• 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."

CUBA RATIFIES BAN ON PRIVATE TOURIST GUIDES & AGENCIES

January 14, 2022

By Ely Justiniani Perez (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES – Minister of Labor and Social Security, Marta Elena Feito Cabrera, ratified the ban on practicing as a tour guide in the private sector. A letter dated December 28, 2021, was delivered this week to the six representatives of a large group of tour guides who are calling for their activity to be granted legal status as self-employment. So far they are out of luck.

The letter rules that travel agencies and tour operators “are associated with tourism products developed and commercialized by Cuba’s state tourism business system and, according to the Ministry of Tourism’s policy, these cannot be commercialized by natural persons, nor are they able to work as part of private micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, cooperatives or as self-employed.”

This negative response comes after almost a year since over a thousand persons linked to the sector called for this activity to be legalized. They organized and sent petitions to the corresponding ministries and even engaged in conversations with officials from these institutions. Here is a summary of this process.

Driver, not a Tour Guide

TIMELINE of a NO

February 10, 2021 the Ministry of Labor and Social Security issued a list of 124 economic activities that banned in Cuba’s private sector; including tour operator services and travel agencies. This led to a heated debate from people linked to tourism services.

In the following weeks, dozens of people linked to the sector began to mobilize and send letters to the corresponding bodies. They also shared an online petition for the legalization of private travel agencies and the document was signed by over 1500 people.

May 20, 2021 In response, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security wrote a written response to one of its signatories saying that “with the new Social/Economic Strategy to push the national economy in the interest of encouraging local development and production linkages between the public sector and private forms of management, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, alongside the Ministry of Tourism, are analyzing whether to allow these activities and others relating to the tourism sector.”

June 7, 2021 the Cuban Republic’s Official Gazette published Resolution 132/21 by the Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR), a new series of regulations for “national travel agencies”.

While the regulations don’t explicitly state who can create these agencies; it does recognize that natural Cuban persons (including the self-employed) can be “providers of tour services” that offer “the sale of these in groups, programs, circuits, excursions or other tourist services” via national travel agencies. It doesn’t explain how this relationship would work; but the lack of clarity in these regulations was also a spark of hope for the more optimistic.

August 19, 2021 To many people’s disappointment, the activity of travel agencies and tour operators reappeared on the banned list again within a new series of decrees and resolutions that regulate private sector enterprises (including MSMEs, cooperatives and self-employment).

September 22, 2021 Faced with continuous complaints, officials from the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security agree to meet with six representatives from the Facebook group Guías Turísticos por su legalización como TCP (Tour Guides wanting legalization as the Self-Employed), which had over 800 members at the time (today, there are 1100). 

At this meeting, MINTUR asked the guides to hand in written project proposals so they can “better understand how far they want to go so they can identify the red-tape that the activity “tour guide” would face as self-employment, to legislate and find a solution to this red-tape and giving them wide-ranging and unrestricted participation,” according to a summary of the meeting that was posted by the group’s members. 

January 7, 2022 Group representatives from Guías Turísticos por su legalización como TCP  who took part in the meeting with MINTUR and MTSS receive a letter from Minister Feito, who ratified the ban on the practice of tour guides and travel agencies, both as self-employment activities, as well as MSMEs and cooperatives.

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CUBA IN TRANSITION: PERSPECTIVES ON REFORM, CONTINUITY, AND CULTURE

LATIN AMERICAN POLITICS AND SOCIETY 63: 4, 2021

Complete Review: Cuba in Transition]

Rubrick Biegon   (Lecturer in international relations at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. R.Biegon@kent.ac.uk.)

Books Included in this Review

 
Aviva Chomsky, Barry Carr, Alfredo Prieto, and Pamela Maria Smorkaloff, eds.,The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics. 2nd ed., revised and updated. Durham: Duke University Press, 2019. Figures, notes, index, 744 pp.; hardcover $129.95, paperback $32.95, ebook $32.95.


Carmelo Mesa-Lago, ed., Voices of Change in Cuba from the Non-State Sector . Pitts-burgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018. Abbreviations, appendixes, figures, tables, notes, bibliography, index, 178 pp.; paperback $29.95, ebook $28.76.


Scott Morgenstern, Jorge Pérez-López, and Jerome Branche, eds., Paths for Cuba: Reforming Communism in Comparative Perspective . Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018. Tables, figures, bibliography, index, 408 pp.; paperback $37.95, ebook $29.57.


Louis A. Pérez, Jr., Rice in the Time of Sugar: The Political Economy of Food in Cuba. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019. Tables, figures, bibliography, index, 264 pp.; hardcover $90, paperback $29.95, ebook $22.99.


Margaret Randall, Exporting Revolution: Cuba’s Global Solidarity . Durham: Duke University Press, 2017. Notes, bibliography, index, 270 pp.; hardcover $99.95, paperback $26.95, ebook $25.60.

Introduction

Cuban politics and society are in a period of extended transition. From 2006 to 2008, Fidel Castro transferred authority to his brother Raúl, who subsequently sought to “update” Cuba’s economic model. The younger Castro stepped down in 2018, not long after Fidel’s death in 2016. Miguel Díaz-Canel, born after the Cuban Revolution, became head of state. Raúl retired from his position atop the Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC) in April 2021. As the country settles into the post-Castro era, it wrestles with a myriad of social and cultural issues intertwined with ongoing processes of reform and modernization. Academic research has sought to make sense of these developments while situating new trends in the wide sweep of Cuban history.


Cuba’s foreign relations have also seen profound (if uneven) change in recent years. Most prominently, the dramatic events of December 2014, when Barack Obama and Raúl Castro simultaneously announced their intent to reestablish diplo-matic relations, ushered in a new dynamic with the United States, as leaders pledged to move beyond decades of animosity. The two countries formally reestablished full diplomatic ties in 2015. The following year, Obama became the first sitting US pres- ident to visit the island in nearly a century. Donald Trump was elected after pledg – ing to cancel Obama’s “deal,” however. The Trump administration retightened
Washington’s embargo on the country, which had been relaxed under Obama. Even as Havana has forged new international partnerships, scholars have been compelled to scrutinize the twists and turns in Cuba’s all-important, highly asymmetrical rela – tionship with the United States (Biegon 2020; Hershberg and LeoGrande 2016).


The six books under review offer a variety of perspectives on Cuba’s contemporary reality, the historical contexts structuring recent political and economic shifts, and the international currents shaping the country’s post-Castro trajectory. Published after the 2014–16 rapprochement with the United States, they reflect a broadly forward-looking atmosphere in Cuban studies. Written as the generation of revolutionary históricos exited the leadership scene, the texts reinforce the notion that Cuba’s transition is both real and ambiguous. Instead of painting a uniform picture, they offer critical and, at times, competing insights on the intersection of the political and economic reforms undertaken by Cuba’s leadership and the social,
cultural, and global dynamics beyond the scope of state authority. The authors cover a breadth of interrelated topics sure to motivate scholarly discussions of Cuba for the duration of the 2020s and beyond.

Continue Reading.

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NUEVAS RUTAS DE LA MIGRACIÓN CUBANA

El TOQUE, 7 / diciembre / 2021

por Aleiny Sánchez Martínez y Ely Justiniani Pérez

Articulo Original: La Migración Cubana

La última crisis migratoria protagonizada por cubanos ocurrió en 2015. En los primeros nueve meses de ese año cerca de 27 000 cubanos ingresaron al territorio estadounidense por la frontera sur según una nota del diario Granma. Miles de personas abandonaron el país cuando se normalizaron las relaciones diplomáticas entre Cuba y Estados Unidos e intentaron, por cualquier vía, llegar a tierras norteamericanas ante el inminente fin de la política «pies secos, pies mojados».

Migrar ha sido una salida para escapar de los problemas del país. Datos del Departamento de Asuntos Económicos y Sociales de Naciones Unidas (UN, DESA) confirman un aumento de la población de personas procedentes de Cuba en países centro y sudamericanos. Aunque Estados Unidos y España siguen siendo los principales destinos, en los últimos años se han diversificado las rutas migratorias, algunos utilizan mecanismos oficiales y otros se arriesgan con vías ilegales.

Al otro lado del Atlántico

Entre La Habana y el punto más occidental de Europa hay casi 7 000 km. El océano Atlántico ha marcado el ritmo de la migración cubana hacia el Viejo Mundo: la vía legal es la única alternativa para quienes salen de la isla hacia el continente, siendo España el principal destino. La relación histórica, los vínculos familiares y las facilidades del idioma hacen del país ibérico un lugar deseado.

Aunque Rusia ofrece libre visado a los cubanos, también se ha utilizado como trampolín para llegar por vías ilegales a Europa. Por ejemplo, de Moscú a Bielorussia y Polonia hasta Alemania, donde residen poco más de 14 000 isleños, o por los Balcanes rumbo a Italia o a España. Recientemente el Consulado de Cuba en Rusia informó que serían regresadas a la isla 71 personas detenidas en el aeropuerto Vnúkovo por no cumplir con los requisitos de las autoridades locales.

Incluso en los países africanos encontramos potenciales destinos migratorios para cubanos que buscan una alternativa a las condiciones de vida en el país.

«Realmente, fue la primera oportunidad que tuve y la tomé», dice Alina Brito (52 años) mientras prepara la clase del día siguiente. Como maestra de Geografía le apasionaba no solo describir el mundo, sino también la posibilidad de conocerlo, pero cuenta que nunca pensó vivir en Guinea Ecuatorial.

Comenzó a documentarse sobre el país después de que unos guineanos que conoció le ofrecieran un contrato de trabajo en una escuela primaria privada de Malabo, la capital. Hasta entonces pensaba en África solo como un continente pobre, con muchas zonas selváticas y enfermedades contagiosas.

Su indagación arrojó muchos aspectos que contradecían esa idea: Guinea tiene un clima agradable, muy similar al de Cuba, y es el tercer productor de petróleo del África subsahariana después de Angola y Nigeria, con un PIB que ha aumentado 10 veces en 10 años (1999-2009). Portales oficiales del país lo confirman. «Y también me sorprendió que había bastantes cubanos. Nunca pensé encontrar tanta gente de mi tierra en un país tan pequeño y lejano como este», comenta Alina.

Según la plataforma Datos Macro, solo en 2019 se reportó la entrada a Guinea Ecuatorial de 1 704 inmigrantes procedentes de Cuba, una cifra similar a las llegadas anuales que se registran desde 2005. No es el único país de África con presencia de ciudadanos de la Mayor de las Antillas. También destacan República del Congo, Namibia y Sudáfrica. Este último país encabeza el podio del continente, y se calcula que solamente en 2019 recibió casi 2 700 emigrantes cubanos.

«Para mí uno de los aspectos más favorables en Guinea es el idioma. Es uno de los poquísimos países de África que tiene el español como uno de sus idiomas oficiales. Si a eso se le suma la demanda de personal calificado, se vuelve una opción muy buena a explorar por los cubanos, sobre todo por los profesionales», agrega Alina.

En tierras sudamericanas

Guyana se ha convertido en uno de los destinos principales para cubanos que desean cruzar fronteras hasta llegar a Estados Unidos. Al tener libre visado para extranjeros, muchos isleños llegan hasta Georgetown, su capital, desde donde emprenden rumbo a Brasil o Venezuela para continuar el trayecto al Norte.

En la mañana del 3 de abril de 2020 Ernesto Abel Rodríguez (29 años) revisó su celular y respiró aliviado. Los mensajes de su familia en Cuba le contaban que solo dos días antes el Gobierno cubano había suspendido los vuelos comerciales y chárteres desde y hacia la isla.

«Si no hubiera salido antes, sabrá Dios por cuánto tiempo me hubiera quedado allá», comenta. Se especulaba que con la llegada de la COVID-19 a Cuba existía una gran posibilidad de que cerraran las fronteras, así que se apresuró a sacar su pasaje a Guyana antes de que eso sucediera. Aunque compró boletos de ida y vuelta (porque así lo exigen las autoridades), esta vez no regresaría.

Ernesto se encuentra ahora en la ciudad brasileña Santarém, a casi 900 km de la frontera con Guyana, ubicada en el Estado Roraima. Aunque este pueblo se aleja bastante de la frontera colombiana —la próxima que debe cruzar—, era su única opción para reunir un poco de dinero que le permitiera continuar su trayecto. En Santarém tiene un techo, comida y un trabajo en la construcción que le ha garantizado un amigo cubano que vive en Brasil como refugiado.

Brasil es uno de los países que más refugiados cubanos recibe. De 2000 a 2015 se procesaron alrededor de 1 300 solicitudes de asilo. Solo en el último lustro, esa cifra creció casi doce veces.

Los refugiados aumentaron con el fin del programa Más Médicos, integrado por casi 20 000 cubanos profesionales de salud. En 2018 el Gobierno de la isla canceló el convenio de cooperación luego de que el presidente brasileño Jair Bolsonaro decidiera cambiar las bases del acuerdo.

En medio de la euforia, Bolsonaro prometió otorgarle asilo político a todo aquel médico cubano que lo requiriera. En realidad, esto no sucedió; pero más de 2 500 profesionales abandonaron la misión y permanecieron en el país. La mayoría quedó desamparada y sin posibilidad de ejercer la medicina; algunos, incluso, se trasladaron a otros territorios.

Si bien este contexto propició el aumento de cubanos en Brasil, la principal causa de llegada irregular de migrantes es la cercanía de Guyana al Estado Roraima. La vía que utilizó Ernesto.

Por otra parte, aquellos que deciden continuar el viaje hacia el Norte para llegar a la frontera estadounidense con México deben enfrentar un largo recorrido por toda Centroamérica, atravesando previamente el Tapón del Darién, entre Colombia y Panamá.

Quienes han sobrevivido al trayecto relatan la crudeza del viaje: cadáveres en el camino, violaciones, hambre, naufragio, enfermedades… Miles de kilómetros a pie para cruzar un continente y conseguir «el sueño americano».

Hace poco varios medios difundieron la trágica historia de una familia cubana que perdió a dos de sus miembros, madre e hijo, mientras cruzaban la selva colombo-panameña. La progenitora murió en un naufragio; unas semanas después el niño de 14 años falleció a causa de un infarto. Escenas como estas se repiten…

Entre enero y septiembre de 2021 más de 91 000 inmigrantes han atravesado el Darién camino a Estados Unidos. Al menos 13 000 son cubanos.

Otros, para sortear la «ruta de la muerte», prueban la travesía marítima por el Pacífico y entran a Panamá por la costa de Jaqué, ubicada en el distrito Chepigana. La suerte depende de cuánto resistan las embarcaciones, casi siempre precarias y cargadas con más personas de las que pueden soportar.

«Emigrar cruzando fronteras es en sí una cuestión de suerte, dice Ernesto. Suerte de que no te asalten, de que no pierdas tu dinero, de no enfermarse o sufrir un accidente fatal. Suerte de poseer una visa para algún país de Centroamérica; lo cual te acorta meses de viaje, y si es para México ni hablar, porque solo te queda un pasito», comenta.

A las puertas de Estados Unidos

A decir de Laritza Beltrán (32 años), ella es una persona que no se puede quejar de su suerte. En 2017 la Embajada mexicana en Cuba le otorgó una visa de turismo por diez años. Al principio, viajaba a comprar mercancía para revender en la isla. Luego, valiéndose de métodos que prefiere no explicar, logró obtener la residencia en el país en poco tiempo y montó una tiendecita en Cancún, donde otros cubanos iban a comprar productos para llevar a la isla.

«Fueron tiempos muy buenos. Ni siquiera pensaba en irme a Estados Unidos porque ahí tenía todo lo que necesitaba, el negocio iba bien y podía viajar a Cuba cuando quería, de una forma rápida y barata, pues el pasaje de Cancún a La Habana costaba menos de 120 dólares».

Históricamente México ha sido una vía de tránsito hacia los Estados Unidos, sin embargo, el endurecimiento de las políticas migratorias durante el mandato de Donald Trump impidió que muchos migrantes cruzaran la frontera y se plantearan la posibilidad de residir en este país. En 2019 Trump estableció los Protocolos de Protección al Migrante (MPP, por sus siglas en inglés), conocidos como «Quédate en México»; un programa que obliga a los solicitantes de asilo estadounidense a esperar el fin de su proceso en el territorio azteca.

Aunque el actual Gobierno liderado por Joe Biden inhabilitó la medida a inicios de 2021, la orden fue revocada por la corte y, al margen de las críticas, este mes se reanudó el programa. El MPP no solo deja inseguras a las personas que aguardan una decisión, también las fuerza a establecerse de forma permanente en tierra mexicana y pedir asilo.

Sin embargo, con la llegada de la COVID-19 y su impacto en las economías nacionales y personales, muchas de las personas radicadas en esta nación consideraron partir hacia Estados Unidos.

«Con el coronavirus los precios de la mercancía que yo vendía aumentaron. Por otra parte, Cuba cerró sus fronteras y los vendedores cubanos quedamos prácticamente sin compradores durante varios meses. Vi como gran parte de nuestras tiendas en Cancún Centro comenzaron a desaparecer, así que muchos de los cubanos que estaban en esta área decidieron cruzar la frontera aprovechando que Biden había eliminado el «Quédate en México», y que el procedimiento era más fácil. Entre los que partieron hacia la frontera norteamericana para solicitar refugio estábamos mi esposo y yo», cuenta Laritza.

El Anuario de migración y remesas (2021) documenta que Cuba es el tercer país que más solicitudes de protección presenta en México, solo por detrás de Honduras y Haití. De enero a septiembre de 2021, 7 683 viajeros cubanos han pedido protección, de acuerdo con el reporte más reciente de la Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados (Comar).

La Convención sobre el Estatuto de los Refugiados define como «refugiado» a toda persona que debido al temor de «ser perseguida por motivos de raza, religión, nacionalidad, pertenencia a determinado grupo social u opiniones políticas, se encuentre fuera del país de su nacionalidad y no pueda o, a causa de dichos temores, no quiera acogerse a la protección de tal país».

En 2020, 24 694 cubanos reconocieron encontrarse «desplazados por la fuerza», de acuerdo con el Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (Acnur). El 84 % de ellos fueron acogidos por cinco naciones: Estados Unidos, México, Uruguay, Costa Rica y España.

El añorado «sueño americano»

El 78 % del total de migrantes cubanos vive en Estados Unidos; esto representa tres cuartas partes de la población cubana que reside en el extranjero. Además de la proximidad geográfica y los lazos familiares que existen entre ambos países, la llegada de inmigrantes procedentes de la isla está motivada por ventajosas y exclusivas políticas migratorias.

En Estados Unidos, los asilados tienen derecho a trabajar en el territorio, posean o no el documento que lo autoriza. Además, pueden obtener una tarjeta de Seguro Social, pedir asilo para la familia, solicitar residencia permanente e, incluso, orientación profesional y adiestramiento en el idioma.

Si la solicitud de refugio no les es concedida, pueden acogerse al año y un día a la Ley de Ajuste Cubano, vigente desde 1966, que facilita el proceso de elegibilidad para convertirse en residente permanente de los Estados Unidos.

Tras la crisis de los balseros (1994), el texto se modificó para incluir la política «pies secos, pies mojados». Al amparo de esta resolución, los cubanos que tocaran suelo norteamericano eran aceptados legalmente; en cambio, de ser interceptados en el mar, serían devueltos a la isla.

Este programa fue derogado en 2017 por la Administración de Barack Obama, sin embargo, esto no detuvo la salida ilegal de los cubanos por vía marítima. Según informa la Guardia Costera, en lo que va del año fiscal 2021 se han interceptado 838 migrantes cubanos en el mar, una cantidad diecisiete veces mayor a lo reportado en 2020.

Solo en 2019, la Oficina de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza de Estados Unidosregistró 11 798 detenciones en el paso fronterizo, una cifra récord en la última década, que se prevé aumente.

En febrero de 2021, ante el riesgo de una gran ola migratoria hacia EE. UU. tras la apertura de las fronteras cubanas, el presidente estadounidense Joe Biden se refirió a la necesidad de continuar con la Emergencia Nacional respecto a Cuba. La carta indica que la entrada ilegal de cubanos a los Estados Unidos a gran escala perturbaría las relaciones de este país con Cuba por permitir o proporcionar los medios para que ocurra una migración masiva. En caso de que suceda, sería considerado una amenaza a la seguridad nacional.

«No sé decir a ciencia cierta cuántas personas estaban en la frontera cuando yo crucé, pero eran muchísimas. Los cubanos se están apurando para cruzar porque saben que en algún momento esto volverá a restringirse. La gente tendrá que buscar otras vías, o irse a otros lugares, por suerte eso lo veré desde el lado de acá», dice Laritza.

***

Los expertos temen una nueva ola en los próximos meses como consecuencia de la actual crisis económica del país. Aunque el Anuario Demográfico publicado por la Oficina Nacional de Estadística e Información (ONEI) registró en 2020 apenas 4 474 nuevos cubanos radicados en el extranjero —la cifra más baja desde 2014—, la principal causa de este descenso fue la pandemia provocada por el SARS-CoV-2 y el cierre de fronteras.

La escasez de productos esenciales, la inseguridad alimentaria y los altos precios en el mercado informal —donde compra y vende la mayoría— podría acelerar la salida de miles de cubanos hacia destinos diversos.

Los cambios en la política migratoria y la flexibilización de los requisitos para viajar a algunas naciones han definido la ruta de los migrantes irregulares procedentes de Cuba en la última década. En el continente americano países como Granada, Trinidad y Tobago, Santa Lucía y Belice no exigen visado para los ciudadanos cubanos.

El 15 de noviembre de 2021 se abrieron las fronteras internacionales, luego de que los vuelos comerciales a la isla estuvieran limitados por más de un año debido a la pandemia.

Una semana después, el 22 de noviembre el Ministerio de Gobernación de Nicaragua informó que permitiría la entrada de los isleños sin necesidad de visa, «con el fin de promover el intercambio comercial, el turismo y la relación familiar humanitaria». Si seguimos la tendencia, todo indica que el territorio se convertirá en otro trampolín hacia el Norte, como sucedió antes con Ecuador (2008-2015) y Guyana ( 2016).

El libre visado establecido por el Gobierno de Daniel Ortega confronta la postura que asumió en 2015 cuando ordenó cerrar todos los accesos terrestres al país para interrumpir el paso de una caravana de cubanos varados en Costa Rica. De un año a otro, el flujo de migrantes pasó de ser un cuentagotas a torrente, ante el temor de que los privilegios de la Ley de Ajuste Cubano serán eliminados.

Aunque el gigante del Norte continúa acaparando las mayores atenciones de los migrantes cubanos, se pronostica también un aumento del número de cubanos en otros territorios muchas veces movidos por los juegos políticos y migratorios de turno; como la eliminación del visado, una frontera débil o el mensaje de un amigo o un familiar diciéndole que es el momento, que se vaya ahora y no espere más.

A fin de cuentas, marcharse de la isla ha sido una alternativa política, económica y social para los cubanos. La historia posrevolucionaria, marcada por tres grandes olas migratorias (la salida por Boca de Camarioca en Matanzas, en 1965; el éxodo del Mariel, en 1980, y la conocida crisis de los balseros en 1994), y la salida sistemática en pequeña escala de su población así lo demuestran.

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CUBAN ECONOMY IN 2022

It is essential to deepen the reforms where reality has shown that what has been done is not enough. Delaying that deepening is not healthy, as we know.

Juan Triana Cordoví

ON CUBA Newws, December 29 2021

Original Article: Cuban Economy in 2022

The good news that the decline in the national economy has stopped thanks to the good performance of the second and third quarters of this year, is doubly good because in general and due to the seasonal nature of our economy the first and the last quarter of each year are the busiest. So in 2021, that performance has changed.

It is also good news that a growth of 4% is planned for 2022, something that will require a significant effort if we take into account that the recovery conditions of the international economy are still far from reaching the years preceding COVID-19; that world inflation, and especially in the United States, seems to be turning into a big headache; and that world trade will continue to suffer from excessively expensive freight, a shortage of containers and high prices for them; foreign investment will continue to have a weak recovery and tourism flows on a world level will still be far from what they were three years ago.

Global inflows of FDI, forecast for 2021-2022. UNCTAD

Macroeconomic stability

Growth is much more than a goal, a slogan or an exhortation, and having done a good planning exercise is not enough. It is necessary to achieve a minimum of macroeconomic stability that reduces uncertainty for all economic agents, that guarantees that the rules of the game will be followed, that discretion will have adequate limits, that the adjustment will produce the necessary changes at the microeconomic level to transform the business system, clean it of inefficient enterprises — because not all those that are in losses are — and that the allocation of resources is guided by efficiency criteria. Efficiency and productivity must be rewarded, and the costs of this adjustment must be cushioned with adequate policies. Condemning efficient enterprises to losses is not the best decision in a country that needs to purge its production system.

Inflation, what to do?

Much has been written about inflation in Cuba this year. Today it is the factor that generates more instability, uncertainty, a reduction in the purchasing power of “reorganized” wages and, logically, social unrest. At least we economists know that speculation is not its cause, in the same way that we know that appealing to the good faith of sellers will not solve, even momentarily, this scourge.

Three exchange rates instead of one, as the design promised, the reincarnation of the CUC in the freely convertible currencies whose access is more restrictive and a passive monetary policy are among its monetary causes. If reality surpassed the design, then the design must be adapted to this new reality.

The other cause is historical, secular and structural, the insufficient supply that has accompanied us since the early 1960s, due to the weak production system and restrictions to import, especially as of the 1990s. Generating a significant increase in supply keeping in mind a speedy recovery of the production system does not seem achievable (500 state companies in losses, and 67% of cooperatives in an “unfavorable” situation indicate the opposite). Production, even in those economies that function with high dynamism, lags behind in relation to demand, it is less elastic in the face of a variation in income. It will not be there where in the short term prices can be dealt with. Improperly regulating them produces worse effects, it has also been proven. The other component of the supply remains, imports, also limited in the state sector by the availability of foreign exchange. But there are reservations and they involve sharing the consumer market and encouraging non-state agents — national and non-national — to have a greater participation and share the risks.

Consolidating and deepening the reforms

In the annual seminar of the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, my colleague Antonio Romero synthesized the characteristics of the environment we will have for 2022, taking into account the performance of recent years:

  1. Deep drop in global economic activity in 2020. Record for some regions/countries.
  2. Strong recovery process since late 2020/early 2021 in most regions/countries.
  3. The per capita income levels reached in December 2019 will not be exceeded until 2023.
  4. Asymmetric recovery, and with great risks/uncertainties:
  5. a) Recurrence of outbreaks/peaks of the pandemic
  6. b) High and rising inflation for some sectors/markets
  7. c) Dangers of the process of reducing monetary stimuli (liquidity) by the main central banks
  8.  Tensions in the international energy market
  9.  Problems with some supply chains/logistics internationally
  10. Growing conflict between major global actors (USA, China, EU and Russia).

Inflation in the United States and Mr. Biden’s “forgetting” his pre-election promises are the other two factors that complicate the national situation.

And at the same time he pointed out the opportunities that this same evolution offered to our country:

  1. -Increase in demand for goods and services in foreign partners,
  2. -Increase in the price of some basic export products (sugar and nickel) and
  3. -Revaluation of the health industry (especially the strategic importance of vaccines).

Sugar prices have gone up by 38% from January to October 2021. It is true that our restriction is on production. Save the sugarcane industry! The phrase deserves more than one book. Saving the sugar industry is not recovering it, it is making it new, from the furrow to the shipping terminal. From 2016 to 2020, this industry received investments of 1.035 billion dollars, less than the trade sector (1.563 billion and not to mention 15.541 billion in the real estate sector). Year after year we witness a new unfulfilled plan to recover the sugar industry, hopefully, this time it will be different.

Nickel prices also offer an opportunity (37% increase in their prices from January to October) and world demand seems to maintain a certain dynamism. Our limit is once again in the productive capacity. Mining was allocated 1.413 billion in the same period and not everything was for nickel mining.

Undoubtedly the greatest opportunity could be in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Despite the complicit silence of some international institutions regarding Cuban vaccines, it is indisputable that today it is our greatest strength in the industrial sector.

The recovery of tourist flows on a global scale will depend on the performance of the pandemic, which has once again shown its face in the omicron variant and complicates our source markets again.

World foreign investment flows will not reach the dynamics of before 2019. Competing for scarce flows with other markets is a difficult task. It is true that something has been announced in relation to FDI, but it seems that time does not count and the necessary reform of requirements and procedures did not arrive in 2021. It is not enough to recognize that “the little progress is not attributable only to the difficulties generated by the blockade and, in the last two years, by the international crisis derived from the COVID-19 pandemic, but also internal factors.” And if we know which ones, then why don’t we just eliminate them?

Because there are external factors on which there is no way to influence to achieve favorable changes to our economy, because there are structural failures that will not be resolved in the short term; consolidating the reforms will be decisive. It is a difficult exercise that requires many means, from the timely and adequate coordination of actions and organizations to the competence of the people who work in it; also agreeing to pay unavoidable costs until the resizing of the state business sector is promoted, not only in terms of its size, but also in the way it operates in the economy. This exhortation to achieve greater autonomy must be made really effective. And also that other that demands a greater relationship with the private and cooperative business sector. More than a thousand SMEs in three months, in the worst conditions in which an enterprise can be born, is enough to understand how dynamic this sector can be. More effective support, better incentives — especially tax incentives —, less prejudice and greater spaces for action are still necessary.

Today there are more than seven hundred local development projects. Local governments should understand that having more local development projects and promoting a greater number of small and medium-sized enterprises is decisive for the prosperity of their municipalities. Thinking of the local as the small, as the complementary, does not seem to be the best option. “The local is not the utopia of a development from the small, but the construction of capacities from the territory to promote sustainable development at the municipal, regional, national and international level”1 It is necessary to take a look at the curb of the well and look from there inward and outward.

It is essential to deepen the reforms where reality has shown that what has been done is not enough. Delaying that deepening is not healthy, as we know.

If a 4% growth is achieved, we will still be very far from the growth dynamics we need, far even from what was achieved in a year like 2019 and we all know that even in that year our production was not able to adequately satisfy that part of the demand that depended on it. It will be good to grow and it will be better if all Cubans manage to perceive it.


Note:

1 Carrizo Luis and Gallicchio Enrique (2006): “Desarrollo local y gobernanza. Enfoques transdisciplinarios. Investigación y políticas para el desarrollo en América Latina,” Uruguay, Latin American Center for Human Economy, CLAEH.

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RELIGION, CULTURE, AND SOCIETY: THE CASE OF CUBA Conference Report

Woodrow Wilson Center Reports on the Americas, 2003

Conference Organizer & Editor: Margaret E. Crahan

Complete Report: Religion, Culture, and Society: The Case of CubaT

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Executive Summary

Introduction

Part I Religion, Culture, and Society: Theoretical, Methodological, and Historical Perspectives

Chapter 1  Theoretical and Methodological Reflections about the Study of Religion and Politics in Latin America, Daniel H. Levine, University of Michigan.

Chapter 2  Civil Society in Cuba: A Conceptual Approach\, Ariel Armony, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars & Colby College.

Chapter 3 Cuban Diasporas: Their Impact on Religion, Culture, and Society Margaret E. Crahan, Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Chapter 4  The Evolution of Laws Regulating Associations and Civil Society in Cuba Alfonso Quiroz,Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars & Baruch College & The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Chapter 5 Foreign Influence through Protestant Missions in Cuba, 1898-1959:A Quaker Case Study Karen Leimdorfer, University of Southhampton

Chapter 6  The Jewish Community in Cuba in the 1990s Arturo López Levy, Columbia University

Part II Religion, Culture, and Society: Transnational Perspectives

Chapter 7  The Catholic Church and Cuba’s International Ties Thomas E. Quigley, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Chapter 8  Religion and the Cuban Exodus:A Perspective from Union City, New Jersey Yolanda Prieto, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Chapter 9  Cuba’s Catholic Church and the Contemporary Exodus Silvia Pedraza, University of Michigan

Chapter 10  God Knows No Borders:Transnational Religious Ties Linking Miami and Cuba Katrin Hansing & Sarah J. Mahler, Florida International University

Conclusion

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Reflections on Cuban Politics, 2021

By El Toque December 31,

HAVANA TIMES – After three months on the air, La Colada podcast sees this year out with the last episode of its first season. The podcast’s hosts, writer and journalist Jorge de Armas and political analyst Enrique Guzman Karell, went over some of the events that marked a turbulent 2021 in Cuba.

Over the course of approximately an hour, they discussed the protests on July 11th, November 15th, the difference between the San Isidro Movement and Archipielago, the figure of Miguel Diaz-Canel as the representative of a decaying system and Cuban women in the struggle for freedom and democracy on the island.

July 11th: Cries for freedom and the order for combat

July 11th is a date that will go down in Cuban history because of its dimensions. The flame that was lit with a mass protest in San Antonio de los Baños on the outskirts of Havana, and quickly spread like wildfire in dozens of other towns and cities across the country. Thousands of Cubans took to the streets to protest, a kind of domino effect on a people desperate for freedom and fed up of living in crisis.

What the Government had tried to prevent for 62 years, broke out that Sunday. Cubans of all ages demanded their rights loud and clear, and they displayed their explicit rejection of the Cuban government, whose repressive response reached its climax with President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s order for combat, calling upon the Cuban people to stand up to protestors.

“The order for combat has been given, revolutionaries take to the streets,” said Diaz Canel on national TV that day. “This is a fascist phrase, a phrase which encourages a genocide among Cubans to some extent, a civil war,” Jorge de Armas said.

“This order given by somebody with a clearly fascist character like Fidel Castro could have resulted far worse,” he warned.

According to the writer and journalist, Diaz-Canel symbolizes the Cuban government’s lack of a comprehensive approach to politics. Guzman Karell adds that this is also the expression of a system in decline that has already reached breaking point.

“It remains a sad fact that we have such a bleak, unenlightened figure at the head of a country in crisis on all fronts, nothing good can come of this,” he explains.

Moderators of La Colada recalled how Diaz-Canel later said he didn’t regret pitting the Cuban people against one another and how he lied when he said that there weren’t any disappeared or tortured persons after July 11th. Likewise when he said there aren’t any political prisoners in Cuba and that “people who aren’t with the Revolution are free to protest freely,” when NGOs have reported over 1300 arrests linked to the protest.

Five months after the protests, over 700 Cubans are still behind bars, including minors. Dozens of protestors have been subjected to summary hearings, charged with crimes such as public disorder, attempt, incitement and contempt.

San Isidro and Archipielago

The San Isidro Movement (MSI) was born in late 2018 as a direct response to the Government’s Decree-Law 349, a threat to freedom of artistic creation and speech in Cuba. It takes its name from the poor and marginalized Havana neighborhood where it is based, and gathers a group of artists and activists who advocate for civil rights and democracy on the island.

MSI started making lots of noise all over Cuba in November 2020, when a group of artists, activists and journalists entrenched themselves at their headquarters to demand the release of one of its members, anti-establishment rapper Denis Solis, who had been given a prison sentence during a summary hearing, and without a legal defense.

Many Cubans both in Cuba and abroad supported the hunger strike, and the Government launched a repulsive slander campaign in the media and stepped-up intimidation. Then its security agents dressed up as doctors to forcefully remove those who were part of the sit-in and arrested them. This led over 300 artists of all ages to gather outside the Ministry of Culture, on November 27th 2020, to demand an explanation and for them to respect rights of speech and freedom of artistic creation in Cuba.

MSI’s main leader, artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, has been in police custody since July 11th. He has become one of the most emblematic faces of Cuba today and is one of the main threats to the Government, because of his close ties to marginalized groups over the years, and his power to mobilize people.

“The great threat San Isidro poses is the same as what the Cuban people pose. The November 27th protest wasn’t so much a threat. I believe the San Isidro Movement represents the majority of what Cuba is today, maybe not what it was 70 years ago, but Cuba today resembles San Isidro more than anything else,” De Armas weighs in.

In 2021, a citizen-led platform appeared in Cuba, driven by playwright Yunior Garcia Aguilera, one of the leaders of the November 27th protest. The project was called Archipielago and its main call was for a civic protest for change on November 15th to demand the release of political prisoners, among other things. The initiative was thwarted in the end by the Government and Garcia Aguilera went into exile in Spain soon after, which led to a break in the platform, and many of its members left the project.

Guzman Karell talked about those who define citizen-led platform Archipielago as a Leftist party, an idea that he doesn’t share “precisely because this symbology refers to a more classist, more university-educated, more white, more organized Cuba, which is far-removed from the Cuba we saw on July 11th in Cuban towns and neighborhoods.”

One of the things that upsets De Armas the most in regard to the dismantling process of Archipielago, isn’t the deception many of its members had – which he points out is valid – but rather the deception of those who believed and followed the project.

“There is a duty in hope and a tragedy in disenchantment, and this is what totalitarianism has always played with, the Cuban government with its people,” he explains.

He pointed out that the positive thing that came from 15N was the wave of solidarity it unleashed. Cuban artists coming forward, such as Leo Brouwer, Jose Maria Vitier, Chucho Valdes, and celebrities on the international public scene such as Ruben Blades and Mario Vargas Llosa.

Patria y Vida” phenomenon

In February 2021, Cuban artists Yotuel Romero, Alexander Delgado, Randy Malcom, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Osorbo and El Funk released the song “Patria y Vida”, which became an anthem for freedom in Cuba and the soundtrack for protests of Cubans around the world.

More than a song, “Patria y Vida” (Homeland and Life) became a social phenomenon and served as an impetus to amplify the Cuban people’s cries for freedom on different platforms.

The symbolic value that it has taken on also depends a lot on the social context it represents. De Armas points out that the most important thing about this is that a song like “Patria y Vida” has become a symbol of social needs.

The song won the Best Urban Song and Song of the Year categories at the Latin Grammy Awards that was recently held in Las Vegas. During the gala, Cuban artists performed an acoustic version of “Patria y Vida” and dedicated it to political prisoners, especially to Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara – who appears in the music video – and to Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo, one of its composers, who has been in a Cuban prison, since May.

“This has a special merit in my eyes, and the fact that the Grammy Awards ceremony and how controversial it could have been and what it sparked on social media, was all as important as the Latin World seeing Ruben Blades, Residente, and Mario Vargas Llosa talk about Cuba. I believe that “Patria y Vida” did in fact, to some extent, put the issue of Cuba on the table within this space of pop culture,” De Armas pointed out.

“The Patria y Vida phenomenon managed to unify Cuba’s cultural space, with both residents and its diaspora community,” he adds; an opinion that Guzman shares because “if a people embrace an artistic representation, this is the greatest achievement.”

The political analyst highlighted the fact that “Patria y Vida” as a song and phenomenon, also represents the Cuban people. Out of everything that has happened in recent years in Cuba, the San Isidro Movement is closely linked to what happened on July 11th, as well as Patria y Vida.

“This might seem trivial, but it’s no coincidence. It’s extremely significant that all of these young people are black. They are responding to a particular history and tradition,” he says.

Cuban women in the anti-establishment struggle

One of the most important issues that this last episode of La Colada paid special attention to was the role of Cuban women in the fight for change in Cuba. The struggle that the Ladies in White have been playing a role in for years, or with growing women’s representation in independent journalism and different platforms.

The podcast’s hosts made a special mention to Cuban activists Saily Gonzalez, Daniela Rojo, Camila Lobon, Anamely Ramos, Omara Ruiz Urquiola, Thais Mailen Franco, Katherine Bisquet and Tania Bruguera, whose names, complaints and work for freedom has marked this year.

“If somebody has been at the forefront of this front against the government that oppresses society, for over 20 years, that’s Cuban women. With all clarity, with all strength. They were there before the Ladies in White, but especially with the Ladies in White. For they were able to firmly embrace a discourse, but the idea they proposed was also peace,” stressed Guzman Karell.

In early December, the independent magazine El El Estornudo published a feature article with five complaints of sexual abuse against folk singer Fernando Becquer. The article sparked a heated debate on social media and encouraged over twenty victims of the musician to come forward and tell similar stories.

As a result of the discussions that recent sex abuse allegations against Becquer have sparked, two key issues in Cuba society have returned to the table, in addition to the legal vulnerability of women on the island, which date back to Cuba being founded as an independent State: race and gender.

“Until we as a society understand this and all of the responsibility this implies, this country will never be free, even when we shake ourselves free of totalitarianism, if we don’t face these issues head-on, we will never be free and we will never live in a free and prosperous society,” Guzman says.

Regarding harassment, sex abuse and violence against women, De Armas pointed out that the problem is that there is no representation within the Cuban State to protect Cuban women from this harassment, abuse and rape. “It isn’t culture, it’s a lack of social interest.”

Despite growing numbers of cases of gender-based violence across the country, and in a country with a high percentage of female lawmakers and professionals, the legislative agenda passed up until 2028, still lacks a comprehensive law against gender-based violence.

“Power in Cuba continues to be disgustingly macho, and white,” Enrique Guzman points out. “It’s clear that this is a systemic problem because after you’ve managed to overcome a great deal of conflict, you go to the police to file a complaint, and they don’t listen to you, they don’t keep you in mind, they mock you, it’s terrible.”

“I believe that change in Cuba has to be female, otherwise change won’t come,” De Armas stressed.

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INFORME DE RENDICIÓN DE CUENTA DEL PRIMER MINISTRO DE LA REPÚBLICA DE CUBA A LA ASAMBLEA NACIONAL DEL PODER POPULAR

Diciembre de 2021

…………………………………

…………………………………

CONCLUSIONES

El Programa Nacional de Desarrollo Económico y Social
2030, los Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social del
Partido y la Revolución, y la Estrategia de Desarrollo
Económico Social del país, constituyen las herramientas
fundamentales para la conducción de la economía y la
sociedad, y referentes claves para el diseño e
implementación de políticas y acciones nacionales y locales.
Entre ellos se establece una unidad indivisible, con
eslabones que se complementan, para una conducción más
integrada, articulada y sostenible del desarrollo.
Todos los lineamientos tienen algún grado de relación
(directa e indirecta) con los proyectos de los
macroprogramas. Muchos de ellos se ven reflejados en más
de un macroprograma, demostrando el carácter integrador y
multidimensional del sistema de trabajo del gobierno.
Al mismo tiempo, se identifican temáticas en los
lineamientos que son abordadas en varios proyectos, reflejo
de la importancia estratégica que revisten y la prioridad que
deben tener para alcanzar los objetivos propuestos en el
Programa Nacional de Desarrollo Económico y Social 2030.


El sistema de trabajo diseñado para su implementación a
través de macroprogramas, programas y proyectos
constituye el mecanismo de gobierno a emplear para la
implementación y evaluación de los lineamientos de la
Política Económica y Social del Partido y la Revolución para
el período 2021-2026 y las medidas contenidas en la
Estrategia de Desarrollo Económico Social.
Se refuerza la importancia del método empleado para la
conducción y evaluación del cumplimiento del Programa
Nacional de Desarrollo Económico y Social 2030, el que
supone una modificación significativa en la manera de
dirigir, organizar y gestionar el desarrollo de la economía y
la sociedad, lográndose un mayor rigor, integralidad e
intersectorialidad de acciones, desde la concepción del
proyecto, su implementación, evaluación, rendición de
cuenta y la participación y alianzas entre todos los actores.
Hasta aquí he abordado en apretada síntesis un resumen
de la rendición de cuenta de mi gestión como Primer
Ministro, consciente de que existen otros temas y
dificultades en las que también estamos trabajando;
tenemos identificadas las insuficiencias que nos
corresponde solucionar, con objetivos, metas e indicadores,
así como las prioridades antes mencionadas

Finalmente, quiero agradecer al General de Ejército Raúl
Castro Ruz, al Presidente de la República Miguel Díaz-
Canel Bermúdez, al Presidente de la Asamblea Nacional
Esteban Lazo Hernández, al Consejo de Ministros, a los
diputados, y al pueblo en general, la confianza y el apoyo
que nos brindan.  Es nuestro compromiso de seguir en el
combate, hasta la Victoria Siempre,

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CUBA SEES SLOW ECONOMIC RECOVERY AT 4% IN 2022 – OFFICIAL

By Marc Frank

Reuters, December 12, 2021

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

HAVANA, Dec 12 (Reuters) – A cash short and crippled Cuban economy will grow 4% next year as the Communist-run country struggles to recover from an economic crisis, according to a report by the prime minister posted over the weekend.

Prime Minister Manuel Marrero’s annual report said the economy began a slow recovery of around 2% this year after declining 10.9% in 2020 and stagnating for several years before that.

New U.S. sanctions on top of the decades-old trade embargo and the coronavirus pandemic cost the import-dependent nation at least $4 billion in revenues over the last two years, according to the government.

The shortfall led to a 40% decline in imports and has hobbled the government’s ability to provide Cubans with food, medicine, consumer goods and inputs for industry and agriculture. Cuba has defaulted on some payments to its creditors and suppliers.

The government’s decision to devalue the peso for the first time since Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution combined with increased dollarization of the economy have sparked triple-digit inflation estimated by local economists at around 500% this year.

The goal of 4% growth could indicate that Cuba will still see shortages of critical goods and have continued difficulty paying creditors, said a western businessman in Cuba with years of experience in the market.

The government is preparing measures to tame inflation and strengthen the peso, Marrero said. The peso is trading for around 70 to a dollar on the informal market versus the official rate of 24 pesos.

“A set of measures must be adopted with a view to stopping the inflationary spiral,” Marrero said in his report, without stating what they might be.

Marrero credited a vaccination campaign that has reached 80% of the country’s population for clearing the way for a nascent recovery next year.

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CUBAN SUGAR INDUSTRY RESTRUCTURES AS ANOTHER BLEAK HARVEST LOOMS

Marc Frank

Reuters. November 24, 2021

Original article: Bleak Sugar Harvest

Fidel Directing the Zafra of 1970

HAVANA, Nov 24 (Reuters) – Cuba has carried out a root and branch restructure of its sugar industry in a last-ditch attempt to keep mills from folding in the face of collapsing output.

In recent weeks, the government has made 56 sugar mills subsidiary companies of state sugar monopoly AZCUBA and incorporated local plantations into the new entities, allowing them to leverage recent reforms that include setting wages and cane prices and keeping control of 80% of their export earnings.

The Communist-run country produced just over 800,000 tonnes of raw sugar last season, its worst performance since 1908 and just 10% of a high of 8 million tonnes in 1989. Experts consulted by Reuters say 2022’s production could be even lower.

“The industry has more or less collapsed. The situation is worse this year than last and it will take time to bring it back,” a local sugar expert said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to talk with journalists.

The Caribbean island nation has suffered from both the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and tough new U.S. sanctions, reducing its hard currency earnings over the past two years by around 40%, shrinking the economy 13% and reducing resources available to mills and plantations.

Provincial media has been filled with stories of cane shortages, mill repairs behind schedule, and a lack of tires, batteries and fuel to harvest and transport cane.

Cuba’s economy long relied heavily on sugar exports, but output has plunged since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In central Sancti Spiritus province, for instance, some 45% of land that should be cultivated for sugar was fallow, provincial Communist Party newspaper Escambray reported last week.

A national Council of Ministers communique from a June 2021 meeting said a review of the industry was underway “to guarantee in the future the vitality of these activities, which have meant so much economically and in the history of Cuba.”

The harvest usually begins in November and runs into May, but this year the first mill will open on Dec. 5, with the bulk beginning to grind in late December into January.  Last year, 38 mills opened and this year there will be fewer, according to provincial media reports.

Key sugar-producing provinces Villa Clara and Las Tunas provinces estimate output of around 125,000 tonnes each, slightly more than last season, while Sancti Spiritus, Cienfuegos, Granma and Artemisa provinces expect smaller crops than the previous season. Other provinces have yet to publish their production targets.

Cuba consumes between 600,000 and 700,000 tonnes of sugar a year and has an agreement to sell China 400,000 tonnes annually.  It was unclear how much sugar Cuba exported this year and whether it imported any to meet local demand.

Like other industries, agriculture and cane cultivation face structural problems in the import-dependent command economy which the government is only just addressing. New reforms, including a steep devaluation of the local currency and decentralization of export earnings are aimed at once again boosting production.  At the same time, industry experts consulted by Reuters said there is no money to begin recovery to export, nor access to multilateral financing.

With the population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and tourism – the driver of the economy and foreign exchange – opening up, over time the situation may improve, the sugar expert said.

“But they will need to go further with reforms, attract foreign investment or divert money from other sectors like tourism,” he said.

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KAREL J. LEYVA AND MICHAEL WIGGIN ON CANADIAN POLICY TOWARDS CUBA

RESPONSE BY MICHAEL WIGGIN

November 22. 23021

The article by Karel J. Leyva was, to me, disturbing.  I think that it reflects the US government perspective of Cuba and not that of the many Canadians who spend time in and study Cuba and its history. Also, it does not recognize the progress of Cuba in the Caribbean and South American context where political turmoil is common and human rights abuses make those of Cuba seem minor.  Also, the US support for dictators and the overthrow of democratically elected governments that lean to the left has been the norm, but only Cuba has been able to withstand the unrelenting US subversion.

It is also important to recognize the history of Cuba.  Exploited first by the Spanish and then by the US who supported the likes of Batista and the US mob operations in Havana.  It must be recognized that much of Cuba was exploited by US owned sugar plantations that provided a few months of work each year, restricted the ability of farmers to use vacant land and provided no social services, hospitals or schools.  This resulted in oppressive conditions for many Cuban families and widespread illiteracy.  But much of this changed after the Revolution which heralded high rates of literacy, more social equality. access to education and to health care.  This has been followed by an enviable achievement in medical internationalism and support to other developing countries and the development of a pharmaceutical industry with many successes in tropical disease and COVID 19 vaccines.

All of this in the face of the US unrelenting blockade and covert support of dissidence.  I am not saying that Cuba is perfect.  There is much left to be done and Cubans are facing difficult times and much would be improved if the blockade were to be suspended.  And if covert support for dissidents stopped, then the government would have no excuses for repression of Cuban’s expressing their frustrations.  This is made worse by admitted erroneous reporting by the media..  Showing crowds of Cubans demonstrating in support of the Cuban government and then claiming them to be dissidents calling for the overthrow of the government is not constructive.

For outsiders, it is difficult to get access to fair media coverage and analysis.  There are articles such as that by Leyva, but there is information from people recently or currently in Cuba who say that the coverage often reports legitimate demonstrations complaining about the pandemic or the economy as calls for regime change – which they often are not.  If we want to help the people of Cuba, we need to focus on them and not political differences.  Like all of the western democracies, we have been working on democracy since the Magna Carta in 1215 and had many revolutions and demonstrations along the way.  Cuba has had 60 years.  Let’s give them some breathing space for orderly self determination.

For now, Canada should avoid the US bandwagon, respect the incredible progress of Cuba from the colonial era and use our influence to stop the US embargo/blockade and covert efforts at regime change.  Many Canadian visitors to Cuba and Canadian academics who specialize in Cuban issues share this view.

…..

Cuba-Canada Relations a Generation Ago: Margaret, Fidel and Pierre.

CUBA, LE CANADA ET LES DROITS DE LA PERSONNE

Le vent de changement qui souffle sur Cuba et la répression grandissante doivent forcer le Canada à repenser ses relations bilatérales avec La Havane.


 Original Article: Cuba, le Canada et les droits de la personne

par Karel J. Leyva,  11 novembre 2021

La nature dictatoriale du régime cubain a été reconnue à plusieurs reprises par des représentants du gouvernement canadien. En 2009, le ministre des Affaires étrangères Peter Kent a déclaré que Cuba est « une dictature, peu importe comment on la présente ». En 2016, Stéphane Dion, alors également ministre des Affaires étrangères, l’a reconnu lorsque la journaliste de Radio-Canada Emmanuelle Latraverse lui a demandé s’il trouvait approprié le ton employé par Justin Trudeau pour annoncer sa tristesse à la mort de Fidel Castro. La journaliste rappelait alors qu’il s’agissait d’un dictateur qui avait emprisonné des dizaines de milliers de Cubains et exécuté ses opposants. La même année, Justin Trudeau a fini par reconnaître que Castro était bel et bien un dictateur.

En 2018, le Canada est allé jusqu’à présenter au régime cubain une série de recommandations concernant les droits civils et politiques, dont celle de garantir que tout individu arrêté soit informé sans retard des raisons de son arrêt, qu’il ait accès à un avocat de son choix et qu’il ait droit dans des délais raisonnables à une audience publique où il est présumé innocent.

Lorsque le régime a brutalement réprimé les manifestations pacifiques de son peuple, le 11 juillet 2021, le gouvernement canadien a une fois de plus reconnu la nature dictatoriale du régime et ses violations des droits et libertés. Le ministre canadien des Affaires étrangères Marc Garneau a rencontré son homologue cubain pour lui faire part des profondes préoccupations du Canada concernant la violente répression des manifestations à Cuba, en particulier les détentions arbitraires et les mesures répressives contre les manifestants pacifiques, les journalistes et les militants.

Sans surprise, les recommandations canadiennes en matière de droits de la personne présentées à Cuba n’ont pas été prises en compte. Au contraire, comme le souligne le plus récent rapport d’Amnistie internationale, le gouvernement cubain continue de réprimer la dissidence sous toutes ses formes en emprisonnant des responsables politiques, des journalistes indépendants et des artistes, et en harcelant des poètes, des membres de la communauté LGBTQ et des universitaires.

Une attitude contradictoire

Ces prises de position du gouvernement canadien soutiennent la légitimité des revendications démocratiques du peuple cubain qui se traduisent, par exemple, par une augmentation soutenue du nombre de protestations politiques recensées par l’Observatorio Cubano de Conflictos. Mais, contrairement au traitement que le Canada réserve à d’autres dictatures, les dénonciations d’Ottawa n’ont aucune incidence sur ses relations bilatérales avec La Havane.

Contrairement au traitement que le Canada réserve à d’autres dictatures, les dénonciations d’Ottawa n’ont aucune incidence sur ses relations bilatérales avec La Havane.

En fait, non seulement le Canada accorde de l’aide financière directe au régime de La Havane, mais il a également harmonisé sa programmation de développement international avec certaines priorités définies par le gouvernement cubain. D’autres régimes autoritaires ne jouissent pas du même traitement. Par exemple, l’aide humanitaire que le Canada accorde à la Corée du Nord se transmet par le biais de partenaires multilatéraux, car le Canada n’apporte aucune contribution financière directe à ce régime. Des sanctions semblables ont été imposées au Nicaragua et au Venezuela afin d’envoyer un message clair en ce qui a trait aux droits de la personne.

Le cas de Cuba demeure une exception. L’intolérance du Canada face aux violations des droits civils et politiques dénote donc une attitude à géométrie variable.

Une situation qui se dégrade, malgré des pressions qui s’intensifient

La résolution du Parlement européen sur la situation des droits de l’homme et la situation politique à Cuba, adoptée en juin 2021, souligne que depuis l’entrée en vigueur, il y a quatre ans, de l’Accord de dialogue politique et de coopération avec Cuba, non seulement ce pays n’a accompli aucun progrès au regard des objectifs définis par l’accord, mais le régime cubain a intensifié la répression et les violations des droits de l’homme. La situation politique et économique s’est détériorée, provoquant une nouvelle vague d’actions de résistance pacifique violemment réprimées par le régime.

Un article d’Options politiques publié en 2006 soulignait que la politique d’engagement constructif du premier ministre Chrétien à l’égard de Cuba n’a favorisé ni la démocratisation ni l’amélioration de la situation des droits de la personne. De même, les politiques de négligence « relativement bénigne » des premiers ministres Martin et Harper n’ont pas eu d’effet sur Cuba non plus. Et le gouvernement actuel ne montre pas de volonté franche à faire progresser les droits et libertés des Cubains. Il serait donc temps que le Canada repense ses relations bilatérales avec le régime de La Havane. Le Canada doit trouver un équilibre entre la realpolitik et son engagement à promouvoir la démocratie et les droits de la personne. C’est le peuple cubain, et non le régime, qui « a besoin de plus de Canada ».

L’insoutenable ambivalence du Canada

On pourrait se demander quel serait l’impact réel de l’application de sanctions canadiennes sur un régime qui, depuis des décennies, a démontré une grande résilience face aux pressions internationales, notamment américaines. Au-delà du fait qu’en matière de droits de la personne, adopter une moralité politique à géométrie variable n’est pas une attitude éthiquement acceptable, le contexte politique actuel justifierait pleinement un changement de posture de la part du gouvernement du Canada. Voici cinq tendances récentes qui soutiennent cette affirmation.

Le contexte politique actuel justifierait pleinement un changement de posture de la part du gouvernement du Canada

Premièrement, bien que le gouvernement cubain ait toujours violé de manière systématique les droits de la personne, ces violations se sont aggravées considérablement au cours des dernières années. Depuis le rassemblement de plus de 300 artistes, intellectuels et journalistes devant le ministère de la Culture, le 27 novembre 2020, pour réclamer le droit à la liberté d’expression et la cessation de la répression, le nombre de détentions arbitraires n’a fait qu’augmenter. Selon les rapports de l’Observatoire cubain des droits de la personne, entre février et juin 2021, 2 906 actions répressives, y compris 734 détentions arbitraires, ont eu lieu à Cuba. L’ampleur de la répression s’est accrue après le 11 juillet, lorsque des centaines de milliers de Cubains ont marché pacifiquement pour réclamer la démocratie. Les manifestants ont été accueillis par des balles, des passages à tabac et des chiens lâchés sur eux. Par la suite, les agents de sécurité de l’État n’ont eu de cesse de se rendre au domicile de manifestants identifiés, de les détenir sans mandat d’arrêt, puis de les condamner lors de procès sommaires souvent menés sans avocat. Le rapport de Prisoners Defenders du 6 octobre 2021 souligne qu’un record historique de 525 prisonniers politiques au cours des 12 derniers mois vient d’être établi à Cuba. Ce document estime entre 5 000 et 8 000 le nombre d’arrestations arbitraires des suites de violences policières depuis le 11 juillet, parmi lesquelles certaines victimes ont dénoncé des tortures. Les personnes qui ont déjà été libérées l’ont été au prix d’amendes très élevées équivalant à plusieurs mois de salaires à Cuba. Selon un document produit par l’ONG Cubalex, certains font face à des peines de prison allant jusqu’à 27 ans. Un citoyen canadien de 19 ans a été emprisonné et est actuellement obligé d’effectuer des travaux forcés, malgré de graves problèmes de santé.

Deuxièmement, la nature même des violations a pris une nouvelle ampleur durant cette même période. Domiciles de militants assiégés, menaces, harcèlement, coupures d’Internet, amendes élevées, actes de répudiation et licenciements sont devenus la norme à Cuba. En outre, le récent décret-loi 35, qui renforce les contrôles sur la liberté d’expression dans les médias sociaux à Cuba, contrevient aux dispositions des articles 41, 46, 50 et 54 de la Constitution de la République de Cuba, tout en étant contraire aux traités internationaux ratifiés par le gouvernement de ce pays. De plus, les acteurs ciblés ne sont plus exclusivement des dissidents politiques. Ce sont des adolescentes menacées de viol par des agents de l’État, des journalistes contraints de se déshabiller devant des militaires dans une salle d’interrogatoire ou humiliés et agressés sexuellement, des grands maîtres des échecs en grève de la faim détenus arbitrairement, des médecins et des professeurs expulsés de leur emploi pour avoir fait la promotion du respect des droits fondamentaux, des poètes harcelés par la police à leur domicile, des jeunes de 14 à 17 ans détenus et des activistes forcés de rester dans leur maison durant des mois. Pour le Canada, il n’est désormais plus possible de croire l’argument traditionnel du gouvernement cubain selon lequel la contestation serait alimentée par des groupes radicaux basés à Miami.

Il n’est désormais plus possible de croire l’argument traditionnel du gouvernement cubain selon lequel la contestation serait alimentée par des groupes radicaux basés à Miami.

Troisièmement, il existe une conscience internationale croissante à l’égard de la dégradation du respect des droits de la personne à Cuba et une conviction morale que la situation qui en résulte est inacceptable. À la suite des sanctions de l’administration Biden envers des responsables des attaques contre les manifestants cubains, le Parlement européen a émis une résolution, le 16 septembre 2021, sur la répression gouvernementale visant les manifestations et les citoyens à Cuba. La naissance du mouvement 27N et la répression constante de ses membres ont donné une nouvelle visibilité à la fois nationale et internationale à la situation des droits de la personne à Cuba. Des publications sur ce mouvement dans la revue du Museum of Modern Art de New York en font foi, tout comme la nomination de l’artiste Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, leader du mouvement 27N emprisonné le 11 juillet, parmi les 100 personnalités les plus influentes de l’année selon le magazine Time. Les nombreuses manifestations contre la dictature organisées par des Cubains en exil aux quatre coins du monde ont également contribué à cette visibilité.

Quatrièmement, la communauté de Canadiens d’origine cubaine est devenue très active politiquement. Des dizaines de manifestations exigeant du gouvernement canadien des mesures concrètes contre la dictature cubaine ont déjà eu lieu au Canada. Des pétitions ont été présentées à la Chambre des communes demandant au gouvernement canadien de soutenir le peuple cubain face à la forte intensification de la répression. Des rencontres ont été organisées avec des sénateurs et des députés pour exiger que le Canada s’engage envers les droits de la personne et la démocratie à Cuba. Le gouvernement fédéral se trouve ainsi sous la pression des politiciens et de la société civile canadienne, qui lui demandent tous de mettre fin à sa complaisance à l’égard du régime de La Havane.

Enfin, la tendance à la hausse du nombre de protestations politiques à Cuba depuis 2020 s’est cristallisée dans l’explosion sociale survenue le 11 juillet dans plus de 60 endroits, événement sans précédent en 62 ans de dictature. Il serait faux de réduire les revendications de ce mouvement aux seuls enjeux économiques et sanitaires. Les vidéos qui circulent montrent le peuple cubain demandant liberté et démocratie. Pour seule réponse, le président cubain a ordonné aux « révolutionnaires » de réprimer et de battre les manifestants pacifiques.

Néanmoins, malgré la peur que cette période de terreur a générée au sein des familles cubaines, de nouveaux mouvements sociaux et des alliances sont en train de se créer dans la société civile du pays. De nouvelles marches pacifiques sont prévues, comme celle qui est organisée pour le 15 novembre prochain par le groupe de la société civile cubaine Archipiélago – une nouvelle plateforme de représentation citoyenne – et le Conseil pour la transition démocratique à Cuba.

Le gouvernement a répondu en convoquant à plusieurs reprises les signataires devant les autorités et en les menaçant d’emprisonnement. Il a également eu recours à la diffamation publique, à des coupures de téléphone et d’Internet, et à l’intimidation. La maison du leader d’Archipiélago a été vandalisée avec des pigeons décapités, de la terre et du sang. Les rues commencent déjà à se militariser et le gouvernement arme des groupes au moyen de fusils automatiques et de bâtons. Les images qui circulent donnent froid dans le dos et beaucoup craignent que la journée ne se solde par des violences et des emprisonnements. Dans le but de soutenir la marche, la société civile transnationale cubaine a organisé des manifestations dans 80 villes à travers le monde, dont Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto et Calgary.

Le Canada devrait accompagner le peuple cubain dans sa quête de liberté au lieu de se contenter de soutenir, comme il le fait, le « processus de modernisation de l’économie » amorcé par le régime ou de lui fournir une aide financière dont le peuple ne bénéficie pas, mais qui semble plutôt servir à acheter des équipements antiémeutes modernes jamais vus auparavant à Cuba. Pourquoi un gouvernement qui, l’an dernier, en pleine crise sanitaire et économique, a importé d’Espagne pour plus d’un million d’euros de matériel militaire aurait-il besoin de l’aide financière du Canada ?

Un aveu de complicité

Refuser de sanctionner les responsables de ces violations des droits de la personne constitue un aveu de complicité avec un régime en pleine décadence qui n’a aucune légitimité politique et qui est même condamné sur la scène internationale pour esclavage moderne. Non seulement une telle abstention minerait l’image du Canada en tant que l’un des principaux défenseurs des droits de la personne dans le monde, mais il mettrait le pays sur la sellette par rapport au traitement à la carte qu’il réserve à différentes dictatures. Le Canada a signé avec les États-Unis et le Parlement européen une déclaration commune appelant à un processus de négociation global dans le but de restaurer les institutions au Venezuela, d’y organiser des élections crédibles et de revoir les sanctions en fonction des progrès réalisés dans ce pays. Comment, alors, expliquer qu’il n’envisage même pas de repenser ses relations avec le régime de La Havane, qui non seulement commet lui aussi des violations flagrantes de droits et des libertés, mais qui est considéré comme un acteur crucial de la crise vénézuélienne ?

Fort de sa réputation de défenseur des droits et libertés partout dans le monde, le Canada pourrait jouer un rôle décisif en joignant sa voix au nombre grandissant de celles qui soutiennent une transition démocratique à Cuba.

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