• 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."


The Right Step for Improving the Lives of Cuba’s Citizens;   Un paso importante para mejorar la vida de los ciudadanos de Cuba

By Pavel Vidal and Scott Brown;      for The Atlantic Council

English Version Here: Pavel Vidal & Scott BrownCuba_ and the IFIs, English.

Spanish Version Here: Pavel Vidal & Scott Brown, Cuba and the IFIs, Spanish


3    Executive Summary

5    Reforms Are Here… and More Are Coming

6    Why Join the IFIs?

An Economy with Promise but Needing Help

How the IFIs Can Assist

A Helping Hand in Tackling Pending Reforms

Challenges for the Cuban Government

How Can Cuba Gain Membership?

11    Global Experiences

Albania’s Entry into the Global Financial System

Sidebar: The Vietnamese Experience

16 Why Should the United States Support Cuba’s Reintegration?

What Is the Best Way to Help the Cuban People?

18    Recommendations for Cuba, the United States, and the International Financial Institutions

20    Endnotes

21    About the Authors


The new US policy toward Cuba comes at a critical moment, with its impact reaching far beyond the Florida Straits. Since President Obama’s historic announcement in December 2014, Havana has welcomed the Presidents of France and Turkey, the Foreign Ministers of Japan and the Netherlands, the Director of Diplomacy for the European Union, the Governor of New York, and a host of other policymakers and entrepreneurs from the United States. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit in September.

Engagement will be critical to buttressing the government’s appetite for reform. After twenty-five years of post-Soviet adjustment and patchy results from limited reforms, a consensus exists that the economic system and old institutions require a fundamental overhaul. The Cuban gov­ernment is cognizant of the imperative to allow the “nonstate,” or private sector, to grow. It is the only way to slim down the public sector without massive unemployment.

Now that Cuba has caught the eye of foreign investors and the international community, it is a good time to reignite discussion on Cuba’s reinte­gration into the global economy. As with so many other countries before, the critical first step will be to regain access to the international financial institutions (IFIs), with a particular focus on the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Accession would serve the interests of Cuba and its citizens, the United States, and the inter­national community. In Cuba, the process of economic reform is at a pivotal moment, and more progress is needed to lift the economy on to a new growth trajectory before President Raúl Castro is to step down in 2018. Accession will require adjustments: improving data and transparency, aggressively working to unify the two currencies, and shifting official attitudes. But in the context of the new relationship with the United States, these should not be difficult.

The experiences of other former communist countries can provide lessons for Cuba. Albania, which joined the IMF in October 1991, has some interesting parallels. Albania’s first loan from the Fund, under a stand-by arrangement, was approved in August 1992, and its reengagement with the global financial system and policy reforms produced significant improvements in the standard of living. Vietnam offers another posi­tive example, with access to IFI support coming after a period of initial reform. In both countries everything from GDP to life expectancy improved. These universal benefits are compelling factors for Cuba.

For the international community, Cuba’s accession is long overdue. Still, in the United States, agreement to Cuban accession could face objections. However, those objections rest on discredited assumptions that sanctions can bring political change and that international support will help only the government and not the people of Cuba. US backing of Cuban membership in the IFIs would be consistent with the new policy of helping to support economic reform. This is a unique opportunity to stimulate further transfor­mations in Cuba.

Three possible approaches exist for Cuba to join the IFIs. The first would involve a gradual process of confidence-building between the IFIs and the Cuban authorities, with no initial commitment or date for membership. The second would be a more direct and immediate path, beginning with a Cuban decision to apply for membership. The third would be for President Obama to take the initiative by making a public statement of sup­port for Cuba’s accession to the IFIs, claiming his constitutional prerogative to define the direction of US foreign policy—much like the leadership by President George H. W. Bush in advocating for Russian engagement and membership in the IMF in 1991-1992.

This report argues that a series of steps can be taken now—by Cuba, the United States, and the international community—to pave the way for Cuba to be welcomed back as a full and active member of the international financial institutions.



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By Andrea Rodriguez
Associated Press, Jul 14, 4:30 PM EDT

MARIEL, Cuba (AP) — At Cuba’s new mega-port project west of Havana, shipping containers are stacked five-deep the length of its 2,300-foot (700-meter) dock alongside four massive, Chinese-built offloading cranes. Cuba April 2015 072

Mariel Cranes, April 2014. Photo by A. Ritter

Neon-vested workers are busy laying roads and building a convention center, and trucks filled with dirt rumble over rutted roads and coat the vegetation with dust. Not far from the Mariel container terminal, workers have finished grading a flat area the size of a football field for the first private companies to establish operations in a special economic development zone billed as a key part of the country’s effort to attract foreign investment and jumpstart a sluggish economy.

A year and a half after the port’s launch, only seven companies – five foreign and two domestic – have the green light to operate here. But with six of those approvals coming since January, officials say things are getting off the ground.

“We’re in July and we have approved almost one company per month,” Ana Teresa Igarza, director of the Special Development Zone at Mariel, said in an interview this week, when The Associated Press received access to the site. “The pace is what we expected from the beginning.” “The first ones are the trickiest,” she added. “After they begin to invest, it’s simpler for others to do so. But there’s an exploratory phase.”

Igarza declined to say which companies are coming to Mariel, except that the foreign firms include two from Mexico, two from Belgium and one from Spain. They cover sectors including food, chemicals and logistics, represent total investment of around $50 million and are expected to launch operations in the first half of 2016.

With Mariel, Cuba is also looking ahead to when the U.S. embargo may be lifted as part of a rapprochement begun by presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro in December. Washington and Havana plan to officially restore diplomatic relations on Monday.

Igarza said visiting U.S. businesspeople also have expressed interest. Tractor assembly company Cleber LLC of Alabama has already applied for a U.S. Treasury license with an eye toward building a plant at Mariel. “We see this as attractive and necessary for our economy, and we told them to go ahead with preparing the documentation,” Igarza said.

Located about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Havana, the first part of the port and planned development zone are to occupy some 11,000 acres (4,500 hectares) of bay-shore and low hills. Mariel bay is being dredged to a target depth of 59 feet (17.9 meters) to accommodate deeper-draft ships than those that can use the port of Havana, which cannot be expanded because of an automobile tunnel that traverses its mouth.

Container shipping has already been transferred from Havana to Mariel, though the capital still receives fuel tankers and grain shipments. A new railroad line will transport cargo and workers from Havana. Not counting the construction, there are currently just 328 people working at Mariel, though officials project the development zone could ultimately create some 70,000 jobs, including manufacturing, biotech and other areas.

In selling Mariel to investors, Cuba touts its well-educated populace, low labor costs and strategic location in the Caribbean. Officials also talk of the port eventually becoming a center for transshipment activity.

“Without haste, but without pause,” said Igarza, echoing the oft-repeated mantra of Castro and other officials about the pace with which Cuba intends to implement broader economic reforms that in recent years have allowed a smidgen of free-market activity in the communist-run country.

Some observers say that speed is too slow to attract much foreign investment to Mariel. “The timetables from those who are promoting reform along the lines of the slogan `without haste, but without pause,’ I think they’re inadequate,” said Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban economist who teaches at New York University.

Some potential investors are skittish because of how Cuba nationalized properties following the 1959 revolution, and more recent cases of missed payments and assets seized from foreign companies accused of corruption. Several foreign businessmen were even imprisoned. Many also may be happy to let others test development zone rules that offer tax breaks and other incentives and, Cuba says, guarantee assets and access to arbitration if disputes arise. Others are wary about entrenched bureaucracy or disapprove of the requirement that Cuban workers be hired and paid through a government-run employment agency.

But Lopez-Levy said that, at least in principle, the rules at Mariel should do much to ease concerns, such as lessening bureaucratic bottlenecks. Mariel has the potential to be “an exporting platform at a time in which the stars seem to be aligning in a favorable way for the Cuban economy in terms of improving (relations) with the United States and the European Union,” he said

Cuba April 2015 067

Mariel Under Construction, Photo by A. Ritter, April 2015

Cuba April 2015 069

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Julie M. Feinsilver

Cuban Studies, Volume 41, 2010, pp. 85-104

Complete Article here: Feinsilver – Fifty Years of Cuba’s Medical Diplomacy


Medical diplomacy, the collaboration between countries to simultaneously produce health benefits and improve relations, has been a cornerstone of Cuban foreign policy since the outset of the revolution fifty years ago. It has helped Cuba garner symbolic capital (goodwill, influence, and prestige) well beyond what would have been possible for a small, developing country, and it has contributed to making Cuba a player on the world stage. In recent years, medical diplomacy has been instrumental in providing considerable material capital (aid, credit, and trade), as the oil-for-doctors deals with Venezuela demonstrates. This has helped keep the revolution afloat in trying economic times. What began as the implementation of the one of the core values of the revolution, namely health as a basic human right for all peoples, has continued as both an idealistic and a pragmatic pursuit. This article examines the factors that enabled Cuba to conduct medical diplomacy over the past fifty years, the rationale behind the conduct of this type of soft power politics, the results of that effort, and the mix of idealism and pragmatism that has characterized the experience. Moreover, it presents a typology of medical diplomacy that Cuba has used over the past fifty years.




Medical diplomacy has been a cornerstone of Cuban foreign policy since the outset of the revolution fifty years ago. It has been an integral part of almost all bilateral relations agreements that Cuba has made with other developing countries. As a result, Cuba has positively affected the lives of millions of people per year through the provision of medical aid, as well as tens of thousands of foreign students who receive full scholarships to study medicine either in Cuba or in their own countries under Cuban professors. At the same time, Cuba’s conduct of medical diplomacy with countries whose governments had not been sympathetic to the revolution, such as Pakistan, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, to name only a few, has led to improved relations with those countries. Medical diplomacy has helped Cuba garner symbolic capital (goodwill, influence, and prestige) well beyond what would have been possible for a small, developing country, and it has contributed to making Cuba a player on the world stage. In recent years, medical diplomacy has been instrumental in providing considerable material capital (aid, credit, and trade), as the oil-for doctors deals with Venezuela demonstrates. This has helped keep the revolution afloat in trying economic times.

What began as the implementation of one of the core values of the revolution, namely health as a basic human right for all peoples, has continued as both an idealistic and a pragmatic pursuit. As early as 1978, Fidel Castro argued that there were insufficient doctors to meet demand in the developing world, despite the requesting countries’ ability to pay hard currency for their services. Because Cuba charged less than other countries, with the exception at that time of China, it appeared that it would win contracts on a competitive basis. In fact, during the following decade (1980s), Cuba’s medical contracts and grant aid increased. In most cases, aid led to trade, if not to considerable income. With the debt crises and the International Monetary Fund’s structural adjustment programs of the 1980s, grant aid predominated. In 1990, Cuban medical aid began to dwindle as neither the host countries nor Cuba could afford the costs, the former because of structural adjustment–mandated cuts in social expenditures and the latter because of the collapse of its preferential trade relationships following the demise of the Soviet Union. As Cuba’s ability to provide bilateral medical aid diminished, its provision of medical aid through multilateral sources (contracts) increased.56 Cuba’s medical diplomacy continued, albeit on a smaller scale during the 1990s, until the rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

With medical services leading economic growth in the twenty-first century, it seems unlikely that even the more pragmatic Raul Castro will change direction now. In contrast, dependency on one major benefactor and/or trade partner can be perilous, as the Cubans have seen more than once. If Chavez either loses power or drastically reduces foreign aid in an effort to cope with Venezuela’s own deteriorating economic conditions and political opposition,

Cuba could experience an economic collapse similar to that of the Special Period in the early 1990s. In fact, the global financial and economic crisis has compounded existing problems. In an effort to avert that type of collapse, Raul Castro has been trying to further diversify Cuba’s commercial partners.57 In July 2009, Cuba received a new US$150 million credit line from Russia to facilitate technical assistance from that country, and companies from both countries signed various agreements, including four related to oil exploration.

Furthermore, Raul Castro made clear in his August 1, 2009, speech before the National Assembly of People’s Power, that Cuba could not spend more than it made. He asserted that it was imperative to prioritize activities and expenditures to achieve results, overall greater efficiency, and to rationalize state subsidies to the population. Despite a little help from its Venezuelan friend, the Cuban government has had to embark on austerity measures that hark back to the worst of times right after the collapse of the former Soviet Union.60 With two budget cuts already this year, restrictions on electricity distribution, and a 20 percent decrease in imports, it is likely that the Cuban government will attempt to increase its medical exports to countries that can afford to pay for them. In fact, in August 2009, Raul Castro indicated that Cuba would need to increase the production of services that earn hard currency.62 Pragmatism clearly dictates this course of action even if it also is imbued with strong revolutionary idealism about humanitarian assistance.

Economic and political benefits of medical diplomacy aside, Fidel, both when he was president and today as an elder statesman and blogger, most sincerely cares about health for all, not just for Cubans. His long-term constant involvement in the evolution both of the domestic health system and of medical diplomacy has been clear through both his public pronouncements and actions, and the observations and commentary of his subordinates and external observers.  Today, this concern for health is part of the social agenda of ALBA, through which, for example, additional Cuban medical aid to Haiti post-2010 earthquake is being conducted.

Unable to offer financial support, Cuba provides what it excels at and what is easily available, its medical human resources. International recognition for Cuba’s health expertise has made medical diplomacy an important foreign policy tool that other, richer countries would do well to emulate. After all, what country could refuse humanitarian aid that for all intents and purposes appears to be truly altruistic?

Julie F.

Dr. Julie Feinsilver

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Original Essay Here: Cuba Study Group,  http://www.cubastudygroup.org/File_id=9ce1d57b-2598-4c7c-91bf-4a9b135a718a

Full Article Here: Yailenis Mulet Non-Agricultural Cooperatives in Cuba

Dr. C. Yailenis Mulet Concepcion

November 7, 2013:

 Starting in 1959, when Fidel Castro came to power, countryside cooperatives were established as a way of increasing and developing Cuban agriculture. There are currently more than 5,000 such cooperatives, but for the first time in half a century, urban cooperatives have been authorized as part of the economic plan initiated by the adoption of the economic and social guidelines of April 2011.

The upgrading of cooperativism, which is part of a larger effort to update the Cuban economic model, seeks to enhance efficiency and productivity in the country. With this goal—of achieving greater efficiency in economic activity—the Cuban state has been forced to decentralize the operation of state enterprises and to allow new forms of non-state management. In that environment, urban cooperatives are an alternative with certain noteworthy advantages, but also unquestionable weaknesses since experiences with agricultural cooperatives have so far been mixed.

Urban cooperativism is part of a government program aimed at bringing the non-state sector to “contribute” close to 45% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the end of a five-year period, something that is somewhat doubtful in light of the enormous sluggishness of the program. Approvals for private activity and cooperatives across the country need to be accelerated.

The first non-agricultural cooperatives launched operations just a few months ago. It would be premature to speculate on this new form of management and its role within the updating of the Cuban economic model. Nevertheless, some important aspects can be underlined:

Urban cooperativism is part of a government program aimed at bringing the non-State sector to “contribute” close to 45% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the end of a five-year period.

The establishment of urban cooperatives is a special response to the following guidelines for economic and social policy adopted by the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party:

Guideline 02: “The management model recognizes and encourages socialist state-owned enterprises, which are the primary structure of the national economy, but also the foreign investment entities stipulated by law (e.g., joint ventures and international association contracts), cooperatives, small farming, usufruct, franchising, self-employment and other economic entities that may altogether contribute to increased efficiency.”

Guideline 25:“Grade 1 cooperatives shall be established as a socialist form of joint ownership in various sectors. A cooperative is a business organization that owns its estate and represents a distinct legal entity. Its members are individuals who contribute assets or labor, and its purpose is to supply useful goods and services to society, and its costs are covered with its own income.”

Cooperatives may be established by natural persons, self-employed or salaried workers, and state-run organizations which decide to change the management structure of their entity to that of a cooperative.

The aim is to improve management structures in sectors that directly impact the population and that have been inefficient for years. At the same time, the State can gradually shed activities that are non-essential to economic development or that have been plagued by productive inefficiency been inefficient for years. At the same time, the State can gradually shed activities that are non-essential to economic development or that have been plagued by productive inefficiencies.

 Continue Reading: Yailenis Mulet Cooperatives Cuba


  Yailenis Mulet is Doctor of Economic Studies at the Center of the Cuban Economy of the University of Havana. She is also Assistant Professor at the University of Havana and holds a Bachelors in Economics from the University of Holguin (2004). She has given several lectures at various institutions, both in Cuba and abroad, including the United States, Spain, Brazil and Norway.

She has completed approximately 32 professional projects related to assessments, consulting and applications in the business sector, with an emphasis on business intelligence services.Ms. Mulet has served as an advisor for 41 theses and seven master’s theses. Currently she advises five PhD theses related to the topics of Decentralization and Territorial Development. She has published over 25 articles in renowned sources in both Cuba and abroad. She has also taught graduate courses in the business sector, which emphasize managerial training on issues related to business intelligence.

Ms. Mulet has directed several business projects related to the implementation and development of business intelligence surveillance systems and management of cooperatives. Since 2010, she has focused her research on “Decentralization and Territorial Policies” and is currently involved in several research projects related to this topic.


The 2015 Taxi Rutero Cooperative

New-Picture-6The 1959s Bus Cooperative.

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Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, June 18, 2015

Original here: Us Food Exports: Bonanza In Cuba

Before the U.S. embargo, Cuba bought more American rice than any other country in the world. Now, most Cuban rice comes from Vietnam. Last year, Cuba imported $200 million worth of wheat — virtually all of it from Europe and Canada and none from the United States, the largest global exporter.

Many U.S. agricultural producers thought those facts would begin to change this year, as U.S. relations with Cuba improved.  But in the six months since President Obama announced a new opening to the island, sales of U.S. foodstuffs — among the few U.S. products allowed, with restrictions, under the embargo — have dropped by half, from $160 million in the first quarter of 2014, to $83 million this year.  Even frozen chicken, which has led U.S. food exports to Cuba for years, had lost favor in Havana long before fears of the U.S. bird flu epidemic led this month to a ban on all poultry purchases.

Cuba Nov 2008 009Silver Creek, Seaman’s Orchards Apples from Tyro Virgina, arriving in the “Barrio Chino”, Havana, November 2008, Photo by A. Ritter

As the administration wraps up negotiations with Cuba that are expected to lead to restored diplomatic ties this summer, only Congress can lift the embargo that still prevents nearly all financial and trade relations and severely limits even the few permitted exports.

Obama has said he wants that to happen, and U.S. producers from major agribusiness  companies to small farmers have joined a bipartisan force of farm state governors and lawmakers to help overturn restrictions they say are keeping them out of a $2 billion annual market.

“Opening a new export market means a new source of revenue,” said Devry Boughner, vice president at Cargill Inc., the Minnesota-based agribusiness giant and a co-founder in January of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba.

While Cuba’s 11 million people are not the world’s biggest market, Boughner said in an interview, “it’s a market that’s right in our target zone.” With Cuba only 90 miles away, she said, it makes little sense “to be losing out to competitors who take longer to ship it there, who might not even have the same quality” as U.S. products.

Cubans rival Southeast Asians as prodigious consumers of rice. Within two years, Riceland Foods vice president Terry Harris told the Senate Agriculture Committee in April, American rice could be providing up to 135,000 metric tons, 30 percent of the Cuban market. Within a decade, he said, that figure could rise to 75 percent or more.

Doug Keesling, a fifth generation Kansas wheat farmer, told the panel he saw no “compelling reason” for Congress to “restrict the freedom of Americans to engage in commerce, especially for those who are just trying to sell wholesome, American-grown food.” “I can put my wheat in an elevator in Kansas, send it by rail down to the Gulf, put it on a ship that’s a couple days away from Havana harbor,” Keesling said. “But my wheat’s still going to lose out to wheat that has been on a boat for a week from Canada, or even two weeks from France.”

Yet despite a series of hearings, conferences, concerted lobbying and a stream of trade delegations to Cuba from both Republican and Democratic states this year, the embargo remains firmly in place, with little promise of early action.

Many lawmakers are receptive to Obama’s call to jettison a policy he says has failed for more than a half century to effect change in Cuba. But for most, lifting the sanctions remains just one more unwelcome controversy in a contentious Congress. Others want to retain congressional power to block a White House initiative they deeply oppose. They include GOP presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who has accused Obama of turning his back on Cubans oppressed by their communist government, and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), both sons of Cubans who emigrated before Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.  Obama, Cruz charged, had thrown an “economic lifeline” to Cuba just as the embargo and diplomatic freeze had left its communist regime “gasping for air.”

Malnutrition rates in Cuba are “very low,” according to the World Food Program, on par with the United States and the rest of the highly developed world. Staples are guaranteed via government-issued ration cards. But domestic agricultural production rates are abysmal, equipment and farming methods are antiquated, and up to 80 percent of Cuban food is imported.  Subsidies from the then-Soviet bloc helped fill the food gap for decades after the U.S. embargo was first imposed in 1960. The Soviet collapse left Cuba in deep recession in the early 1990s, and Havana welcomed the lifting of some U.S. restrictions on food and medical exports in 2000.

Despite permitting cash-only transactions, U.S. food sales rose to a 2008 peak of $710 million before starting a downward trajectory that appears this year to have gone off a cliff, according to figures compiled by the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

When current President Raul Castro took over nearly a decade ago he adopted more pragmatic policies than his older brother, and U.S exports increased. But the complication and high expense of buying American in recent years has diminished Cuban zeal. U.S. prices may be competitive and transportation cheaper over the short distance, but the cost of doing business with the United States is high.

Cash-only limits remain, although Obama has eased the restriction somewhat by requiring payment when title to the goods is transferred in Cuba, rather than up-front before goods are shipped.  But Cuba’s lack of cash makes that a rarely used option. Most purchases are made on credit, and the embargo allows no U.S. financing. Instead, Cuba must go through third countries, with Havana obtaining a loan from a foreign bank. That bank then communicates with the bank of a U.S. producer, which arranges the sale with the producer himself. The process is then reversed, with each stage involving lengthy bureaucracy and significant fees.

Cubans “are not going hungry; they’re just buying wheat from other countries,” said farmer Keesling. “That may be more expensive than mine in a free market, but it is now a much better value because there aren’t massive compliance costs accompanying every purchase.”

Some opponents of lifting the embargo maintain that increased U.S. sales will only benefit the Cuban government, since all agricultural imports must go through the state agency, called Alimport.

Boughner and others point out that Cuba is not unique in that regard. Until recently, both Canada and Australia handled all of their wheat imports with state boards. “We’ve had examples through history where states have been involved in trading, but it doesn’t mean we don’t trade with them,” Boughner said. The U.S. food business also sees potential in the eventual lifting of remaining restrictions on American travel to Cuba. In addition to sampling Cuban cuisine, tourists will want to eat and drink what they are used to from home, industry analysts believe.


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Richard N. Gioioso, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, focusing on Latin American migration to the U.S.

 Huffington Post, June 18, 2015

Original here: Changing the Cuban Adjustment Act

On a plane ride back from Havana in June 2013, I sat next to a passenger, dressed from head-to-toe in white, and we struck up a conversation. He explained to me that he had lived in Florida for the past five years. He had normalized his status in the U.S. through the Cuban Adjustment Act, which granted him a fast track method to legal residency. For the past year or so, he had been traveling back and forth between Miami and Havana every other weekend to see his fiancé as well as to solidify his religious practice with his spiritual guide and finish his initiation into Santería. He, I thought to myself, certainly did not seem to be a Cuban who feared political persecution on the island and therefore deserved asylum in the United States. He seemed more like a transnational migrant.

On December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced a policy change that has reinitiated formal diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, begun to open financial and trade opportunities, and expanded American travel to the island. By normalizing relations with Cuba, he has stirred up emotions among both Cuban and non-Cuban Americans, and the person I met on that plane ride comes into mind. Indeed, the migration status of Cubans who enter the United States as political refugees is one of the many policies that will change and bring consequences to both Cuba and the United States when the cold relations between the two countries finally thaw.

In 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower first categorized all Cubans as political refugees. The 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, grants all Cubans an exceptional status compared to other nationalities. It grants eligibility to any Cuban who arrives on U.S. soil permanent residence after a parole period of one year and a day.

For most Cubans, however, leaving Cuba is more about finding economic freedom than about escaping direct political persecution. In fact, many, if not most, Cubans who have left the island since 1991 resemble economic migrants rather than political refugees. The Cuban government is still an authoritarian one-party system under the Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC). Nonetheless, politics seem to have become at least minimally more inclusionary. The government has relaxed norms for individuals to strictly align with and participate in the PCC. Some non-aligned individuals have been elected to representative positions in government. At the same time, what has surfaced in some recent research, is that perception of and participation in explicit political behavior has changed and continues to change, especially for Cuban youth, such that other concerns and obligations outweigh the expressly political ones. In short, their primary concern revolves around gaining more economic opportunities as opposed to demanding explicit political freedom.

The expanding tourism sector currently provides the bulk of the economic opportunities on the island. Those who are linked to this sector, do, in fact, seem to be prospering. The many new bars and restaurants in Havana, especially, but not exclusively, in the more affluent El Vedado neighborhood and touristy la Habana Vieja, are clear signs of a “middle class” of Cubans who live relatively comfortably on the island.

For many others, migration is the solution to increased economic opportunities. Florida’s proximity and the Cuban Adjustment Act are two factors that motivate Cubans to leave. Some leave the island legally with some variety of visa, then declare their asylum status once they arrive in the U.S. Many other Cubans, however, leave the island through irregular manners and arrive at the U.S. border, over air, land or sea, declare their “Cuban” status to the authorities and begin the parole process on the spot.

The irregular migrant sneaks off the Cuban shoreline at night through some manner of sea vessel, usually in small groups or through a human smuggler. Cuban and U.S. authorities have recognized that irregular departures from Cuba are often treacherous and hazardous and have tightened control and cooperation around unauthorized exits and entries. There are also serious concerns over the notable presence of Cubans who opt to travel first to Mexico, and from there make their way to the U.S.-Mexico border to enter. Ultimately, the incentives to leave Cuba for the U.S. are clear and convincing, but no longer reflect the conditions that led to the Cuban Adjustment Act. This raises doubts about the Act’s continued validity.

The Obama Administration has announced that it has no intention of changing the migratory status of Cubans in the short term. An active “thaw” in the U.S.-Cuba relationship will lead U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to advocate for ending the trade embargo and bring migration policy to Cuba in line with other countries. Furthermore, efforts to make explicit changes to the Cuban Adjustment Act are currently under way. In short, the realities of normalization will eventually dismantle the law as it currently stands, and Cubans will cease to be an exceptional group of political refugees.

Fears over the elimination of Cubans’ exceptional refugee status and uncertainty over when that will happen will motivate many to contemplate and attempt an exit from Cuba for the United States in irregular ways. Since Obama’s announcement, reports have shown an uptick of Cubans caught at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard.

In the intermediate to long term, ending the Cuban Adjustment Act will hopefully contribute to the type of political change the U.S. government and most Cuban citizens on the island ultimately desire. For decades, presidential administrations, lawmakers, and anti-Castrista activists have tried to ferment discontent among Cubans using a variety of strategies to try and pressure the Castro administration to reform. Past and present tactics include broadcasts by Radio and Televisión Martí, USAID sponsored programs – including the recently uncovered Zunzuneo [Cuban Twitter] scandal, as well as a people-to-people exchange program established in 1999 to enhance cross-cultural relations between Americans and Cubans.

A flaw to the logic of the Cuban Adjustment Act, however, is precisely the wholesale categorization of all Cuban citizens as political refugees, because, if indeed any pressure for change would build through the tactics mentioned above, it could be relieved when Cubans leave Cuba to the United States for good. By removing the Cuban Adjustment Act and no longer granting all Cubans the status of political refugees, the U.S. immigration authorities will instead issue more and more visas – especially for tourism and educational purposes – and increase the amount and quality of exchange between the countries. Cuban travelers, who, for the most part, will no longer be able seek political asylum, will have to return to Cuba to live, with greater demands for change within Cuba having experienced U.S. society.

Nobody wants to lose a special privilege. However, American foreign and migration policy should reflect Cuba in 2015, not in 1960. Changing migration policy to Cubans recognizes those who are truly politically persecuted or fear persecution to become refugees or seek asylum. It will expand the currently small class of Cuban travelers to the U.S. who, as members of and stakeholders in the Cuban polity, will return the island with greater motivation, know-how, and support for more political and economic change. A new official U.S. migration policy for Cubans will be a fresh approach to stimulating the political and economic reforms through openness and exchange that five and a half decades of isolation have failed to achieve.

24327_1371008365655_1545135432_919317_733453_n 24327_1371008405656_1545135432_919318_8061963_n 24327_1371008445657_1545135432_919319_1805493_n balseros18 CUBAN MIGRANTS (FOR RELEASE)


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14ymedio, Havana | Junio 13, 201513, 2015

Original article here: 14YMEDIO  504,613  

At the conclusion of the month of May, the number of self-employed persons in Cuba had risen to 504,613, as shown in a report from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS) published Saturday. Of these, at least 17 percent combine their work in the private sector with a government job.

The document also notes that among people with a license to practice an occupation on their own, there are some 155,605 young people, a number that grew by 7,912 during the first quarter of the current year.

Moreover, some 154,756 women are self-employed, while 62,043 retired people have chosen to re-enter working life through this non-State form of employment.

The report also reveals that the provinces of Havana, Matanzas, Villa Clara, Camaguey, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba lead the rest of the country, accounting for 66 percent of workers engaged in these occupations.

The most common activities are still making and selling food, transport of cargo and passengers, renting of housing, rooms and spaces, telecommunications agent, and contract workers, the latter associated primarily with the first two listed activities.

The expansion of the process of self-employment began in October 2010 and the promising initial growth has been overtaken in the last year by a slower increase. Self-employed people complain about the high taxes, the lack of a wholesale market, excessive restrictions on what they are allowed to do, and the lack of permits to import raw materials.


Cuba April 2015 032Flamenco Music and Dancers at a State Restaurant.

Cuba April 2015 043Private Transport and Tourist Guide

Cuba April 2015 114At the Arts and Crafts Sales Center

Cuba April 2015 112Arts and Crafts Market

Cuba April 2015 120Food Vendor

Cuba April 2015 168“Cafetera”

Cuba April 2015 179Mobil Phone Repair

[photos by A. Ritter, April 2015]

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Financial Times, June 16, 2015

Document here: Financial Times SPECIAL REPORT on CUBA June 16 2015


John Paul Rathbone, Latin America Editor; Geoff Dyer, US diplomatic correspondent; Richard Feinberg, Professor, UCLA San Diego; Marc Frank, Journalist based in Cuba; Cardiff Garcia, FT Alphaville reporter

obama-castroTHAW IN US RELATIONS RAISES EXPECTATIONS; Tentative signs of openness heighten hopes, but is the island ready to do business?

NEW CONNECTION DIVIDES OPINION; President Obama’s overtures play better than expected at home — although not with everyone

STRAITS DEALING BRIDGES MANY GAPS; Retailers in Florida cash in on items needed by customers across the water

GLIMMERS OF GLASNOST BEGIN TO WARM ISLAND; Government retains a firm grip, but there are signs it is loosening a little

NEW PORT ZONE HARBOURS BIG AMBITIONS; A would-be capitalist enclave in a socialist state, the Mariel project is emblematic of change

STATE EXPERIMENTS WITH CO-OPERATIVE THINKING; From garages and restaurants to dealers in exotic birds, co-ops are expanding

CUBA’S NASCENT KNOWLEGE ECONOMY; The island could capitalise on a wealth of expertise in science

US COMPANIES STILL FACE INVESTMENT HURDLES; Bureaucracy, eroded infrastructure and regulatory risk are among hurdles

GOVERNMENT LIKELY TO END TO DUAL CURRENCY; Change would be part of reforms to remove price distortins

COMPENSATION IS KEY TO FUTURE RELATIONS; What now for legal claims by those who lost property in the revolution?

OPINION: WHAT CUBA CAN LEARN FROM VIETNAM; The island has the resources and location to create a balanced economy

 There is a new entry among Cuba’s roll of important dates. Alongside Fidel Castro’s 26th of July movement and the January 1 1959 “triumph of the revolution”, there is now December 17 2014. That was the day when Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, the US and Cuban presidents, announced that they wanted to normalise bilateral relations and end more than 50 years of cold war enmity.

 To be sure, communist Cuba was already changing. After formally becoming president in 2008, Mr Castro began a tentative economic liberalisation process to boost the country’s flagging economy — especially urgent now that Venezuela’s growing crisis jeopardises the $1.5bn of aid it sends every year. But the December 17 announcement lit a bonfire of expectations among US businesses — even if Cuba’s $80bn economy, for all its exotic allure, is much the same size as the Dominican Republic’s. “There is a new sense of excitement, of US companies coming to look and thinking of starting seed businesses,” says one long-established European investor in Havana. “It makes sense. Start small, learn how the system works and then see how it all goes.”

 So, how might it all go? Continue reading:  Financial Times SPECIAL REPORT on CUBA June 16 2015

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THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, June 2, 2015




TED PICCONE, Senior Fellow, Latin America Initiative, The Brookings Institution

Featured Speaker:

STEFAN SELIG, Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade, U.S. Department of Commerce


JUAN TRIANA CORDOVI, Professor of Economics, University of Havana

ARCHIBALD RITTER. Distinguished Research Professor, Carleton University



BARBARA KOTSCHWAR, Research Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics


YAIMA DOIMEADIOS, Professor, University of Havana

RICHARD FEINBERG, Professor, University of California, San Diego

SAIRA PONS, Professor, Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy,  University of Havana

GERMÁN RIOS, Director, Strategic Affairs, CAF Development Bank



RICHARD FEINBERG, Professor, University of California, San Diego


RAFAEL BETANCOURT, Consultant, Havanada Consulting

TED HENKEN, Professor, Baruch College

JOHN McINTIRE, Chairman, Cuba Emprende Foundation



HAROLD TRINKUNAS, Senior Fellow and Director, Latin America Initiative, The Brookings Institution


MARK ENTWISTLE, Founding Partner, Acasta Capital

JOSÉ MARIA VINALS CAMALIONGA, Partner and Director of International Operations, Lupicinio International Law Firm

AUGUSTO MAXWELL, Partner, Akerman, LLP

OMAR EVERLENY, Professor, Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, University of Havana


TED PICCONE, Senior Fellow, Latin America


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Anna Newby | June 5, 2015

A video of the event is available here.


Cuba’s economic future is looking up if Havana undertakes additional reforms. Such was the overall—yet cautious—consensus at this week’s Brookings event titled “Rethinking Cuba: New opportunities for development,” hosted by the Brookings Institution’s Latin America Initiative. The conference brought together a high-level group of experts from Cuba, the United States and other countries to examine the prospects for Cuba’s economy in the context of the historic process of normalization launched on December 17, 2014.

Opening the event, Brookings Senior Fellow Ted Piccone called attention to the gradual but unprecedented progress taking place in Cuba today. Amid “dialogue and confidence-building” between Washington and Havana—including Cuba’s removal from the U.S. State Department’s list of states that sponsor terrorism, an essential step for the full normalization of diplomatic relations—public- and private-sector actors are entering uncharted waters. As the event’s many panelists went on to discuss, financing Cuba’s growth, fostering foreign investment, and engaging the island’s emerging private sector remain enigmas in many ways.

Offering the Obama administration’s perspective, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Stefan Selig pointed to new commercial openings in Cuba, such as the operation of Airbnb in the country and the increasing availability of commercial flights. There is “no denying the speed of these developments,” Selig said, and there is “no denying the excitement.” But the process of normalizing relations, Selig emphasized, will be “evolutionary and deliberative.”

Juan Triana Cordoví of the University of Havana and Archibald Ritter of Carleton University underscored the cautious excitement about Cuba’s economic outlook. Recognizing that the Castro government is revising its fiscal and economic policies, surveys of foreign business leaders show expectations that the ease of doing business on the island will improve. Policy moves, in combination with big investments in infrastructure development, have prompted “an important transformation in the image of Cuba,” in Cordoví’s words. And as Ritter pointed out, despite Fidel Castro’s famous interest in making Cuba a “giant school for socialism,” it has actually become “a giant school for entrepreneurship,” with deficiencies in access to capital and information spurring remarkable creativity among Cubans.

On the issue of financing, Brookings Nonresident Fellow Richard Feinberg acknowledged that Cuba is still mired in a low investment, low growth trap—a disappointment, as all panelists agreed, given Cuba’s potential for growth. As Yaima Doimeadíos pointed out, the large Cuban diaspora has been and will continue to be an essential financer of new investments—particularly in tourism. But the fact that Cuba remains outside the Bretton Woods international financial institutions is a major obstacle, andHavana must decide when (not if) to join those institutions, according to Feinberg. Regardless, as Germán Ríos of the CAF Development Bank pointed out, it will take a while before normal financing will be available to Cuba, given financial restrictions on the island and shortcomings in the banking sector. In the short term, capacity-building projects, technical assistance, and efficiency gains will be key; in the longer term, public-private partnerships are a central goal. As Yaima Doimeadíos of the University of Havana pointed out, the reduction in the number of small-scale, state-managed enterprises amounts to an acknowledgement by the Cuban government that it is poorly-equipped for such tasks. One of the best ways for the Cuban economy to achieve productivity gains, she added, will be through efficiency gains—these are more likely to be discovered in the private sector.

Turning to the issue of self-employment—a relatively new sector on the island—speakers agreed that self-employed Cubans still face many constraints. The field remains strictly controlled, as Ted Henken of Baruch College noted, and hardly allows for much creativity: “self-employment in Cuba—in the official sense—isn’t really entrepreneurial, [rather] it’s medieval, survivalist.” Ownership of capital is unclear, as Rafael Betancourt of Havánada Consulting added, and the centralized approval process means long waits.

Nevertheless, Henken emphasized, there is an apparent directive from the top to make improvements, with Raúl Castro writing to his colleagues that “we all” need to work to end the stigmatization of private enterprise and self-employment in Cuba. He likely recognizes the major advantages to removing the country’s “auto-bloqueo” (self-imposed blockade, in Henken’s words) preventing the inflow of capital and knowledge, which the Obama administration has offered to help provide to Cuban entrepreneurs. Conveniently, self-employment fits within the socialist narrative of capital ownership by the workers.

Concluding the event, Piccone reiterated that in spite of the positive outlook for Cuba, changes on the island will be slow and incremental. Basic economic incentives still do not fully align with market-oriented structures, and technological hurdles to development—particularly internet access—remain high. Moreover, many of the most promising developments are at the microeconomic level and are not likely to have widespread effects. He added that U.S.-Cuba relations are only part of the story and that developments vis-à-vis China, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, and elsewhere could also prove consequential.

One audience member pointed out that the glaring weak link in Cuba’s economic picture is political, not economic, i.e., the government’s political will to modernize and integrate its economy. Cuban law technically prevents nationalization, requires compensation if a foreign asset is expropriated, and guarantees that profits can be repatriated. But foreign investors doubt the Castro government’s seriousness about enforcing those laws, given its history of hostility to foreign business.

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