Tras veinte largas sesiones intergubernamentales entre Cuba y Rusia y una visita de apoyo moral de Díaz-Canel al carnicero de Ucrania, el guerrerista Vladímir Vladímirovich Putin, el régimen de La Habana abrió los brazos a las propuestas y presiones de la oligarquía rusa. Cuba atraviesa la crisis económica, política y social más grande de su historia reciente y para los buitres del Kremlin la fruta está pasada de madura. Las condiciones dejaron de ser meros puntos de negociación para convertirse en un “lo tomas o lo dejas”.
¿Qué busca Rusia en Cuba ganando tierras en
usufructo por más de 30 años? Este es el cuestionamiento al que nos inducen los
medios oficiales, cuando, sin lugar a dudas, es el elemento menos importante en
la jugada geopolítica que se está gastando el débil régimen cubano.
Pongamos atención. Rusia es un país de 17
millones de kilómetros cuadrados, mientras que Cuba no supera los 11.000. La
pequeña isla del Caribe cabe 1.545 veces en el territorio de la Federación
Rusa. Se podría pensar que las tierras fértiles cubanas son un apetecible
premio para los agricultores rusos y empresarios siberianos cansados de la
nieve y los surcos congelados, pero tales ideas serían propias de un aldeano
irracional. Hay que saber que las tierras más fértiles de la superficie
terrestre se denominan chernozem, y se
encuentran solamente en el 7% del planeta Tierra y de esa cantidad el 74% se
encuentran en Rusia. Para ser claros, Cuba cabría 23 veces en el territorio
altamente fértil de Rusia, y ni siquiera estamos hablando de las otras tierras
cultivables del país más grande del globo. Un pequeño detalle: Cuba no tiene ni
un metro cuadrado de chernozem.
Es evidente que no son las tierras
“privilegiadas” de Cuba las que convocaron a la décima primera
reunión de negocios entre los oligarcas rusos y la desgastada cúpula de poder
cubana. Las palabras de Boris Titov, el rostro más visible de los
multimillonarios de derecha rusos y empresario cercano a la casa Castro, deben
servir de alerta para comprender lo que se nos avecina.
Pero los rusos cogerán la tierra para emplazar
sus empresas y negocios sin pagar y gozando privilegios que no se le ha dado
hasta hoy a ningún intento de empresa cubana
Dijo el “camarada” Titov en la
inauguración de la XI Reunión del Comité Empresarial: “Existe todo un
conjunto de propuestas para los empresarios rusos, como por ejemplo el
usufructo de tierras por más de 30 años. Se garantiza la eliminación de
aranceles para la importación de productos de alta tecnología y el derecho para
poder enviar a Rusia los beneficios y las ganancias obtenidas en los negocios
(…). Actualmente el Gobierno de la República de Cuba garantiza que este
proceso se hará en tiempos breves con privilegios para los empresarios
Pueden parecer inocuas estas palabras, pero es
necesario traducir de las intenciones rusas al español de barrio. Titov es el
principal preceptor de las directrices (exigencias) políticas de los oligarcas
rusos al régimen cubano. La denominada “hoja de ruta” entre Moscú y
la Habana son los mandamientos para avanzar con las inversiones. El documento
oficial se conserva bajo cierto secretismo, como de costumbre, pero
publicaciones asalariadas del Gobierno de Putin ya aluden a ella utilizando esa
De lo que se ha publicado por medios rusos se
comprende que las tierras en usufructo no son más que la eliminación de
arriendos de terrenos para empresas rusas, agrícolas o tecnológicas. Ni los
americanos fueron tan desahuacatados con el Tratado de Arrendamiento de Bases
Navales y Carboneras. El “imperio” siempre pagó arriendo. Pero los
rusos cogerán la tierra para emplazar sus empresas y negocios sin pagar y
gozando privilegios que no se le ha dado hasta hoy a ningún intento de empresa
cubana sin asociación directa con el empresariado militar de la cúpula
Los rusos podrán ingresar tecnología para sus
negocios sin pagar los aranceles que los cubanos sí tienen que pagar incluso
por artículos de primera necesidad. Ellos tienen garantizado de que no los
molestarán en la Aduana de la República de Cuba, mientras que los ciudadanos de
la Isla no cuentan con ninguna seguridad.
El más escandaloso de los privilegios es que
“se garantiza la eliminación de aranceles para la importación de productos
de alta tecnología, el derecho para poder enviar a Rusia los beneficios y las
ganancias obtenidas en los negocios”, según explicó Titov. Si es otro país
el que habla de salida de capitales de forma libre, el régimen de La Habana y
su prensa gritarán que son capitales golondrinas y buitres.
Los rusos pueden ser lo que quieran, pero
bobos nunca han sido. Cuba es un país en crisis política y social, carente de
liderazgo y un hervidero de conflictos silenciosos entre militares
Es natural que las inversiones buitres de
Rusia lleguen en este momento con garantías de retorno a las cuentas de los
oligarcas fuera de Cuba. Los rusos pueden ser lo que quieran, pero bobos nunca
han sido. Cuba es un país en crisis política y social, carente de liderazgo y
un hervidero de conflictos silenciosos entre militares, cuadros selectos del
Partido Comunista y allegados al poder. En un país cada vez más inestable es
obligatorio tener una ruta de escape de capital que no choque con trabas
burocráticas y las faltas de garantías jurídicas.
El vice primer ministro ruso, Dmitri Chernishenko,
declaró durante la reunión en La Habana: “Los Gobiernos de Rusia y Cuba
trabajan en la creación de las condiciones beneficiosas para los negocios, eso
supone la eliminación de las barreras burocráticas, la reducción de impuestos y
aranceles, el desarrollo de la infraestructura bancaria para garantizar el
Son muchos los optimistas en redes que ven en
esta jugada la salvación de la dictadura y el reflote de la economía doméstica
cubana. La gran pregunta que deberían hacerse es en qué moneda piensan pagarle
a los rusos los productos agrícolas y tecnológicos que desarrollarán en Cuba.
¿Creen de verdad que los millonarios ultracapitalistas rusos liderados por
Titov quieren acumular pesos?
The Cuban regime struggles to reconcile its ideological commitment with a populace that has few ties to the revolution. The likely consequence is enduring state repression.
In a nutshell
Cubans are increasingly removed from the revolution
Reforms are unlikely to come from anywhere but the military
Increasing state repression is most likely
six decades Cubans have lived under two ideological stipulations: that they owe
the revolution and its leaders total, undivided loyalty; and that they accept
socialism, not capitalism, as the reigning economic system, now and forever.
But today’s regime struggles to uphold these mandates. Though governed by a
Leninist elite, only 15 percent of Cubans experienced the enthusiasm of the
Revolution’s early days, times that are now a distant memory.
The erosion in the revolutionary spirit is evident in the estimated million and a half Cubans who have self-exiled, and the continued search for visas to the United States or Spain. Most fundamentally, it is clear in the repeated explosions of public protests, such as the “Maleconazo” protest of 1994, the November 2020 “sit down” of artists before the Ministry of Culture, and the recent, massive “Patria y Vida” demonstrations in several major cities. A social mobilization program for November 15 of this year was quashed by the repressive actions of military, police, and armed members of the Communist Party.
further evidence of this erosion is found in the posture of the majority of
intellectuals who reject Marxist economic organization and opt for opening the
society to private enterprise and international trade.
Cubans in the diaspora have been quick to identify the growing agitation for
reform as an inevitable social movement. Arguably, among the earliest observers
of this shift toward demands for greater freedom of economic activities is the dean of exiled economists, Carmelo
Mesa-Lago, who sees the reform process as “unstoppable” and predicts that if
the leadership tried to reverse it, “people will simply ignore them … [and] the
possibility of revolt will increase.” In a similar tone, veteran
researcher William LeoGrande predicts that “how Cuba’s
institutions adapt to this new reality will be the principal determinant
shaping the future of Cuban politics.”
then, to unravel in an intelligible way the probable future of this paradoxical
socialist system? Three scenarios are suggested, each with the degree of
probable occurrence indicated.
Resistance to reform
likely scenario is enduring and increasing state repression, as opportunistic
economic reforms move along at a snail’s pace.
time will these reforms be allowed to threaten the existing political establishment.
It took 10 years to implement the timid legalization of private occupations (cuentapropismo)
of February 2021; and, even then, the most profitable occupations, such as
doctors, lawyers and engineers were excluded.
ability of the dictatorship to overcome challenges to the system has been amply
this hesitancy, some experts maintain that there are at least five factors that
make it impossible to retain repressive policies: the domestic economic crisis;
the absence of any significant guarantees by a foreign geopolitical ally such
as the Soviet Union or Venezuela; the loss of the monopoly over social media;
what Fidel and Raul Castro repeatedly identified as the sclerotic
self-preservation of the bureaucratic class; and, contextualizing all the
above, the pressures exerted by two generations exhausted from decades of food
shortages and a lack of liberties.
And yet, all of that said, the ability of the dictatorship to overcome innumerable challenges to the system has not only been amply demonstrated, but stiffens the spine of these heavily invested in its survival. Of course, it also motivates those determined to reform the system.
outcome with a low probability over the short-to-medium term hinges on whether
the U.S. Congress modifies or abolishes the Helms-Burton Act, which governs
American relations with Cuba, and the Cuban government
changing its prohibition of investments from the Cuban diaspora. Should these
events take place (regardless of which comes first), there exists in the Cuban
community abroad a real nostalgia for their erstwhile country and arguably more
capital – through remittances and direct foreign investments – than could be
available from U.S. foreign aid or international lending agencies.
changes in the sugar sector are one prominent, potential outcome. The
traditional Cuban saying, “sin azucar no hay pais” – without sugar,
there is no country – describes one of the great ironies of the nation
divided between island and diaspora.
of the Fanjul family is illustrative. With their sugar holdings expropriated by
the Revolution, the Fanjuls invested what they managed to get out of Cuba in
Florida sugar. By 2019, the Fanjul Corporation was worth $8 billion and
produced 7 million tons of cane – six times what Cuba as a whole produced that
year. The senior Fanjul, Alfonso (“Alfy”), traveled to Cuba in 2012 and 2013
and, “with tears in his eyes,” visited his family’s colonial-era home. He
told the Washington Post
that “under special circumstances” he would be willing to invest in Cuba:
namely, Cuba would have to roll back many of its baked-in, anti-free trade and
private property laws and take a more positive attitude toward the Cuban
American community. Partly because of the opposition of powerful Cuban American
politicians, chances of either happening in the near or medium term at the
moment seem very slim.
scenario with very long odds but one that is not to be ignored would see the
rise of a modernizing Cuban military.
government is certainly conscious of the possibility. Most telling is their
reaction to the recent seminar held at the University of St. Louis campus in
Madrid where the role of the Cuban military was discussed. In a presentation to
the conference, former Spanish President Felipe Gonzalez described the role of
the Spanish armed forces in making possible the transition to democracy. Other
cases discussed were those of Peru, Venezuela, and Turkey. Among the Cubans
present were Yunior Garcia Aguilera, the main leader of the Archipelago
Movement, and veteran oppositionist Manuel Cuesta Morua.
former was later forcefully confined to his house before going into exile; the
latter incarcerated. Meanwhile, in a subsequent Cuban television program, a
“secret agent” called Leonardo revealed that he had been present at the
conference, which he described as “a training seminar on how to subvert the
percent of the Central Committee of the CCP’s Political Bureau belong to the
military. They are managing an estimated 75 percent of the economy. The
military, with its 35,000 members – and not the 800,000 members of the Communist
Party – is now the leadership institution in Cuba. (Bloomberg published a
revealing report on General Luis Alberto
Rodríguez, chairman of the largest business empire in Cuba, a conglomerate that
comprises at least 57 companies owned by the military.)
going to manage affairs if the command structures of the state are dismantled?
As is the
case in all modernizing militaries, they manage their holdings under a rigid
set of financial benchmarks – a decidedly capitalist administrative
mode. This veritable military-economic oligarchy fits a category, the
“modernizing oligarchy,” that is well known in the sociology of development as
defined by Edward Shils: political systems controlled by bureaucratic and/or
military officer cliques, in which democratic constitutions have been suspended
and where the modernizing impulse takes the form of concern for efficiency and
oligarchies,” says Mr. Shils, “are usually strongly motivated toward economic
development.” Samuel Huntington also notes that multiparty systems which
promote freedom and social mobility lose the concentration of power necessary for
undertaking reforms. “Since the prerequisite of reform is the consolidation of
power, first attention is given to the creation of an efficient, loyal,
rationalized, and centralized army: military power must be unified,” he writes.
a long shot, it cannot be disregarded that it might be the military that will
set the developmental priorities and enforce them in the initial stages of the
reforms most of Cuba seem to yearn for.
facing any prospective reformers is an enormous one, since all economic sectors
were placed under state control in 1976. In addition, key preconditions for a
modern capitalist economy – such as a proper legal system or tax code, and
capital markets – do not exist. The punitive U.S. embargo does more than just
cut them off from international lending agencies; it is one of the most
all-around onerous embargoes ever imposed by the American government.
this, who is going to manage affairs if the command structures of the state are
dismantled? In particular, who is going to limit the grabbing of major parts of
the privatized structures by criminal gangs – as occurred when the Soviet
system was dismantled? Scholars such as the Canadian military historian Hal
Klepak and the exiled Cuban sociologist Haroldo Dilla argue that only the
military can pull this off. Interestingly, Messrs. Klepak’s and Dilla’s
conclusions mirror those of two RAND scholars, who decades ago made a
recommendation that flew in the face of the “gambler’s fallacy” that has governed
Washington’s approach since the beginning of this conflict.
they argued, should be prepared to shift policy tracks or possibly recombine
different elements from two or more options. One of the options recommended was
to explore “informational exchanges and confidence-building measures” between
the American and Cuban armed forces. Their reasoning is based on sound
sociology: “Of all the state institutions, the military and security organs
remain most critical to the present and future survival of the regime.” And,
one might counterintuitively add, the only ones capable of reforming it.
The third scenario might indeed be a long shot, but the military is the only institution that, if the situation arises, has a chance to pull off reform of that calcified regime
Discurso pronunciado por Miguel
Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, Primer Secretario del Comité Central del Partido
Comunista de Cuba y Presidente de la República, en la clausura del III Pleno
del Comité Central del PCC, en el Palacio de Convenciones, el 17 de diciembre
de 2021, “Año 63 de la Revolución”.
(Versiones Taquigráficas – Presidencia de la República)
que hace solo unos breves instantes recibimos una llamada del General de
Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, quien me pidió que les trasmitiera que él había
seguido por el circuito cerrado todos los detalles de las dos sesiones que
hemos tenido del III Pleno del Comité Central del Partido, ayer y hoy, que
elogiaba la calidad de la discusión y el debate realizado, y que les enviaba a
todos un fuerte abrazo revolucionario (Aplausos).
queridas compañeras y compañeros, hermanos todos en este arduo camino que solo
puede emprenderse con claridad en las ideas que defendemos y confianza en los
seres humanos que marchan a nuestro lado.
socialismo es, hasta hoy, la única vía al desarrollo con justicia social. Una
apuesta innegable a la inteligencia, la voluntad y la vocación solidaria de
hombres y mujeres conscientes de que hacen “camino al andar”.
han emprendido antes y nos han dejado lecciones, positivas o negativas, que no
podemos ignorar, pero siempre atemperándolas a lo que singulariza nuestra
experiencia concreta: historia, tradiciones, identidad y, por supuesto, el
carácter y la cercanía de un adversario poderoso que lleva siglos al acecho.
adversario no acepta la soberanía y odia nuestro sistema social. Somos
demasiado libres para lo que ellos consideran su patio trasero y demasiado
atrevidos por elegir el camino del socialismo.
libre, soberana y socialista en las narices del imperio. Eso somos. Y en
ese somos que entraña una alta cuota de resistencia y creatividad heroica, al
cierre de otro año difícil, llegó el momento de felicitarnos.
actuales generaciones de revolucionarios se están probando en la pelea.
La historia de Cuba está preñada de episodios de resistencia insuperables, pero
ninguno de nosotros, desde las actuales responsabilidades, habíamos vivido años
tan plagados de desafíos y amenazas. Vencerlos es una proeza.
las batallas: Bloqueo reforzado con 243 medidas adicionales en medio de una
pandemia con picos escalofriantes de contagiados y fallecidos, saturación de
hospitales, escasa disponibilidad de medicamentos y déficit elevado de oxígeno
terapéutico; problemas en la generación eléctrica; desabastecimientos de
productos de primera necesidad, altos precios, crisis global en la
transportación de mercancías; Guerra de IV Generación, apoyada en una campaña
de descrédito vil y calumniosa contra las heroicas brigadas médicas, contra las
leyes en curso, contra cada medida o acción de resistencia, contra el liderazgo
revolucionario, contra las familias.
y tratando de fragmentar a una sociedad que debe su existencia a la unidad, han
hecho todo por arrancarle el alma a la Patria, acosando a sus artistas y
poniendo en venta el servicio de algunos a las peores causas.
demonstrations of July 11 were the first great autonomous and democratic
movement of Black and poor Cubans since 1959. The demonstrators did not chant
any of the slogans of the U.S.-based Cuban Right.
While it is true that the Cuban rap “Patria y Vida” (Life and Fatherland) that inspired many July 11 marchers is not clear about the alternatives it proposed to the social and political system that rules the island, it cannot be said, as some have pretended, that its political content is right-wing.
response to the July 11 demonstrations, the Cuban government decided to
prosecute the great majority of the hundreds of demonstrators arrested on that
day. As is its wont, the government has refused to provide the number of
arrested demonstrators, the charges against them, and the sentences that were
imposed on them. It seems that some of them were subject to summary trials without
the right to a defense lawyer, and got sentences of up to one year in
prison. However, for those that the government considered to be the protest
leaders, the prosecution demanded much longer sentences. That is why, for
example, in the case of 17 Cubans who were arrested in San Antonio de los
Baños, a town near Havana where the protests began, the prosecutors
demanded sentences of up to 12 years in prison.
same time, the government increased its social assistance in numerous poor
neighborhoods of the capital and other cities in the island, which indicates
that even if it has not publicly admitted it, it is worried about the popular
discontent expressed on July 11, and it is attempting with those social
services at least to calm the people hardest hit by the economic crisis, and to
diminish the growing alienation and anger with the regime of large
same time, the political leadership has tried to discredit the popular protest,
taking advantage of its absolute control of the press, radio and television to
broadcast images of the demonstrators who got involved in violent incidents,
deliberately ignoring that the great majority demonstrated in a peaceful
manner. The official mass media similarly ignored the violence, that under the
leadership’s orders, the so-called “black berets” and other repressive organs,
like State Security, carried out against people who were exercising their right
to demonstrate peacefully.
profound economic crisis – exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and by Trump’s
imperialist measures that Biden has almost entirely kept in place – especially
affected the Black and poor Cubans who went out into the streets on July 11.
That crisis is not about to disappear with the official reopening of foreign
winter tourism on November 15
the government no longer counts with the degree of legitimacy that Fidel and
Raúl Castro, together with the rest of the “historic” generation, enjoyed when
they ruled the country. People like Miguel Díaz-Canel, the new president of the
Republic and First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee,
and Manuel Marrero Cruz, the Prime Minister, belong to the systems’ second
bureaucratic generation, whose political prestige and legitimacy does not
compare with that of the historic leaders. It is not idle speculation to wonder
how many of the July 11 demonstrators would have insulted Raúl Castro and even
less Fidel Castro with the epithet singao (fucker or fucked) that they
yelled at President Díaz-Canel.
among those who think that the national demonstrations of July 11, may very
well be a watershed in the contemporary history of Cuba. But this depends
on how the Cuban people respond to the call by the citizen virtual platform Archipiélago
to organize demonstrations throughout the island on November 15. We will then
see if the demonstrations of July 11 sowed the seeds of tomorrow’s fruits, or
if unfortunately July 11 was only an isolated outbreak of rebellion
to demonstrate on November 15 could not happen in a more opportune moment
than this. After the great explosion of July 11 – and the manner in which the
government responded — it was politically logical that the next step would be
to pressure the government to recognize, de facto, if not de jure,
the right of the people to freely demonstrate in the streets.
also to be expected, that the government would proceed, as it effectively did,
to deny the permit for the demonstration, arguing that “the promoters and
their public postures, as well as their ties with subversive organizations or
agencies associated with the U.S. government have the manifest intention to
promote a change of Cuba’s political system,” and citing the Constitution
of 2019 that defines the socialist system that rules Cuba as “irrevocable.” In
other words, the present Cuban rulers have the constitutional right to maintain
and control the ruling system in the island per saecula saeculorum (forever
the constitution that was adopted under a one-party system that
monopolizes the access to television, press and radio, and did not allow other
opinion currents and parties to participate in the process of writing the new
constitution in 2019. The control of the one-party system was such, that the citizens
who participated in the discussions sponsored by the government in different
places to voice their suggestions about the project, did not even have the
right, even less the opportunity, to organize and coordinate their suggestions
with those of other people in other meeting places; nor were they able to
promote directly their suggestions (without the filters and censorship by the
PCC) to the Cuban public through the mass media, a classic symptom of the
deliberate political atomization maintained and promoted by the
impossible to predict how and to what degree the government’s prohibition is
going to affect the reach and dimensions of the protests projected for November
15. To plan small protests, as has already been proposed with the purpose
of appeasing the all powerful Cuban state, would be perceived by the regime as
a victory (achieved through its abuse of power).
international press would also see it that way, whose importance in these
situations must be taken seriously, including its impact on the Cuban
government as well as on the opposition. Such a victory would be
proclaimed by the Cuban government as a defeat for the legacy of July 11.
And it would embolden it to at least maintain the political status quo without
also must be taken into account the drastic measures that the regime will take
to prevent people from joining the march, something they could not do on July 11
because of the unforeseen nature of the protests. Cuba’s Attorney General has
already publicly warned that it will take very harsh measures to punish those
who go out in the street to challenge the regime on November 15. Face with such
a reality, it is very possible that many people will decide to stay home
and not demonstrate. And that same government will no doubt weaken the
possibilities of the movement by arresting, hundreds and hundreds of Cubans
before the day in which the demonstration is scheduled to take place, as it has
done on other occasions,
difficult to prepare for the repression that is likely to occur. But should the
Cuban people confront the state in a massive protest – people must be
prepared to take advantage of that display of power to present and promote
democratic demands. A massive protest on November 15 could lead
a surprised and fearful government to adopt a hard repressive line,
which is very likely, or to open new possibilities for the autonomous
organization of new political forces in the island.
latter possibility would require a strategic and tactical reevaluation of
the proposals and political attitudes of the new critical left in Cuba, keeping
in mind that it might possibly occur in the context of a triangular
conflict among this new left, the government and U.S.-based Cuban Right. Such
proposals, that should have been put forward a long time ago, would
become, with this opening, truly indispensable.
the list would be the abolition of the single party state, that has been
justified by the government in a great number of occasions and with the
most diverse arguments for so long. Among these is the appeal to José Martí’s
(Cuba’s principal Founding Father) idea of political unity. At the end of the
Nineteenth Century, Martí called on all the factions and groups that supported
Cuban independence to unite under the banner of the Cuban Revolutionary Party
to more effectively combat Spanish colonialism. When Martí made this call for
unity for the independence cause, he was trying to overcome the petty
jealousies and authoritarian tendencies of the insurgent military leaders and
unify the military campaign against Spain under civilian control. The unity
that he called for with respect to war, had nothing to do with the party system
that he, together with other independence leaders conceived for the new Cuban
independent republic, and even less for the constitutional establishment of
a one-party state that would exclude or declare other
justification frequently argued by the regime is based on what Raúl Castro called
the “monolithic unity” of the Cuban people that the PCC pretends to represent.
A conceit that was irrefutably exposed by the diversity of the July 11
demonstrations. Even less serious are the government’s May Day proclamations,
when it declares that the PCC is the only party that can and should represent
the Cuban working class.
one-party system is the principal obstacle to the democratization of the
country, a qualitatively different process from the liberalization
that the regime has implemented to a certain degree, as for example, when
in 2013 it considerably increased the number of Cubans who could travel abroad.
While it liberalized travel out of the country, it did not establish traveling
abroad as a right for all Cubans in the island, but as
a privilege discretionarily conferred by the government, as it is shown by
the situation of Cubans who have been “regulated,” and are not permitted to
travel abroad and return to their country.
It is for
reasons such as this, that politically conscious Cubans who are concerned with
the arbitrariness that has typified the system of the current ruling class of
Communist Party officials, have insisted for a long time in the necessity
to establish what has already been sanctioned even by the 2019 Constitution:
a country governed by the rule of law that functions according to laws and
not based on the discretion of those who rule.
a fundamental demand in the struggle against arbitrariness, privileges and
the abuse of power. However, it is an impossible political goal under the
dominant one-party state in Cuba, where the political will of the PCC,
transmitted through its “orientations” is above even of the laws and
institutions of the system itself.
consider that the abolition of the one-party state is too radical
a demand, but who want to still participate in a movement to
democratize the country, could push for demands that advance the struggle along
the same road and educate the people, making more transparent the enormous power
of the PCC. Thus, for example, they could argue that while the PCC is the only
party allowed to legally exist, it should represent the full social and
political diversity in the country, which at present it clearly
argument in favor of the inclusion of diversity in the party, would lead to the
demand that the PCC break with the tradition that they wrongly refer to as “democratic
centralism,” which in reality is a bureaucratic centralism: decisions
taken from above, in contrast with those based on a free discussion and
free vote. To achieve this would also facilitate the right to form, whenever
a number of members find it to be necessary, party factions and platforms
(for party conventions) inside the party itself.
also be demanded that the PCC transforms itself into a purely electoral
party, restricting itself to propose its candidates for the elections of public
officials. Such a change would bring to an end the “orientation”
functions of the PCC, through which it controls and directs, as the single
party in government, all economic, political, social and educational
activities. Although this change would not by itself bring about greater
democracy, it would at least bring about pluralism among power holders, with
each elected Communist acting on his or her own, which would effectively
fragment the bureaucratic monopoly of the single party.
reality, these last two proposals differ more in degree than in substance from
the first proposal, since they would all be a serious blow to the
one-party system and would create spaces to organize more effectively the
opposition to the regime, and especially to continue to insist and struggle for
the total abolition of the one party system with the objective of creating the
political basis for a socialist democracy.
in the introduction written by the Council on International Relations to
Charles A. Kupchan’s book How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable
Peace, in his 2008 inaugural address, Barack Obama promised nations “on the
wrong side of history” that the U.S. would “extend a hand if they were willing
to open their fists.”
began an intellectual presidency, which certainly constitutes a strategic
presidency. With its impressive historical documentation, Kupchan’s book
provided Obama with a set of assumptions and theses that helped guide his
policy towards Cuba.
assumptions in this book are worth summarizing. The first is that the stability
of international relations is not decided by the type of regime a country has.
The second is that economic relations are not as important as diplomacy when
reducing tensions and seeking geopolitical accommodations with countries in
policy towards Cuba was designed from these two assumptions. That a policy of
unilateral concessions appeased the enemy, and that a strong investment in a
friendly narrative, respect for sovereignty, and offers of cooperation would be
more productive to achieve the goals of democratization, which Obama left in
the most effective hands: that of the Cubans.
combined with a policy of harassment and attrition, had not led to the stated
goal of U.S. foreign policy toward the Island. This was the strongest argument
against the critics of a policy shift that began with the exchange of
prisoners, the removal of Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list, and
the reestablishment of diplomatic relations.
fair, Obama actually modified his message, bringing it closer to Kupchan’s
intellectual vision. He did not wait for the Cuban government to open its fist,
instead introducing changes without the latter modifying its internal and
external policy one iota.
view, and in the case of Cuba, the Obama policy’s greatest strategic success
was to overwhelm the Cuban government on three fundamental levels: in that of
its intentions, in that of its will to change, and in that of its language. Its
impact on Cuban society has been irreversible.
policy that preceded it lacked vision; confident that the harsh exercise of
power would put an end to the regime. For 62 years, the Cuban government has
been ostensibly on the verge of crumbling every four years. Obama’s policy
focused on the medium and long term, and for that very reason it was strategic.
fail? No. Although the type of regime does matter in any conception of foreign
policy—a necessary correction to Kupchan’s postulates—a consequence perhaps not
foreseen by the author, but which I assume was intuited by Obama, is that such
a policy could put an end both rhetorically and practically to the
identification and perception of the Cuban people and government as enemies of
the United States. If the Cuban government continued (continues) to place
itself in the convenient role of the enemy, this was no longer true with its
people. And this is the most important result in terms of the US’s strategic
goals, which not even the return to tough policy under Donald Trump could
reinstate: the possibility of masking the conflict between the Cuban state and
Cuban society behind the conflict between countries reached its limit with this
formulation of foreign policy. Cuba opened up, and society took the lead.
exercise of power continues with the logic inherited from the times of John F.
Kennedy: instant democracy, hence the idea of restoring the past, and the
United States playing a leading role in this transcript. Quid pro quo demands
on Obama’s policy are born out of this logic, just as his policy sought to
break with it. Obama inaugurated another era. Cubans were the ones who must
advance the changes, and the United States can only be there for what it can
and should do: to assist and support the process. The pace of change depends on
factors that the United States cannot and should not try to control. There are
constraints that the North American power must abide by based on the structural
limitations of its system; this is what the hard-liners recognize to their
chagrin every four years. After every electoral cycle, they always conclude
that its up to the Cubans. They see abandonment “a lo Kennedy” when in reality
it is the best invitation to assume control of our destiny.
approach recognized that quid pro quo policies as a diplomatic game or foreign
policy go beyond the limits imposed by a given time period, especially when it
comes to regime change. He later demonstrated this with his policy towards the
Arab Spring, mainly in Egypt. However, hardliners demand results within a fixed
period from a policy that was repeatedly repurposed over time.
It is on
this enduring and far-reaching foundation, which was put to the test here in July,
that the Joe Biden administration could and should build a revised “third way”
with Cuba, with an approach that connects its foreign policy with the nature of
governing regimes. The Cuban government is an actor and factor of regional
destabilization, with new formulas that can be confused with the mechanisms of
democracies and at the same time uses them. Democratic regimes are the key to
stable peace, the most salvageable of Francis Fukuyama’s thinking. This cannot
a dialogue on security issues in the region—including immigration, combating
drug trafficking, and climate change—blanket sanctions should be replaced by
individual sanctions at the beginning of this new post-Donald Trump political
term, which are already being applied in some cases. This would continuously
weaken strong identities in Cuba, like the ones between the country and nation,
and the state and government, which in turn strengthens the citizenry. Miguel
Díaz-Canel will have a very difficult time identifying as, or confusing himself
with, the nation.
and invigorating people-to-people diplomacy is another imperative. Soft power,
a policy applied by all Chinese administrations toward Cuba, was revealed as
the best option to undo an artificially constructed enmity between the two
countries. One cannot forget that the United States and Cuba have been
historical enemies for at least three generations, a rooted narrative that
served as propitious terrain for an unvoluntary war.
step in this new matrix should raise political recognition for the opposition
and civic recognition for civil society. From backroom conversations, which is
the usual diplomatic style that gives place to democratic alternatives, it is
important to move to a more public and formal stage of dialogue. I think this
is more important than resource aid, and takes advantage of the regime’s
growing legitimacy and legitimization vacuum, which was accelerated after July
11. There should be no doubt that the Cuban government is a government of the
element involves the empowerment of the private sector, both in terms of
training and connections, which is essential for the creation of the middle
classes. I am not so optimistic to think that the middle classes themselves
will lead to democracy. What does seem evident is that they promote economic
and social pluralism and ease the necessary tension between the State and
autonomous economic agents.
angle to de-bilateralize the democratization agenda. What Obama started can be
updated today with the North American proposal for a global democratic alliance
to curb the global spread of autocracies. In this sense, a commitment to, and
aid for, the democratization of Cuba is part of the proposal to re-democratize
all societies. On a different scale and in different dimensions, democracies
need to re-democratize. The issue of Cuba could be rethought within this new
sixth point, it is convenient to consider the vision of change in Cuba as a
process. Cuba has been closer to democracy in the last six years, despite
Donald Trump, than at any time in the previous 56 years. Cuba’s prolonged
dystopia is related to two interconnected and mutually reinforcing factors: the
supposed invasion by the American superpower on the island’s southern and
Caribbean border, which thankfully never came, but in turn fueled the
Revolution’s infallibility as a peripheral power. This had a paralyzing effect
on both global diplomacy and internal debate. The exportation of conflicts,
their causes, and many potential suggestions for change obtained its raw
material in each U.S. electoral cycle.
regime has always had an added strategic advantage with this logic: selling the
diplomatic narrative that the debate for democracy in Cuba is a debate for
sovereignty between two states with equal recognition in the United Nations.
With this, it has managed at times to denationalize the democratic discussion
and halt not only democratic action, but also threats of reform within the
mindset, on the other hand, accelerates democratization, paradoxical as it may
seem, and authenticates change. This is because only one process is capable of
involving its recipients, which are the Cuban people. This eliminates the
paralyzing obstacles caused by harsh nationalist takes on diversity and
plurality. The social outbreak on June 11 (11J), which exposed the deep rifts
between society and the government, can now be channeled through an intelligent
strategy of democratic change that fuses an inclusive movement with a broad
It is crucial that political language gradually appropriate what in Colombia
they call the “mechanism of disarming words.” Harsh rhetoric almost always
serves to hide conceptual and strategic weaknesses in political designs. I
would say more: soft rhetoric is more accurate, goes deeper, and avoids the
defensive psychological distractions generated by toxic insults between and
within countries. Most importantly, insults are not practical for resolving
conflicts. Soft rhetoric could fill in many absences. The case of Venezuela
comes to mind, where strong, binary, and radical discourse has drowned out more
than one possibility for concrete advances. As an old international relations
professor told me: you only get to the root through moderation.
change in language is essential to interact from abroad with a more diverse and
plural Cuban society, with dissimilar interests, with a new generation that has
risen rapidly to the public stage, and with an elite whose sometimes visible
tensions and fragmentation reflect the underlying currents of change. Like
never before, words must be actions.
how to approach the embargo issue in this dual scenario with post-Castroism on
one side and a Democratic administration in the White House on the other? The
discussion about the embargo is still relevant. My opposition of it dates back
to 1991. It is part of my political and ideological identity. Beyond this, the
conversation must be calibrated and balanced for several reasons.
a logical asymmetry between the campaign against the embargo led by the Cuban
government and the complex political process that can lead to its elimination.
If control over the embargo were in the hands of the U.S. executive branch,
such a campaign would have political coherence and consistency because the
embargo’s elimination would be viable. This is well known, but what is lost is
that the Cuban government is also aware of it and uses it for reasons other
than the ostensible interest of removing the embargo. The embargo works
perfectly as a political and diplomatic distraction to hide the government’s
own responsibilities and freeze democratic diplomacy within multilateral
organizations such as the United Nations. Does the Cuban government have a
group of lawyers in Washington that works systematically with Congress, on both
sides of the aisle, to pass legislation that removes the embargo? If it does,
they are not doing their job well. If it is trying but not succeeding that
means they are not doing their job well either. And if it hasn’t tried, it
means that it prefers to spend more money on propaganda than on achieving
specific political goals.
narrative, the embargo also serves the government by clouding its structural
insufficiencies in areas as important as meeting the basic needs of the
economy. And the fact is that the embargo has not prevented, nor does it
prevent, the importation of basic goods from the United States, the dynamics of
which are well hidden in public discussion. The questions that constantly arise
are: is the Cuban government really interested in lifting the embargo? Does it
really help it? I have my doubts. Hence the calibrated analysis, independent of
the ethics of the policy, which requires us to look at through a political
for the democratization of Cuba should not be linked to the elimination of the
embargo. If Obama’s policy demonstrated something, which in principle must be
maintained by Biden, it is that reforms in Cuba have no obstacles other than
the political will of the government. If the July protests left any clarity, it
is that an already open Cuban society wants and understands that change is
possible regardless of the United States. If we say and assume that the
solution to the Cuban problem corresponds to and is the exclusive business of
Cubans, we should not confuse facilitating conditions with necessary ones. In
my perspective, there are only two reasons to oppose the embargo. One responds
to the multilateralism of the international order and the other is ethical. And
granted, the latter is a political arena par excellence. Or it should be.
rest, a coalition from an active political center is what we are lacking. It
must be diverse and plural like Cuba but focused on rational and mature
solutions for our multiple challenges, as well as inclusive enough to
accommodate various currents, which are fewer or at least less visible, but
with the capacity, knowledge, and disposition for a realistic exercise of
political imagination. We deserve it.
world watching as Cubans protested on the streets all over the island on July
11, Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel took what some experts believe was a
decision that will come back to haunt him: He gave a “combat order” to fellow
revolutionaries to squash those calling for freedom and the “end of the
aftermath of images of police repression and pro-government mobs hitting
protesters with clubs going viral, there has been a rare wave of criticism from
government insiders, state journalists, and prominent figures in the arts,
pointing to a crisis of governance in the communist island that no other leader
has faced in six decades.
recently told journalists working for state-sanctioned outlets that he doesn’t
regret the order to crack down on anti-government demonstrators. But the fact
that he felt the need to gather the journalists at a meeting Saturday to
justify his decision is the latest example of a damage-control campaign to
restore his dwindling popularity and political standing.
“I made a
call to the people that day because it seemed to me that it was the right thing
to do and that I do not regret or will not regret,” he said in a video of the
meeting that was later edited and televised this week. “We had to defend
against demonstrations that were not peaceful at all. And that is a false story
that they have also put out there.”
in the controlled setting of the Palace of the Revolution, and among some of
his more staunch defenders, he could not avoid criticism.
journalist who works on Editorial de la Mujer, or Women’s Publishing, stood up
and told him that political troubles call for “political solutions… not only,
or not police actions.”
you acknowledged that apologies should be given wherever an excess was
committed,” said Lirians Gordillo. “We also need to tell those stories because
nothing can harm this country more than an injustice or an excess that is not recognized
after his controversial statement on July 11, Diaz-Canel appeared on television
to walk back his words and strike a more conciliatory tone. But a month later,
his “combat order” and the violent repression that followed, including hundreds of documented detentions
and summary trials, are still
causing him trouble.
despite the air conditioning at the Palace of the Revolution and stumbling over
his words a couple of times, the leader acknowledged Saturday that there might
have been “some excesses.” He said those cases would be investigated but denied
that there are protesters who are “disappeared or have been tortured.”
International, Human Rights Watch and Cubalex, all human-rights organizations
tracking the arrests, have documented cases of mistreatment and protesters
whose whereabouts are still unknown.
has lost all credibility,” said a source close to the Cuban government who
asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. “That day he appeared on TV
and said what he said, all hopes among the younger generations that he would be
a reformer were destroyed in 20 minutes. And from then on, he has continued to
after images of the violence spread on social media, prominent Cuban musicians
and other members of the island’s artistic community, including Leo Brouwer,
Adalberto Alvarez, Elito Reve and members of the legendary band Los Van Van,
posted candid criticism on social media.
said he never imagined that security forces would attack peaceful Cubans.
to be silent,” said Alvarez. “The beatings and the images I see of the violence
against a people that took to the streets to peacefully express what they feel
streets in Cuba belong to the Cubans. I can not do less than be by your side in
difficult times,” he wrote on Facebook.
stunning rebuke of Díaz-Canel’s response to the crisis, a former Cuban
ambassador who frequently defends the government’s views on foreign media said
Cuban authorities could not ignore its citizens’ legitimate demands.
Alzugaray, a former ambassador to the European Union, wrote an opinion column
criticizing the government’s “clampdown” on protesters “so repressively, while
pursuing the same endless propaganda communication strategy as ever despite its
demonstrably diminishing returns.”
repeated the government line that the U.S. embargo is the source of Cuba’s
economic troubles, he added they were “in no small part also the result of
governmental inadequacy and poor policy.” And, he added, the Cuban government
was “proclaiming that ‘the embargo is the problem’ and talking down the
protests as ‘interference from outside’ in an effort to cover up its own
message, however, does not appear to be getting through at the top levels of
the Cuban government.
week, the government published a draconian law to
criminalize expressing dissenting opinions on the internet. Diaz-Canel seems to
be on a personal crusade against social media, which he called a “colonial
tool” that promotes hate.
leader has not been treated kindly by his fellow Cubans on social media, where
he is constantly derided, when not made the butt of jokes and memes. A vulgar
insult repeated by thousands of people during the demonstrations has now become
attached to his name on Google search.
Raúl Castro picked him to succeed him in 2018, Diaz-Canel has faced one crisis
after another. Widespread shortages and blackouts, and controversial decisions
like selling food in U.S. dollars that the population does not earn, have made
him an unpopular figure and the target of the demonstrators’ anger.
beginning, his position has been tenuous. As a non-Castro, he doesn’t have the
credibility of the so called históricos, those who fought for the
revolution in the 1950s in the Sierra Maestra mountains. But he still needs to
cater to Communist Party hardliners. And he is expected to carry out
long-delayed reforms like the currency unification that has angered ordinary
Cubans even more.
as well become a one-term president, since he was left all the ugly stuff to
make the country survivable” in financial terms, said John Kavulich, the
president of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.
Diaz-Canel was named the Party’s First Secretary in April this year, after Raul
Castro’s official retirement, a powerful position he could have used to stop
the repression of protesters “if he had the will,” the source close to the
island’s government said.
On july 11th thousands of
protesters took to the streets spontaneously in more than 50 Cuban towns and
cities. They had a long litany of grievances: recurring electricity shortages,
empty grocery shops, a failing economy, a repressive government and an
increasingly desperate situation regarding covid-19. In a display of discontent
not seen on the communist island for perhaps six decades, people of all ages chanted
and marched, some of them to the tune of clanging spoons and frying pans. They
shouted “Patria y Vida!” (Fatherland and Life)—a riff on the revolutionary
slogan “Patria o Muerte” (Fatherland or Death), and the name of a rap song
which criticises the government—along with “Libertad!” (Freedom) and “Abajo la
dictadura!” (Down with the dictatorship).
Although protests continue, by the
next day cities were quieter as the police went from house to house, rounding
up the demonstration leaders. Riot police spread out across cities,
plainclothes officers took to the streets and pro-government mobs brandishing
images of Fidel Castro were called in to chant revolutionary slogans and wave
Cuban flags. Miguel Díaz-Canel, the president and first secretary of the Communist Party,
appeared on television to declare: “Cuba belongs to its revolutionaries.” Around
150 people have gone missing, and one protester has been killed. There are
rumours that young men are being forcibly conscripted into the army.
The big question is how much staying
power the protests will have. The coming weeks will show whether the regime’s
stock response of swatting down any signs of dissent will work again. The
government has little leeway to buy social peace. Cuba has been badly hit by
covid-19 and by a precipitous drop in tourism, on which it heavily depends. A
lack of foreign currency with which to buy imports has led to acute food shortages and blackouts. Under
the administration of Donald Trump, the United States tightened sanctions on
Cuba. These have added a little to the island’s longstanding economic troubles.
Cuba’s reluctance to buy foreign
vaccines, born of a mix of autarky and a shortage of cash, means that only 16%
of the population is fully inoculated. Home-grown vaccines are being developed, but
have not yet been fully rolled out; meanwhile, pharmacies are short even of
basics like aspirin. Whereas tourism has resumed in nearby places where
covid-19 has receded, such as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, Cuba is
suffering from rising infections. Even the official data show the number of new
cases doubling every seven days. In a video posted to Facebook, Lisveilys
Echenique, who lives in the city of Ciego de Ávila, described how her brother
spent 11 days battling covid-19 without treatment because he could get neither
medicine nor a hospital bed. After he died, his corpse remained in her home for
seven hours before an ambulance arrived.
The Cuban economy came close to
collapse in the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union brought foreign
aid to an abrupt halt. There were public protests then, too, which were quickly
dispersed. But Cubans now have access to the internet and are adept at using it
to mobilise. Videos of police violence and arbitrary arrests have been
circulating rapidly in recent days. At one point in the afternoon of July 11th,
as the protests reached their height, the authorities appeared to block all
internet access. Some social-messaging sites have also been suspended.
But much as the government may wish
to turn the internet off, it cannot afford to: the exorbitant access fees
charged by the state telecoms monopoly are an important source of foreign
exchange. The internet is also a vital conduit for remittances from Cubans
abroad. Mobile data and Wi-Fi charges bring in perhaps $80m a month for the
government, estimates Emilio Morales of Havana Consulting Group in Miami.
“The government has closed itself up
like an oyster,” says José Jasán Nieves Cárdenas, editor of El Toque, a Cuban magazine mostly published online.
“Instead of acknowledging that it has to come out and establish a dialogue with
its people, it has chosen repression.” Tear gas and rubber bullets were used
against crowds, although in some instances security officers were so
outnumbered by protesters that they were forced to retreat. As things
escalated, police cars were overturned and some dollar stores, symbols of the
regime’s economic incompetence, were ransacked.
Mr Díaz-Canel blames Cuba’s troubles
on the embargo imposed by the United States, as the government always does. He
has ignored the complaints of the protesters, dismissing them as mercenaries,
and offered excuses rather than plans for reform. After the president gave a
speech on July 12th more protesters gathered outside the Capitol building in
Havana. Other than stepping down, there is not much Mr Díaz-Canel could do to
make amends to his people, says the owner of a small business. “You can’t cover
the sun with one finger,” she says. Rumours are circulating that even members
of the police are starting to defy their orders, as some think the protesters
have a point.
Alfred Martínez Ramírez, a member of 27n, a group of activists, artists and intellectuals campaigning for greater freedom of expression, joined a protest outside the Ministry of Culture in November. Some 300 people were present, which at the time seemed a huge number. Cubans rarely protest, not least because unauthorised public gatherings are illegal. Seeing thousands of people on the streets of Havana and elsewhere in Cuba gives Mr Martínez Ramírez hope that his group is not alone, and that they may have even helped many others overcome their fear of dissent. “There has been an awakening,” he says.
Continuidad política y reformas económicas de calado, y más lo segundo que lo primero, he ahí donde se juega el futuro de la Cuba tras el VIII Congreso del Partido Comunista, que tuvo lugar el pasado fin de semana en La Habana. El encuentro unificó todo el poder político en el presidente cubano, Miguel Díaz-Canel, y en una nueva generación de líderes nacidos después del triunfo revolucionario. Su principal desafío será realizar una apertura económica e introducir transformaciones profundas, que necesariamente deben ampliar el marco del mercado y de la iniciativa privada, avanzando hacia un modelo mixto, para tratar de hacer sostenible el sistema heredado, sin negar su espíritu..
Es la primera vez que se alinean el Gobierno y las estructuras de la
cúpula del partido, hasta ahora encabezado por la vieja guardia, en la figura
de un civil que no luchó en la Sierra
Maestra, Diaz-Canel, que ya ejercía la presidencia desde 2018. Hasta
este jueves el Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC) rendía cuentas a Raúl Castro y a
los históricos, que ahora abandonan todos los cargos.
Sabido es que el modelo de partido único no va a cambiar, pero
mantenerse en el inmovilismo y en las reformas rácanas sería el mejor modo de
que la economía se vaya a pique, lo que equivale a decir todo el sistema, dado
que la crisis y la situación por la que atraviesa la isla es de extrema
problemas estructurales acumulados y la ineficiencia de la empresa estatal,
agravados por la epidemia y el recrudecimiento del embargo norteamericano, no
se resuelven con parches, se admite en las altas instancias, y también que las
reformas introducidas hasta ahora claramente han sido insuficientes para
garantizar un mejor nivel de vida a los cubanos, principal reto de los nuevos
dirigentes, que no cuentan con la legitimidad “histórica” sino que la
valoración que se haga de ellos dependerán de lo que logren.
“El PCC necesita ampliar las zonas de legitimidad de su mandato con un desempeño económico que lo justifique o se le va a complicar la gobernabilidad”, opina el académico cubanoamericano Arturo López-Levy, señalando que “a mediano plazo, la economía es el primer renglón para medir sus capacidades”. Hay bastante consenso en este punto, y también en otro asunto que menciona López-Levy: “Se necesita orientar prioridades y recursos hacia la seguridad alimentaria, pues sin comida no hay país, por muchos hoteles que se construyan o reparen. Díaz-Canel ha enfatizado el discurso de la continuidad para asegurar la confiabilidad de los que lo han elegido, pero para resolver las demandas y quejas de una Cuba globalizada y signada por una crisis estructural, va a tener que prometer y hacer grandes cambios, tanto sustantivos como en la forma de gobernar”.
¿Qué lectura puede hacerse del VIII Congreso? ¿Defraudó las expectativas
de los que esperaban una apuesta decidida por la apertura? ¿O era lo que podía
esperarse de un cónclave cargado de simbolismo en el que lo que se escenificaba
era la despedida de Raúl y la generación histórica? Hay diversas opiniones. En
su informe central, Raúl Castro criticó el “egoísmo” de los que demandan el
ejercicio privado de algunas profesiones y reclaman la importación comercial
privada para establecer un sistema no estatal de comercio, advirtiendo que hay
“límites” que no se pueden rebasar porque implicarían la
destrucción del socialismo. La mención cayó como un jarro de agua
fría en los sectores que defienden la apertura y en muchos emprendedores,
aunque pasados los días, y tras el primer discurso de Díaz-Canel, algunos de
los analistas consultados se inclinan a pensar que “la reforma va” y que cada
vez será más profunda. Hasta donde se llegará, sea por propia voluntad o por
necesidad, es la gran incógnita.
“El VIII Congreso del PCC no ha traído grandes sorpresas, pero tampoco ha significado un retroceso en lo que al sector privado se refiere”, asegura Oniel Díaz Castellanos, fundador de Auge, empresa consultora que brinda asesoramiento a decenas de emprendedores privados. Admite que “ciertas palabras en el Informe Central alarmaron a varios colegas”, entre los que se incluye, pero dice que “una mirada serena” a las intervenciones de Díaz-Canel así como a las resoluciones emanadas de la cita, confirman que “hay una combinación de voluntad política para abrir más espacios económicos, a la vez que se establecen límites que no se deberían pasar según la lógica del PCC”. Su conclusión: “en ninguno de los Congresos anteriores se ha hablado y escrito tanto” sobre el sector no estatal, de las pymes y la iniciativa privada, de lo que deduce que “no hay marcha atrás” en la reforma.
Es de la misma opinión el economista Omar Everleny, que apunta que “el Congreso tiene varias lecturas: podría parecer que no hay cambios ya que se critica a personas que quieren obtener más ingresos y se precisa que Raúl estará presente en la toma de las decisiones fundamentales; pero por otro lado, se ha apelado a hacer ingentes esfuerzos por salir de la crisis económica, de implementar en el corto plazo medidas para potenciar el trabajo, la necesidad de descentralizar decisiones, de utilizar las formas no estatales, de implementar las pequeñas empresas….”. El camino, cree, no es inmovilista sino “reformista, pues si no será complejo producir los resultados económicos que espera la nación”.
En la composición del nuevo Buró Político, destaca Everleny la entrada
de dos figuras “con un corte empresarial”: Manuel Marrero, que hoy es primer
ministro, “pero que fue presidente de la corporación turística Gaviota”, y Luis
Alberto López-Callejas, que al frente de GAESA (el grupo empresarial del
ejército) “controla el mayor por ciento de los negocios en divisas cubanos sean
tiendas, hoteles, marinas, aviación, y la zona Especial de Mariel, y no es un
político al estilo de los que se conocen, sino un hombre de negocios clásico”.
Rafael Hernández, director de la revista Temas y miembro del PCC, consideró fuera de la realidad a los que pensaron que el Congreso iba a “rifar” el sector estatal y que “ahora sí era el turno de la privatización”. “Naturalmente, esos augurios no tenían sustento”, opinó, aclarando que ninguna “las resoluciones aprobadas desandan lo avanzado durante el año y pico de pandemia respecto a la legitimidad y consolidación del sector privado”. “La Resolución sobre la Conceptualización del modelo reitera ‘reconocer y diversificar las diferentes formas de propiedad y gestión adecuadamente interrelacionadas”, asegura.
Diversos economistas han puesto énfasis en que tan relevante como el
Congreso fue lo sucedido justo antes de su inauguración, cuando Díaz-Canel
presidió un inédito encuentro con emprendedores privados y representantes de la
empresa estatal, en el que se habló del necesario impulso a las pymes y el
papel creciente que ocupará el sector no estatal. En otra reunión con el sector
agrícola, en la que resulto cesado el ministro del ramo, se aprobaron un
conjunto de medidas para incentivar a los productores privados y reactivar esta
esfera de la economía, vital en estos momentos de crisis, y allí el presidente
advirtió de que no había “tiempo para pensar en el largo plazo”.
Sobre los “límites” en la apertura al sector privado de los que
habló Raúl Castro —pero
que no especificó—, López-Levy considera que no es la cuestión más relevante.
“Los límites y las líneas rojas irán moviéndose con la vida. Las reformas
traerán más presión de otras reformas, y otro tipo de cambios llegarán por
carambola”. Los más escépticos indican que otros intentos de reforma se
frustraron en el pasado, cierto, aunque hoy la situación es distinta, el tiempo
y el ritmo son ahora vitales, pues la crisis es gravísima y las urgencias son
cada vez mayores. Habrá que ver los próximos movimientos de los encargados por
los ‘históricos’ en asegurar la “continuidad” y hacer sostenible el socialismo
The Castro era in Cuba came to a carefully choreographed end on Monday,
as President Miguel Díaz-Canel was elected head of the ruling Communist party,
replacing the retiring leader, 89-year-old Raúl Castro.
The reshuffle in the top ranks also saw the departure from the politburo
of the final survivors of the 1959 revolution that brought brothers Fidel and
Raúl Castro to power. For those hoping for a significant shift in policy,
however, there was little to cheer about.
The changes came at a four-day party congress held largely behind closed
doors under the banner of “Unity and Continuity”. During the proceedings, many
dissidents found their phone and internet service was cut, and they were not
allowed to leave their homes, making it all but impossible to comment.
Among those promoted to the politburo was Brigadier-General Luis Alberto
Rodríguez López-Callejas, once married to Raúl’s daughter Deborah and head of
the armed forces’ civilian holding company, GAISA, which controls important swaths of the
economy such as tourism and the retail trade. Rodríguez López-Callejas is close
to Díaz-Canel, who has referred to him as his economic adviser, according to
two European diplomats. He is also a competent businessman, according to three
foreign counterparts who have worked with him.
“He comes by early in the morning once a week to check on everything and
tour the place,” said one manager at the Mariel Special Development Zone just
outside Havana, requesting anonymity. He is already under sanctions imposed by
the Trump administration.
The appointment of the head of the military’s civilian companies will
anger hardline Cuban exiles in the US and is unlikely to please the Biden
administration, which has already signalled that it does not plan any overtures
towards Havana in the near term.
As part of its tightening of restrictions on Cuba, the Trump
administration placed sanctions on nearly all military-run companies on the
island from hotels to financial services. The Biden administration has given no
indication that it plans to lift these.
Monday’s appointment consolidates the power of Díaz-Canel, who has risen
steadily through the ranks of Cuba’s bureaucracy with a reputation as a capable
but cautious leader focused on economic reform. His Twitter account is peppered
with the hashtag #SomosContinuidad (We are continuity).
Raúl Castro said upon stepping down at the weekend that “as long as I
live, I will be ready with my feet in the stirrups to defend the motherland,
the revolution and socialism with more force than ever”, a remark taken to
indicate his continued involvement. Díaz-Canel confirmed this on Monday, saying
his mentor “will be consulted about strategic decisions”.
Raúl Castro has been effectively running the country since his ailing
brother Fidel handed power to him in 2006. Fidel Castro died in 2016.
One of the new leadership’s first orders of business will be to conduct
a nationwide discussion of Raúl Castro’s last central committee report, in which
he doubled down on existing foreign policy, the need for a single-party system
and cautious market reforms to avoid “a restoration of capitalism and
dependence on the United States”.
Nevertheless, many analysts believe the crisis that has led to widespread
food shortages and long queues in shops for basic necessities will push forward
economic reforms, particularly now that younger generations hold almost all
positions. “A new cohort of leaders
will have a much freer hand to implement policies permitting a gradual turn to
a more market-driven economy,” said Brian Latell, a former CIA Cuba analyst who
followed the Castros for decades.
For example, Raúl Castro in the report castigated party members for
their reticence to fully support the integration of small- and medium-sized
private business into the national economy, while simultaneously drawing a red
line over the extent of changes.
He said allowing private businesses to engage in foreign trade without
going through the state was unacceptable. “There are limits that we cannot exceed
because the consequences . . . would lead to . . . the very destruction of
socialism and therefore of national sovereignty and independence.”
Similar words were uttered before just about every reform undertaken
over the past decade, signalling that serious resistance remains in the ranks.
The party congress spent a great deal of its time on the need to improve
cadres and strengthen ideological work as the internet smashes its information
monopoly at a time of crisis and destabilising monetary reforms. Opposition to
the system was characterised as part of a US plot.
Bert Hoffmann, a Latin America expert at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, said Cuba’s old guard might remain influential behind the scenes, particularly in the military. He added: “To weather the current crisis, further economic policy change will be imperative for Cuba.”
CUBA EMPRESARIAL. EMPRENDEDORES ANTE UNA CAMBIANTE POLÍTICA PÚBLICA, by Ted Henken and Archibald Ritter, 2020, Editorial Hypermedia Del Libro of Spain. This is an up-dated Spanish-language version of the book ENTREPRENEURIAL CUBA: THE CHANGING POLICY LANDSCAPE, by Archibald Ritter and Ted Henken.
The publication details of the volume are as follows:
Carmelo Mesa-Lago. Hasta ahora, este libro es el más
completo y profundo sobre la iniciativa privada en Cuba.
Cardiff Garcia. Este libro aporta una lúcida explicación a la particular
interacción entre el incipiente sector privado en Cuba y los sectores
Sergio Díaz-Briquets. Cuba empresarial es una lectura obligada para los interesados en la situación actual del país. Su publicación es oportuna no sólo por lo que revela sobre la situación económica, social y política, sino también por sus percepciones sobre la evolución futura de Cuba.
Richard Feinberg.Los autores reconocen la importancia de
las reformas de Raúl Castro, aunque las consideran insuficientes para
sacar a la economía cubana de su estancamiento.