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

CUBA SAYS IT’S ‘BETTING IT SAFE’ WITH ITS OWN COVID VACCINE

“We are seeing a safety profile with the vaccine [Soberana 2] that is very good,” Dr. Vicente Verez, director of the Finlay Institute of Vaccines, told NBC News.

NBC News, April 10, 2021, 3:35 PM EDT

By Orlando Matos and Carmen Sesin

Original Article: Cuba’s Covid Vaccine

HAVANA — Cuba is “betting it safe” with the later development of their own Covid-19 vaccines and encouraged by what they’re seeing in late stage and experimental studies, a top Cuban vaccine scientist said.

If the trials are successful, the relatively small, communist island of 11 million — that has been sanctioned by the United States for decades — would be one of just very few countries with vaccines to fight the coronavirus pandemic, drawing worldwide attention to its potential feat.

The other countries that have developed vaccines, including the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and India, have significantly larger economies and population sizes.

Two of Cuba’s five vaccine candidates are in Phase 3 trials: Soberana 2, which translates to ‘sovereignty,’ and Abdala, named after a book by the Cuban independence hero José Martí.

Around 44,000 people are getting the Soberana 2 vaccine as part of the Phase 3 double-blind study. An additional 150,000 health care workers are being inoculated with Soberana 2 as part of an “interventional study.”

Unlike the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the Soberana 2 uses synthesized coronavirus proteins to trigger the body’s immune system.

“We are seeing that the vaccine is very safe, the potential risk for applying it to more people is decreasing, and the potential benefits are increasing. There is evidence of certain efficacy and that is why we decided to expand the interventional studies,” Dr. Vicente Verez, director of the Finlay Institute of Vaccines, told NBC News. The institute is named after the Cuban epidemiologist Dr. Carlos Finlay who discovered yellow fever is transmitted through mosquitoes.

The institute was established in 1991 by the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro who invested heavily in the country’s health care system and pharmaceutical sector. Its cancer research center developed a vaccine being tested in the United States and other countries.  

In Cuba, “we began a bit later than the rest of the vaccines [in the world] because we had to wait and know a little more about the virus and the mechanism though which it infects cells,” Verez said. “We are seeing a safety profile with the vaccine [Soberana 2] that is very good.”

With its economy ravaged by the pandemic, decades of sanctions and a decline in aid from its ally Venezuela, the island has been grappling with shortages in food and medicine. Its economy shrank 11 percent in 2020. But it has managed to keep the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths down with strict measures and lockdowns, compared to many developed countries around the world. In recent weeks, the country has averaged around 1,000 cases per day, but it had very low infection rates last year.

The final results of the Phase 3 trials are not expected for months. The government’s plan is to have nearly all the inhabitants of the capital, Havana, vaccinated by May through the interventional study, and the entire country’s population inoculated before the year ends.

Verez said that while the vaccination won’t be mandatory, he thinks “the immense majority of the population wants the vaccine.”

For Cuba, the vaccine is as much about public health as it is a show of force; that a small communist country sanctioned by the U.S. can compete on the world stage with its own vaccine candidates.  Cuba could have acquired vaccines from its allies, China and Russia, but developing its own gives it the opportunity to sell vaccines to underdeveloped countries that have seen few doses, giving it a source of badly-needed hard currency. As U.S. and British vaccines advanced in clinical trials last year, wealthy countries in North America and Europe preordered large quantities, leaving poor and developing countries with a large gap in access.

Verez said some countries have approached Cuban officials with the intent to purchase more than 100 million annual doses of some of its vaccines. He said Cuba’s vaccine production system is being reorganized to produce 100 million doses.  Iran, which banned U.S. and British vaccines, will host a Phase 3 trial of Soberana 2 as part of an agreement that includes producing millions of doses there. Venezuela will produce Abdala vaccines, its government announced Thursday. Mexico and Argentina have also expressed interest in Cuba’s vaccines.

“They are very safe,” Dr. Eduardo Martínez Díaz, president of the state-run BioCubaFarma, said in emailed responses to questions. “After applying thousands of doses, only slight and moderate side effects were seen in a small percentage of volunteers.”

Díaz added that both vaccines are creating a high amount of immunity. If exported, the prices would be affordable, he said.

Verez said the vaccines will be adapted to the new variants, and extra doses could be required to boost immunity.

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ONE HUNDRED YEAR OF THE RUSSIAN NEP – LESSONS FOR CUBA

By: Samuel Farber, April 3, 2021

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Author’s Note – This article originally appeared in Spanish in La Joven Cuba (Young Cuba), one of the most important critical blogs in the island, where the Internet remains the principal vehicle for critical opinion because the government has not yet succeeded in controlling it. The article elicited some strong reactions including that of a former government minister who called it a provocation.

The New Economic Policy (NEP) introduced by the revolutionary government in 1921 was in fact an attempt to reduce the widespread discontent among the Russian people with measures designed to increase production and popular access to consumer goods. Even though the Civil War (1918-1920) caused great hardship among the rural and urban populations, it was the politics of War Communism, introduced by the Bolshevik government during that period, that significantly worsened the situation. This led to a profound alienation among those who had been the pillars of the October Revolution in 1917: the industrial workers, and the peasantry that constituted 80 percent of the population.

In the countryside, the urban detachments, organized to confiscate from the peasantry their agricultural surplus to feed the cities, ended up also confiscating part of the already modest peasant diet in addition to the grain needed to sow the next crop. The situation worsened when under the same policy the government, based on an assumed class stratification in the countryside that had no basis in reality, created the poor peasant committees (kombedy) to reinforce the functions of the urban detachments. Given the arbitrary informal and formal methods that characterized the operations of the kombedy, these ended up being a source of corruption and abuse, frequently at the hands of criminal elements active in them, who ended up appropriating for their own use the grain and other kinds of goods they arbitrarily confiscated from the peasantry.

Moreover, during the fall of 1920, symptoms of famine began to appear in the Volga region. The situation became worse in 1921 after a severe drought ruined the crops, which also affected the southern Urals. Leon Trotsky had proposed in February 1920, to substitute the arbitrary confiscations of War Communism with a tax in kind paid by the peasantry as an incentive to have them grow more surplus grain. However, the party leadership rejected his proposal at that time.

The politics of War Communism was also applied to the urban and industrial economy through its total nationalization, although without the democratic control by the workers and the soviets, which the government abolished when the civil war began and replaced with the exclusive control from above by state administrators. Meantime, the workers were subjected to a regime of militarized compulsory labor. For the majority of the Communist leaders, including Lenin, the centralized and nationalized economy represented a great advance towards socialism. That is why for Lenin, the NEP was a significant step back. Apparently, in his conception of socialism, total nationalization played a more important role than the democratic control of production from below.

The elimination of workplace democracy was only one aspect of the more general clampdown on soviet democracy that the Bolshevik government launched in response to the bloody and destructive civil war. Based on the objective circumstances created by the war, and on the urgent need to resolve the problems they were facing, like economic and political sabotage, the Bolshevik leadership not only eliminated multiparty soviets of workers and peasants, but also union democracy and independence, and introduced very serious restrictions of   other political freedoms established at the beginning of the revolution.

CONTINUE READING

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The Situation in Cuba

Since the decade of the nineties, and especially since Raúl Castro assumed the maximum leadership of the country in 2006–formally in 2008 – economic reform has been one of the  central concerns of  the government. The logic of that economic reform points to the Sino-Vietnamese model–which combines an anti-democratic one-party state with a state capitalist system in the economy–and not to the compulsory collectivization of agriculture and the five-year plans brutally imposed on the USSR by Stalinist totalitarianism after the NEP. The Cuban government’s decision to authorize the creation of the PYMES (small and medium private enterprises), a decision frequently promised but not yet implemented, would constitute a very important step towards the establishment of state capitalism in the island. This state capitalism will very probably be headed by the current powerful political, and especially military, leaders who would become private capitalists.

Until now, the Cuban government has not specified the size that would define the small and especially the mid-size enterprises under the PYMES concept. But we know that several Latin American countries (like Chile and Costa Rica) have defined the size in terms of the number of workers. Chile, for example, defines the micro enterprises as those with less than 9 workers, the small-size with 10 to 25 workers, the medium-size with 25 to 200 workers, and the big size with more than 200 workers. Should Cuba adopt similar criteria, its mid-size enterprises would end up as capitalist firms ran by their corresponding administrative hierarchies. If that happens, it is certain that the official unions will end up “organizing” the workers in those medium size enterprises and, as in the case of Chinese state capitalism, do nothing to defend them from the new private owners.

Regarding political reform, there has been much less talk and nothing of great importance has been done. As in the case of the Russian NEP, the social and economic liberalization in Cuba has not been accompanied by political democratization but, instead, by the intensification of the regime’s political control over the island. Even when the government has adopted liberalizing measures in the economy, like the new rules increasing the number of work activities permitted in the self-employed sector, it continues to ban private activities such as the publication of books that could be used to develop criticism or opposition to the regime. This is how the government has consolidated its control over the major means of communication –radio, television, newspapers and magazines – although it has only partially accomplished that with the Internet.

The government is also using its own socially liberalizing measures to reinforce its political control. For example, at the same time that it liberalized the rules to travel abroad, it developed a list of “regulated” people who are forbidden to travel outside of the island based on arbitrary administrative decisions, without even allowing for the right of appeal to the judicial system it controls. Similar administrative practices lacking in means for judicial review control have been applied to other areas such as the missions organized to provide services abroad. Thus, the Cuban doctors who have decided not to return to the island once their service abroad has concluded, have been victims of administrative sanctions – eight years of compulsory exile – without any possibility of lodging a judicial appeal.

Still pending is the implementation of the arbitrary rules and the censorship of artistic activities of Decree 349, that allows the state to grant licenses and censor the activities of self-employed artists. The implementation of the decree has been postponed due to the numerous and strong protests that it provoked. All of these administrative practices highlight the fact that the much discussed rule of law proclaimed by the Constitution is but a lie. Let us not forget that the Soviet constitution that Stalin introduced in 1936 was very democratic … on the paper it was written. Even so, Cubans in the island should appeal to their constitutionally defined rights to support their protests and claims against the Cuban state whenever it is legally and politically opportune.

At the beginning of the Cuban revolutionary government there was a variety of political voices heard within the revolutionary camp. But that disappeared in the process of forming the united party of the revolution that established the basis for what Raúl Castro later called the “monolithic unity” of the party and country. That is the party and state model that emulates, along with China and Vietnam, the Stalinist system that was consolidated in the USSR at the end of the twenties, consecrating the “unanimity” dictated from above by the maximum leaders, and the so-called “democratic centralism”, which in reality is a bureaucratic centralism.

The Cuban Communist Party (CCP) is a single party that does not allow the internal organization of tendencies or factions, and that extends its control over the whole society through its transmission belts with the so-called mass organizations (trade unions, women’s organization), institutions such as the universities, as well as with the mass media that follow the “orientations” they receive from the Department of Ideology of the Central Committee of the CCP. These are the ways in which the one-party state controls, not necessarily everything, but everything it considers important.

The ideological defenders of the Cuban regime insist in its autochthonous origins independent from Soviet Communism. It is true that Fidel Castro’s political origin is different, for example, from that of Raúl Castro, who was originally a member of the Socialist Youth associated with the PSP (Partido Socialista Popular), the party of the pro-Moscow orthodox Communists. But  Fidel Castro developed his “caudillo” conceptions since very early on, perhaps as a reaction to the disorder and chaos he encountered in the Cayo Confites expedition in which he participated against the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1947, and with the so-called Bogotazo in Colombia in 1948.

In 1954, in a letter he wrote to his then good friend Luis Conte Aguero, Fidel Castro proclaimed three principles as necessary for the integration of a true civic movement: ideology, discipline and especially the power of the leadership. He also insisted in the necessity for a powerful and implacable propaganda and organizational apparatus to destroy the people involved in the creation of tendencies, splits and cliques or who rise against the movement. This was the ideological basis of the “elective affinity” (to paraphrase Goethe) that Fidel Castro showed later on for Soviet Communism.

So, what can we do? The recent demonstration of hundreds of Cubans in front of the Ministry of Culture to protest the abuses against the members of the San Isidro Movement and to advocate for artistic and civil liberties, marked a milestone in the history of the Cuban Revolution. There is plenty of room to reproduce this type of peaceful protest in the streets against police racism, against the tolerance of domestic violence, against the growing social inequality and against the absence of a politically transparent democracy open to all, without the privileges sanctioned by the Constitution for the CCP. At present, this seems to be the road to struggle for the democratization of Cuba from below, from the inside of society itself, and not from above or from the outside.

The lesson of the Russian NEP is that economic liberalization does not necessarily signify the democratization of a country, and that it may be accompanied by the elimination of democracy. In Cuba there has been economic and social liberalization but without any advance on the democratic front.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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FROM LIECHTENSTEIN TO HONG KONG: HOW CUBA USES SHELL COMPANIES TO THUMB ITS NOSE AT EMBARGO

BY KEVIN G. HALL AND NORA GÁMEZ TORRES

MARCH 31, 2021 07:30 AM,  UPDATED APRIL 01, 2021 05:50 PM

Original Article: How Cuba uses shell companies

Large cranes can be seen at Port Mariel inside the Mariel Special Economic Development Zone.

A generic-sounding company headquartered in the tax haven of Liechtenstein has for the past 37 years served as the center of global shipping operations for the Cuban government, functioning under the radar while skirting a six-decade trade embargo, an investigation by the Miami Herald/el Nuevo Herald and McClatchy shows.

When incorporated in 1984 in the principality of Liechtenstein, Acemex Management Company Limited was created as a means of survival. It grew into a business model, has been described as the work of a genius and has proved enduring.

A new Miami Herald/el Nuevo Herald investigation reveals the network of hidden shell companies and secretive jurisdictions that allowed Fidel and Raúl Castro and now their military successors to borrow money and to buy, sell and charter the ships that bring in chemicals, fuel and construction supplies needed to build the growing tourism sector and export minerals.

The findings build on earlier reporting published in February as part of a global investigative collaboration called OpenLux, which spotlighted how the small European nation of Luxembourg was used as a camouflage for Cuban maritime operations.

The new investigation sheds light on little-known Acemex and the key players surrounding it — a pair of powerful Cuban brothers not named Fidel and Raúl, but Guillermo Faustino Rodriguez López-Calleja and hisyounger sibling Luis Alberto. The latter is a brigadier generalblacklisted by the United States in 2020.

Continue Reading

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WHO IS KARLA PÉREZ AND WHY IS THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT FORBIDDING HER RETURN TO CUBA?

By TED A. HENKEN

No Country MAGAZINE, 03/23/2021

Original Article: Karla Pérez


Karla Pérez

Karla Pérez (Cienfuegos, 1998), the young Cuban woman whom the Cuban government prohibited from returning to her country yesterday, March 18, is 22 years old. She graduated with a degree in Journalism in December 2020 from the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica.

The prohibition of her return to the country where she was born in 1998 occurs almost exactly four years after she was expelled for political reasons from the Journalism program of the Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” de Las Villas (UCLV) on April 13, 2017.

According to a detailed report from the Observatorio de Libertad Académica in November 2020, a few months before entering UCLV, when Pérez was still only 17 years old, she joined the political movement Somos +, an organization established in 2013 with the objective of “building a modern, prosperous and free country.”

This dissident initiative has been both disqualified and persecuted by the Cuban government, which classifies it as a subversive and counterrevolutionary project financed by the United States.

According to Pérez, at that time she was attracted to Somos + because: “There were many good people there, people that I considered an example to follow. In the beginning, that movement was like a mirror of the country that I wanted.”

As a consequence of her membership in Somos + and as punishment for expressing herself openly on the group’s blog, she was accused of having violated university regulations and expelled on the morning of April 13 by a group of “decision makers” from the university, made up of four journalism professors and six members of the University administration.

More shocking is the fact that a brigade of FEU (University Student Federation) members from Pérez’s own cohort, that is, the 14 other students who were studying journalism with her, also signed onto her expulsion. All of them had already been informed that anyone who opposed her punishment would themselves be “analyzed” at a later date.

Seeing all the channels for a professional future closed to her on the Island, Pérez accepted the offer of assistance from the staff of the Costa Rican newspaper El Mundo and was able to continue and eventually finish her Journalism studies in that country between 2016 and 2020. At the same time, she actively devoted herself to the practice of independent journalism, collaborating with Diario de Cuba and Havana Times in 2017 and serving as a “community manager” and correspondent at Tremenda Nota starting in 2018. She currently works with the magazine ADN Cuba.

As part of a larger project that I am currently undertaking that traces the career paths of independent Cuban journalists, I interviewed Pérez on March 15, three days prior to the Orwellian migration ordeal she is currently experiencing. The interview tries to capture the process of “conscientization” of a young Cuban woman attracted to the profession of Journalism in a country like Cuba. Furthermore, it reveals in gripping detail the many personal, family, and political costs that one must pay when embarking on the tortuous path of free expression in Cuba.


Ted A. Henken: How and why did you decide to study Journalism in college? What attracted you to the idea of ​​being a journalist in a country like Cuba?

Ted A. Henken: How and why did you decide to study Journalism in college? What attracted you to the idea of ​​being a journalist in a country like Cuba?

Karla Pérez: It is not a very romantic response at the beginning. I had always had an affinity for language and literature since elementary school. History, Spanish, and literature all fascinated me. The “romantic” came later, in high school. I managed to have more access to an alternative civil society, to find out what was happening in Havana and the “Oriente”, and also to become irritated because I could not read about these things in the state press.

My nuclear family and I had broken with the Cuban government a long time ago and I had long since decided that I would never work in the official press. I wanted to write about what was being marginalized from the “revolutionary” discourse and I knew that I couldn’t do it in the permitted newspapers.

Could you describe your family and social origins?

I come from a nuclear family (my father, mother, and me) of professionals. My father is a civil engineer and my mother is an economist. However, shortly after graduating, they began working in the private sector due to the poor conditions provided by the state sector. For my parents, there was never a break with the Revolution, because they simply never believed in it.

My grandparents, as is quite common in the Cuban family, are people integrated into the revolutionary process, and I wouldn’t want to go much beyond that out of respect for their privacy.

In my childhood and adolescence, I focused on going to school and getting good grades. I was already beginning to develop a critical capacity of my own, but apart from a few controversies with teachers in middle and high-school, it did not go beyond that.  I was never a member of the UJC (Young Communist League) or the FEU, for example.  In college, I was also like that; I never used the university as a platform to criticize the government. I did that on the outside (through the Somos + blog and in my on-line social networks).

What was your first job as a journalist in the state sector?

I never worked in state newspapers, although I did do an internship for a month, during my first semester of college between January and February of 2017. The provincial newspaper 5 de septiembre allowed me a lot of leeway within the “professional Calvary” that working in the official media represented.  They did not impose the topics I should write about and I was able to focus on giving a voice to actors in the private sector who were then emerging in the city (business owners and bicycle taxi drivers). There was one time where I was directly censored when the then director of the newspaper, Adonis Subit Lamí, called me into his office to ask me to “correct” certain phrases of an interview.

I cannot share any articles from that time with you because they have since been deleted from the newspaper’s website. Just now, I went back to look for them and they do not appear. However, in essence I interviewed an engineer who earned his living as a rickshaw driver, because working in his profession paid little and the owners of a private cafe known as “La Buena Pipa”; among other jobs that I don’t remember very well now.

Regarding the censorship of Adonis Subit Lamí, I remember that it was in the interview with the rickshaw driver and focused on a passage that quoted him as saying: “there is lack of freedom to do things[…]”. This was related to private sector work in Cuba. The official told me that using the word “freedom” was too strong in that context and that I should change it.

Why did you decide to leave the state media and become an independent journalist?

Already ever since I was a student working toward my degree, I wanted to work in the emerging alternative, independent media sector. I had been watching the appearance of new outlets like El Estornudo and Periodismo de Barrio.

How did you discover these two independent media start-ups and how were you able to access their content during these years?

Through the internet and through friendships that I had been building through Facebook, which I have been on since 2011. Also, remember that earlier the “weekly package” used to include content from dissidents, activists, and independent journalists, especially as part of programs produced in South Florida. That’s how I discovered figures like Yoani Sánchez and Eliecer Ávila. Now, however, this kind of content is systematically eliminated from the “package” by its distributors.

For me, it was just the dream of being part of the independent media, not actually putting it into practice, that led to my definitive expulsion from the world of higher education in Cuba.

That triggered my forced exile in order to complete my university studies. At the same time, I have been separated from my family for almost four years now (2017-2021). During that time outside of Cuba, I have also done independent journalism based as I am in a solid democracy like Costa Rica and have suffered no retaliation because of it.

Why do you say “forced exile”?

Well, it seems enough to me to qualify as “forced exile”, based on my expulsion at the age of 18 from the university and the entire system of higher education in Cuba. At that age what you do is study, right? What was left for me in a country where I could not continue to achieve my academic goals?

What were the costs and benefits of your decision to practice independent journalism?

It’s bad enough that haven’t been able to see my parents, sister, and other relatives for four years. Perhaps the greatest benefit has been to have a clear conscience for having fulfilled my duty and feeling that I have served a useful purpose for Cuba, reflecting that part of reality that never appears in the official media. And that is a big part of what makes up Cuba.

What is it that fundamentally differentiates independent journalism from official journalism?

The essential difference is that independent journalism covers more of Cuban reality; it covers a much wider spectrum of how life actually goes on in Cuba. Meanwhile, the official media looks the other way when it comes to poverty, the repression of dissent, and vulnerable communities.

It is an automated operation and anyone who has tried to push the limits suffers the consequences. Plus, the salaries for official journalists are among the lowest in the state sector, pushing its practitioners into precariousness.

You are a journalist, but doing journalism outside the official media in Cuba turns you into a kind of “dissident” in the eyes of the state, even when that is not your aim. Right? For you, what is the key difference between being an independent journalist and a dissident? Is it possible to be both at the same time?

I think that in a totalitarian state like Cuba, I am both: a journalist and also a dissident; I “dissent” from the established order because it affects me directly both on a personal and professional level. So, I am not interested in distancing myself from one thing or the other. Still, of course, I have established limits in my coverage of dissidents, organizations, and movements.  I am not an active member of those groups, but I do advocate for causes that I consider just.

And even if a democracy were founded on the island tomorrow, I would always work to hold the government and its leaders to account. I would continue being a “dissident” vis-à-vis policies that seem wrong or arbitrary to me.  Injustice is not automatically eliminated with the arrival of democracy.

For a time, some blogs and then later independent media outlets emphasized the fact that they were produced “from Cuba,” in contrast to others that were produced “from abroad.” For you, does this distinction still have importance, significance, or relevance given the increasingly “transnational” reality of both journalism and the Cuban nation itself?

To advance in our common goals, the inside and outside should no longer be thought of as separate settings.

Although, of course, I consider the people who do journalism from within the island of greater value based on their resistance, and I never would, from my position of privilege, minimize them or try to tell them what to do.

In the end, I think we complement one another very well. Exiled professionals have always pushed those who fight, in this case journalists, from within totalitarian regimes.

In all parts of the world, the model of media financing is in crisis. In Cuba, there is also an official discourse that argues that the independent journalists and media are actually “subversives” or “mercenaries” because they have developed alternative financing. How do you navigate in this extremely polarized and politicized context?

The key in my work is that there is no imposition of agendas, editorial lines, or approaches that betray my values ​​and what I believe is fair. Everything can be discussed in the newsrooms. There must be openness, of course, but there are basic principles that are non-negotiable. This is a conversation that we have (and must have) within our media outlets.

The defamations and slanders that are showered down from Cuban officialdom no longer affect us. What concerns me is clarity within myself and with my nuclear family.

What are your experiences of harassment, intimidation, or detention and interrogation by state security? Has your free movement been prevented or “regulated” within or outside the country?

I was interrogated three times (between September 2016 and January 2017) when I was 18 years old when I was a Journalism student at the Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” de Las Villas (UCLV).

What were the reasons behind these interrogations?

My posts and denunciations on social networks; my collaboration on the blog of the Somos + Movement; my relationship with figures like Eliecer Ávila and Iliana Hernández; my absence from political-indoctrination events at the University, such as those that occurred with the death of Fidel Castro.  Later in April 2017, I was expelled from UCLV and permanently from the entire system of higher education in Cuba.

I have seen the document that was given to you justifying your expulsion. Are there other similar cases of students or professors who have been expelled from Cuba’s Journalism schools for ideological reasons?

I personally know of the case of a professor from my own University (UCLV), Dalila Rodríguez, a Master of Linguistic and Editorial Studies, who was expelled just weeks after I was. She did not belong to any opposition movement, but the repression occurred because she was the daughter of a religious leader, Leonardo Rodríguez, an opposition leader associated with the Instituto Patmos.

Ted A. Henken (Pensacola, 1971) is an associate professor of sociology at Baruch College, CUNY. His most recent academic works include Cuba’s Digital Revolution: Citizen Innovation and State Policy (University of Florida Press, 2021) and Cuba empresarial: emprendedores ante una cambiante política pública (Editorial Hypermedia, 2020). He is currently working on a history of independent journalism in Cuba.

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A Pre-Review of CUBA’S DIGITAL REVOLUTION: CITIZEN INNOVATION AND STATE POLICY, Forthcoming, June 1, 2021, by TED A. HENKEN AND SARA GARCIA SANTAMARIA

By Larry Press Professor of Information Systems at California State University

Original Article at Larry Press’ Blog

Larry Press
Larry Press

Cuba’s Digital Revolution: Citizen Innovation and State Policy (Reframing Media, Technology, and Culture in Latin/o America), June 1, 2021
by Ted A. Henken and Sara Garcia Santamaria

In spite of having a slow, expensive, government-controlled Internet infrastructure, Cuba is undergoing what Ted Henken and Sara Garcia Santamaria refer to as a digital revolution.

The digital revolution might be said to have begun in 2007 when Yoani Sánchez launched her blog “Generation Y.” Internet access was difficult — she would get illegal connectivity at tourist hotels, and the blog was initially hosted in Germany. Soon, the Huffington Post began publishing her posts, and she has subsequently received many international awards, including the Ortega y Gasset Award for Digital Journalism in 2008.

I recall reading of her teaching others to blog at her home, and other blogs followed, but that was just the start of the digital revolution. Today, she publishes a daily digital newspaper 14Ymedio which is available in Spanish and English, and there are many independent (non-government) media sites that cover fashion, sports, art, music, and technology as well as news, commentary, and current events.

Since Cuba had and still has very poor Internet infrastructure, one might ask how this digital content is distributed. The digital-distribution revolution began in 2008 with el Paquete Semanal, the “weekly package” of digital material distributed on hard and flash drives that became a nation-wide sneakernet. El Paquete is financed by advertising and customer fees and it has been suggested that it is the nation’s largest private employer. In 2015, the Government began opening public-access WiFi hotspots. Cubans hackers also created local community networks which did not have a connection to the global Internet. The largest, Havana’s SNET, had an estimated 100,000 users before it was taken over by the government. More recently, 3G mobile service was introduced and now 4G is beginning to roll out.

Cuba’s independent media and ad-hoc distribution channels are a product of a culture of innovation — from restoring old cars and equipping bicycles with lawn-mower engines to creating community networks like SNET, software startups, and work as independent, self-employed programmers. Necessity is the mother of invention.

I’ve been speaking of media, but Henken estimates that there is also a digitally-convened movement or protest in Cuba every two months or so. He describes several of these and their leaders in this article.

If you are interested in more on Cuba’s digital media revolution, check out Henken’s recent interview at Tulane University. (It’s over an hour-long, but he speaks clearly so you can listen at 2X speed). He talks about Cuban media and introduces a forthcoming anthology he and Santamaria edited. In his presentation, Henken discusses independent Cuban media and summarizes each chapter of the book, which will be available from the University Press of Florida on June 1.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

In Medias Res: Who Will Control Cuba’s Digital Revolution?, Ted A. Henken

Part I. History, Media, and Technology

1. The Past, Present, and Future of the Cuban Internet, Larry Press

2. Historical Itineraries and Cyclic Trajectories: Alternative Media Communication Technologies, and Social Change in Cuba, Edel Lima Sarmiento

Part II. Politics

3. Information and Communication Technology, State Power, and Civil Society: Cuban Internet Development in the Context of the Normalization of Relations with the United States, Olga Khrustaleva

4. Ghost in the Machine: The Incompatibility of Cuba’s State Media Monopoly with the Existence of Independent Digital Media and the Democratization of Communication, Alexei Padilla Herrera and Eloy Viera Cañive

5. The Press Model in Cuba: Between Ideological Hegemony and the Reinvention of Civic Journalism, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Arechavaleta

6. Digital Critique in Cuba, Marie Laure Geoffray

Part III. Journalism

7. From Generación Y to 14ymedio: Beyond the Blog on Cuba’s Digital Frontier, Ted A. Henken

8. Independent Journalism in Cuba: Between Fantasy and the Ontological Rupture, Sara Garcia Santamaria

9. Perceptions of and Strategies for Autonomy among Journalists Working for Cuban State Media, Anne Natvig

10. Independent Media on the Margins: Two Cases of Journalistic Professionalization in Cuba’s Digital Media Ecosystem, Abel Somohano Fernández and Mireya Márquez-Ramírez

Part IV. Business and Economy

11. Online Marketing of Touristic Cuba: Branding a “Tech-Free” Destination, Rebecca Ogden

12. A Una Cuba Alternativa”? Digital Millennials, Social Influencing, and Cuentapropismo in Havana, Jennifer Cearns

Part V. Culture and Society

13. Without Initiation Ceremonies: Cuban Literary and Cultural E-zines, 2000 — 2010, Walfrido Dorta

14. Images of Ourselves: Cuban Mediascapes and the Post-socialist “Woman of Fashion,” Paloma Duong

Sara García Santamaría
Blanquerna – Universitat Ramon Llull (Spain)

Ted Henken

Baruch College, City University of New York.

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ON ANNIVERSARY OF OBAMA VISIT, CUBANS FRET OVER WHETHER BIDEN WILL RESUME DETENTE

Reuters, March 19, 20213:11 By Reuters Staff

Original Article

HAVANA (Reuters) – Five years after former U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Havana, many Cubans hope Joe Biden will also pursue detente but fret he will not do so as energetically after recent White House announcements.

Obama visited Havana in March 2016, the first trip by a U.S. president to Cuba in 88 years. It was the culmination of a diplomatic opening towards the Communist-run country, seeking to put an end to years of Cold War-era hostility.

His successor Donald Trump unraveled that detente and tightened the crippling U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, arguing that he would force democratic change.

Biden, who was vice president under Obama, vowed during his campaign to reverse Trump’s policy shifts that “have inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done nothing to advance democracy and human rights.”

But the White House said earlier this month a broader Cuba policy shift was not currently among Biden’s top priorities, even if it was “carefully reviewing policy decisions made in the prior administration, including the decision to designate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

“I am very concerned that Biden will not continue in the same vein as Obama and will allow himself to be influenced by the politics of Cubans in Miami,” said retired Cuban economist Ileana Yarza.

Trump may have lost last year’s election but he did win the swing state of Florida, in part due to a Republican campaign to paint Biden as in hock to the radical left, a charge that hit home with the state’s large Cuban-American population.

The Cuban economy is now suffering its worst crisis since the fall of former benefactor the Soviet Union, partly due to a slew of new U.S. sanctions under Trump which ended cruises to Havana, limited flights, reduced remittances and dampened foreign investment.

Families separated by the Florida Straits are more divided than ever after he reduced the Havana embassy to skeletal staffing, following a series of unexplained illnesses among diplomats. Consular services for Cubans have been moved to third countries.

Sarah Batista, who runs a souvenir crafts shop in Old Havana, said private entrepreneurs like her had especially benefited from the detente and ensuing tourism boom.  “With Trump, please! Everything has been declining, you know? And now with the pandemic it is even more so,” she said.  “Hopefully, with this other president (Biden), we can have the same luck and the same opportunity that we had with Obama.”

The U.S. sanctions have hurt a state-run economy already smarting from its own inefficiencies and a decline in aid from ally Venezuela.   Proponents of the sanctions say it is these and the resulting economic squeeze that have forced Cuba to pick up market-style reforms once again lately. Critics underscore the cost to a population dealing with shortages of basic goods like food and medicine.

Analysts say it is still early days and Biden has many more pressing foreign policy issues after four years of the turbulent Trump presidency. But for Cubans, every extra day counts.

“In fact, already, the policies aren’t the same because there are no new sanctions,” said Carlos Alzugaray, a former Cuban diplomat.  “But everything that the previous (Trump) administration did that stands in the way of a return to the path of normalization has not begun to be reversed.”

Black flags outside the US Embassy in Havana, placed there by the Cuban Government, 1990s
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Nuevo Libro: APUNTES SOBRE ECONOMÍA CUBANAY COVID-19

CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS DE LA ECONOMÍA CUBANA, Universidad de la Habana.

COMPILADORES: HUMBERTO BLANCO ROSALES y BETSY ANAYA CRUZ

Febrero de 2021

ISBN: 978-9945-9278-3-2

Complete Text of Book

INDICE:

A modo de introducción: otra pelea cubana contra los demonios/ Humberto Blanco Rosales y Mayra Tejuca Martínez

Reflexiones en torno a la nueva estrategia para el desarrollo económico y social de Cuba/ Betsy Anaya Cruz

Implementación de la nueva estrategia económica y social: una mirada desde la gestión/ Humberto Blanco Rosales

IED en tiempos de COVID-19: ¿qué podemos esperar?/ Juan Triana Cordoví

Cuba: apuntes sobre comercio exterior y COVID-19/ Ricardo Torres Pérez

Alimentación en Cuba: impactos de la COVID-19/ Anicia García Álvarez

El turismo mundial y en Cuba pospandemia/ Miguel Alejandro Figueras

Teletrabajo en tiempos de COVID-19: oportunidades y desafíos para Cuba/ Dayma Echevarría León

Trabajo por cuenta propia. Pre y posCOVID-19/ Ileana Díaz Fernández

La banca comercial tras la COVID-19/ Francisco Fidel Borrás Atiénzar y Oscar Luis Hung Pentón

De los autores

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Nuevo Libro: 90 MILLAS. RELACIONES ECONÓMICAS CUBA-ESTADOS UNIDOS, 1898-2020

Editores: Azcona Pastor, José Manuel, y Santamaría García, Antonio.

Ficha técnica

Nº de páginas:                       471

Editorial:                               S.L. – DYKINSON

ISBN:                                     9788413772882

Año de edición:                     2021

Plaza de edición:                   ESPAÑA

Fecha de lanzamiento:         05/03/2021

COMPRAR LIBRO: 90 MILLAS

RESUMEN DEL LIBRO

Las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos han estado determinadas por el embargo a la isla que el gobierno de Washington estableció tras el triunfo de la revolución en 1959. Esa política no ha cambiado, aunque ha sufrido endurecimientos y también flexibilizaciones. Al llegar Barack Obama a la Casa Blanca inició una fase de normalización, coincidiendo con el avance de las reformas aperturistas en la Gran Antilla, iniciadas en la década de 1990, pero hasta hace poco discontinuas. Sin embargo, para ello empleó los recursos de relajación de las medidas que ofrecen las propias leyes del embargo. Es decir, sin modificarlo, lo que ha permitido a su sucesor, Donald Trump, restablecerlas en su versión más dura. Este libro estudia el problema de los vínculos entre los dos países desde comienzos del siglo XX desde la perspectiva de lo económico, que fue razón esencial de los mismos, y muestra cómo la falta de un sentido de estado y de conformidad con la influencia tuvo en la constitución de otro –Estados Unidos ocupó Cuba entre 1898 y 1902, tras su guerra de independencia– implicó dejarlas al juego de intereses particulares que rige el funcionamiento del sistema político norteamericano y que tal defecto los ha dotado de un asimetría que ha prevalecido a los cambios de coyuntura y circunstancias desde entonces, al triunfo de la revolución, al fin de la Guerra Fría.

INDICE GENERAL

Capítulo I. 90 millas. Relaciones económicas Cuba-Estados Unidos en perspectiva histórica. Antonio Santamaría García; José Manuel Azcona Pastor

Capítulo II. Avance y retroceso de los capitales norteamericanos en la industria cubana del azúcar, 1890-1959. Alejandro García Álvarez

Capítulo III. Proteccionismo y restricción de la oferta: los orígenes de los controles de producción de azúcar en Cuba y la relación comercial con Estados Unidos, 1921-193. Alan D. Dye

Capítulo IV. Ajustes al modelo de dominación: la política de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba tras la revolución de 1933. Oscar Zanetti Lecuona

Capítulo V. “Cuba sería un cementerio de deudores”. El problema de la moratoria en la década de 1930. Julio César Guanche

Capítulo VI. El nacionalismo moderado cubano, 1920-1960. Políticas económicas y relaciones con Estados Unidos. Jorge I. Domínguez

Capítulo VII. Relaciones comerciales azucareras Cuba-Estados Unidos, 1902-1960. Jorge Pérez-López

Capítulo VIII. Las relaciones Cuba-Estados Unidos desde la revolución hasta el periodo especial.Victor Bulmer-Thomas

Capítulo IX. Failed on all counts. El embargo de Estados Unidos a Cuba. Andrew Zimbalist

Capítulo X. La ventana de oportunidad que se abrió y se cerró: historia de la normalización de relaciones Estados Unidos-Cuba. Carmelo Mesa-Lago

Capítulo XI. El bloqueo económico en el contexto de las agresiones de Estados Unidos contra Cuba. Historia no contada y evolución reciente.José Luis Rodríguez

Capítulo XIII. Cuba-Estados Unidos: la gestión de las empresas cubanas. Ileana Díaz Fernández

Capítulo XIV. Viajes, remesas y trabajo por cuenta propia. Relaciones económicas entre los cubanos emigrados y su país de origen.Jorge Duany

Capítulo XV. El papel de los visitantes de Estados Unidos en la economía cubana. Historia y realidad. Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva; José Luis Perelló Cabrera

COMPRAR LIBRO: 90 MILLAS

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

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

By Editorial Board , Wall Street Journal

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

Original Article: Engagement with Cuba

USA and CUBA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emilio Morales

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

Articulo Original: INVERSIÓN EN CUBA

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

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

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

Bloqueo interno y otras limitaciones

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

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

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

Continue Reading: Inversión en Cuba

Mariel, April 2015
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