• This Blog on The Cuban Economy is dedicated to Cuba's Generation "A". Although inspired by Yoani Sánchez' 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 that was brought to my attention by Andrew Johnston of Ottawa: ".. ... 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 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.

CUBA’S FAST-GROWING MARIEL TARGETS TRANSSHIPMENT CARGO

JOC, MAY 19, 2016

Greg Miller

Original Article: http://www.joc.com/port-news/international-ports/cuba-port-plans-be-transshipment-hub-after-us-lifts-embargo_20160518.html

Cuba’s Mariel container terminal has already planned its transformation into a major transshipment hub after theU.S. trade embargo ends, according to TC Mariel General Director Charles Baker.

In an address to the Caribbean Shipping Association Executives’ Conference held near Port Canaveral, Florida, Baker described surging growth at TC Mariel, its short- and long-term expansion plans and strategy to diversify beyond domestic cargo into transshipment.

The PSA International-operated terminal opened in January of 2014. Throughput at Mariel grew 35 percent in 2015, reaching 330,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units, and is up 29 percent year-to-date this year as a result of Cuba’s “booming” tourism trade, Baker said.

The container terminal has four gantry cranes, 2,296 feet of quay and a capacity of roughly 800,000 TEUs annually. In the next two to three years another 984 feet of quay will be added so that two neo-Panamax ships may berth simultaneously. Mariel’s channel, deep enough for Panamaxes at present, will be dredged to neo-Panamax depths by 2017. Over the longer term the terminal will add another 5,577 feet of quay and boost annual capacity to 3 million TEUs. There are also plans to add general cargo, dry bulk and roll-on, roll-off terminals to the port.

Much hinges on Mariel’s location in Cuba’s far northwest.

Skeptics of the port have argued that this location is unsuitable to transshipment because the east-west services that pass through the Caribbean on their way to the U.S. pass by Cuba’s southeast corner, near Guantanamo Bay. They believe the additional transit time to Mariel would be too great.

Baker, however, believes that Mariel can use its location to its advantage.

He said Mariel aims to be the first port of call for neo-Panamax container ships after passing through the Panama Canal to the U.S. East Coast, with feeder services providing direct connections from Mariel to Gulf Coast ports in Tampa, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; Houston, Texas and Altamira, Mexico.

“It will be a challenge to attract the bigger vessels (that will serve the region after Panama Canal expansion) to circle into the U.S. Gulf, because there would not be enough time in their schedules,” he said, explaining why carriers would prefer to use a hub to serve Gulf ports. Dropping cargo off in Mariel and feedering it to Gulf ports would also be more attractive to shippers, given “vastly improved” transit times, he said. “Today, to ship to Mobile, you’ll have to wait for the vessel to sail in and out of Houston and New Orleans before it gets there.

“When we talk to the carriers and the ports, they do recognize (the benefits of) our geography, but they also recognize very clearly that the U.S. embargo stands in the way of the opportunity we have here,” he said.

Although the embargo is the biggest hurdle to Mariel increasing its transshipment business, another issue is current U.S. law, which dictates that a vessel regardless of flag cannot call at a U.S. port within 180 days of calling in Cuba. This effectively prevents transshipment from Mariel because any vessel deployed for feedering would lose the flexibility to call in the United States for an extended period, and more importantly, mainline vessels cannot sail to final destinations in the United States after dropping off transshipment cargo (bound for non-U.S. destinations) in Mariel.

A repeal of that 180-day rule would be “tremendous” for TC Mariel, Baker said. “It would allow us to enter the international transshipment market.” Baker recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with Congressional staffers and push for an end to the rule.

TC Mariel also benefits from its location within the enormous Special Development Zone of Mariel, or ZED Mariel. “This zone is very, very important and very high on the agenda for the Cuban government,” said Baker. “It has a special set of laws and regulations that are very advantageous to investors and it is the first part of Cuba that allows 100 percent foreign ownership. It is 465 square kilometers (180 square miles) in size, which is half the landmass of Singapore. It is probably the largest greenfield industrial development zone in the world — and it really is green. There is literally nothing there today,” he said, noting how rare it is to have a major port adjacent to a huge expanse where logistics, assembly, industrial and warehousing facilities can be developed without space restrictions.

Interest in ZED Mariel continues to grow and more investments are being made.

“There is a lot of European interest now because they have realized that if the embargo disappears, they will be facing intense pressure in a market where they’ve been well protected from U.S. exporters for the last 54 years,” said Baker. “Some of them are realizing that the way to maintain their market share is to plant themselves in Cuba (before the end of the embargo). They also realize that going forward, there will be a wonderful opportunity to export to the world’s largest consumer market, only 90 miles away.”\Mariel Port, Cuba zz zz1

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Cuba: Ministerio de Salud Publica, ANUARIO ESTADISTICO DE SALUD, 2015

Below is a link to Cuba’s newly published Anuario Estadistico de Salud, a comprehensive statistical picture of Cuba’s health record.

Anuario_Estadistico de Salud, Cuba, 2015

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PANAMA PAPERS REVEAL CUBAN-LINKED OFFSHORE ACCOUNTS

Capitol Hill Cubans, at 10:14 AM Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Original Article: http://www.capitolhillcubans.com/2016/05/panama-papers-reveal-cuban-linked.html

Yesterday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released a database of offshore entities created by the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, one of the world’s top creators of hard-to-trace secret companies, anonymous trusts and foundations.

The database contains thirteen entities with links to the Castro regime.  They include

  • Amadis Compañia Naviera SA,
  • B.B. Naft Trading SA,
  • Pescatlan SA,
  • Acepex Management SA,
  • Seagulls and Seafoods SA,
  • Comercail Mercadu SA,
  • Travelnet LTD,
  • Resimevis Limited, Mavis Group SA,
  • Tecnica Hidraulica SA,
  • Octagon Industrial LTD,
  • Corporacion Panamericana SA and
  • Labiofam SA.

Labiofam S.A. is one of the Castro regime’s pharmaceutical companies from where they market various cancer “miracle drug” scams.

Corporacion Panamericana SA, is a subsidiary of Castro’s GECOMEX (Grupo Empresarial del Comercio Exterior), led by Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Commerce, Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz.  Malmierca Diaz, a senior Cuban intelligence official in charge of foreign trade and investment for the Castro regime, is a favorite of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Cuba Business Council.

The database also contains eighteen individuals linked to the Castro regime. It features

  • Victor Moro Suarez, head of the Association of Spanish Businessmen in Cuba;
  • Inocente Osvaldo Encarnacion, director of Tabacuba;
  • Alejandro Gutierrez Madrigal, commercial attache of the Cuban Embassy in London; and
  • Wilfredo Leyva Armesto, director of the Institute of Hydraulic Resources.

Others named are Rolando Diaz Gonzalez, Orlando Romero Merida, Armando Rosales Fernandez, Paola Perticone, Jeroen J. Van Der Lip, Atilio Enrique Wagner, Antonio Gonzalez Checa, Forconi Ignacio Miguel Raul, Katiuska Penado Moreno, Lorenzo Paciello, Wael Bassatina, Ramon Chavez Gutierrez, Miriam Prieto and Jose Luis Baena Carrion.

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BETWEEN REFORMS AND REPRESSION, CAN CUBA’S NEW FORCES OF CHANGE SUCCEED?

Ted A. Henken and Armando Chaguaceda

WORLD POLITICS REVIEW, | Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Original Article Here: Henken & Chaguaceda, Between Reforms and Repression Can Cubas New Forces of Change Succeed – WPR –

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CUBA BACKTRACKS ON FOOD REFORMS AS CONSERVATIVES RESIST CHANGE

Reuters, HAVANA, Fri Apr 29, 2016 5:56pm EDT

By Marc Frank

 Original Article: Cuba backtracks on food reform

Cuba decided at a secretive Communist Party congress last week to reverse market reforms in food distribution and pricing, according to reports in official media, reflecting tensions within the party about the pace of economic change.

President Raul Castro unveiled an ambitious market reform agenda in one of the world’s last Soviet-style command economies after he took office a decade ago, but the reforms moved slowly in the face of resistance from conservatives and bureaucrats.  At the April 16-19 congress, Castro railed against an “obsolete mentality” that was holding back modernization of Cuba’s socialist economy. But he also said the leadership needed to respond quickly to problems like inflation unleashed by greater demand as a result of reforms in other sectors.

In response, delegates voted to eliminate licenses for private wholesale food distribution, according to reports over the past week in the Communist Party daily, Granma, and state television. Delegates said the state would contract, distribute and regulate prices for 80 to 90 percent of farm output this year, compared to 51 percent in 2014, according to debates broadcast in edited form days after the event.  Reuters reported in January that Cuba had begun a similar rollback in some provinces, increasing its role in distribution again and regulating prices. The decision at the congress will extend that program.

Data released in March showed that Cuba’s farm output has barely risen since 2008, when Castro formally took over from his brother Fidel, contributing to a spike in food prices blamed on supply-demand mismatch.

Cuba imports more than 60 percent of the food it consumes.

The Union of Young Communists’ newspaper, Juventud Rebelde, reported late last year that the price of a basket of the most common foods increased 49 percent between 2010 and early 2015.  There are no government statistics on food inflation.

While hurricanes and drought have played a part in poor farm output, some experts and farmers say Cuba did not go far enough in allowing farmers freer access to seeds and fertilizers to increase production.

BACKTRACKING

But demand is rising fast. Relaxation of restrictions on self-employment has led to a boom in small restaurants, at a time when Cuba’s detente with the West is leading to record numbers of tourists and an emerging consumer class.

According to the reports, there was no discussion at the congress of moving ahead with plans to allow farmers to buy supplies from wholesale outlets, instead of having them assigned by the state.  Nor was there mention of another reform, also adopted five years ago and never implemented, to have cooperatives join forces to perform tasks currently in state hands, for example ploughing fields.

The state owns nearly 80 percent of arable land in Cuba, leasing most of it to cooperatives and individual farmers. It has a monopoly on imports and their distribution.

“They never fully carried out the reforms and gave them time to work. They stopped half way and appear unable to come up with any other solution than backtracking,” said a local agriculture expert, who asked to remain anonymous.  He said farmers often had no equipment and few supplies such as seed.

The government reported leafy and root vegetable output at 5 million tonnes in 2015, similar to 2008, and unprocessed rice and bean production of 418,000 tonnes and 118,000 tonnes, compared with 436,000 tonnes and 117,000 tonnes eight years ago. Cuba produced 363,000 tonnes of corn last year, just 3,000 more than when Castro took office.

 Cuba April 2015 044Still the Best Cigar Tobacco in the World:Vinales, above and a Tobacco Farmer near Vinales.  (Photo by A. Ritter, April 2015)
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The Economist: “FIDEL’S LAST STAND”

The Economist, April 29, 2016

Original Article: Fidel’s Last Stand

WHEN Fidel Castro made a brief appearance at the Cuban Communist Party’s seventh congress on April 19th he was greeted with prolonged applause. “Well, let’s move to another subject,” he eventually said, his stentorian voice distorted by age. It was a joke. But he might as well have been turning the page on the historic visit to Havana by Barack Obama in March and the expectations it generated among Cubans of speedy changes. Having reminded his audience that he would soon turn 90 and that death comes to all, Fidel went on: “The ideas of Cuban communists will endure.”

No serious student of Cuba imagined that Mr Obama’s visit and his televised call for free elections would prompt overnight change. But the party congress proved to be a disappointment even by the cautious standards of the reforms that Raúl Castro, Fidel’s slightly younger brother, has set in train since he took over as president in 2008.

The stasis was symbolised by the retention as second party secretary (behind only Raúl) of José Ramón Machado Ventura, an 85-year-old Stalinist ideological enforcer. Even officials had hinted that his powerful post might be passed to Miguel Díaz-Canel (56), the vice-president and Raúl’s putative successor as president in 2018. Five new, youngish members joined the politburo, but none is known to be a reformer. Earlier hopes in Havana that the congress might approve an electoral reform and a bigger role for the rubber-stamp parliament were dashed.

Raúl Castro devoted part of his opening report to the congress to answering Mr Obama. Complaining of a “perverse strategy of political-ideological subversion”—a reference to Mr Obama’s call for the empowerment of Cuba’s small businesses and incipient civil society—Raúl told the delegates that “we must reinforce anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist culture among ourselves.” As for free elections, he twice insisted: “If they manage some day to fragment us, it would be the beginning of the end…of the revolution, socialism and national independence.”

He insisted that the “updating” of Cuba’s economy, to give a bigger role to the non-state sector and remove distortions and subsidies, would continue “without haste but without pause”. In fact, the reforms have all but halted: of the 313 “guidelines” approved at the previous congress in 2011, only 21% have been fully implemented. The government recently reintroduced price caps on some foodstuffs.

Days before the congress Omar Everleny Pérez, the most prominent of the reformist economists advising Raúl, was sacked from his post at the University of Havana. His alleged fault had been to share information with American academics. Mr Pérez has often called for the reforms to go faster.

One hypothesis is that Raúl can afford to move more slowly because of the injection of dollars from Mr Obama’s loosening of restrictions on tourism, remittances and investment. That may be true in the short term. But Raúl himself offered a withering critique of Cuba’s underlying problems, criticising “out-of-date mentalities”, “a complete lack of a sense of urgency” in implementing change and the “damaging effects of egalitarianism” in failing to reward work or initiative. He lamented the economy’s inability to raise wages, which “are still unable to satisfy the basic needs of Cuban families”.

So what explains Raúl’s caution? He said that he had joked with American officials that “If we were to have two parties in Cuba, Fidel would head one and I the other.” Joking apart, that rings true. Many of the Communist Party’s 670,000 members are terrified of change, fearing the loss of security, perks and privileges. They see Mr Obama’s opening to Cuba as an existential threat. Fidel is their reference point. He acts as a brake on reform.

What Raúl, in his neat and tidy way, is doing is to institutionalise the Cuban system, which long depended on Fidel’s whims. He has set out a gradual process of transition to a post-Castro leadership. He is no liberal democrat: he praises the balance between state planning and the market in China and Vietnam. He has initiated both a “conceptualisation” of Cuba’s socioeconomic model and a revision of the constitution to incorporate his reforms. These will be the Castro brothers’ political testament.

But Raúl, unlike Fidel, is a realist. He knows that the system does not work and that the steps he has taken, especially the opening to the United States, have unleashed expectations of change and a better standard of living. Cuban society is evolving fast, even as the political leadership remains as stodgy as a government-supplied lunch. In the medium term, something will have to give.

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CUBA: RAÚL CLARIFIES THE LACK OF CLARITY ON FUTURE

By Fulton Armstrong

AULA Blog, April 21, 2016

Original Article: Clarity on Lack of Clarity

The report that Cuban President Raúl Castro delivered to the 7th Party Congress last weekend walked a tightrope between pressing harder for change – embracing the importance of the small, emerging private sector – and reassuring party conservatives that the basic tenets of the revolution will not be touched.  He reiterated his commitment to step down in 2018 and promote younger cadre, but he left unclear what he proposes the Cuban system look like in the future.  He defended his decision to normalize relations with the United States, but used Washington’s continuation of the embargo and “democracy promotion” and immigration policies as a rationale for not letting down the Party’s guard.  Among key points:

On Conceptualización.  Castro said this Congress was basically to give “confirmation and continuity” to policies set five years ago to update Cuba’s economic and social model,  but it kicks off a process of consensus-building around a conceptualización, which he said “outlines the theoretical bases and essential characteristics of the economic and social model that we aim for as result of the updating process.”  Private property is a major topic, and Raúl sought to reassure the party that respect for it does not mean – “in the slightest bit” – a return to capitalism.

On reforms approved previously.  The road has been difficult, he said, held back by “an obsolete mentality that gives rise to an attitude of inertia and an absence of confidence in the future.”  He referred to the foot-draggers as “having feelings of nostalgia for other, less-complicated moments in the revolutionary process,” such as when the USSR and socialist camp existed.  But he insisted that the reforms have continued advancing at a steady pace – “without hurry but without pause.”

On upcoming reforms.  Castro talked more about what will not happen rather than any new vision.  He firmly ruled out “shock therapies,” and he said that “neoliberal formulas” to privatize state assets and health, education, and social security services “will never be applied in Cuban socialism.”  Economic policies can in no case break with the “ideals of equality and justice of the revolution.”  But he confirmed that one of the potentially most disruptive reforms – unifying currencies and exchange rates – must be done as soon as possible to resolve and many distortions.  On foreign investment, he called on the party “to leave behind archaic prejudices about foreign investment and to continue to advance resolutely in preparing, designing, and establishing new businesses.”

On Cuba’s economic model.  Castro acknowledged “the introduction of the rules of supply and demand” and claimed they didn’t contradict the principle of planning, citing the examples of China and Vietnam.  “Recognizing [the role of] the market in the functioning of our socialist economy,” Castro said, does not imply that the party, government, and mass organizations stand by and watch abuses occur.

On private and state enterprises.  He said the “non-state sector” – which includes “medium, small, and micro-enterprises” – is providing very important goods and services, and expressed hope for its success.  This sector will continue to grow, he said, “within well-defined limits and [will] constitute a complementary element of the country’s economic framework.”  Castro also called for greater reform efforts to strengthen the role of – and, simultaneously, the autonomy of – state companies, telling managers to overcome “the habit of waiting for instructions from above.”    He noted that the creation of cooperatives outside agriculture “continues in its experimental phase,” with some achievements and shortfalls.

On U.S. policies and intentions.  Castro criticized Washington’s efforts to drive political change in Cuba, which he called “a perverse strategy of political-ideological subversion against the very essence of the revolution and Cuban culture, history, and values.”  He said, “We are neither naive nor ignorant of the desires of powerful external forces that are betting on what they call the ‘empowerment’ of non-state forms of management as a way of generating agents of change in hopes of ending the revolution and socialism in Cuba by other means.” Castro said that U.S. officials recognize the failure of past policy toward Cuba but “do not hide that the goals remain the same and only the means are being modified.”

Rhetoric about forever rejecting capitalism (and multi-party democracy) is standard, especially for a Party event meant to assuage anxieties of conservative factions reluctant to give up their familiar, if failed, models.  The re-election of 85-year-old Vice President Machado Ventura is another sop to the aging right as the country inches each day to its biologically imposed transition, as Fidel Castro made explicit in his closing remarks.  The pace of change in Washington is also slow in some areas, particularly the embargo and the Administration’s “democracy promotion” strategies,  but pro-normalization voices cannot be faulted for lamenting that Cuba could more effectively influence U.S. policy through simple regulatory measures encouraging business deals that will give momentum to embargo-lifting initiatives in the U.S. Congress.  All politics is local, however, and both governments seem content holding off on changing their paradigms for now.

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ALABAMA COMPANY SAYS CUBA NEEDS ITS TRACTORS, BUT APPROVAL POCESS IS SLOW

By Mimi Whitefield, Miami Herald, 26 April 2016

Original Article: Alabama Tractors in Cuba?

An Alabama tractor company angling to become the first American business in more than a half century to set up manufacturing operations in Cuba is about midway through the approval process.

Cleber, based in Paint Rock, Alabama, outside Huntsville, wants to assemble small tractors in Cuba’s Mariel Special Economic Development Zone for use in Cuba and beyond. The simple tractor model that Cleber wants to produce is called Oggún in homage to the Santeria god of iron, tools and weapons, and it’s designed for small-scale farming.

Cleber is the first U.S. company to receive permission from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Commerce Department for a manufacturing project on the island since the Dec. 17, 2014 rapprochement between the two countries.

When President Barack Obama visited Cuba in March, he said that Cleber “will be the first U.S. company to build a factory here in more than 50 years.”

But Saul Berenthal, a Cuban-American who is a co-founder of the company and its chief operating officer, said it’s not a done deal yet. The Cubans still haven’t given final approval for the project. “I’d say we’re in the middle of the process,” Berenthal said. “Nothing is done until the fat lady sings.” I’d say we’re in the middle of the process. Nothing is done until the fat lady sings.

As overtures to Cuba by American businesses have picked up since the thaw, Berenthal said, “There are a lot of people in Cuba who are very busy and that tends to slow things down.” All documents and manuals also must be translated into Spanish, he said, and there’s plenty of other red tape.

But Berenthal, who was in Cuba two weeks ago for more talks, said he’s hopeful Cuban approval could come within the next 90 days. Cleber has been told it will take about six months to get a factory up and running. Initially, Cleber plans to have 10 employees and expects to add two more people annually as production ramps up.

From just serving the Cuban market, Cleber would like to eventually expand and export to other Central American and South American markets covered by Cuban trade agreements.

Berenthal and co-founder Horace Clemmons set up Cleber shortly after the rapprochement was announced with the idea of producing small-scale tractors particularly suited for the Cuban market.

Many Cuban campesinos still use livestock in the fields or aging tractors, Berenthal said. There are about 60,000 tractors in use in Cuba today, but many of them are from the 1980s, and 500 to 1,000 are lost every year because they are cannibalized for parts or simply stop working, he said.

The simple design of the Oggún, which uses parts that are widely available, also is in keeping with more sustainable agriculture.Cuba began a transition to more sustainable agricultural practices in the 1990s because it didn’t have much choice after the collapse of its benefactor, the old Soviet Union. With supplies of pesticides, fertilizers and oil scarce, Cuba began breaking up large state farms and Cuban producers began turning to organic farming techniques. But production has fallen.

Getting food production back on track is a Cuban priority. “Cuba’s mission is to be able to replace $2 billion in agricultural imports,” Berenthal said. “There’s also the pressure for more food from the tourism industry, which is increasing tremendously.”

“Not often in life do we get the opportunity, through simple efforts on our part, to make a difference in the lives of many. This venture represents that opportunity, to show the Cuban people the benefits of expanded commerce opportunities with the United States,” Clemmons said.

Even though new rules by the Obama administration make it easier to trade with and do business with Cuba, the embargo is still in effect and some U.S. projects require special approvals.

“There will be opportunities in Cuba. There are few places in the world with a real white space,” said Maguerite Fitzgerald, a partner at The Boston Consulting Group. But doing business with Cuba, she added, “isn’t a fast game or one that’s played with traditional rules.”

Berenthal said Cleber is prepared to let the Cuban approval process run its course. But if it drags on too long, Cleber plans to begin assembling Oggún tractors in Alabama and taking orders.

“We’re going to build tractors. We’d like to do it in Cuba,” he said. Cleber thinks Cuba’s Special Economic Development Zone, a 180-square-mile complex under development 28 miles west of Havana, is the place to do it. The Mariel zone wants to attract foreign investment in clean, sustainable projects with export potential.

Farmer Ploughing Field with Oxen

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The New Tractor: Appropriately Small-scale for Small Farms?

 

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Carmelo Mesa-Lago ¿UN PASO ADELANTE O HACIA ATRÁS?

El VII Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba no ha impulsado la apertura esperada tras la visita de Obama a la isla. Raúl Castro ha apostado por la continuidad y sembrado dudas sobre la mejora económica y el bienestar ciudadano

Carmelo Mesa-Lago

EL PAÍS, 21 ABR 2016 – 18:00 EDT

Contrariamente a lo que se esperaba, el recién concluido VII Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC) básicamente ha mantenido el statu quo. Hubo escasísima información y ningún debate antes del evento; unos 4.700 conocían los proyectos, 0,7% de los miembros del partido. En el Congreso hubo 8.800 propuestas.

En contraste, el debate de los “Lineamientos” antes del VI Congreso en 2011 envolvió a 8,9 millones de participantes con tres millones de propuestas. Se alegó que el VII Congreso era un seguimiento del anterior y no requería otra discusión masiva aunque solo se han implementado 21% de los 313 “Lineamientos”.

Un avance fue el rejuvenecimiento del Comité Central: de sus 142 miembros, más del 66% nació después de 1959; los 55 nuevos miembros del Comité son todos menores de 60 años, así como

Tres mujeres y dos afrocubanos fueron incorporados al Buró. Aun así, solo 23% de sus miembros son mujeres —la mitad de la población— y 29% son afrocubanos que constituyen el 36%. Empero, en el Comité Central la participación femenina creció hasta el 44% y la de los afrocubanos al 36%.

Raúl Castro recomendó que la fecha tope de ingreso al Comité Central sea de 60 años y de 70 para cargos en el PCC, medida que debe ser debatida y ratificada antes del próximo Congreso en 2021, tres años después de jubilarse Raúl. Este afirmó: “En el 2018 concluirá mi segundo mandato consecutivo como presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros y cederé estas responsabilidades a quien sea elegido”.

El sector estatal mermó de 81% a 71% en el periodo 2010-2015, mientras que el sector privado y cooperativo se expandió. Raúl enfatizó que estas formas no son anti-socialistas ni implican una vuelta al capitalismo, pero apuntó “corrupción e ilegalidades, evasión de tributos y ejercicio ilegal de actividades no permitidas”, con el riesgo que concentren la propiedad y la riqueza, por lo que habrá que imponerles “límites bien definidos”.

Según Raúl Castro, las fuerzas de la oferta y la demanda no están reñidas con la planificación central; ambas pueden convivir como en las exitosas reformas de China y Vietnam, aunque Cuba las llama “actualización” porque no cambiará “el objetivo fundamental de la Revolución”.

Al ritmo de implementación de los Lineamientos en el pasado lustro, costará 23 años implantar el resto. El Plan de Desarrollo hasta 2030 no se terminó y se acordó posponerlo a 2017. Tras ocho versiones de la “conceptualización del modelo económico”, el Congreso preparó una propuesta para ser consultada por la militancia del Partido y de la Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas con un plazo que se extiende hasta 2021. La unidad de la doble moneda, debatida durante cinco años, sigue pendiente. “No quedará para las calendas griegas”, dijo Raúl. En los dos años de la Zona de Mariel ha habido 400 proyectos de inversión, solo se han aceptado 11; a ese ritmo costará 72 años aprobar el resto.

Los más altos dirigentes del Buró (la mayoría octogenaria o septuagenaria) se afincan en sus puestos y posponen su renovación. Reelegidos son: Raúl (84) primer secretario, lo que permite su continuidad hasta 2021; Machado Ventura (85), uno de los ortodoxos más fuertes, segundo secretario; Esteban Lazo (72), Salvador Valdés (70) y Leopoldo Frías (74). Miguel Díaz-Canel, Bruno Rodríguez y Marino Murillo, que tienen 55-56 años, ya estaban en esos puestos.

El partido único —ratificó Raúl— continuará siendo “la fuerza dirigente superior de la sociedad y el Estado”. Se nos ataca y exige, “desde casi todas partes del planeta, para debilitarnos, que nos dividamos en varios partidos en nombre de la democracia burguesa; ni hoy ni nunca. Si lograran algún día fragmentarnos sería el comienzo del fin”.

Raúl Castro, Mariano Murillo y otros dirigentes han ratificado “el predominio de la propiedad de todo el pueblo” (estatal) sobre los medios fundamentales de producción, así como del plan sobre el mercado. Aunque hace cinco años comenzaron las cooperativas de producción no agrícola y de servicios, continúa su carácter “experimental”, se ha paralizado su creación para concentrase en las establecidas, debido a sus deficiencias y el precario acceso a insumos del mercado mayorista.

El aumento de precios de los alimentos por las ganancias de los intermediarios ha causado disgusto en la población y forzado el aumento del acopio y la fijación del tope a precios en los mercados estatales, desandando avances previos.

El sector no estatal desempeña un papel complementario al estatal, pero hay que limitarlo para evitar la concentración de la propiedad y la riqueza, como la cantidad de hectáreas de tierra que pueden tenerse, el número de locales arrendados, y que una empresa estatal rija los precios de su actividad.

¿Por qué no se avanzó en el VII Congreso de la misma manera que en el VI? Una posible razón es que la visita de Obama generó apoyo en la población y una dinámica de cambio para la que no estaba preparado el Gobierno. Contrario a la idea de que esto impulsaría las reformas estructurales, los que se oponen a ellas han reforzado sus argumentos sobre los graves riesgos que conllevan en un momento ideológico-político difícil.

En esto abundó Raúl: “Las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos imponen elevados desafíos al trabajo ideológico con programas dirigidos hacia los sectores que el enemigo identifica como los más vulnerables y abarca a los jóvenes, la intelectualidad, los trabajadores en formas no estatales de gestión”. Agregó que recientemente ha ocurrido “un crecimiento de las acciones enfiladas a fomentar valores de la sociedad de consumo: la división, la apatía, el desaliento, el desarraigo y la falta de confianza en la dirección de la Revolución y el Partido”.

Seguidamente se refirió a “las acciones dirigidas a introducir plataformas de pensamiento neoliberal y de restauración capitalista apoyadas por una perversa estrategia de subversión político-ideológica que atenta contra las esencias mismas de la Revolución”. Estados Unidos ha cambiado la estrategia anterior de hostilidad “por otros métodos más difíciles de combatir”. Esto último alude al discurso de Obama al pueblo cubano en que aseguró que EE UU no intervendría en la isla y que era el pueblo quien debía decidir su futuro, a la par que estaría dispuesto a ayudar en lo que se solicitase.

El Congreso apostó por la continuidad y, aunque hubo algunos avances, se caracterizó por el estancamiento e incluso algunos retrocesos. Hay que preguntarse si esto ayudará a la economía, al bienestar de los ciudadanos y al proceso de normalización con Estados Unidos.

Carmelo Mesa-Lago es catedrático distinguido emérito de Economía y Estudios Latinoamericanos en la Universidad de Pittsburgh.

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UPDATING THE PARTY: CUBA’S NEW (AND NOT SO NEW) LEADERS

Original Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-m-leogrande/updating-the-party-cubas_b_9766014.html

By William M. LeoGrande, Professor, American University in Washington, D.C.

Huffington Post, April 24, 2016

Alluding to his own mortality, Fidel Castro told the delegates to the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party he founded that this would probably be his last speech to such a gathering. When the members of the new Central Committee were announced the following day, Fidel was not among them. Generational succession is high on the agenda of Cuba’s leadership, still dominated at the highest level by “los historicos“ — the generation that fought together against the Batista dictatorship and founded the revolutionary regime.

At the previous Party Congress in 2011, Raúl Castro emphasized the need to build a contingent of experienced young men and women for the inevitable succession. To ease out the old guard, he introduced term limits for top government and party positions — no more than two five-year terms — and pledged to abide by the limit himself by stepping down as president in 2018.

At the Congress this month, Raúl reiterated the importance of rejuvenating the party. An aged leadership was “never positive,” he said, reminding listeners that three leaders of the Soviet Communist Party died within months of one another a few years before it collapsed. Henceforth, Castro proposed, 60 would be the maximum age for admission to the Central Committee, and 70 would be the maximum age for assuming any leadership position. Nevertheless, renovating the leadership will involve a “five-year period of transition to avoid doing things in haste,” Castro explained, echoing his watchword for updating the economy: “without haste, but without pause.”

The blend of old and young was visible in the new Political Bureau. Only two of the fourteen members in the old body were dropped — General Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, who retired as minister of the Interior in October 2015 because of ill-health, and Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez, who was removed as Minister of Economy and Planning in 2014. José Ramón Machado Ventura, the architect of the party apparatus over preceding decades, retained his post as second secretary despite the fact that he is widely seen as a conservative, skeptical of economic reform. In 2013, Machado stepped down as first vice-president of the Council of State, replaced by heir apparent Miguel Díaz-Canel. Machado’s retention as party second secretary suggests that Raúl Castro is intent on maintaining unity at the top — despite differences in opinion — as the party navigates the politically treacherous waters of economic change.

Five new young members were added and their professions signal the issues the leadership sees as critical going forward. Three are technocrats: one is minister of Health, one works in biotechnology, and one works in information technology — all high value-added fields that Cuba hopes will form the foundation for its 21st Century economy. The other two new members are the leaders of the trade union federation and the women’s federation, organizations that, between them, comprise almost all Cuban adults. The inclusion of these two leaders speaks to the party’s need to keep ears to the ground for early warning signs of grassroots discontent unleashed by the economic reforms. y   yy The composition of the new Central Committee also suggests how the leadership is preparing its team for the future. Twenty-five percent of the old committee was dropped, but the membership was expanded from 116 to 142 to accommodate the addition of 55 younger members, all below the age of 60, bringing the average age of the body down to 54.5 — younger than the committee elected in 2011. The new committee is also 44.4% women, up from 41.7% in 2011 and just 13.3% in 1997; and 35.9% Afro-Cuba, up from 31.3% in 2011 and just 10.0% in 1997.

The Central Committee of the party represents an extended leadership group, the members of which typically hold other important posts in various state institutions. The relative bureaucratic influence of those institutions can be seen in the Central Committee’s changing composition. The biggest increase in representation in the new committee is for government officials working in economic and scientific fields (Table 1). They represent 23.2% of the new Central Committee, up from just 19.8% in the 2011 committee. Presumably, these people are more technocratically minded, and more likely to support economic reform. Representation of the party apparatus increased only slightly, to 32.4% of the committee, up from 31.0% in 2011.

Contrary to pundits who insist that the Cuban regime is really run by the military, the armed forces and police were the big losers in the renovation of the Central Committee. Even though the committee expanded from 116 to 142 members, the number of military and security officials fell in absolute terms. They comprise just 9.2% of the membership, down from 13.8% in 2011. Moreover, the long term trend in the number of active duty military and security officials in the Central Committee has been downward ever since 1965 (Figure).

Fidel Castro wasn’t the only prominent Castro not included in the new Central Committee. Neither Raúl’s son, Col. Alejandro Castro, who negotiated the December 17 agreement to normalize relations with the United States, nor Raúl’s daughter, LGBT activist Mariela Castro, were included. Their absence was, no doubt, a disappointment to opponents of the U.S. opening to Cuba who have been predicting that Alejandro would succeed his father, thereby consolidating a Castro family dynasty — North Korea in the Caribbean.

The new Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party reflects the priorities and style of its First Secretary. The party itself maintains the leading role, but the committee has a more technocratic tilt, positioning it for the complex economic tasks ahead. It combines a large new cohort of younger members, while retaining a core of experienced elders to smooth the generational transition. The increased representation of women and Afro-Cubans reflects their important role in society and politics, connecting the party to these key constituencies. In short, the new leadership exemplifies a party updating itself for the future without renouncing its past. yyy yyyyy yyyyyy

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