing new to most Cubans. The government has been using the methods of empirical social research for decades, to gather the mood of the population and identify specific problems to adapt their policies. For public researchers from other countries, however, Cuba is a tough environment. Government institutions are extremely suspicious of foreigners walking from door to door with questionnaires. In the case of Bendixen & Amandi, this made the hidden recruitment of Cuban interviewers obligatory.

“About three or four days into it, we got word that three of our interviewers had been detained,” said Fernand Amandi, who headed the Cuba poll. Still, the team managed to finish all interviews as scheduled between March 17-27. Although other public opinion institutes conduct Cuba polls on a more or less regularly base, the recent Bendixen poll stands out in the context of the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the United States, and shines with its broad extent of aspects. Cuba pollsters from the exterior rarely manage to conduct 1,000 Interviews with such a wide variety of topics, so it is not surprising that international media gave broad coverage to the poll.

A closer look at the results is definitely useful.

Prevailing optimism and the desire for prosperity

First of all, it is striking that most Cubans draw a bright picture of their future. Seventy-two percent of respondents considered themselves optimistic about their own and their family’s future. Fifty-five percent assume that their wishes will become reality within the next five years. Asked about what they desire, 64% said they want to travel to another country, while 37% want to open their own business, followed closely by 34% who want to buy a car — multiple responses were possible here.

On the question, “In your opinion, what do the people of Cuba need the most at this time?”, 24% demand an open political system, while exactly as many want an improved quality of life. Far ahead in first place was, however, an improved economy, which 48% said Cubans need most. Only 19% claimed to be satisfied with their current economic system, which underlines the predominant perception of economic struggles.

The political system of Cuba — a bit of context

At least 39% of Cubans stated to be satisfied with their political system, while 34% said they weren’t satisfied at all with politics in their country. For 49% of those, the reason was a lack of freedom, while in second place 26% named the lack of economic development. Nineteen percent, however, stated the abstract slogan “We need change” as reason for their political discontent.

In a wider Latin American context, the political system of Cuba doesn’t perform as badly as these numbers suggest on first sight. According to recent Gallup polls, only 34% of Latin Americans trust their respective parliaments. In Peru, only 25% of the interviewees said they trust their government, while only 28% of Peruvians are satisfied with the state of democracy in their country. To give some other examples: In Colombia, 39% are satisfied with their democracy, in Argentina and Brazil 49%, and in Ecuador 56%.

Cubans rated their social system above-average, although the approval turned out slightly worse than in previous polls. Today, 68% of Cubans are satisfied with their healthcare system. This coincides with a 2007 Gallup poll, where 75% of Cubans said they trust their healthcare system — in contrast to 57% in the rest of Latin America. With 72% satisfaction, the Cuban education system was rated slightly better than healthcare. In 2007, Cuba already performed well with a 78% satisfaction in contrast to a 59% Latin American average. At that time, only a meager half of Latin Americans stated that education is accessible for all in their country, while 98% of Cubans affirmed this for their island.

Russia still more popular than the United States

Asked about their stance towards other countries, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela were rated highly positive; more than 90% of respondents considered these countries a “friend of Cuba”. The United States ended up with 53%, far behind Russia (71%), although still ahead of North Korea (43%).

An overwhelming majority of Cubans (97%) share the opinion that diplomatic normalization with the United States is good for their country. Sixty-four percent expect economic changes, while 37% are expecting changes in the political sphere. Although 52% of respondents would like a multi-party system for Cuba, only 19% expect that this will be realized.

Not surprisingly, 96% of Cubans oppose the U.S. embargo against the island, but 83% would appreciate Raúl Castro visiting the United States. Their views of the United States also emphasize the economic priorities of many Cubans: Asked what they expect from the Cuba-U.S. thaw, 43% would like to have U.S. supermarkets, which places consumption on the first place in their wish list, followed closely by apartment buildings (41%), pharmacies (40%) and cars (35%). Meanwhile, most Cubans seem not to fear the side effects of a tourist boom, with 96% claiming that tourism would benefit their country.

Cubans favor Raúl Castro over his brother Fidel

Asked about the popularity of personalities, Pope Francis and Barack Obama seem to be the most popular international leaders in Cuba. Eighty percent of respondents had a positive opinion of them. Naturally, this wasn’t the case when it comes to their own head of government: Only 47% of Cubans have a positive opinion about Raúl Castro, giving him the same approval rating that Obama currently holds among Americans. However, Raúl is slightly more popular than his brother Fidel, who received a 44% approval rating. In a Latin American perspective, Raúl Castro actually enjoys the same approval rating as Rafael Correa in Ecuador (45.5%), but is far more popular than his close Venezuelan ally Nicolás Maduro who currently has to deal with a lowly 25%. Maduro is faring much better among Cubans, enjoying a solid 62% approval.

It’s also interesting to put a closer look at the demographic composition of these results. While in the group of 18-49 year olds 75% view their future optimistic, only 68% of those 50 years and older share this attitude. Even more striking is the obvious racial gap. Seventy-seven percent of the self-described white population are optimistic of their future, in contrast to only 57% of Afro Cubans. Nevertheless, support for the political and economic system of the island is above average within the black population.

Approval of the single-party system in Cuba is highly age dependent: While 59% of 18-49 year olds wish to have a choice of parties, only 37% of those 50 and older, and 27% of Cubans older than 65 do so. On the other hand, only 27% of 18-34 year olds hold a positive attitude towards the ruling Communist Party, while 44% of the 50-64 year olds do.

The same is true for the popularity of Raúl Castro, although the age gap is much smaller here. Only 43% of the 18-34 year olds have a positive opinion of their president, while Castro is enjoying the support of the majority (55%) of Cubans older than 65 years. The situation is similar for Fidel Castro, who enjoys the highest backing in the group of 50-64 year olds (51%), while only 40% of white Cubans but 51% of Afro Cubans have a positive opinion about their ex-president.

Also, there is a noticeable regional spread: While Raúl Castro enjoys his highest approval (57%) in central Cuban provinces, Fidel Castro is quite more popular in western Cuba and Havana, where 58% do have a positive opinion of the historic leader of the Revolution. Obviously, their origin doesn’t play a role, since both Castros were raised in eastern Cuba, where their popularity is lowest.

How representative is the composition of the poll?

Speaking about demographics, some methodical weaknesses of the poll are obvious. Asked by Cuba heute, the Washington Post stated that “researchers did compare the demographic makeup of respondents to the overall population on sex, region and race, and found they were very close to government estimates”, but “the sample was somewhat younger than the overall population.” Although one can approve this statement when looking at the final results, there is some evidence for a lack of representation when it comes to the social composition of the group of respondents.

It stands out that 57% of respondents claimed to have access to their own landline phone in their home. Official figures show that there are only 29 phone lines per 100 inhabitants (including cell phones) in Cuba. After speaking with the pollsters of Bendixen & Amadi, the Washington Post found a plausible explanation for this phenomenon, telling Cuba heute that the interviewers themselves already noticed this bias: “Like you, they were surprised by the result on phone usage, and sought an explanation from their field team in Cuba. They reported that many respondents did not comprehend this question as it was intended, and seemed to interpret having access to a phone at home as having access to a phone in their community (i.e. in a neighbor’s home). Some interviewers observed homes having no visible telephone but nonetheless reporting that they did.”

It gets more complicated when you take a look at the employment of the respondents. The pollsters of B&A surveyed as many state as private-sector employees in Cuba; every third person was apparently working for the private sector, according to the results. This definitely is not a representative composition in a country where only 22% of all employees (including farmworkers) work in the private sector. This sums up to only 12% of the adult Cuban population, the target group of the survey. This possibly points to an urban bias within the set of respondents, where an obviously disproportional number of private-sector employees was included. Other polls, like the annual Cuba Survey of the International Republican Institute (IRI), did a much better job when it comes to the selection of a representative group of participants. The Washington Post has yet to answer a question about that subject.

Opinion polls in Cuba always have to overcome many obstacles. On the one hand, the country lacks the appropriate infrastructure to conduct modern randomized telephone surveys. On the other hand, the old-style survey process itself seems to be even more difficult in Cuba than in other places. Especially with controversial political topics (e.g. the question of the one-party system), more than 20% of respondents declined to make a statement. In addition to that, it is perfectly conceivable that many supporters of the Revolution do not participate at all in foreign surveys, as a matter of principle. Even for major polling institutes seem to fail in the selection of a representative group of participants. Last but not least, some questions suffer from a huge range of different interpretations, as the example of the telephone landlines shows.

Despite their methodical weaknesses, the Bendixen & Amandi survey gives us a first insight into the thinking of some Cubans. Despite the usual margin of error of 5% and a not fully representative audience, one can at least on the clearly unequivocal questions draw some conclusions about the attitude of the overall population. Even so, this survey represents a snapshot. Especially on controversial issues a high grade of uncertainty remains, which is why the results should always be treated with caution.

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Cuba heute is a German-language blog about political and economic trends in Cuba with emphasis on the ongoing reform process. The author is studying politics and history at the University of Jena (Germany) and plans to spend a semester in Havana this winter

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ENTREPRENEURIAL CUBA: THE CHANGING POLICY LANDSCAPE

ENTREPRENEURIAL CUBA: THE CHANGING POLICY LANDSCAPE

 Archibald R.M. Ritter and Ted A. Henken

 2014/373 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62637-163-7 hc $79.95 $35

A FirstForumPress Book

New Picture (4)

Special limited-time offer!Mention e-blast when ordering

 CLICK HERE TO READ THE INTRODUCTION:  Cuba’s Chabging Policy Landscape” 

“A provocative, compelling, and essential read. The ethnographic work alone is worth the price of admission.” John W. Cotman, Howard University

“A multifaceted analysis of Cuban economic activity…. Ritter and Henken paint a lively picture of daily life in entrepreneurial Cuba.” Julia Sweig, Council on Foreign Relations

 SUMMARY

During the presidency of Raúl Castro, Cuba has dramatically reformed its policies toward small private enterprises. Archibald Ritter and Ted Henken consider why—and to what effect.

After reviewing the evolution of policy since 1959, the authors contrast the approaches of Fidel and Raúl Castro and explore in depth the responses of Cuban entrepreneurs to the new environment. Their work, rich in ethnographic research and extensive interviews, provides a revealing analysis of Cuba’s fledgling private sector.

THE AUTHORS

 Archibald R.M. Ritter is distinguished research professor of economics and international  affairs at Carleton University.

Ted A. Henken is associate professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Baruch College, CUNY.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Cuba’s Changing Policy Landscape.
  • The Small-Enterprise Sector.
  • Revolutionary Trajectories and Strategic Shifts, 1959–1990.
  • The “Special Period,” 1990–2006.
  • Policy Reform Under Raúl Castro, 2006–2014.
  • The Movement Toward Non-Agricultural Cooperatives.
  • The Underground Economy.
  • The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of the Paladar, 1993–2013.
  • The Future of Small Enterprise in Cuba.
  • Appendix 1: Timeline of Small Enterprise Under the Revolution.
  • Appendix 2: 201 Legalized Self-Employment Occupations.

Lynne Rienner Publisher’s page on Entrepreneurial Cuba: https://www.rienner.com/title/Entrepreneurial_Cuba_The_Changing_Policy_Landscape

For order and general inquiries, please contact: questions@rienner.com

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