• The objective of this Blog is to facilitate access to research resources and analyses from all relevant and useful sources, mainly on the economy of Cuba. It includes analyses and observations of the author, Arch Ritter, as well as hyper-links, abstracts, summaries, and commentaries relating to other research works from academic, governmental, media, non-governmental organizations and international institutions.
    Commentary, critique and discussion on any of the postings is most welcome.
    This Blog on The Cuban Economy is dedicated to Cuba's Generation "A". Although inspired by Yoani Sánchez' original blog "Generation Y" this is not dedicated to those with names starting with the letter "A". Instead, it draws from Douglas Coupland's novel Generation A which begins with a quotation from Kurt Vonnegut at a University Commencement:
    "... I hereby declare you Generation A, as much as the beginning of a series of astounding triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago."

CUBAN AMERICAN BUSINESS LEADERS CALL ON BIDEN ADMINISTRATION AND CUBAN GOVERNMENT TO MAKE ENGAGEMENT RESILIENT TO POLITICAL CYCLES

February 16, 2021
Contact: Ricardo Herrero
 C
In a newly published policy paper, the Cuba Study Group cites engagement as the best way to advance U.S. national interests, reassert regional leadership, and promote freer, more prosperous future for Cuban people


*Download the policy paper in English and Spanish versions.* 


Washington/Miami – The Cuba Study Group, a non-partisan organization comprised of Cuban-American business leaders and young professionals, published a policy paper on Tuesday calling renewed diplomatic engagement with Cuba vital to advancing U.S. national interests and to promoting a freer, more prosperous future for the Cuban people. The policy paper, delivered Tuesday morning to the White House, is the first comprehensive policy vision delivered to the Biden Administration by a prominent Cuban American organization, and challenges both the United States and Cuban governments to “strive to make the normalization of relations resilient in order to insulate progress from unpredictable political cycles.” 

The policy recommendations come just two weeks after the White House asserted that its efforts on Cuba policy will be grounded in support for democracy and human rights, and that Cuban-Americans are the best ambassadors for freedom in Cuba. The white paper, titled U.S.-Cuba Relations in the Biden Era: A Case for Making Engagement Resilient as a Means of Providing Long-Term Support for the Cuban People, which can be downloaded in English and Spanish versions on our website at www.cubastudygroup.org, calls for a new approach at engagement that puts long-term support for the Cuban people, and their well-being, at the center of U.S.-Cuba relations

“As the new Administration undertakes a review of standing Cuba policies, it’s important to communicate that simply reversing Trump era actions that unduly harmed the Cuban people during the last four years won’t be enough,” said Carlos Saladrigas, Chairman of the Cuba Study Group. “We believe the Cuban people at home and abroad hold the keys to more resilient relations between the United States and Cuba, and should be seen as partners in this effort. That means both governments must take proactive steps to strengthen ties between their nations’ civil societies and private sectors over the next four years. Only through deep and transparent socio-economic bonds will we be able to protect progress toward normalization against cyclical political winds.”

The policy paper reaffirms that the United States should continue to highlight Cuba’s democratic failings and continue to support actors across the Cuban spectrum working to ensure that greater economic and civic freedoms are guaranteed on the island. It cautions, however, that “strident denunciations of the failures of communism and absolutist conditions for sanctions relief are feeble substitutes for robust diplomacy” like the kind needed to empower the Cuban people to shape their own destinies.

The policy paper delineates three specific tracks:

  1. Restoring Support for the Cuban People as a Policy Priority and Rebuilding Trust
  2. Tackling the “Tough Stuff” and Making Normalization Stick Through High-Level, Direct Diplomacy
  3. Responding to Openness with Openness 

The first track lays out detailed policy recommendations for rolling back harmful Trump-era policies, as well as steps for restoring support for the Cuban private sector, resuming public health cooperation, restarting fundamental diplomatic functions, rebuilding trust, and better engaging Cuban-Americans as partners. The second recommends the designation of a special representative to tackle long unresolved disputes and to move forward on the negotiation of cooperation agreements. The track third argues for further openness to steps taken by the Cuban government, which has begun important reforms such as ending its dual currency and its recent expansion of the private sector. However, the Cuban government will need to recognize greater rights for its citizens to help cement progress and increase congressional support for further action on counterproductive Cuba sanctions or other targeted assistance. 

“While the Cuban government was slow to respond to many of the opportunities provided by renewed diplomatic relations in 2014, the Cuban people themselves made significant progress expanding the island’s nascent private sector and civil society,” added Ricardo Herrero, CSG Executive Director. “Cuban-Americans are ready to be constructive partners, and have long contributed to the future of the island. The Biden Administration has a window of opportunity to act, and to do so boldly, but Cuba must also do its part. Failure to lock in significant progress during the next four years could entrench another generation on both sides of the Florida Straits into the patterns of hostility and suspicion that have defined most of the past seven decades.”

“Cuban-Americans are clamoring for a legal framework that makes it possible to openly work with and invest alongside Cuban entrepreneurs, not only to help them succeed individually but also to bolster the island’s nascent private sector and improve the island’s economy,” added Karina Duquesne, a Cuba Study Group Young Professional Member and corporate attorney. “Now that Cuba has opened up much of its economy to private enterprise, enabling Cuban entrepreneurs to open bank accounts in the United States and authorizing American companies to provide business-to-business services to those entrepreneurs would help build a community of stakeholders vital to sustaining this new era of engagement.”

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FIDEL CASTRO’S REVENGE ON THE USA: Senators Ted Cruz (R. Texas) and Marco Rubio (R., Florida)

Fidel Castro must be laughing in his grave for the damage that the two Cuban-American Senators, Rubio and Cruz, have helped to inflict on the United States.  

In the words of Senator McConnell

“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instruction of their president. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth. The issue is not only the president’s intemperate language on January 6 … It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe, the increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was somehow being stolen by some secret coup by our now-president.”  (M. McConnell, 13, Feb. 2021

This was in effect the Majority case for the impeachment of Donald Trump. (But just before this, McConnell had voted to acquit former President Trump.  His argument was basically that Trump was no longer president – though as we all know he had made it impossible for the Senate to take Trump to trial while he was still President.  Unbelievable duplicity and hypocrisy.)

After being nastily abused by Trump and after criticizing Trump sharply during the 2016 election, both Marco Rubio Ted Cruz sucked up to Trump. They supported him and his behaviour at virtually all times on almost all issues. They were and are cowardly sycophants of the ex. president. They were his enablers and co-conspirators before and after the 2020 election. Their failure to fulfill their oaths of office and defend democracy in the United States is unconscionable.  

The names of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, along with 41 other Republican senators, will live in infamy.   Fidel Castro in his grave would be pleased as would  his current inheritors.

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U.S.-CUBA: SECRETS OF THE ‘HAVANA SYNDROME’

Declassified State Department review faults “lack of senior leadership,” “systemic disorganization” in response to unsolved health episodes

Tillerson State Department failed to conduct risk/benefit assessment before reducing Embassy staff

Report of Accountability Review Board confirms CIA closure of its Havana Station in September 2017

ARB investigation cited similar health incidents involving U.S. personnel in China and two other countries

Edited by Peter Kornbluh,

See: ORIGINAL DOCUMENT, DECLASSIFIED FEB 10, 2021

Washington D.C., February 10, 2021 – The Trump administration’s response to the mysterious health episodes experienced by intelligence and diplomatic personnel in Havana, Cuba, in late 2016 and 2017 was plagued by mismanagement, poor leadership, lack of coordination, and a failure to follow established procedures, according to a formerly secret internal State Department review posted today by the National Security Archive.  “The Department of State’s response to these incidents was characterized by a lack of senior leadership, ineffective communications, and systemic disorganization,” states the executive summary of the report, compiled by an internal Accountability Review Board (ARB) after a four-month investigation in 2018. “No senior official was ever designated as having overall responsibility,” the report noted in a thinly veiled indictment of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s role, “which resulted in many of the other issues this report presents.”

Continue reading: SECRETS OF THE ‘HAVANA SYNDROME’

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ANTILLES LAUNCHES CUBAN GOLD RESOURCE DRILL OUT

Matt Birney

The West Australian, Sunday 7 February 2021

Original Article: Cuban Gold Resource Drill Out

Cubanex’s diamond rig kicks off Antilles maiden drilling program at its La Demajagua project in Cuba

Antilles Gold has launched a massive 25,000 metre drilling campaign across its La Demajagua gold and silver project in Cuba. The company is looking to delineate a resource over the deposit with the current drilling program also set to provide bulk samples for metallurgical test work as Antilles eyes a rapid move into a feasibility study for its precious metal-rich project in the Caribbean.

Drilling at La Demajagua is being undertaken by local contractor, Cubanex who is co-owned by Canadian drilling company Heath and Sherwood International. Antilles has commenced infill and extensional drilling across the Delita deposit in order to confirm the results of previous exploration. The company has designed more than 200 development drill holes over the ore system, with the deepest holes set to test the deposit at depths of more than 220m below surface.

Cubanex’ first rig is now on site and producing drill core, with the expectation it will be joined by a second rig in February 2021. The option is also in place for a third rig should Antilles choose to up the ante on the development program. All diamond core sample assaying and metallurgical test-work will be undertaken by SGS laboratories in Canada, with the company expected to table its maiden resource for the project in the first half of this year and complete its pre-feasibility soon after.

Antilles’ La Demajagua project lies on the western side of the Isla de Juventud, or Isle of Youth, around 170km to the south of Havana, across the Gulf of Batabano in Cuba. The island covers an area of more than 2,200 square kilometres and is the seventh-largest island in the West Indies.

The company began discussions to acquire La Demajagua in late 2018 and finally closed the deal in August 2020, having formed a joint venture vehicle with the state-owned GeoMinera to explore and develop the slumbering precious metals deposit. The joint venture company, Minera La Victoria, will be 49 per cent owned by Antilles once the company has completed its initial earn-in by spending US$13 million on exploration and development across the project. The company says it expects to complete this initial phase of expenditure in the first three-years of its development program in Cuba.

Antilles’ enticing precious metals project is located 27km south-west of the regional centre of Nueva Gerona, with the centrepiece of the acquisition being the dormant Delita gold and silver mine. Delita has a history of production dating back to the 1920s however it has been mined only on a modest scale, with artisanal operations and smaller mining groups having extracted high-grade gold ores via underground operations between 1947 and 1989.

Following the mine’s closure in the late 1980s, Delita has been subject to several exploration campaigns by Canadian explorers which has generated a database of more than 50,000m of drilling. Expert mining group, Cube Consulting in Perth, Western Australia, has reviewed the existing database of drilling and used it to assist in the design of the current drilling program, with modelling outlining a massive “exploration target” of between 16 and 20 million tonnes of ore at a healthy grade of 2.3 to 2.7 grams per tonne gold.

Interestingly, Cube’s modelling also shows the deposit to contain between 17 and 23 g/t of silver and with the lustrous metal currently gaining popularity in the global market and trading at close to US$27 an ounce, it provides the developing resource with a welcome credit. Utilising Cube’s projections, the Delita resource is expected to host more than 1.2 million ounces of gold and 8.7 million ounces of silver.

However, Antilles has also delved further into the historical body of work over Delita, utilising feasibility studies completed back in the 1990s to formulate a preliminary economic assessment. The development proposal envisages an 800,000 tonne per year open pit mining operation aimed at producing over 60,000 tonnes of high-grade gold-silver sulphide concentrate per annum, with an initial six-year mine life.

Based upon previous metallurgical work undertaken by internationally recognised SGS-Lakefield in Canada, the sulphide concentrate would grade at an eye-catching 47 g/t gold and 380 g/t silver, delivering around 90,500 ounces of gold and 730,000 ounces of silver into Antilles’ coffers per annum.

With drilling now underway at La Demajagua and a rapid move to feasibility already on the horizon for Antilles, the company has successfully shifted its focus into Cuba and looks set to put its hard-won expertise in the mining and processing of sulphide ores in the America’s to good use in the development of the gold and silver-rich Delita deposit south of Havana.

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LA UNIFICACIÓN MONETARIA Y CAMBIARIA EN CUBA: NORMAS, EFECTOS, OBSTÁCULOS Y PERSPECTIVAS

DOCUMENTO DE TRABAJO 2/2021,  5 DE FEBRERO DE 2021, REAL INSTITUTO ELCANO

Carmelo Mesa-Lago

Original Article: Mesa-Lago 2021 Monetary Unification

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BIDEN SHOULD ACT FAST ON CUBA

By William M. LeoGrande

Special to the Sun Sentinel |

Jan 28, 2021 at 10:09 AM

Original Article: Biden Should Act Fast on Cuba

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s last-minute ploys to poison the well of foreign relations with China, Iran and Cuba will force President Joe Biden to make repairing foreign policy a priority. China and Iran are intrinsically more important than Cuba, which poses no real threat to the United States. Nevertheless, there are good reasons for the president to move quickly to re-engage with Cuba as he promised during the campaign.

Cuba is a high-profile foreign policy issue because it played such an out-sized role as a focal point of Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. President Obama’s 2014 opening attracted global attention and praise as a historic achievement akin to President Richard Nixon’s opening to China. Quick action to re-engage with Cuba will send the message that Biden intends to have an active foreign policy, re-engaging with both allies and adversaries and rebuilding U.S. stature in the world.

Moreover, the humanitarian situation on the island justifies early action. The Trump administration has caused real hardship by blocking travel and the flow of remittances to Cuban families. If the new administration delays in fulfilling Biden’s campaign promise to reverse those sanctions, it will prolong the suffering of Cuban families unnecessarily.

Re-engagement is also the best way to support human rights. Although Cuban leaders have never been willing to make concessions about internal affairs in order to mollify Washington, human rights conditions in Cuba have been linked to U.S.-Cuban relations historically. When relations have improved, the human rights situation has improved as well; when relations have deteriorated, Cuban leaders’ heightened sense of threat has led to crackdowns on dissent. The best way to exert a positive influence on human rights in Cuba is to re-engage with the Cuban government while, at the same time, continuing to express our basic commitment to democracy and human rights.

The crisis in Venezuela poses another humanitarian challenge. The hardship endured by Venezuelans and the migration pressure on neighboring countries demands early attention.

President Trump’s failed policy of regime change has made matters worse, underscoring the reality that the only path back to democracy in Venezuela is through a negotiated political settlement. Given Cuba’s support for Nicolas Maduro’s government, Cuban cooperation will be necessary to achieve a Venezuelan settlement, just as it was necessary for ending the conflict in southern Africa in the 1980s. By re-engaging with Cuba sooner rather than later, the Biden administration can begin to create the conditions for progress in Venezuela.

Practically speaking, the upcoming Ninth Summit of the Americas, scheduled for late 2021 and hosted by the United States, is a decision-forcing event that will compel the new administration to formulate its policy toward Latin America, including Cuba. The summit will also provide an opportunity for President Biden to meet Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel — a meeting that would be more productive if the new administration has already taken steps to repair the damage done to relations by Trump.

Although the United States may not have as much at stake in relations with Cuba as it does elsewhere, the bilateral relationship offer a wide variety of opportunities for cooperation because Cuba is a near-neighbor. During President Obama’s last two years in office, the United States and Cuba signed 22 bilateral agreements on issue of mutual interests ranging from counter-narcotics to environmental protection.



Many contemporary foreign policy issues are transnational and can only be addressed through cooperation with our neighbors. On most of those issues, U.S. and Cuban interests coincide; significant progress can be made if Washington returns to a policy of engagement. For the Biden administration, delaying means delaying opportunities to advance U.S. interests.

Of all the foreign policy challenges that Biden faces, re-engaging with Cuba is among the easiest. The basic principles of re-engagement can be laid out quickly because they were well-defined in then-President Obama’s Oct. 14, 2016 policy directive.

Every sanction Trump imposed on Cuba was imposed unilaterally by executive authority, so they all can reversed the same way. Most could be retracted in a single package simply by returning the regulations that govern the U.S. embargo to their status on Jan. 20, 2017. A few of Trump’s actions will take longer to repair — removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and re-staffing the U.S. embassy in Havana. But much can be done in the meantime.

Since Biden’s election, Cuban leaders have expressed their interest in a better relationship based on cooperation and mutual respect. Washington should not wait for Havana to take the initiative. Trump broke off engagement with Cuba, so Biden should take the first steps to restore it — the sooner the better.

William M. LeoGrande is Professor of Government at American University in Washington, DC, and co-author with Peter Kornbluh of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.

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CUBA REVIEW: TRUMP LEAVES GRIM LEGACY IN CUBA

Ricardo Herrero <ricardo.herrero@cubastudygroup.org>  
Cuba Review, 2021-01-19
Original Article: Trump Legacy for Cuba  

In 11th hour move, U.S. State Secretary Pompeo returns Cuba to State Sponsors of Terrorism List
As anticipated for months, “the State Department designated Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism on [January 11] in a last-minute foreign policy stroke that will complicate the incoming Biden administration’s plans to restore friendlier relations with Havana. In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited Cuba’s hosting of 10 Colombian rebel leaders, along with a handful of American fugitives wanted for crimes committed in the 1970s, and Cuba’s support for the authoritarian leader of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. Mr. Pompeo said the action sent the message that ‘the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of U.S. justice.’ The action, announced with just days remaining in the Trump administration, reverses a step taken in 2015 after President Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, calling its decades of political and economic isolation a relic of the Cold War.” (The New York Times, January 11, 2020)

“The inclusion of Cuba on the blacklist alongside North Korea, Syria and Iran is the culmination of the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign launched by the Trump administration to punish the Cuban government for its support of Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro and to dismantle the engagement policies of former President Barack Obama.” (Miami Herald, January 11, 2021)

“[The] reaction in Havana was swift and vociferous. The Cuban government accused Washington of hypocrisy, and called the label an act of ‘political opportunism’ by President Trump to obstruct relations between Cuba and the incoming administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Beyond indignation, though, Cubans are ready to move on, a sentiment underlined by their president, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, who tweeted on Tuesday that the American decision had been made in ‘the death throes of a failed and corrupt administration.’” (The New York Times, January 12, 2021)

Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “If a country risks being placed on a terrorism list as a result of facilitating peace efforts, it could set a negative precedent for international peace efforts.”: ‘The Trump administration’s decision to include Cuba on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List is regrettable. Placing Cuba on the list will make it difficult to normalise relations between the US and Cuba, and will impede efforts to promote positive change and development in Cuba,’ said [Norway’s] Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide. ‘We note that one of the reasons given for placing Cuba on the list is that the negotiating delegation from the Colombian guerrilla movement National Liberation Army (ELN) has remained in Cuba after peace negotiations between the ELN and the Colombian Government broke down in January 2019. Cuba has been Norway’s partner in the Colombian peace process. It is unreasonable that the outgoing US administration holds the Cuban government responsible for the delegation not being able to leave Cuba. If a country risks being placed on a terrorism list as a result of facilitating peace efforts, it could set a negative precedent for international peace efforts,’ said Ms Eriksen Søreide.” [Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release, January 13, 2021)

OUR TAKE: “There is no compelling, factual basis to merit the designation. Instead it appears to be another shameless, last-ditch effort to hamstring the foreign policy of the incoming Biden administration and set the stage for the next election in Florida, all at the expense of the Cuban people and relations between our countries…It can take months for the incoming Biden administration to reverse this measure, as the State Department must first order a review of the designation and then submit a report to the U.S. Congress justifying a decision to rescind at least 45 days before the rescission would take effect. We call on the Biden administration to order an apolitical review of this designation immediately upon taking office, and reverse all executive orders imposed by the Trump administration that have pointlessly inflicted immeasurable harm to the Cuban people over the past four years.” Read the Cuba Study Group’s full statement here.

“The designation could also limit the range of exports from the U.S. to Cuba, including software and technology and other items for the support of the Cuban people, said Ric Herrero, executive director of the Cuba Study Group. In addition, it triggers a Florida state law prohibiting state universities from using state funds for travel or research activities in blacklisted countries.” (Miami Herald, January 11, 2021)

“Contrary to what Trump and his advisers declare, not only the business network ‘controlled by the military’ will suffer the effects: ‘One of the new restrictions resulting from this designation is related to the export of software and technology from the United States to Cuba even its private sector, which largely prefers American over Chinese. This is no way to support tech entrepreneurs (or our national security),’ tweeted the executive director of the Cuba Study Group, Ricardo Herrero.” (El Toque, January 12, 2021)

“While [the designation] can be reversed, it could nonetheless spell further economic trouble for the island, which is already suffering its worst economic contraction since the fall of the Soviet Union. ‘Transactions with the Republic of Cuba would have an increase in scrutiny, resulting in fewer governments and companies wanting to engage with it,’ said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a New York-based nonpartisan organization. Although the measure does not entail more economic sanctions, the announcement may further reduce foreign investment on the island, as most companies prefer to avoid possible fines or the legal costs of doing business in blacklisted countries. Kavulich said insurance companies could either suspend coverage of transactions and operations of ships and aircraft going to Cuba, or increase prices.” (Miami Herald, January 11, 2021)

Days later, the Trump administration also sanctioned Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT) and its minister General Álvarez Casas: “The Trump administration sanctioned Cuba’s interior minister and the agency overseeing the island’s state security apparatus Friday in a final push to punish the island’s government before leaving office. The U.S. Treasury Department accused Brigadier General Lázaro Alberto Álvarez Casas of ‘serious human rights abuses’ in making the designation. Also sanctioned is the Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the prison system, police and state security agency…The Treasury Department sanction freezes any U.S. assets. The list includes individuals and companies sanctioned for drug trafficking, terrorism, human rights violations, and other crimes. Companies or individuals under U.S. jurisdiction cannot engage in transactions with those blacklisted. The U.S. government…castigated the Cuban minister under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which carries similar implications.Pompeo accused Álvarez Casas of being ‘an accomplice in harassing and monitoring journalists, dissidents, activists, and members of civil society groups, including more recently members of the San Isidro Movement.’…The new sanctions could hamper future cooperation between U.S. federal agencies and MININT, which also includes a Cuban Coast Guard branch. In 2016, during a brief thaw in relations under then-President Barack Obama, a MININT delegation visited U.S. military installations in Key West.” (Miami Herald, January 15, 2021)

Biden transition team has “taken note of these last minute maneuvers”: “An official with Biden’s transition team said the incoming administration has ‘taken note of these last minute maneuvers…The transition team is reviewing each one, and the incoming administration will render a verdict based exclusively on one criterion: the national interest,’ said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations on the matter. The incoming president is widely expected to restore at least some of Obama’s opening with Cuba. While it can be reversed, it could nonetheless spell further economic trouble for the island, which is already suffering its worst economic contraction since the fall of the Soviet Union.” (Miami Herald, January 11, 2021
For the Cuban people, January 20th can’t come soon enough
“Though Mr. Trump’s company had been looking into investing in Cuba shortly before he took office, as president he has hit the Communist-ruled island with the harshest sanctions in more than a half-century. American cruise ships were prohibited from docking on the island, remittances from the United States were banned and tankers carrying oil from Venezuela were prevented from arriving with their cargo. ‘The only thing left is diplomatic relations,’ [Ted Henken of Baruch College] said. ‘We still do officially have diplomatic relations with Cuba, even though they are on ice in actual practice.’ These efforts by the Trump administration to reverse the Obama initiatives have set back the development of the private sector in Cuba and short-circuited efforts by American businesses that had tried to build relations based on the Obama détente, he said.” (The New York Times, January 12, 2021)

“Mr. Trump’s hard-line approach to the Cuban leadership has led to an array of restrictions on tourism, visas, remittances, investments and commerce, which have worsened an already poor economy. The pandemic has compounded the problems, in large part by bringing tourism, a major source of foreign currency, to a grinding halt. Facing profound shortages of necessities like medicine and food, Cubans have been forced to stand in lines for hours in the hope of getting their hands on the meager stocks that exist. Supplies have gotten so thin that the government made it illegal for people to buy rice beyond their government-restricted monthly allotments.

“Amid this hardship, many in Cuba are hoping that Mr. Biden will shift American policy in ways that might ease the economic duress. The president-elect has said little publicly about his policy goals for Cuba, though during the campaign he attacked Mr. Trump’s approach to Havana, saying, ‘Cuba is no closer to freedom and democracy today than it was four years ago.’ And Mr. Biden’s advisers have allowed that a normalization of relations with Cuba — essentially a return to the Obama-era détente — was the best strategy for effecting positive change.” (The New York Times, January 12, 2021)

“For the Cuban government and its people, the change in American presidential administrations can’t come soon enough...Mr. Díaz-Canel has been mostly silent, at least publicly, on the potential for a thaw after Mr. Biden takes office. But on Nov. 8, he acknowledged Mr. Biden’s victory with a suggestion of hope, writing on Twitter: ‘We recognize that the US people have chosen a new direction in the presidential elections. We believe in the possibility of having a constructive bilateral relation while respecting our differences.’” (The New York Times, January 12, 2021)
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¿UNIFICACIÓN MONETARIA Y CAMBIARIA EN CONDICIONES DE RE-DOLARIZACIÓN?

Fecha: septiembre 8, 2020

Autor: Mauricio de Miranda

Articulo Original: Unificación Monetaria

Desde hace varios días en diversos medios de prensa cubanos han comenzado a aparecer argumentos sobre la necesidad de proceder a la unificación monetaria y cambiaria, haciendo énfasis en las consecuencias negativas del establecimiento de una dualidad monetaria en los años 90 del siglo XX. A esto se suman muy recientes rumores, no confirmados, que indicarían la posibilidad de que en poco tiempo se suprima la circulación del peso convertible y la unificación de precios en pesos cubanos de los bienes y servicios que se ofrecen en las redes comerciales estatales, así como una nueva tasa de cambio única que devaluaría considerablemente el tipo de cambio oficial actual de 1 USD = 1 CUP que solo funciona para las empresas del Estado, pero que, al parecer, revaluaría la actual tasa de mercado, también oficial, de 1 USD = 24 y 25 CUP (según se trate si es tipo de cambio de compra o de venta de la moneda extranjera). A estos rumores se suma la existencia de una supuesta nueva escala salarial que funcionaría para el sector estatal y que multiplicaría en varias veces todos los niveles salariales actuales (sin que se diga nada de las pensiones de jubilación antiguas).

Lo curioso es que todo esto ocurra unos meses después que el gobierno cubano decidiera abrir tiendas minoristas en las que se venderían una serie de artículos, considerados de “alta gama”, pero que después se ampliaron a bienes de primera necesidad, usando tarjetas magnéticas, respaldadas por depósitos en dólares u otras monedas libremente convertibles (MLC), lo que ha significado, en la práctica, una nueva segmentación del mercado en productos que se venden en divisas extranjeras y productos que se venden en las monedas nacionales y que, eventualmente, se venderían en una sola, como resultado de la “unificación”. Así las cosas, vale la pena aclarar que toda vez que circulen diversas monedas en un mercado, así sea a partir de la existencia de depósitos a la vista, no estamos en presencia de una real unificación monetaria.

Uno de los problemas de la dualidad monetaria existente ha sido la multiplicidad de tipos de cambio, pero sobre todo la persistencia, durante 60 años, de un tipo de cambio fijo, artificialmente sobrevaluado, del peso cubano respecto al dólar estadounidense, que no refleja las condiciones económicas reales de la economía nacional en relación con la economía internacional y que ha distorsionado seriamente la competitividad de todo el sistema empresarial cubano.

Se puede establecer una nueva tasa de cambio, se pueden modificar los precios y se pueden reformar los salarios y jubilaciones, pero con ello solo se pondrá un orden momentáneo a las relaciones monetarias y a los sistemas de precio y de salarios en el país, pero no necesariamente se pondrá fin a las distorsiones del sistema económico cubano ni del sistema monetario en particular.

La existencia de un mercado, por limitado que pueda resultar, en el que el peso cubano no cumple sus funciones como dinero va a generar una demanda adicional de las divisas extranjeras en el mercado informal, generando opciones de beneficios extraordinarios para quienes operen este mercado informal. Si, como es usual, se persigue a estos actores económicos con medidas punitivas solo se conseguirá aumentar la brecha entre los tipos de cambio entre los mercados formales e informales. Por tanto, sería prudente adelantarse a este tipo de escenarios con la adopción de medidas económicas adecuadas.

¿Cuáles deberían ser este tipo de medidas?

  1. Será necesario definir qué tipo de sistema cambiario va a establecerse. ¿Una caja de conversión como la que determinó la paridad del peso cubano con el dólar antes de 1959 o como la que produjo el establecimiento del llamado CUC? Esto significaría un anclaje nominal del peso con el dólar, en la cantidad que se defina, y la variación del tipo de cambio con las demás divisas, siguiendo el curso del dólar. Esta medida, no evitaría que el país afronte una crisis cambiaria cuando se produzca una nueva crisis de balanza de pagos, lo cual puede ser algo previsible en el caso cubano, si no se solucionan los problemas estructurales, no se alcanza un mayor ritmo de crecimiento económico y no se logra una mejor inserción internacional de la economía. ¿Un tipo de cambio flexible? Podría resultar lo más lógico para que el tipo de cambio fuera el que absorbiera los choques externos y la política macroeconómica no quedara supeditada al sostenimiento de una determinada paridad cambiaria. Sin embargo, en este escenario habría que estar preparados para una depreciación sostenida del peso cubano en la medida en la que no mejoren las condiciones de producción de bienes y de servicios y con las consecuentes presiones inflacionarias.
  2. La realidad indica que tanto el peso cubano como el peso convertible están sobrevalorados, tanto en el tipo de cambio del primero como del segundo, lo cual significa que ambos valen más de lo que deberían valer. El tipo de cambio oficial con el que funcionan las empresas es absurdo y no guarda relación alguna con la realidad. El tipo de cambio de las CADECA, que durante mucho tiempo se ha mantenido estable, parece mostrar signos de sobrevaloración ante la reaparición de un mercado informal con valores que en estos momentos han estado oscilando entre 1,30 y 1,80 CUC por dólar. Esto es consecuencia de dos fenómenos muy concretos: a) la ruptura de la “caja de conversión” que sustentaba la condición de convertibilidad del CUC a una paridad de 1 USD = 1 CUC y según la cual solo se emitirían CUC como USD existieran para respaldarlos y b) la reaparición de un mercado en el que solo se opera en MLC, por lo que la demanda por las divisas foráneas aumenta considerablemente. La sobrevaloración de una moneda nacional desestimula las exportaciones porque las encarece y estimula las importaciones porque las abarata relativamente. Si se adopta un tipo de cambio de partida, de forma administrativa, que no refleje las condiciones reales de la economía, se reproducirán las distorsiones actuales, porque el tipo de cambio es el precio relativo que permite conectar la economía de cualquier país con la economía internacional. Por esa razón, en lugar de adoptar medidas administrativas sería mucho mejor tener en cuenta las señales que ofrece el mercado. Así las cosas, el CUP podría cambiarse a 25 por CUC actuales para efectos internos, pero el tipo de cambio del USD con el CUP que se establezca como nivel de partida, debería considerar esas señales del mercado y, por tanto, devaluarse en lugar de revaluarse.
  3. Para que el peso cubano (CUP) sea realmente convertible debe asegurar su plena convertibilidad interna, garantizando el funcionamiento adecuado del mercado cambiario y permitiendo que la moneda nacional opere de manera plena con fuerza liberatoria ilimitada y curso forzoso en todo el territorio nacional, lo cual cuestiona el funcionamiento de las nuevas tiendas en MLC, fuertemente criticadas por la población por justas razones.
  4. Nada de esto tiene sentido si no se adoptan las medidas económicas necesarias para impulsar la producción de bienes y de servicios. Si no se adoptan las medidas para aumentar la oferta de bienes y de servicios, se corre el riesgo de una espiral inflacionaria, que si se pretende impedir de forma artificial, con los racionamientos o con topes de precio, se manifestará en la forma ya conocida de “inflación reprimida”, que no es otra cosa que la escasez y las colas y la dinamización del mercado subterráneo. Así las cosas, lo más adecuado sería eliminar todas las cortapisas que han impedido el desarrollo de la producción de bienes y de servicios por parte de productores privados y cooperativos, junto a la autonomía operativa y financiera de las empresas estatales. En tal sentido, es imprescindible adoptar la secuencia adecuada y ello significa que lo primero sería eliminar las restricciones actuales al funcionamiento de las pequeñas y medianas empresas (PyMES) privadas y cooperativas, las cuales, en un clima adecuado podrían absorber la fuerza de trabajo que actualmente resulta excesiva en el sector estatal y podría producir bienes y servicios que el sector estatal se ha mostrado incapaz de producir. Para ello es necesario crear el clima institucional adecuado para promover el ahorro interno y la inversión tanto foránea como doméstica, sin restricciones de tipo de propiedad. Esto debería ir acompañado de la modificación de las normas adoptadas recientemente para regular la participación del sector privado y cooperativo en el comercio exterior que son, a todas luces, inadecuadas.

El costo económico y político de continuar despreciando las leyes económicas puede ser muy grave para el país. La política económica debería orientarse a la adopción de las medidas que permitan salir de la crisis y conducir a una ruta de crecimiento sostenido que tenga un efecto positivo en el mejoramiento del nivel de desarrollo económico y social, superando las barreras ideológicas derivadas de concepciones dogmáticas.

Publicado originalmente en La Joven Cuba. https://jovencuba.com/unificacion-monetaria/

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UNITED STATES AGRICULTURE COALITION FOR CUBA ENCOURAGES BIDEN ADMINISTRATION TO IMPROVE U.S. / CUBA AGRICULTURE RELATIONS

For Immediate Release January 14, 2021

Contact: Paul Johnson Phone: 773-814-2493; Email: usagcoalitionforcuba@gmail.com

Original Letter: USACC

United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba Encourages Biden Administration to Improve U.S. / Cuba Agriculture Relations

The United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) today wrote to President-Elect Biden to urge a return to policies of engagement toward Cuba, for the sake of the U.S. national interest, to boost U.S. food exports to Cuba, and to support the development of beneficial relations between our countries’ agricultural sectors.

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Mr. President-Elect: The undersigned members of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba congratulate you on your election victory and wish you every success in office.

We would like to offer our views on U.S. relations with our neighbors in Cuba.

We share your view that six decades of economic sanctions against Cuba have been ineffectual. Our sanctions hurt the Cuban people, limit American influence in Cuba, and antagonize friends and allies, while doing nothing to advance any U.S. interest.

A turn to policies of engagement will serve our national interest and benefit U.S. agriculture, which has long practiced many forms of engagement on a global scale. Freed of restrictions, we expect that ties between our agricultural sectors will produce important economic and humanitarian benefits and contribute to better relations between our peoples and governments. American strength in agricultural exports has been built over the years on the principle that all markets matter.

Cuba is an opportunity for U.S. farmers and ranchers: it imports $2 billion in food each year, less than ten percent from the United States. U.S. exports of potatoes, wheat, animal feed, dairy, poultry, rice, and other products stand to grow significantly.

U.S. farmers, businesses, private organizations, NGOs, and universities can work with Cuban counterparts on the challenges of increasing productivity, adapting to climate change, and building sound commercial strategies.

With Cuba now allowing its private sector to import and export, and also inviting foreign investment in private farm cooperatives, the opportunities for Americans to assist in the growth of that private sector have expanded

We offer these recommendations.

First, we urge you to resume efforts to normalize relations. We hope you make clear that neither our principles nor our interests are served by harming the Cuban economy and increasing hardship for the eleven million neighbors who live in it. We urge you to inform Congress that your Administration would welcome legislation to end the embargo entirely, should Congress choose to act.

Second, we urge early action to restore the Cuban Asset Control Regulations to those in place January 20, 2017 and to suspend Title III of the Helms-Burton Act of 1996. These regulatory steps are important to U.S. agriculture, to business generally, and to any Americans seeking to make a positive difference. Recent experience shows that U.S. travelers propel growth across Cuba’s private sector, benefiting many thousands of Cuban families.

Third, we urge you to support legislation to put U.S. exporters on an equal footing with our competitors by allowing us to negotiate trade terms including private financial credit.

Fourth, we urge resuming full operation of our Embassy in Havana as health considerations permit. The lack of consular and other operations impedes travel, business, and effective diplomacy. A full Embassy staff, which we hope will include U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel, can support continued work on the 2016 agriculture memoranda of understanding, especially in plant and animal health, and to create conditions for two-way trade, including Cuban exports. American agriculture supports a Cuba policy based on our broad national interests, enabling citizens and business across our country to engage freely.

We are confident that such a course will have strong bipartisan support, and we urge you to take it.

We appreciate your consideration of our views.

Sincerely,

 USA Rice Federation

National Corn Growers Association

American Soybean Association

US Grains Council

U.S. Wheat Associates

National Sorghum Producers

National Potato Council

National Association of Wheat Growers

National Onion Association

National Turkey Federation

US Dry Bean Council

Keesling Farms-Chase,

Kansas Isbell Farms-England,

 Arkansas American Feed Industry

Michigan Agri-Business Association

 Minnesota Department of Agriculture

 Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

Iowa Corn Growers Association

Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture

Kansas Wheat Commission

 Hoverson Farms-Larimore,

North Dakota Sietsema Farms, Allendale,

Michigan Allied Potato-Bakersfield, California

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THE CRIMINALIZATION OF OPPOSITION POLITICS IN CUBA

Against the Soviet Model

Sam Farber

SPECTRE JOURNAL, January 13, 2021; Original Article

This is a translation of an article that appeared on December 28, 2020 in La Joven Cuba, a left-wing critical blog, one of the most important in Cuba. The article immediately created a stir in social media. The Cuban government has so far failed to entirely control the Internet, which remains the main outlet for critical political views in the island. –SF

There are anti-democratic states that not only repress political opposition, but also criminalize it – a very effective method to avoid the dissemination and discussion of political ideas that diverge from the ideology of the state. That was the case of the Soviet Union and continues to be the case in those regimes that adopted the principal structures of the Soviet model, such as China, Vietnam, and our own Cuba.

That is how, under the direction of the Cuban government, the members of the San Isidro Movement were recently arrested by the police on criminal charges for supposedly having violated “the health protocols of international travelers” adopted by the government to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. In reality, they were arrested for political reasons: for publicly protesting as a group against state repression of one of its members. This is a typical example of how the Cuban government faces its critics: replacing political language with administrative-police language.

Cuba was once part of the longstanding Latin American tradition that sets apart political conduct and avoids reducing it to common crime. That is why this tradition supports the right of political asylum as well as the differential treatment of political and common prisoners.

Batista’s dictatorship, for example, respected the political asylum that hundreds of Cubans opposed to the dictatorship claimed, in order to save their lives, by taking refuge in many of the Latin American embassies in Havana. He certainly violated that right on many occasions, as in the notorious case of the police assault on the Haitian Embassy that he ordered on October 29, 1956, where all his political opponents who had taken asylum there were murdered. The chief of the National Police, Rafael Salas Cañizares, one of the most notorious henchmen of the dictatorship, also died in that incident when one of the asylum seekers shot him to death with a gun he had in his possession.

In the case of Latin America, the most notable exception to the general practice of conceding political asylum was that of the Peruvian Victor Raúl Haya de la Torre, founder and leader of the APRA (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana) who, in order to protect himself from the Peruvian government under the dictatorship of Manuel Odría, obtained asylum in the Colombian embassy at the beginning of 1949. Haya de la Torre remained in that embassy for five years until he finally obtained safe passage from the Peruvian government to leave the country for Mexico, although only after the International Court of Justice rejected Odría’s demand for Colombia to hand over the Peruvian opposition leader.

The revolutionary Cuban government abandoned the tradition of recognizing political asylum when it adopted the Soviet model at the beginning of the sixties. A clear example of that turn were the events that took place in the Peruvian Embassy in Havana in April of 1980, when under the orders of Fidel Castro, the government forces surrounding the periphery of the embassy blocked the entrance of the Cubans seeking asylum there. The only ones who were initially able to enter the embassy were the survivors of an armed clash that ensued with the government guards where several people were killed. The government eventually withdrew the guards from the embassy. It was then that approximately ten thousand Cubans were able to get in and ask asylum in order to leave the country, which they did, along with more than one hundred thousand other Cubans, between April and June of 1980.

Continue reading: The Criminalization of Opposition Politics in Cuba

Sam Farber
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