• 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."

Wall Street Journal Editorial, BIDEN SHOULD RETURN TO ENGAGEMENT WITH CUBA

It would benefit ordinary Cubans and put the onus on the regime to respond.

By Editorial Board , Wall Street Journal

March 11, 2021, 8:00 a.m. EST

Original Article: Engagement with Cuba

USA and CUBA

House Democrats are reportedly pressing President Joe Biden to reverse U.S. policy on Cuba once again, returning to the detente that prevailed before Donald Trump took office. Biden should indeed take the first steps toward renewed openness — and put the onus on Cuba’s Communist leaders to respond.

As with so many of his predecessor’s policies, Trump was quick to declare the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Cuba a “bad deal” and began dismantling it wholesale, imposing or re-imposing more than 200 restrictions on travel, trade, and financial and diplomatic ties. The clampdown won Trump votes in southern Florida, but by almost any other measure it failed. Cuba’s Communist regime remains firmly entrenched. If anything, it’s grown even more dependent on U.S. rivals Venezuela, Russia and China. Hardliners in Havana have continued to crack down on dissent. Cuban entrepreneurs flourished when Americans were allowed to visit the island, but the combined impact of revived U.S. restrictions and the pandemic have left them struggling.

None of this serves U.S. interests. Under Obama, the U.S. and Cuba struck more than 20 agreements that addressed U.S. security concerns, on issues ranging from counter-narcotics to the environment. Biden should open the door to renewing such cooperation.

That will require lifting Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, which the Trump administration imposed in its closing days with no real justification. Biden will also need to restore frayed diplomatic ties — appointing an ambassador, staffing up the U.S. embassy (taking additional security precautions while the cause of a mysterious illness that struck U.S. diplomats in recent years remains under investigation), and resuming consular services so Cubans can travel to the U.S. again. The two sides should cooperate on public health to combat the pandemic and restart talks on security issues.

Further opening should focus for now on improving the lives of Cubans on and off the island. The administration should lift restrictions on remittances. And it should allow travel to the island, because American visitors are good for local enterprise. That means permitting flights to cities other than Havana and people-to-people exchanges, while drawing up a shorter “restricted list” of entities with which Americans are forbidden to do business.

Cuba shouldn’t expect the U.S. to lift more targeted sanctions, however, let alone the decades-old embargo — whose provisions are now codified into U.S. law — unless it begins to move, too. Among other things, that means addressing certified claims for property seized after the 1959 revolution, now estimated at nearly $9 billion with interest. Cuba’s leaders should play a constructive role in resolving the Venezuelan crisis and improve their record on human rights at home. The government has recently taken some steps to rationalize the country’s currency system and promote the private sector, but should do more to open the economy to outside investment. The Communist Party transition next month, when 89-year-old Raul Castro is scheduled to step down, offers a moment for the regime to affirm its intention to reform.

Stubborn and suspicious as they may be, Cuba’s leaders should remember two things. First, all these measures are in their nation’s own best interests. Second, any thaw in relations will be temporary unless Biden can point to results. The Cuban regime made a big mistake in failing to build on Obama’s initiative, leading many in the U.S. to conclude that engagement was pointless. The next detente will fail unless it benefits Americans and Cubans alike.

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INVERSIÓN EN CUBA: LAS PRINCIPALES BARRERAS ESTÁN EN MANOS DEL GOBIERNO

Si de verdad el Gobierno cubano quiere promover la inversión en el país, debe terminar con la política de ‘para los extranjeros todo, para los cubanos nada’.

Emilio Morales

Diario de Cuba,  16 Mar 2021 – 12:08 CET

Articulo Original: INVERSIÓN EN CUBA

Cuando un inversionista se pregunta cuáles son las verdaderas oportunidades que existen en Cuba para llevar a cabo un proyecto de inversión, tiene que poner su mirada en las dos grandes limitantes que hoy existen en la Isla:

1. Lo poco atractivo que es el mercado nacional por las barreras que el Gobierno impone con su bloqueo interno, tanto a los cubanos residentes en la Isla como a los residentes en el exterior, lo cual incluye limitaciones de tipo legal, la falta de seguridad jurídica, la intermediación del Estado para la contratación de mano de obra, y para decidir quién, en qué y cómo invierte. Además, debe tener en cuenta otros aspectos, como por ejemplo la propia centralización de la economía, la falta de liquidez, el endeudamiento o el no cumplimiento de los pagos.

2. El embargo estadounidense y la activación del Título III de la ley Helms-Burton.

Bloqueo interno y otras limitaciones

De los puntos mencionados, el primero es el de mayor peso. Es obvio que el bloqueo interno que mantiene el Gobierno cubano sobre sus propios ciudadanos para impedirles generar riqueza es la camisa de fuerza que ha mantenido por más de 60 años las oportunidades de inversión en la Isla en el eterno limbo del “no se puede”.

El principal atractivo de cualquier país para atraer la inversión extranjera es el ambiente de libertad empresarial que pueda tener en su propio mercado, amparado por leyes que estimulen, protejan y promuevan el emprendimiento ciudadano. A esto se sumaría el tener fuerza de trabajo calificada y oportunidades de desarrollo para cualquier proyecto o negocio en el mercado interno, que permita satisfacer la demanda de productos y servicios tanto de los ciudadanos como de las empresas.

Obviamente estas condiciones no existen hoy en Cuba. No han existido por seis décadas. La élite de poder ha concentrado en manos del Estado las estructuras productivas del país, ha subordinado la economía y las instituciones a la ideología y ha sometido a la población a un régimen de control, privándola de sus derechos de libertad, opinión, libre asociación y de generación de riqueza.

Continue Reading: Inversión en Cuba

Mariel, April 2015
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WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO SALVAGE CUBA’S ECONOMY?

Mar 12 2021

On March 9, 2021, the Inter-American Dialogue hosted the online event What Will It Take to Salvage Cuba’s Economy?”. The event featured opening remarks from Michael Shifter, president of the Dialogue, who also served as the moderator. The panel of experts included Pavel Vidal Alejandro, professor of Economics at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Cali, Colombia; Ted Henken, associate professor for the department of Sociology at Baruch College, CUNY; and Vicki Huddleston, retired US Ambassador & former chief of the US Interests Section in Havana. The panel explored what effect the Cuban’s government 2021 economic reforms will have on the economy, the private sector, and Cuban foreign relations.

WATCH THE FULL RECORDING OF THE EVENT HERE:

Vidal Alejandro started by highlighting the Cuban government’s historical resilience in terms of getting through the hardest of economic and political times. He compared the current moment to the Cuban government’s economic decline after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s. Although the contemporary and historical struggles are different, he was confident that the Cuban government will eventually figure out how to navigate their economic reforms and all that comes with it, as they once did three decades back.

Both Vidal Alejandro and Henken recommend expanding the private sector and allowing businesses more freedom as a strategy to revive the Cuban economy. Henken stated that “Cuba went from a situation where the government told you what you could do to now the Cuban government telling you what you can’t do.” He further affirmed that while it is positive that the Cuban government is listening and changing things based on feedback, the slower the reforms come to place, the more the people that will leave the country. All the panelists agreed that only time will tell if the Cuban government carries through with its promises and enforces its new policies.

Huddleston suggested that the Biden administration should allow for higher levels of remittances, Covid-19 cooperation, and humanitarian assistance. She also emphasized on the importance of reviewing Cuba policy in order to remove sanctions, which have hurt the Cuban people. According to Huddleston, there are multiple avenues for the United States to capitalize on Cuba’s economic reform and forge a renewed relationship with the Cuban people.

Overall, panelists were optimistic about the future of the Cuban economy and the prospects for foreign investment. The new single national currency and official exchange rates will make it easier to calculate return on investments and to understand financial risks around projects in the island. In closing, it was mentioned that what remains to be seen is whether or not the government will continue to let go of some of its control: banning less and less activities and taking constructive criticism from the entrepreneurial sector, a previously unheard-of act. The speed at which the Cuban government makes these reforms is critical due to the growing impatience of Cuban professionals who are deliberating whether or not to leave the country.

WATCH THE FULL RECORDING OF THE EVENT HERE:

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New Publication: CUBA EMPRESARIAL: EMPRENDEDORES ANTE UNA CAMBIANTE POLÍTICA PÚBLICA

March 12, 2021 by Arch Ritter

I have just received a copy of our new volume,

CUBA  EMPRESARIAL. EMPRENDEDORES ANTE UNA CAMBIANTE POLÍTICA PÚBLICA, by Ted Henken and Archibald Ritter, 2020, Editorial Hypermedia Del Libro of Spain.  This is an up-dated Spanish-language version of the book ENTREPRENEURIAL CUBA: THE CHANGING POLICY LANDSCAPE, by Archibald Ritter and Ted Henken.

The publication details of the volume are as follows:

  • Paperback : 536 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1948517612
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1948517614
  • Dimensions : 6 x 1.34 x 9 inches
  • Item Weight : 1.96 pounds
  • Publisher : Editorial Hypermedia Inc
  • Publication Date: November 19, 2020
  • Language: : Spanish
  • Paperback, $21.90

Nuestro nuevo libro sobre el sector empresarial de Cuba, “Entre el dicho y el hecho va un buen trecho” a la venta AHORA a un precio accesible: US $21.90. It can be ordered from Amazon here: Cuba empresarial: Emprendedores ante una cambiante política pública (Spanish Edition): Henken, Ted A, Ritter, Archibald R. M.: 9781948517614: Amazon.com: Books

Some Brief Reviews:

Carmelo Mesa-Lago. Hasta ahora, este libro es el más completo y profundo sobre la iniciativa privada en Cuba.

Cardiff Garcia. Este libro aporta una lúcida explicación a la particular interacción entre el incipiente sector privado en Cuba y los sectores gubernamentales dominantes. 

Sergio Díaz-Briquets. Cuba empresarial es una lectura obligada para los interesados en la situación actual del país. Su publicación es oportuna no sólo por lo que revela sobre la situación económica, social y política, sino también por sus percepciones sobre la evolución futura de Cuba.

 

Richard Feinberg.Los autores reconocen la importancia de las reformas de Raúl Castro, aunque las consideran insuficientes para sacar a la economía cubana de su estancamiento. 

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SUGAR HARVEST NO SWEETENER FOR CUBA’S AILING ECONOMY

By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) March 12, 2021

Original Article: Cuba’s Sugar Harvest arvest

Hopes in Cuba that sugar exports would soften an economic slowdown and plug an exchangeable currency gap appear in vain, with state media reports of output at least 200,000 metric tons short of forecasts for the end of February.

While no longer a top export and behind other foreign revenue earners such as medical services, tourism, remittances and nickel, sugar still brings Cuba hundreds of millions of dollars a year from exports, including derivatives, while also producing energy, alcohol and animal feed at home.

Like other industries, agriculture and cane cultivation face structural problems in the Communist-run import dependent command economy, which the government is only just addressing.  In the last six months it has adopted monetary and other market-oriented reforms, but these will take time to kick in.

Julio Andres Garcia, president of the Caribbean island nation’s sugar monopoly AZCUBA, said in December that the state-owned industry would produce 1.2 million metric tons of raw sugar in 2021, similar to the previous year.

Cuba’s output has averaged around 1.4 million metric tons of raw sugar over the last five years, compared with an industry high of 8 million tons in 1989.

The harvest runs from November into May with peak yields from January through mid-April.

Reuters estimates based on available data and local sources that this year’s harvest will come in under one million metric tons of raw sugar for the first time since 1908, and perhaps as low as 900,000 tons, a 25% decline.  All 13 sugar-producing provinces were behind schedule as March began, and the five largest producers Ciego de Avila, Camaguey, Villa Clara, Holguin and Las Tunas provinces by between 25,000 and 50,000 metric tons of raw sugar each.

The harvest has been plagued by a dearth of fuel and spare parts for mills and machinery, cane shortages and low yields and a COVID-19 outbreak in at least one of 38 active mills.

Cuba consumes between 600,000 and 700,000 metric tons of sugar a year and has a 400,000 metric ton toll deal with China.

Tough U.S. sanctions and the pandemic, which have gutted tourism, have cut into Cuban foreign exchange earnings causing scarcity, job losses and an 11% economic contraction in 2020.  So far this year appears no better, with the pandemic keeping visitors away, no change in U.S. policy and the scarcity of foreign currency leading to shortages of fuel, agricultural inputs and a general scarcity of even basic consumer goods.

The government reported that foreign exchange earnings were just 55% of planned last year, in part because the harvest came in 300,000 metric tons short, while imports fell between 30% and 40%. It did not provide further details.

“There is no reason to believe the shortfall will be made up and every reason to believe it could become worse,” a Cuban sugar expert said, requesting anonymity due to restrictions on talking to foreign journalists.

Fidel, Machetero, 1969
Repairs before the Zafra, Central Australia, 1995
Zafra, Canecutters, Oriente Province, 2021
Firing Up the Mill, 2021
Mechanized Harvest, 2021
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EL TRAGO AMARGO DE LA UNIFICACIÓN MONETARIA

Pavel Vidal
Profesor de la Universidad Javeriana Cali


Se requiere más tiempo para que se estabilicen los nuevos equilibrios y la economía reaccione con energía a los nuevas señales e incentivos. Con reformas estructurales complementarias se pueden acortar estos tiempos y potenciar la reacción.

March 04, 2021

No debería sorprender el remezón que la devaluación del peso cubano y salida del CUC están provocando en

  • los costos de producción,
  • los precios mayoristas,
  • el valor de la canasta básica,
  • las tarifas eléctricas y los precios de los mercados agropecuarios,
  • de trabajadores por cuenta propia y
  • de todo tipo de transacciones en los mercados informales.

No debería ser motivo de asombro, aunque sí de mucho análisis, que esté cambiando radicalmente la realidad financiera de empresas estatales, cooperativas, negocios privados y hogares. Se trata de una devaluación de 24 veces de la tasa de cambio oficial y de alrededor de 10 veces de la tasa de cambio promedio en la economía,[1] una de las mayores en la historia de tipos de cambio múltiples en América Latina.

Durante mucho tiempo los economistas explicamos que la unificación monetaria constituiría un choque financiero inmediato con múltiples beneficios, pero que en su mayoría se materializarían gradualmente en el mediano y largo plazo. Nunca se ocultó que era un trago amargo para el sistema productivo, pero que había que tomarlo porque es imposible desarrollar una economía con dos monedas nacionales y múltiples tipos de cambio.

Con estas distorsiones monetarias llevábamos casi tres décadas completas midiendo mal los hechos económicos, sobrevalorando o subvalorando costos de producción, salarios, retornos y riesgos financieros, deudas y activos financieros, minimizando el valor de muchas buenas decisiones económicas y ocultando el costo de un montón de malas decisiones y reformas pospuestas. No todo lo que hicimos antes de 2021 estuvo mal calculado, pero sí una gran parte.

La unificación monetaria representa un choque financiero que produce cambios en los precios relativos a una velocidad mucho mayor que la capacidad de respuesta promedio del sistema productivo. Durante un tiempo las unidades económicas quedan atrapadas en el medio, gran parte de lo que venían haciendo ya no tiene sentido económico, pero todavía no logran entender todo lo nuevo que deben hacer, y cuando comienzan a comprenderlo no tienen la forma de reaccionar en la proporción que necesitan. En correspondencia, las políticas económicas necesitarían trabajar en dos aspectos fundamentales para mermar el impacto de corto plazo del choque financiero: minimizar la incertidumbre y aumentar la capacidad de reacción de las unidades económicas.

El éxito de la reforma monetaria no está garantizado por el solo hecho que la unificación de las monedas y las tasas de cambio oficiales eliminan distorsiones.

En estos dos frentes hay muchas cosas que el propio diseño inicial de la “tarea ordenamiento” ya tiene incorporado, y hay muchas otras que se podrían añadir. El diálogo permanente de las autoridades económicas con los empresarios estatales, agricultores, emprendedores privados, empresarios extranjeros y gobiernos locales será una fuente de información fundamental para corregir y negociar lo que no se previó. Para aumentar la capacidad de respuesta son varias las reformas estructurales que se deben ir acometiendo. En este caso hay recomendaciones elaboradas por economistas como Pedro Monreal, Ileana Díaz, Mauricio de Miranda, Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Omar Everleny, Oscar Fernández, Juan Triana y Ricardo Torres, entre otros.

Es importante subrayar que el éxito de la reforma monetaria no está garantizado por el solo hecho que la unificación de las monedas y las tasas de cambio oficiales eliminan distorsiones. La política económica no puede achantarse y esperar a que se vayan materializando los beneficios de mediano y largo plazo. Tampoco puede caer en la complacencia de publicitar algunos de los beneficios puntuales que se pueden apreciar en el corto plazo, tales como más personas buscando trabajos formales o determinados ahorros en el consumo de los hogares. Son buenas señales y constituyen los primeros ejemplos de lo que se puede lograr con un cambio en los incentivos económicos, pero distan mucho del cambio estructural y el salto de eficiencia que podría derivarse de la “tarea ordenamiento”, que evidencie que valió la pena asumir el riesgo de devaluar 10 veces la moneda en un solo día.

El gobierno tampoco debería prometer y forzar unos beneficios irrealizables de corto plazo, especialmente en lo que tiene que ver con el aumento del poder adquisitivo de los salarios y las pensiones. Las proyecciones contrafactuales siempre son muy especulativas, pero podría decirse que en un escenario hipotético sin pandemia y sin una caída del 11% del PIB, tal vez sí se hubiese podido lograr algún aumento de los salarios y pensiones reales a partir de la redistribución de riqueza e ingresos y de un cambio en la estructura del gasto público. Esta era el escenario de la reforma monetaria en el papel, pero la realidad de 2020 y 2021 ya sabemos que es otra muy diferente.

Pretender que este aumento nominal de ingresos se vaya a traducir en mejoras reales en el contexto actual no es realista.

Entiendo que la manera en que el equipo económico técnico logró “vender” políticamente la “tarea ordenamiento” fue combinando la devaluación de la tasa de cambio con el aumento de salarios y pensiones. Sin embargo, pretender que este aumento nominal de ingresos se vaya a traducir en mejoras reales en el contexto actual no es realista, genera falsas expectativas y promueve incentivos perversos en los entes reguladores y políticos. En un reciente panel en la Asociación de Estudios Cubanos (ASCE) presenté una estimación que apunta a una probable caída de alrededor del 15% del salario promedio real en el sector estatal en 2021. De lograrse en el complejo escenario económico y financiero actual, esto debería apreciarse como un gran logro.[2]

Para esclarecer mi posición, creo que fue acertado combinar ambas acciones de política económica, incluso (y especialmente) en el escenario de 2021. El aumento nominal de salarios y pensiones permite proteger a un grupo grande de hogares de los costos sociales de la devaluación. Pero es diferente presentar el aumento salarial y de pensiones como una protección, a prometer un incremento de los ingresos reales en medio de un ajuste tremendo de la tasa de cambio y de los precios relativos, en una economía que ha visto reducida prácticamente a cero una de sus principales fuentes de ingresos externos por la caída internacional del turismo.

Es este mismo panel en ASCE expuse una proyección de inflación que ubica la tasa más probable para este año alrededor de 500%. Cerca del 300% de la inflación se debería al efecto traspaso, es decir, al impacto de la devaluación de la tasa de cambio sobre los precios. El otro 200% se explicaría principalmente por el exceso de demanda, es decir, el aumento de salario por encima de la productividad. Y es importante anotar que en este escenario ya se reconoce el esfuerzo del gobierno para intervenir administrativamente y controlar el efecto traspaso, tomando en consideración los límites que ha colocado el Ministerio de Finanzas a los precios mayoristas empresariales y los subsidios que se mantienen. En este escenario de inflación de 500% se asume que con estas regulaciones el gobierno podría llevar el traspaso al valor medio que se observa en las economías en desarrollo, según las estimaciones del Banco Mundial.[3] De hecho, si no se considera el efecto de estas regulaciones del Ministerio de Finanzas, la inflación superaría los 900% y el salario real caería un 50%.

Bajo estos cálculos, tanto el objetivo oficial de aumento de los precios promedios en solo 1,4 veces, como el objetivo de aumento del poder adquisitivo de salarios y pensiones parecen inalcanzables este año. Estimular a los entes reguladores y políticos a reprimir la inflación más allá de lo que es posible va a provocar más daño que beneficio, y puede llevar a destruir los mismos resortes que se necesita para la recuperación. Una vez más podemos recordar el fracaso en obtener los 10 millones de la zafra de 1970 y el desgaste que representó concentrar los esfuerzos en un objetivo inalcanzable.

Se puede reconocer la necesidad de regular …los precios de las empresas estatales y de otros mercados donde primen estructuras monopólicas, pero es un error imponer precios donde existen mercados que pueden cumplir esta función sin intervención estatal.

En una economía más descentralizada, con un número mayor de actores económicos y mercados más abiertos y competitivos, la mayor parte de las correcciones de precios relativos podrían confiarse a las interacciones y contrapesos del sistema productivo, pero dada la estructura monopólica y cerrada de donde parte el ajuste monetario cubano, la negociación y la corrección sistemática de los controles de precios es la única vía para compensar parcialmente la rigidez e ineficiencia inherente a la fijación centralizada de los precios. Se puede reconocer la necesidad de regular mediante medidas administrativas los precios de las empresas estatales y de otros mercados donde primen estructuras monopólicas, pero es un error imponer precios donde existen mercados que pueden cumplir esta función sin intervención estatal.

El éxito de la “tarea ordenamiento” no puede medirse a partir de los indicadores de 2021. La tasa de cambio y los precios se han movido en una mejor dirección, pero con una alta velocidad y en un complejo contexto. Se requiere más tiempo para que se estabilicen los nuevos equilibrios y la economía reaccione con energía a los nuevas señales e incentivos. Con reformas estructurales complementarias se pueden acortar estos tiempos y potenciar la reacción.

[1] Tomando en cuenta que la población y el sector privado operaban desde antes con la tasa 24 pesos por dólar, y que en 2021 el mercado paralelo refleja una tasa de 50 pesos por dólar.

[2] Ver panel junto con Ricardo Torres y Carmelo Mesa-Lago en la Asociación de Estudios Cubanos (ASCE) el 16 de febrero de 2021

[3] Banco Mundial: “Special Topic. Exchange Rate Pass-Through and Inflation Trends in Developing Countries” Global Economic Prospects, junio de 2014.

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CUBAN ANTI-COMMUNIST ANTHEM FEATURING GENTE DE ZONA GOES VIRAL, SPARKS STATE FURY

Reuters, February 20, 2021.

By Sarah Marsh, Rodrigo Gutierrez

Original Article: Anthem Featuring “Gente de Zona” Sparks State Fury

HAVANA (Reuters) – A group of Miami-based Cuban musicians including reggaeton duo Gente de Zona launched an impassioned anti-Communist anthem this week that has gone viral, sparking a furious state response.

Gente de Zona, Yotuel of hip-hop band Orishas fame and singer-songwriter Descemer Bueno collaborated on the song with two rappers in Cuba, Maykel Osorbo and El Funky, who are part of a dissident artists’ collective that sparked an unusual protest against repression outside the culture ministry last November.

“Homeland and Life” repurposes the old slogan “Patria o Muerte” (“Homeland or Death”) emblazoned on walls across the Caribbean country ever since Fidel Castro’s 1959 leftist revolution and expresses frustration with being required to make sacrifices in the name of ideology for 62 years.

The lyrics refer to ideological intolerance, the partial dollarization of the economy, food shortages and the exodus of young Cubans who see no future on the island. The government blames its economic woes largely on crippling U.S. sanctions.

The video here featuring the five artists – all Black men – has racked up 1 million views on YouTube in three days, sparking lively discussions on social media, while many in Cuba – where internet service is costly – are sharing it on USB sticks.

“No more lies, my people calls for freedom, no more doctrines” sings Alexander Delgado, one half of GdZ, chanting “It’s over” in the refrain.

The Miami-based artists had until recently managed the tightrope of achieving capitalist success abroad without breaking with the Communist-run island. GdZ even called for applause for Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel at a Havana concert in 2018 although that sparked calls for a boycott from some in the exile community.

BACKLASH

Cuban state media and officials including the president have launched a barrage of attacks, Twitter hashtags and memes on “Homeland and Life,” branding it unpatriotic and without artistic merit. They say the artists behind it are opportunistically trying to placate their Miami public.

“It makes fun of one of the slogans held aloft by our people in the face of continuous U.S. aggressions,” said Havana-based TV anchor Froilan Arencibia.

Ana Dopico, the Cuban-born director of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at New York University, said the rejection of that revolutionary cry was unprecedented in recent Cuban popular music.

“It shocks us all out of the depressing menace of death that comes with our understanding of nation,” she said.

The song reflects a surge in overt anti-Cuban-government sentiment among more contemporary generations of Cuban migrants, said Michael Bustamante, an assistant professor of Latin American history at Florida International University.

But it has also resonated with people on the island, especially youths who have become increasingly vocal about their frustrations since the advent of mobile internet two years ago, with some emblazoning their Facebook Profile photos with the banner “Homeland and Life.”

“I follow Fidel’s ideals but lately things have been happening that I don’t really agree with,” said Havana resident Loraine Martinez, who enjoyed the song.

This is not the first time that the songs of Cuban musicians on the island and abroad have become stand-ins for political causes, said Bustamante. But the Cuban government’s response was unusually forceful, he said, reflecting its anxiety and what he called “misplaced priorities.”

“If they are worried about popular frustration, the way to fix that is to focus on bread-and-butter reforms, not this kind of reflexive ideological performativity,” he said.

Yotuel, Patria y Vida
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“CAN WE STILL BE REVOLUTIONARIES?” ANNA VELTFORT INTERVIEWED BY TED A. HENKEN

No Country Magazine,  02/26/2021

TED A. HENKEN

 Complete Interview:  “Can We Still Be Revolutionaries?”

In this exclusive interview with Ted Henken, New York graphic artist, blogger, and one-time habanera Anna Veltfort shares the contents of her “Cuban Cold War closet,” revealing long-held secrets from the decade she and her family spent in Cuba during the Revolution’s honeymoon years. For her, and for many other young gay artists of her generation, these were both tough and luminous years filled with illusions, idealism, and unforgettable events, both exhilarating and terrifying.

Brought to Cuba by her Communist parents as a 16-year-old in early 1962, Veltfort attended high school and college alongside her Cuban classmates, eventually graduating in Art History from the University of Havana in 1972. As she came of age in this heady and politically polarized environment, she enthusiastically joined in to build a better world as a proud revolutionary, doing voluntary agricultural labor around Havana and conducting social research among the peasants of the Sierra Maestra Mountains.

At the same time, she quickly perceived that daily life for her ordinary Cuban friends bore little resemblance to the privileged circumstances her family enjoyed as “foreign technicians.” Veltfort also endured harrowing first-hand experiences of gay paranoia and repression as she explored and defined her own sexual identity as a lesbian during the time of cruel homophobic purges that swept through Cuban society.

At the most basic level, her book Goodbye, My Havana: The Life and Times of a Gringa in Revolutionary Cuba (Redwood Press, 2019; Verbum, 2017) is a coming of age memoir. But it is also the work of a very talented graphic artist. Perhaps most importantly, it is a first-hand testimonial and admonition about the perverse reality lurking beneath an often-romanticized Revolution.

* This interview was originally done in two separate parts that straddle the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The first was a public book presentation at the Instituto Cervantes in New York City on February 24, 2020, co-sponsored by the Centro Cultural Cubano de Nueva York (CCCNY). The second was a Zoom-enabled class visit by the author to Henken’s Latin American studies course at Baruch College on June 30, 2020. The two interviews have been synthesized here by Henken and then edited for clarity and accuracy by Veltfort. Note also that some of the questions here accredited to Henken were actually asked by his students in a Q&A with the author.

** This photo shows the School of Letters foreigners at work in the countryside in Cuba on April 1965. Connie is standing in the center.

*** The images are from the book Goodbye, My Havana. The Life and Times of a Gringa in Revolutionary Cuba, Stanford University Press, 2019.

Ted Henken and Anna Veltfort
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ACTIVIDADES DONDE NO SE PERMITE EL EJERCICIO DEL TRABAJO POR CUENTA PROPIA

Republica de Cuba, Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social

10/02/2021

The announcement by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security that some 2000 activities were to be open to small enterprise while only 124 activities were to be excluded from the list gave the impression that this was a major liberalization of small enterprise.  Indeed, this may well be the case, at least to some extent.  But some important areas such as architecture, engineering, accounting, some other professional activities and services to enterprises and are still prohibited.

Journalism is prohibited [110.Actividades de periodistas. (9000)]. This is indeed most regrettable, confirming once again the limits on liberty of expression in Cuba. How this is implemented remains to be seen.  It looks as though it provides a l justification for shutting down the independent bloggers and most notably the producers of the on-line newspaper, “14 y medio.”  If this were to happen, all hell will break loose.

The listing of the 124 activity areas that are prohibited to small and medium enterprise is available at this location:   https://www.mtss.gob.cu/noticias/actividades-donde-no-se-permite-el-ejercicio-del-trabajo-por-cuenta-propia

ACTIVIDADES DONDE NO SE PERMITE EL EJERCICIO DEL TRABAJO POR CUENTA PROPIA

El Clasificador Nacional de Actividades Económicas (CNAE), está integrado en 4 niveles de agregación que se reparten en 21 secciones identificadas mediante un código alfabético de una letra, subdivididas a su vez en 87 divisiones, 237 grupos, 421 clases, que en total contienen 2 mil 110 actividades, limitándose total o parcialmente algunas de estas estructuras, o solo determinadas actividades, que la propuesta se propone limitar 124 de ellas.

 La lista no incluye actividades consideradas ilícitas para todos los actores económicos o prohibidos expresamente por ley como, por ejemplo: la caza y pesca de especies prohibidas y en peligro de extinción, explotación de las plantas endémicas, empleo infantil y trabajo forzado, entre otras.

 Puede descargar el archivo desde el Menú Descargas de esta página web en la sección Normas Jurídicas en el campo Tarea Ordenamiento o a través del siguiente enlace: ACTIVIDADES DONDE NO SE PERMITE EL EJERCICIO DEL TRABAJO POR CUENTA PROPIA

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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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