• 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."

PROTEST IN CUBA: WHY IT FAILED

COUNTERPUNCH, November 22, 2021

Stephen Kimber – John Kirk

Original Article: Protest in Cuba: Why It Failed

The news was…. There was no news.

On November 15, the US media primed us for a repeat of the events of July 11 in Cuba — only more massive and more dramatic.

In July, tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets to express their frustrations with their government and, more generally, the state of their country and its economy.

In the lead-up to this month’s announced protests, Archipiélago — a broad umbrella of dissident groups led by well-known dramatist Yunior García — boasted a Facebook group of 37,000 members. It publicly identified rallying points around the island where demonstrations would begin that day at 3 pm.

But nothing much happened. Organizers asked Cubans to take to the streets to demand radical changes in the government, but only a handful responded. They invited Cubans to bang pots later that night to show the world their frustration. Even fewer did. Despite predictions of violence and vandalism in the streets, CBS Miami reported only 11 people arrested, with another 50 barricaded in their homes by government agents and supporters. By the next day, García himselfwithout telling any of his fellow dissidents, decamped to Spain.

What went wrong?

The media knew — or claimed to: “By suppressing protest, Cuba’s government displays its fear of the people” (Washington Post); “Cuban government quashes planned march by protestors” (NBC News); “Cuba Crushes Dissent Ahead of Protest” (New York Times).

The media was not totally wrong. The Cuban government does have a long history of repressing dissent, which it claims is largely fomented by the US, and which it considers an existential threat. (Those claims aren’t wrong either, though their implications rarely get explored in the media.)

Certainly, some Cubans were dissuaded from demonstrating by the large police and military presence on the streets.

But that alone doesn’t explain the lack of outcome.

What did the US media, which generally parrots Washington’s malign interpretation of anything that happens in Cuba, miss in its myopia?  Plenty. Start with some significant events that actually did happen in Cuba on November 15.

On that day, for example, the country’s critically important, pandemic-ravaged tourism industry reopened to fully vaccinated international visitors after 18 brutal months of COVID-19 shutdown. In the first week, international flights to Cuba were scheduled to increase from 67 a week to over 400.

That became possible because Cuba has brought COVID under some level of control again, thanks in part to a massive Cuba-wide vaccination program using vaccines developed in its own labs. Cuban vaccination rates are among the highest in the world. And the number of COVID cases has decreased from a daily average of 10,000 in the summer to 243 the day of the planned protest.

Not coincidentally, November 15 also marked the much-delayed return to in-classroom learning for 700,000 Cuban children, a major return-to-normal milestone that helped buoy spirits. So too did a series of free concerts and art exhibits to celebrate the upcoming 502nd anniversary of the founding of Havana.

Beyond those markers, there were other pragmatic reasons for Cubans to feel more hopeful as protest day dawned.  Venezuela, the major supplier of oil to the island, increased its supplies from 40,000 barrels per day in August to 66,000 in November. Power has become more stable, with fewer blackouts, and the cooler weather has helped ease pressure on the grid.

It is also fair to note that the Cuban government — caught napping in July — learned lessons too. But not — as the US media would have it — simply how to intimidate and control its citizens.

Cuba’s leaders acknowledged many of the frustrations that led to the July protests were legitimate and set about making changes, particularly for women and young people, and those in marginalized zones in larger cities. There are 62 projects in Havana alone as job creation, infrastructure development, housing repair, all became priorities.

The government launched additional economic reforms too, offering greater freedom for self-employment, access to hard currency credits for the private sector and opportunities to collaborate with foreign investment partners. Over 16,000 self-employment projects have since been registered, 416 requests to establish small and medium-sized enterprises approved.

At the same time, the Cuban government launched a massive media campaign to make the case to Cubans and the world — rightly again — that much of what ails the Cuban economy is still the result of the ongoing, never-ending US embargo and US-financed efforts encouraging right-wing regime change of the sort promoted by Miami-centred dissident groups like Archipiélago.

None of this is to suggest Cubans are suddenly universally satisfied with their government or with the pace of change. But it does indicate Cuba’s November “normal” appealed more to Cubans than Yunior Garcia’s call to the barricades.

And that should make us all question what we read and see in the media. Cuba is far more complex, its citizens’ views far more nuanced, than the simplistic media caricature suggests.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez:

“It is clear that what I called a failed operation — a political communication operation organized and financed by the United States government with millionaire funds and the use of internal agents — was an absolute failure,” Rodríguez said in an interview with The Associated Press.

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CUBA BUSINESS REPORT: ELECTRICITY GENERATION STRATEGY.

CUBA’S STRATEGY FOR ELECTRICITY GENERATION

Complete Article: Electricity Generation Strategy

TURKEY’S KARPOWERSHIP JOINS THE FLEET IN CUBA

Turkey sends electricity barges to Cuba. An interesting component of Cuba’s energy infrastructure.

Complete Article: Karpowership

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NOVEMBER 15: FEAR OF REPRESSION FOILS THE MARCH

WOLA, Washington Office on Latin America

by Isabella Oliver and Mariakarla Nodarse Venancio

Original Article: Fear of Repression Foils the March

Unlike the events on July 11—when thousands of Cubans took to the streets and largely spontaneous demonstrations spread rapidly across the nation—the demonstrations scheduled for Monday, November 15 did not take the Cuban government by surprise. Members of the civic group Archipiélago, the main organizers behind this demonstration, had notified authorities back in October of their intention to march on on this date to call for the release of political prisoners and protesters still detained after the July 11 protests, and to advocate for the respect of the rights of all Cubans and the resolution of differences through democratic and peaceful means. The government was prepared and for weeks, they harassed, intimidated and smeared the organizers of the march. On Monday, “acts of repudiation,”[1] heavy surveillance by state security agents, and cripplingly policed streets made sure streets in Havana—and the six other provinces where the new set of demonstrations were to take place—remained empty. Fear and the physical impossibility to leave their homes are the main reasons for the low turn-out of Cubans on November 15.

Men hang Cuban flags over the windows of opposition activist Yunior Garcia Aguilera’s home in an attempt to stop him from communicating with the outside, as he holds a flower from a window, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Ramon Epinosa)

The proposed demonstrations came after the events of this summer, when Cuban authorities sought to contain the largely peaceful demonstrations that occured on July 11, using tear gas and excessive use of force, which resulted in the death of one demonstrator, Diubis Laurencio Tejada, and the arbitrary detention of several hundreds of people—many of which remain deprived of their liberty in violation of their right to due process under the Cuban constitution and international law.

While the Cuban government has the right to protect itself against foreign interference—and the concerns about U.S. involvement with opposition groups are understandable—it should not infringe on the human rights of its citizens. The human rights enshrined in the Cuban constitution are universal, and need to be guaranteed to all, regardless of  political preferences. Article 56 of the Cuban constitution grants its citizens the right to demonstrate, but the government deemed the November 15 march illegal, alleging that it was attempting to undermine the socialist order and that the organizers had financial ties to the U.S. However, just as the Cuban government allows and encourages pro-government demonstrations, it should respect the freedom of expression and the right of assembly of those who disagree with it.

State media have focused their coverage on the country’s reopening to tourism and the return of elementary students to school after months, which also occurred on November 15. In the case of the protests, it has once again been social networks, independent journalists, and foreign correspondents who offer information about what is happening on the island to those attempting to be heard.

On November 15 itself, images showed largely empty streets, except for police and military vehicles. Some of the organizers complained their homes were surrounded by state security agents, police officers in plain clothes, and government supporters chanting slogans and insults so they couldn’t go out. Others said they were warned by police that they would be arrested for contempt if they forced their way onto the streets. According to the New York Times, at least 40 people were arrested, although the Archipiélago group claims this number is closer to over 100.

Between Sunday, November 14 and Tuesday, November 16, Yunior Garcia Aguilera, the best-known member of Archipiélago, was prevented from leaving his apartment, as he had planned to stage a solo march through Havana that day carrying a white rose, as a sign of peaceful demonstration. Security forces and government supporters surrounded his house, and his phone and internet services were interrupted. He was seen waving a white rose from an apartment window while displaying a sign reading “My house is blocked,” when government supporters hung a giant Cuban flag from the roof of the building covering his windows to keep him from communicating with anyone outside. The flags were still there Monday and a guard stood at the door, while the phones of García and other coordinators of Archipiélago group remained without service. After no known communication from him since early Tuesday, Garcia Aguilera announced on Wednesday that he had arrived in Spain with his wife, in circumstances that remain unclear.

Growing social movements are a sign of a rapidly changing Cuba

In November 2020, a coalition of about 300 people made up of artists and industry workers (which later became known as 27N) met in front of the Ministry of Culture to request a dialogue with the highest authorities after state forces stormed the headquarters of the Movimiento San Isidro (MSI) in Old Havana on November 26. During this raid, authorities evicted those who had declared a hunger strike, with some refusing even liquids, in protest of the detention and the judicial process against one of its members (rapper Denis Solís). In January 2021, after the government had shown no interest in engaging in dialogue with civil society, a number of the participants of the 27N gathered in front of the Ministry of Culture only to continue to face the authorities’ unwillingness to listen. In April, people once again gathered in Calle Obispo to protest in a show of support for the leader of MSI, Luis Manuel Otero Alcanta, after authorities forcibly interrupted his hunger strike to take him to the hospital.

The civic march for change, and more broadly the Archipiélago group, inserts itself in a rapidly changing Cuba. During the past year, groups like MSI and 27N have seen increasing support among the youth, whom have been finding spaces both online and in public spheres to call for an end to violence as a response to artistic expression that is not aligned with the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), to demand respect for fundamental rights, and an end to political repression.

Although the July 11 protests were not the first expression of political disagreement to have happened in the past year, they were definitely the first of such scale, and they marked a before and after in the realm of public dissent with the status quo in Cuba. It was no longer only artists and intellectuals, but the broader citizenry protesting as thousands of Cubans took to the streets. The demonstrations were a manifestation of both economic and social grievances that are deeply intertwined. Protesters were seen asking for food and medicine, deeper economic reforms that would improve Cubans’ daily lives, and more freedom and political change.

How Current Conditions Contributed to Displays of Dissent

The island, which had kept the COVID-19 pandemic under control in 2020, saw infections skyrocket this summer, with daily COVID-19 cases tripling in the course of a few weeks and deaths spiking to record highs, which pushed health centers to the point of collapse. On top of that, Cubans are currently facing serious shortages of basic goods and medicine. In addition to that, a series of economic reforms introduced by the Cuban government this year (such as currency reunification, which most observers agree were necessary) have not only created additional harsh impacts in the short-term, but were implemented at a particularly difficult time. These factors have triggered inflation and increased the frustration of the Cuban people. One of the main sources of discomfort is the dollarization of the economy and the difficulty to access food and basic necessities— a process that had been marketed since the end of 2019 in foreign currencies—which have placed a larger sector of the population in a very precarious economic situation and amplified already existing inequalities. The return of long power blackouts, that take Cuba back to the 1990s and the so-called special period, add to Cubans’ irritation and uncertainty. When procuring food and basic goods becomes the number one concern for a family, it shifts from being an economic crisis to being a social crisis.

The Biden-Harris administration has voiced support for the Cuban people’s right to protest and has condemned the ongoing repression, yet it continues to downplay the role of U.S. sanctions in fueling Cuba’s humanitarian crisis by not acknowledging that sanctions contribute to the severe and undue suffering of the Cuban people. Supporting human rights in Cuba and empowering the Cuban people also means removing the barriers that exacerbate the economic, health and social crisis. Restrictions on remittances, including caps on the amount and measures that have made it impossible to wire remittances from the U.S. to families in Cuba, have limited the purchasing power of many, banking regulations have made third country purchases more difficult, and onerous rules governing medical sales have had an especially devastating impact during the pandemic.

While the Cuban government managed to avoid mass protests with a wave of repression and heavy security presence that discouraged the participation of the ordinary citizens that powered the summer demonstrations, the desire of young Cubans to be heard has not disappeared. On Tuesday, Archipiélago issued a statement celebrating the bravery of all those that protested in one way or another, and extending the Civic “March” for Change until November 27—a date which is no coincidence—calling for the release of political prisoners; respect for the rights of all Cubans to assembly, demonstration, and association; the end of acts of repudiation and all violence among Cubans for political reasons; and the beginning of a transparent process for the resolution of differences through democratic and peaceful means.

Cuban authorities should refrain from violence and repression, and immediately release those detained unfairly. In order to move forward, it is important for the Cuban government to recognize the need for a peaceful dialogue that includes the plurality of voices we are currently seeing among Cuban citizens, including artists, journalists and civil society actors among others in order to truly allow freedom of expression. For its part, the Biden-Harris administration has a responsibility to take concrete and swift actions that will alleviate the humanitarian and economic crisis beginning with the removal of specific licenses required to send medical supplies, restrictions on sending family and donative remittances, and restrictions on travel.

[1] Acts of repudiation (actos de repudio) is a term Cuban authorities use to refer to acts of violence and/or humiliation towards critics of the government.

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HOW TO DEMOCRATIZE CUBA

Will the November 15 protests in Cuba provide a democratic opening?

Samuel Farber
IN THESE TIMES, November 12, 2021

Original Article: How to Democratize Cuba

The demonstrations of July 11 were the first great autonomous and democratic movement of Black and poor Cubans since 1959. The demonstrators did not chant any of the slogans of the U.S.-based Cuban Right.

While it is true that the Cuban rap ​“Patria y Vida” (Life and Fatherland) that inspired many July 11 marchers is not clear about the alternatives it proposed to the social and political system that rules the island, it cannot be said, as some have pretended, that its political content is right-wing. 

In response to the July 11 demonstrations, the Cuban government decided to prosecute the great majority of the hundreds of demonstrators arrested on that day. As is its wont, the government has refused to provide the number of arrested demonstrators, the charges against them, and the sentences that were imposed on them. It seems that some of them were subject to summary trials without the right to a defense lawyer, and got sentences of up to one year in prison. However, for those that the government considered to be the protest leaders, the prosecution demanded much longer sentences. That is why, for example, in the case of 17 Cubans who were arrested in San Antonio de los Baños, a town near Havana where the protests began, the prosecutors demanded sentences of up to 12 years in prison.

At the same time, the government increased its social assistance in numerous poor neighborhoods of the capital and other cities in the island, which indicates that even if it has not publicly admitted it, it is worried about the popular discontent expressed on July 11, and it is attempting with those social services at least to calm the people hardest hit by the economic crisis, and to diminish the growing alienation and anger with the regime of large popular sectors.

At the same time, the political leadership has tried to discredit the popular protest, taking advantage of its absolute control of the press, radio and television to broadcast images of the demonstrators who got involved in violent incidents, deliberately ignoring that the great majority demonstrated in a peaceful manner. The official mass media similarly ignored the violence, that under the leadership’s orders, the so-called ​“black berets” and other repressive organs, like State Security, carried out against people who were exercising their right to demonstrate peacefully.

The profound economic crisis – exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and by Trump’s imperialist measures that Biden has almost entirely kept in place – especially affected the Black and poor Cubans who went out into the streets on July 11. That crisis is not about to disappear with the official reopening of foreign winter tourism on November 15 

Besides, the government no longer counts with the degree of legitimacy that Fidel and Raúl Castro, together with the rest of the ​“historic” generation, enjoyed when they ruled the country. People like Miguel Díaz-Canel, the new president of the Republic and First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, and Manuel Marrero Cruz, the Prime Minister, belong to the systems’ second bureaucratic generation, whose political prestige and legitimacy does not compare with that of the historic leaders. It is not idle speculation to wonder how many of the July 11 demonstrators would have insulted Raúl Castro and even less Fidel Castro with the epithet singao (fucker or fucked) that they yelled at President Díaz-Canel. 

I am among those who think that the national demonstrations of July 11, may very well be a watershed in the contemporary history of Cuba. But this depends on how the Cuban people respond to the call by the citizen virtual platform Archipiélago to organize demonstrations throughout the island on November 15. We will then see if the demonstrations of July 11 sowed the seeds of tomorrow’s fruits, or if unfortunately July 11 was only an isolated outbreak of rebellion and discontent. 

The call to demonstrate on November 15 could not happen in a more opportune moment than this. After the great explosion of July 11 – and the manner in which the government responded — it was politically logical that the next step would be to pressure the government to recognize, de facto, if not de jure, the right of the people to freely demonstrate in the streets.

It was also to be expected, that the government would proceed, as it effectively did, to deny the permit for the demonstration, arguing that ​“the promoters and their public postures, as well as their ties with subversive organizations or agencies associated with the U.S. government have the manifest intention to promote a change of Cuba’s political system,” and citing the Constitution of 2019 that defines the socialist system that rules Cuba as ​“irrevocable.” In other words, the present Cuban rulers have the constitutional right to maintain and control the ruling system in the island per saecula saeculorum (forever and ever). 

This is the constitution that was adopted under a one-party system that monopolizes the access to television, press and radio, and did not allow other opinion currents and parties to participate in the process of writing the new constitution in 2019. The control of the one-party system was such, that the citizens who participated in the discussions sponsored by the government in different places to voice their suggestions about the project, did not even have the right, even less the opportunity, to organize and coordinate their suggestions with those of other people in other meeting places; nor were they able to promote directly their suggestions (without the filters and censorship by the PCC) to the Cuban public through the mass media, a classic symptom of the deliberate political atomization maintained and promoted by the one-party system. 

It is impossible to predict how and to what degree the government’s prohibition is going to affect the reach and dimensions of the protests projected for November 15. To plan small protests, as has already been proposed with the purpose of appeasing the all powerful Cuban state, would be perceived by the regime as a victory (achieved through its abuse of power). 

The international press would also see it that way, whose importance in these situations must be taken seriously, including its impact on the Cuban government as well as on the opposition. Such a victory would be proclaimed by the Cuban government as a defeat for the legacy of July 11. And it would embolden it to at least maintain the political status quo without conceding anything. 

But it also must be taken into account the drastic measures that the regime will take to prevent people from joining the march, something they could not do on July 11 because of the unforeseen nature of the protests. Cuba’s Attorney General has already publicly warned that it will take very harsh measures to punish those who go out in the street to challenge the regime on November 15. Face with such a reality, it is very possible that many people will decide to stay home and not demonstrate. And that same government will no doubt weaken the possibilities of the movement by arresting, hundreds and hundreds of Cubans before the day in which the demonstration is scheduled to take place, as it has done on other occasions,

It is difficult to prepare for the repression that is likely to occur. But should the Cuban people confront the state in a massive protest – people must be prepared to take advantage of that display of power to present and promote democratic demands. A massive protest on November 15 could lead a surprised and fearful government to adopt a hard repressive line, which is very likely, or to open new possibilities for the autonomous organization of new political forces in the island. 

This latter possibility would require a strategic and tactical reevaluation of the proposals and political attitudes of the new critical left in Cuba, keeping in mind that it might possibly occur in the context of a triangular conflict among this new left, the government and U.S.-based Cuban Right. Such proposals, that should have been put forward a long time ago, would become, with this opening, truly indispensable. 

First on the list would be the abolition of the single party state, that has been justified by the government in a great number of occasions and with the most diverse arguments for so long. Among these is the appeal to José Martí’s (Cuba’s principal Founding Father) idea of political unity. At the end of the Nineteenth Century, Martí called on all the factions and groups that supported Cuban independence to unite under the banner of the Cuban Revolutionary Party to more effectively combat Spanish colonialism. When Martí made this call for unity for the independence cause, he was trying to overcome the petty jealousies and authoritarian tendencies of the insurgent military leaders and unify the military campaign against Spain under civilian control. The unity that he called for with respect to war, had nothing to do with the party system that he, together with other independence leaders conceived for the new Cuban independent republic, and even less for the constitutional establishment of a one-party state that would exclude or declare other parties illegal.

Another justification frequently argued by the regime is based on what Raúl Castro called the ​“monolithic unity” of the Cuban people that the PCC pretends to represent. A conceit that was irrefutably exposed by the diversity of the July 11 demonstrations. Even less serious are the government’s May Day proclamations, when it declares that the PCC is the only party that can and should represent the Cuban working class. 

The one-party system is the principal obstacle to the democratization of the country, a qualitatively different process from the liberalization that the regime has implemented to a certain degree, as for example, when in 2013 it considerably increased the number of Cubans who could travel abroad. While it liberalized travel out of the country, it did not establish traveling abroad as a right for all Cubans in the island, but as a privilege discretionarily conferred by the government, as it is shown by the situation of Cubans who have been ​“regulated,” and are not permitted to travel abroad and return to their country. 

It is for reasons such as this, that politically conscious Cubans who are concerned with the arbitrariness that has typified the system of the current ruling class of Communist Party officials, have insisted for a long time in the necessity to establish what has already been sanctioned even by the 2019 Constitution: a country governed by the rule of law that functions according to laws and not based on the discretion of those who rule.

This is a fundamental demand in the struggle against arbitrariness, privileges and the abuse of power. However, it is an impossible political goal under the dominant one-party state in Cuba, where the political will of the PCC, transmitted through its ​“orientations” is above even of the laws and institutions of the system itself. 

Those who consider that the abolition of the one-party state is too radical a demand, but who want to still participate in a movement to democratize the country, could push for demands that advance the struggle along the same road and educate the people, making more transparent the enormous power of the PCC. Thus, for example, they could argue that while the PCC is the only party allowed to legally exist, it should represent the full social and political diversity in the country, which at present it clearly does not. 

The argument in favor of the inclusion of diversity in the party, would lead to the demand that the PCC break with the tradition that they wrongly refer to as ​“democratic centralism,” which in reality is a bureaucratic centralism: decisions taken from above, in contrast with those based on a free discussion and free vote. To achieve this would also facilitate the right to form, whenever a number of members find it to be necessary, party factions and platforms (for party conventions) inside the party itself. 

It could also be demanded that the PCC transforms itself into a purely electoral party, restricting itself to propose its candidates for the elections of public officials. Such a change would bring to an end the ​“orientation” functions of the PCC, through which it controls and directs, as the single party in government, all economic, political, social and educational activities. Although this change would not by itself bring about greater democracy, it would at least bring about pluralism among power holders, with each elected Communist acting on his or her own, which would effectively fragment the bureaucratic monopoly of the single party. 

In reality, these last two proposals differ more in degree than in substance from the first proposal, since they would all be a serious blow to the one-party system and would create spaces to organize more effectively the opposition to the regime, and especially to continue to insist and struggle for the total abolition of the one party system with the objective of creating the political basis for a socialist democracy.

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CUBA BRACES FOR UNREST AS PLAYWRIGHT TURNED ACTIVIST RALLIES PROTESTERS

The Communist party has banned the planned string of pro-democracy marches, saying they are an overthrow attempt

The Guardian, November 10, 2021

Original Article: Cuba braces for unrest

The Cuban playwright Yunior García has shot to fame over the past year, but not because of his art. The 39-year old has become the face of Archipelago, a largely online opposition group which is planning a string of pro-democracy marches across the island on Monday.

The Communist party has banned the protests – which coincide with the reopening of the country after 20 months of coronavirus lockdowns – arguing that they are a US-backed attempt to overthrow the government.

García and other organisers say the protest is simply to demand basic rights for all Cubans. Over syrupy black coffee and strong cigarettes in the living room of his Havana home, García said he hoped to channel the “peaceful rebelliousness” that he believes all Cubans have inside them.

“I believe in a diverse country and I think we have to completely do away with the one-party system which limits too many individual rights,” he said.

Such talk is anathema to Cuba’s rulers who are already struggling to contain a simmering social crisis which earlier this year triggered the largest anti-government protests for decades.

Supercharged US sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic, a surge in social media use and a younger generation hungry for change have left the Communist party reeling.The Biden administration has continued with Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy, which since 2017 has hammered the island with more than 200 sanctions aimed at choking hard currency inflows.

The result has been an economic crisis that rivals the so-called Special Period, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“The Special Period was a piece of cake compared to this,” said Umberto Molina, 71, waiting in line outside a pharmacy. “There was medicine and you didn’t have these never-ending queues.”

In July, mounting frustrations exploded on to the streets in an unprecedented rash of protests – and a hardening of positions. Cuban special forces beat demonstrators and hundreds were imprisoned. Washington responded by imposing new sanctions.

“When the Cuban government feels more threatened by the US, its tolerance for internal dissidence goes down,” said William LeoGrande, professor of government at American University in Washington DC. “All governments, when they feel under attack, become less tolerant of internal opposition,” he added, pointing to the US Patriot Act following 9/11.

This week, the foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, vowed that the protests would not go ahead. “We will not allow it,” he said. “We will use our laws, our constitution and the strictest adherence to the principles of our socialist state of law and social justice.”

On Thursday, García, said that he would march in silence and holding a white rose on Sunday, but it was not clear if this amounted to a scaling back of Monday’s protests.

“We are not willing to have a single drop of blood spilled, on either side of this conflict,” García said in a Facebook post.

In his interview, García, 39, said he was well aware of the risks he was facing.

“History is full of people who have gone to prison for struggling for their rights,” García said, offering José Martí, the 19th-century Cuban intellectual and independence fighter, as an example.

Like Martí, García says he opposes “foreign interference” in Cuban affairs. But while Martí saw the US as a “monster” to be kept at bay, García takes a different tack.  After he met with the head of the US embassy in Havana and a former US army captain, the Communist party released video of the encounter, and labelled García a “political operative”.

García said he discussed censorship on the island and the US embargo (which he opposes), but he denied taking advice. Nobody in Archipelago, he said, takes so much as “a cent” from foreign governments.Tolerance of dissent on the island, which increased under Obama years, is nosediving. Activists say more than 600 are still in prison.

A gamut of strategies have been employed to prevent Archipelago activists from organising: García’s mobile phone line has been cut, two coordinators have been fired from their state jobs, and activists’ families have been interrogated by state security.

That the protests are scheduled for the very day that Cuba is supposed to go back to normal after a long lockdown, with tourists returning and schools opening, has only heightened the stakes.

The government has planned a “National Defence Day” for later next week, and menacing photos have emerged of government supporters wielding batons in preparation.

“There is a quite properly widespread desire … that Cuba should move steadily and quickly, and as soon as possible, towards a true democratic system, and that the rights of peaceful protest and full freedom of expression be finally and properly respected by the state,” said Hal Klepak, professor emeritus of history and strategy at the Royal Military College of Canada.

“However, it is simply unrealistic and contrary to all logic, to think that the Cuban state, besieged, attacked and under quite savage economic warfare conducted by the greatest power in the history of the world … can allow such rights to flourish.

“As San Ignacio de Loyola, echoing the same conclusion as Machiavelli in such circumstances, said: ‘In a besieged city, all dissent is treason.’”

Such realism is little solace for young activists yearning for the democracy.

Daniela Rojo, a single mother with two young children , said she was raised to “speak softly and avoid problems”. But after being jailed for 27 days following the July’s protest, she said she was determined to march on Monday for her children’s sake.

“I want them to grow up in a country where they can express themselves freely,” she said.

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ANTI-INFLATIONARY POLICIES IN CUBA AND INEQUALITY

November 6, 2021

“The wild spike in prices led to distortions and dissatisfaction, especially among those who saw their purchasing power drop.”

By Luis Brizuela (IPS)

Original article: Inflation and Inequality

HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban government has many challenges right now, including the implementation of anti-inflationary policies that will help reduce social inequalities, which have become more visible after economic reforms began in January.

“My husband’s wages and my own are spent almost entirely on food, transport and paying our bills at home. It’s been a while now since we’ve bought clothes, we only think about how we’re going to be able to save up enough to dress and give shoes to our two children, Moraima Valle, a history teacher living in Havana, explained.

Valle stressed to IPS that she earns the equivalent to 170 USD per month at the official exchange rate, but that a pair of shoes costs more than 200 USD, “and we can’t even afford to have a soda out on the street.”

Also living in Havana is pensioner Miguelina Calvo, who worked as a telephone operator, and she told IPS that the 72 USD of her pension vanish into thin air because “prices at the agro-market are through the roof and I need to buy some medicines on the illicit market, as they are almost never available in the drugstore.”

The Reforms Process kicked off on the first day of this year, a comprehensive reforms plan that included eliminating Cuba’s Convertible currency which was in theory the equivalent of the dollar, devaluation of the regular Cuban peso, a spike in wholesale and retail prices, getting rid of a series of subsidies, raising costs of services, as well as an increase in wages and pensions.

Experts recognize that these are important to make state-led companies’ accounts more transparent and to readjust economic variables with international standards, but they also say that they have come almost 10 years after the reforms program was first approved in 2011 to modernize the socialist socio-economic model.

Currency reform was undertaken amidst shortages of food, medicines, and basic essentials because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the inability of national industries to step up production, as a result of the economic crisis that has existed for three decades.

After a five-year period with low growth rates, this Caribbean Island country lost 13% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ever since the beginning of 2020 and up until September 30th, official statistics reveal.  In the past two years, revenue had dropped by almost 3 billion USD because of the collapse of the main economic leaders, while the priority of health measures to contain the pandemic reduced the sum available for imports, in a country that buys almost 80% of the food it consumes alone.

In addition to all of this, US sanctions increased and the embargo became stricter, which has been hindering financial operations since 1962, and makes it impossible for Cuba to access credit from international financial bodies.

“The wild spike in prices led to distortions and dissatisfaction, especially among those who saw their purchasing power drop. Likewise, it’s also a reason for a lack of motivation at work, as wages are engulfed by prices,” economist Omar Everleny Perez Villanueva explained to IPS.  According to the expert, high inflation “has affected every social group, but especially the most vulnerable such as the elderly, those who receive social security benefits, large families with lots of children or single mothers.”

The numbers speak for themselves

On October 27th and 28th, during the sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the unicameral Cuban Parliament admitted that the rate of inflation continues to increase.  Cubans are experiencing prices that are 7-10 times above official prices, one of the reports presented to the legislative border revealed.

Currency reform increased the minimum wage by 500% to the equivalent of 87 USD, and the maximum to almost 400. In the case of pensions, the lowest stands at 63 USD.

The measure established a fixed official rate of 24 pesos to 1 USD, but on the street, this figure varies between 68 for 1 USD in cash to 78 pesos for a bank deposit for purchases with a debit card in stores with prices in USD, and this money can’t be withdrawn.

Reports handled by Parliament estimate that the deficit in products offered stands at 2.5 billion USD. They claim that it’s a factor that has shot up prices on the illicit market and made the price of the basic basket of goods and services go up, as it now costs double the 60 USD initially planned for monthly expenses.

Furthermore, the reforms process hasn’t stopped the partial dollarization of the economy, after stores opened in 2019 to sell electrical appliances, food and basic essentials, with debit cards priced in USD and linked to accounts in foreign currencies.

Several government officials argue that this controversial mechanism allows the country to collect foreign currency and that some of this money is used to stock up some products at stores where most of the population go, as they only receive their wages and income in Cuban pesos.

Such a segmentation of the economy translates into inequalities in terms of wages and consumption, because “not every family has access, nor can everyone buy the same quantity of products they need,” sociologist Reina Fleitas told IPS.

On the one hand, “you have those who live off their wages, whether they are from the State or not, and on the other, you have people who have access to alternative sources of income via remittances, private businesses or because they form part of the growing illicit market,” Perez Villanueva explained.

Given chronic shortages of some products or the inability to buy in the US dollar stores, analysts highlight that a percentage of the population satisfies their consumer needs on the illicit market, which is partially sustained by the theft of resources from state stores.

In regard to inflation and its effects “we’re aware of the severity”, and the government has made it a top priority to find a solution and to take care of vulnerable people,” stated president Miguel Diaz-Canel at the National Assembly on October 28th.

The Government has slightly lowered some prices such as electricity, which has been the subject of much criticism, while they continue to repeat that they won’t apply “shock therapy” and nobody will be left helpless in a country with universal and free access to education and public health.

Meanwhile, the rations booklet has been kept in effect since 1962, ensuring the 11.2 million inhabitants on the island receive a small monthly ration of rice, sugar, grains, coffee, cooking oil and animal protein, regardless of income, although this doesn’t cover all dietary needs, but it is relief for low-income households and vulnerable groups, at least for part of the month.

Fairer social and economic investment

Analysts highlight the fact that the protests that broke out across the island on July 11th were in keeping with the expensive cost of living and a more severe economic crisis, as well as different internal and external factors.

In the weeks following the protests, the government has given greater priority to social programs such as building and repairing homes, infrastructure projects and specific assistance to people in vulnerable situations. [As well as the arrest of hundreds of people who dared to protest.]

“The Government has shown signs of trying to improve the life of Cuban families, and positive measures such as those that contribute to broadening the range of economic actors and to create new sources of employment, but the positive effects aren’t being seeing in consumption,” Fleitas pointed out.

In her opinion, “fairer social and economic investment is needed in its distribution to keep domestic migration in check” and she reminded us that in Havana, for example, many neighborhoods classified as “vulnerable” are founded by people who come from even more disadvantaged communities, especially in the East.

According to the sociologist, “the same synergy between government and science to fight the pandemic” should be employed with social sciences, as “its results haven’t been given the same importance as other disciplines… and its publications are not only for diagnosing problems, but also to formulate policy proposals.”

Perez Villanueva believes “the regulation of prices needs an injection of imports or sales of national goods.”

In recent months, the government has approved measures to revitalize business activity, and it has authorized the first micro, small or medium-sized enterprises (MIPYMES), in late September, and there are now over 300 signed up.

“However, there continue to be obstacles in the decision-making power of business managers, while MIPYMES need to deal with authorized state bodies to import, or purchase supplies on the illicit market, which affects prices,” the economist summarized.

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CUBAN ENTREPRENEURS AND PRIVATE BUSINESS OWNERS URGE PRESIDENT BIDEN TO LIFT SANCTIONS AND RESTORE PATH TO NORMALIZATION

ACERE – Posted on November 8, 2021

Original article: LIFT SANCTIONS

November 8th, 2021
Contact: Elena Freyre (786)683-8241 cubaid7@yahoo.com allianceforcuba@acere.org HAVANA –

On November 8th, 247 Cuban private entrepreneurs, businesses and cooperatives sent a letter to President Biden denouncing the harmful impact that U.S. sanctions have had on their livelihoods. Despite campaign promises to reverse failed policies of prior administrations, President Biden continues to maintain the 243 sanctions against Cuba that the Trump administration added to the embargo. President Biden has yet to make any policy changes that would alleviate the severe economic crisis affecting all Cubans, including Cuban businesses. As the letter notes, “existing U.S. policy towards Cuba greatly affects our day-to-day business operations and cripples our ability to thrive.”

These private business owners and entrepreneurs work in wide-ranging economic activities, including hospitality, manufacturing, technology and agriculture. They represent a sector of Cuban society that the Biden-Harris administration has stated is a priority area for U.S. support. Yet, as their letter to President Biden states, the unwillingness to lift sanctions against Cuba continues to severely impede their businesses’ ability to survive. The signers of the letter note that it is “particularly cruel” of the Biden-Harris administration to maintain hostile sanctions in the midst of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Cuban businesses issued a direct appeal to President Biden to normalize relations, which would help them attain the economic prosperity they are striving to build.

Oniel Díaz, a founder of Cuban private business consulting firm, AUGE, stated that he signed the letter “because with sanctions and the blockade [embargo], the possibility of a prosperous and efficient economy will always be a distant horizon, despite current economic reforms by the Cuban authorities.” Dianelis García, from DIAKA, an interior design private firm, said: “Any measure that limits and prevents the development of Cuban entrepreneurship is discriminatory. The blockade against Cuba must end.” Another signatory, Abel Bajuelos from 3D printing microenterprise, Addimensional – one of the more than 400 new private small and medium enterprises – defended that “any initiative to end the unjust blockade deserves support.”

The Cuban people and Cuban businesses continue to bear the brunt of these unilateral coercive measures, which have long been determined to be illegal under international law.​​ The business owners and entrepreneurs noted with dismay the decision of the Biden administration to pay more attention to the demands of a minority among the Cuban American community who opposes engagement, rather than the majority of moderate voices who support normalization, and to whom he owes his campaign promises. As the letter noted, “[President Biden] administration’s policies should not be dictated by how much adversity and suffering they can cause to Cubans, but by how much they can improve our ability to prosper.”

When Biden was vice president during the Obama administration, he helped with a groundbreaking effort to overcome decades of hostility, charting a path of normalization for the benefit of peoples and businesses in both countries. “Reforms in U.S. policy made during your tenure as Vice President allowing for increased travel, telecom services and banking helped us substantially. We dream of the return to those days, when engagement was the official U.S. policy, producing an economic boom that benefitted us all,” states the letter.

Signatories of the letter urge President Biden “to work with the U.S. Congress to lift the embargo and to take action immediately to increase travel, trade and investment, especially given how the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global economy, including in Cuba. We urge you to take the following immediate actions: 1) reestablish a path for remittances; 2) open travel for those subject to U.S. jurisdiction; 3) reopen the embassy in Havana; and 4) remove Cuba from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.”

Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect (ACERE), Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE), Puentes de Amor, Latin American Working Group (LAWG), Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) are supporting this initiative by Cuban private businesses. These organizations have organized a webinar today, Monday, November 8th 1:00-2:30 PM EST, where four of the Cuban business owners who signed the letter will be explaining how U.S. sanctions negatively impact their businesses and why they signed the letter. The webinar will commence with Special Guest Jim Wedeberg, founder of Organic Valley dairy cooperative, and Professor of Government at American University, William LeoGrande discussing current status of U.S. Cuba policy. Facilitated by Geoff Thale, an independent analyst of Cuba and Central America, the webinar is an opportunity to hear first-hand from various Cuban business owners, including the CEO of the first private firm to be created in Cuba under recently passed legislation, and find out how U.S. sanctions hurt Cuban businesses, their employees and families. Registration is free and open to the public at https://tinyurl.com/yv4cxx7b.

The letter to Pres. Biden and list of signatories can be found here in English and its original Spanish version: https://acere.org/sector-privado2

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CUBA APPROVES LAWS GRANTING GREATER RIGHTS AS CRITICISM OF on PROTESTERS’ ARRESTS HEATS UP

Reuters,  28, 2021 – 22:18 October 28, 2021 – 22:18

Original Article: CUBA APPROVES LAWS GRANTING GREATER RIGHTS

By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba’s National Assembly on Thursday approved a raft of laws broadening citizens’ legal rights even as the Communist-run country comes under fire at home and abroad for a crackdown on protests earlier this year.

The changes stem from the 2019 constitution, which required reforms to modernize Cuba’s judicial and penal codes. But they address legal voids identified by activists, who allege authorities flaunted due process following unprecedented protests https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/street-protests-break-out-cuba-2021-07-11 on the island in July.

Cuban lawmakers and judges said the new laws increase protection for those accused of a crime and should improve transparency. They require, for example, defendants be notified of potential charges against them, and that those detained be granted the right to an attorney within 24 hours. Citizens will also be allowed access to their own court files and documents, according to the new law.

Eloy Viera, a Cuban lawyer and legal analyst who lives in Canada, said the laws were a major step forward in enshrining a citizen’s right to defend him or herself in a court of law. “This law offers more guarantees and adheres much more to international standards than the regulations currently in force,” Viera said.

But how those laws are implemented will determine whether or not Cubans see significant changes in their legal rights, said William LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University in Washington.

“The laws… still give officials considerable discretion and only time will tell how they use it, especially in political cases,” he said.

Dissidents and human rights organizations say more than 1,000 demonstrators were arrested after the July protests, the largest anti-government rallies since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. Some prisoners were held without charge, incommunicado and without representation, rights groups say.

The Cuban government says those arrested in July were guilty of crimes including public disorder, resisting arrest and vandalism. It has declared opposition marches planned for Nov. 15 as illegal, saying they are funded and promoted by the United States.

The laws passed Thursday are set to take effect in 2022. Legal analyst Viera said it was unlikely they would be retroactive.

“I do not believe that this new legislation will have a definitive influence on the processes already initiated today, and politically motivated, by the July 11 protesters,” he said.

Some legal experts said any advances in the penal code would be overshadowed by the one-party system of government.

“Supreme court justices can still be dismissed easily. No court may declare unconstitutional a National Assembly act,” said retired Cuban-American scholar Jorge Dominguez. “There is no independent entity to protect constitutional rights.”

The reforms nonetheless eliminate a long-critiqued law that allowed authorities to jail someone they said was potentially dangerous, a maneuver critics say was often used against dissidents. They also include a prohibition on unlawful detention.

Independent journalist Yoani Sanchez said that was not enough. “Repressive laws are still in force that are arbitrarily applied frequently against opponents, activists and independent journalists, such as home confinement and the prohibition of leaving the country,” she wrote.

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SHERRITT INTERNACIONAL PLANEA EXPLOTAR YACIMIENTOS DE NÍQUEL EN CUBA POR ‘VARIAS DÉCADAS’

El presidente general de la compañía afirma que se estudian opciones para ampliar la capacidad de producción de la planta de Moa, que el pasado año quedó por debajo de lo previsto.

Diario de Cuba, Moa 21 Oct 2021

Articulo Original: Sherritt Internacional

El presidente general de la compañía canadiense Sherritt Internacional Corporation, Leon Binedell, afirmó este miércoles durante una visita a Cuba que planea aumentar la producción de Níquel en Moa para seguir explotando los yacimientos por “varias décadas”, informó Granma.

Estamos considerando opciones para ampliar la capacidad de producción de la planta y continuar operando en este lugar por muchas décadas más”, dijo Binedell durante una visita a las instalaciones de la compañía acompañado por el ministro de Energía y Minas cubano, Liván Arronte Cruz.

La fábrica procesadora de níquel Comandante Pedro Sotto Alba, ubicada en el municipio holguinero de Moa, es operada desde 1995 por la compañía mixta Moa Nikel S.A, administrada por Sherritt, quien firmó un contrato con el Estado cubano para explotar yacimientos y ejecutar otras inversiones en el sector energético.

Tras el cambio en la directiva de la compañía canadiense, dado por la llegada de Binedell en sustitución de David Pathe, las autoridades cubanas temieron por el fin de los acuerdos, pero el actual director ha manifestado su interés en mantener los negocios en la Isla.

Durante el encuentro, reseñado por la prensa estatal, Arronte Cruz dijo que la fábrica está a punto de cumplir 27 años de fundada como corporación mixta, lo que calificó como un buen momento para seguir consolidado su eficiencia.

De acuerdo con la prensa estatal, la planta procesadora de níquel Comandante Pedro Sotto Alba mantiene récord históricos de producción y es uno de los ejemplos más referidos respecto a los negocios entre Cuba y Canadá.

Sin embargo, en 2020 la empresa canadiense comunicó que las dificultades que encaró durante en su planta y negocios mineros en Moa influyeron negativamente en su balance productivo anual.

El líder mundial en la extracción y refinación de níquel y cobalto de minerales lateríticos, con proyectos y operaciones en Canadá y Cuba, anunció que su producción terminada de níquel en Moa fue de 31.506 toneladas en 2020, ligeramente inferior a la proyección de entre 32.000 y 33.000 toneladas en ese periodo.

Según el balance de la empresa, resumido por el sitio especializado Kitco.comla producción se vio afectada por las interrupciones del servicio ferroviario que tuvieron lugar durante el primer trimestre del año.

Asimismo, Sherritt sufrió el cierre prolongado de la planta Pedro Sotto Alba durante el tercer trimestre debido a trabajos adicionales y a la reducción de la disponibilidad del contratista cubano a causa de la pandemia del Covid-19, así como por reparaciones no planificadas de las autoclaves en el cuarto trimestre.

Además, numerosos residentes en la localidad han denunciado el defectuoso sistema de abastecimiento de agua y la elevada contaminación que provoca la procesadora en Moa.

A la escasez de agua, la sequía y la contaminación ambiental se suma en Moa el desabastecimiento de alimentos y productos de higiene, razón por la cual un centenar de residentes de la localidad protestaron en plena calle a mediados del mes de junio de 2020, según se pudo observar en un video compartido en Youtube.

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WHAT COULD A “THIRD WAY” CUBA POLICY LOOK LIKE UNDER BIDEN?

Cuba Study Group, October 28, 2021
Manuel Cuesta Morúa

Manuel Cuesta Morúa

Original Article:  A “Third Way” Cuba Policy?

As noted in the introduction written by the Council on International Relations to Charles A. Kupchan’s book How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace, in his 2008 inaugural address, Barack Obama promised nations “on the wrong side of history” that the U.S. would “extend a hand if they were willing to open their fists.”

Thus began an intellectual presidency, which certainly constitutes a strategic presidency. With its impressive historical documentation, Kupchan’s book provided Obama with a set of assumptions and theses that helped guide his policy towards Cuba.

Two assumptions in this book are worth summarizing. The first is that the stability of international relations is not decided by the type of regime a country has. The second is that economic relations are not as important as diplomacy when reducing tensions and seeking geopolitical accommodations with countries in conflict.

Obama’s policy towards Cuba was designed from these two assumptions. That a policy of unilateral concessions appeased the enemy, and that a strong investment in a friendly narrative, respect for sovereignty, and offers of cooperation would be more productive to achieve the goals of democratization, which Obama left in the most effective hands: that of the Cubans.

Isolation, combined with a policy of harassment and attrition, had not led to the stated goal of U.S. foreign policy toward the Island. This was the strongest argument against the critics of a policy shift that began with the exchange of prisoners, the removal of Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list, and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations.

To be fair, Obama actually modified his message, bringing it closer to Kupchan’s intellectual vision. He did not wait for the Cuban government to open its fist, instead introducing changes without the latter modifying its internal and external policy one iota.

In my view, and in the case of Cuba, the Obama policy’s greatest strategic success was to overwhelm the Cuban government on three fundamental levels: in that of its intentions, in that of its will to change, and in that of its language. Its impact on Cuban society has been irreversible.

The policy that preceded it lacked vision; confident that the harsh exercise of power would put an end to the regime. For 62 years, the Cuban government has been ostensibly on the verge of crumbling every four years. Obama’s policy focused on the medium and long term, and for that very reason it was strategic.

Did he fail? No. Although the type of regime does matter in any conception of foreign policy—a necessary correction to Kupchan’s postulates—a consequence perhaps not foreseen by the author, but which I assume was intuited by Obama, is that such a policy could put an end both rhetorically and practically to the identification and perception of the Cuban people and government as enemies of the United States. If the Cuban government continued (continues) to place itself in the convenient role of the enemy, this was no longer true with its people. And this is the most important result in terms of the US’s strategic goals, which not even the return to tough policy under Donald Trump could reinstate: the possibility of masking the conflict between the Cuban state and Cuban society behind the conflict between countries reached its limit with this formulation of foreign policy. Cuba opened up, and society took the lead.

The hard exercise of power continues with the logic inherited from the times of John F. Kennedy: instant democracy, hence the idea of ​​restoring the past, and the United States playing a leading role in this transcript. Quid pro quo demands on Obama’s policy are born out of this logic, just as his policy sought to break with it. Obama inaugurated another era. Cubans were the ones who must advance the changes, and the United States can only be there for what it can and should do: to assist and support the process. The pace of change depends on factors that the United States cannot and should not try to control. There are constraints that the North American power must abide by based on the structural limitations of its system; this is what the hard-liners recognize to their chagrin every four years. After every electoral cycle, they always conclude that its up to the Cubans. They see abandonment “a lo Kennedy” when in reality it is the best invitation to assume control of our destiny.

Obama’s approach recognized that quid pro quo policies as a diplomatic game or foreign policy go beyond the limits imposed by a given time period, especially when it comes to regime change. He later demonstrated this with his policy towards the Arab Spring, mainly in Egypt. However, hardliners demand results within a fixed period from a policy that was repeatedly repurposed over time.

It is on this enduring and far-reaching foundation, which was put to the test here in July, that the Joe Biden administration could and should build a revised “third way” with Cuba, with an approach that connects its foreign policy with the nature of governing regimes. The Cuban government is an actor and factor of regional destabilization, with new formulas that can be confused with the mechanisms of democracies and at the same time uses them. Democratic regimes are the key to stable peace, the most salvageable of Francis Fukuyama’s thinking. This cannot be ignored.

Alongside a dialogue on security issues in the region—including immigration, combating drug trafficking, and climate change—blanket sanctions should be replaced by individual sanctions at the beginning of this new post-Donald Trump political term, which are already being applied in some cases. This would continuously weaken strong identities in Cuba, like the ones between the country and nation, and the state and government, which in turn strengthens the citizenry. Miguel Díaz-Canel will have a very difficult time identifying as, or confusing himself with, the nation.

Re-establishing and invigorating people-to-people diplomacy is another imperative. Soft power, a policy applied by all Chinese administrations toward Cuba, was revealed as the best option to undo an artificially constructed enmity between the two countries. One cannot forget that the United States and Cuba have been historical enemies for at least three generations, a rooted narrative that served as propitious terrain for an unvoluntary war.

A third step in this new matrix should raise political recognition for the opposition and civic recognition for civil society. From backroom conversations, which is the usual diplomatic style that gives place to democratic alternatives, it is important to move to a more public and formal stage of dialogue. I think this is more important than resource aid, and takes advantage of the regime’s growing legitimacy and legitimization vacuum, which was accelerated after July 11. There should be no doubt that the Cuban government is a government of the minority.

A fourth element involves the empowerment of the private sector, both in terms of training and connections, which is essential for the creation of the middle classes. I am not so optimistic to think that the middle classes themselves will lead to democracy. What does seem evident is that they promote economic and social pluralism and ease the necessary tension between the State and autonomous economic agents.

A fifth angle to de-bilateralize the democratization agenda. What Obama started can be updated today with the North American proposal for a global democratic alliance to curb the global spread of autocracies. In this sense, a commitment to, and aid for, the democratization of Cuba is part of the proposal to re-democratize all societies. On a different scale and in different dimensions, democracies need to re-democratize. The issue of Cuba could be rethought within this new framework.

As a sixth point, it is convenient to consider the vision of change in Cuba as a process. Cuba has been closer to democracy in the last six years, despite Donald Trump, than at any time in the previous 56 years. Cuba’s prolonged dystopia is related to two interconnected and mutually reinforcing factors: the supposed invasion by the American superpower on the island’s southern and Caribbean border, which thankfully never came, but in turn fueled the Revolution’s infallibility as a peripheral power. This had a paralyzing effect on both global diplomacy and internal debate. The exportation of conflicts, their causes, and many potential suggestions for change obtained its raw material in each U.S. electoral cycle.

The Cuban regime has always had an added strategic advantage with this logic: selling the diplomatic narrative that the debate for democracy in Cuba is a debate for sovereignty between two states with equal recognition in the United Nations. With this, it has managed at times to denationalize the democratic discussion and halt not only democratic action, but also threats of reform within the regime.

A process mindset, on the other hand, accelerates democratization, paradoxical as it may seem, and authenticates change. This is because only one process is capable of involving its recipients, which are the Cuban people. This eliminates the paralyzing obstacles caused by harsh nationalist takes on diversity and plurality. The social outbreak on June 11 (11J), which exposed the deep rifts between society and the government, can now be channeled through an intelligent strategy of democratic change that fuses an inclusive movement with a broad social base.

Seventh. It is crucial that political language gradually appropriate what in Colombia they call the “mechanism of disarming words.” Harsh rhetoric almost always serves to hide conceptual and strategic weaknesses in political designs. I would say more: soft rhetoric is more accurate, goes deeper, and avoids the defensive psychological distractions generated by toxic insults between and within countries. Most importantly, insults are not practical for resolving conflicts. Soft rhetoric could fill in many absences. The case of Venezuela comes to mind, where strong, binary, and radical discourse has drowned out more than one possibility for concrete advances. As an old international relations professor told me: you only get to the root through moderation.

This change in language is essential to interact from abroad with a more diverse and plural Cuban society, with dissimilar interests, with a new generation that has risen rapidly to the public stage, and with an elite whose sometimes visible tensions and fragmentation reflect the underlying currents of change. Like never before, words must be actions.

Finally, how to approach the embargo issue in this dual scenario with post-Castroism on one side and a Democratic administration in the White House on the other? The discussion about the embargo is still relevant. My opposition of it dates back to 1991. It is part of my political and ideological identity. Beyond this, the conversation must be calibrated and balanced for several reasons.

There is a logical asymmetry between the campaign against the embargo led by the Cuban government and the complex political process that can lead to its elimination. If control over the embargo were in the hands of the U.S. executive branch, such a campaign would have political coherence and consistency because the embargo’s elimination would be viable. This is well known, but what is lost is that the Cuban government is also aware of it and uses it for reasons other than the ostensible interest of removing the embargo. The embargo works perfectly as a political and diplomatic distraction to hide the government’s own responsibilities and freeze democratic diplomacy within multilateral organizations such as the United Nations. Does the Cuban government have a group of lawyers in Washington that works systematically with Congress, on both sides of the aisle, to pass legislation that removes the embargo? If it does, they are not doing their job well. If it is trying but not succeeding that means they are not doing their job well either. And if it hasn’t tried, it means that it prefers to spend more money on propaganda than on achieving specific political goals.

In that narrative, the embargo also serves the government by clouding its structural insufficiencies in areas as important as meeting the basic needs of the economy. And the fact is that the embargo has not prevented, nor does it prevent, the importation of basic goods from the United States, the dynamics of which are well hidden in public discussion. The questions that constantly arise are: is the Cuban government really interested in lifting the embargo? Does it really help it? I have my doubts. Hence the calibrated analysis, independent of the ethics of the policy, which requires us to look at through a political lens.

Calling for the democratization of Cuba should not be linked to the elimination of the embargo. If Obama’s policy demonstrated something, which in principle must be maintained by Biden, it is that reforms in Cuba have no obstacles other than the political will of the government. If the July protests left any clarity, it is that an already open Cuban society wants and understands that change is possible regardless of the United States. If we say and assume that the solution to the Cuban problem corresponds to and is the exclusive business of Cubans, we should not confuse facilitating conditions with necessary ones. In my perspective, there are only two reasons to oppose the embargo. One responds to the multilateralism of the international order and the other is ethical. And granted, the latter is a political arena par excellence. Or it should be.

For the rest, a coalition from an active political center is what we are lacking. It must be diverse and plural like Cuba but focused on rational and mature solutions for our multiple challenges, as well as inclusive enough to accommodate various currents, which are fewer or at least less visible, but with the capacity, knowledge, and disposition for a realistic exercise of political imagination. We deserve it.

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