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

The Concept of a “Loyal Opposition” and Raul Castro’s Regime

Miriam Celaya, Citizen Journalist

By Arch Ritter

Since the earliest days of the Cuban Revolution, virtually all shades of opposition were perceived by President Fidel Castro as treasonous. Unfortunately the United States provided a handy pretext, fully exploited by Fidel, to characterize all opposition as treacherous support for the overthrow of the regime and the reversal of the “Revolution”. Divergent views competing with Fidel’s super-monopolistic visions, ideas, arguments, and conclusions were considered to be counter-revolutionary. Anyone holding these views was to be silenced, shunned, fired from any responsible job, incarcerated or squeezed into emigration. Ultimately, the expression of strong oppositional views led one to being labeled by the power of the monopoly media and political regime as a “gusano” or “worm”. Such de-humanization of citizens was truly despicable.

For a while I thought that the Government of Raul Castro had softened its stance on internal dissent. The “Bloggers” for example had not been imprisoned, though they were vilified and harassed. Within academia, some analysts such as Esteban Morales Domínguez had pushed the limits but avoided severe penalty. However, repressive actions have been building up in the last few years, leading to the preventative week-end arrests of some 100 political dissidents (Tamayo, 27 february 2012 ), and the attack in the media of some of the citizen journalists who publish their views through “Blogs.”

In the words of Yoani Sanchez  in a recent essay “Some Yes, Others N0”  regarding attacks on some bloggers:

…..  Suddenly I see a photo in which the blogger Miriam Celaya and other acquaintances appear, surrounded with epithets such as “mercenaries” and “traitors.” The reason was their participation in a workshop on digital media, held at the home of an official from the United States Interest Section. ……. Whenever something like this happens, I wonder why the Cuban government keeps open a representation of the United States on the Island if — as they say — it is a “nest of provocation.” The answer is contained within the question itself: they would not be able to govern without putting the blame for the growing discontent on someone else. …..

Even more surprising, the next day …  I see images of Raul Castro meeting with two important United States senators. But in his case they do not present him as a “traitor” or a “worm,” but as the First Secretary of the Communist Party. I know that many will try to explain to me that “he can because he is a leader.” In response to which, allow me to remind them, the president of a nation is just a public servant, he cannot engage in an action that is prohibited or demonized to his fellow citizens. If he is empowered to do it, why is Miriam Celaya not. Why not invite this woman, an anthropologist and magnificent citizen journalist who was born in 1959, the year of the Revolution itself, to some public center to relate her experience in working in the digital press, rather than relegate her to some locale provided to her by “others.”

In time, Cuba will accept one institution of the Westminster political system, namely the concept and reality of a “Loyal Opposition.” “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” provides the indispensable functions of open criticism which is necessary everywhere to prevent stupid mistakes, to correct errors as soon as possible, and to check the unfortunate human tendencies towards arrogance, corruption, political monopoly and domination. When an old regime becomes victim of self-importance, sclerosis, irrelevance, and intellectual exhaustion, the “Loyal Opposition” which in effect is the “government in waiting” is ready to provide a new team with a new vision, fresh ideas and renewed energy.

The Government of Raul Castro obviously is not yet ready to permit a loyal opposition to emerge. It is certainly easier to govern without having to face criticism or opposition. But whether Raul’s regime likes it or not, an opposition exists though tightly repressed, and it is gradually strengthening. If Raul Castro were truly interested in the long term health of Cuba, he himself would make moves towards such political pluralism. Unfortunately, he is unlikely to willingly abandon his monopoly of power.

Commentary from Miriam Celaya, from her an essay entitled “Declaration of Principles” in her Blog Sin Evasion:

A government that feels it must harass dissidents so openly must be afraid. After this new media attack I just have to reaffirm publicly my position in a declaration of principles: in my capacity as a free citizen I claim the right to attend the events I myself decide of my own free will, without asking permission of the government; I do not receive financing or a salary from any government, including Cuba’s, and I refuse to abandon these principles under any circumstances; I am the absolute owner of my actions and my ideas and I am willing to vouch for them; I also publish and will publish my work and my ideas wherever I see fit. The gentlemen farmers should come to understand that not all Cubans are slaves on their endowment. Number 59100900595, my official inscription number in this island prison, was freed years ago by my own will and conviction. I would rather die than return to the irons.

President Raul Castro with U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, left, a Democrat from Vermont, as U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, behind right, watches in Havana, Cuba, Thursday Feb. 23, 2012.

 

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US Department of Agriculture: Cuba’s Food & Agriculture Situation Report, 2008

A detailed examination of Cuban agriculture was published in March 2008 ago by the US Department of Agriculture, Office of Global Analysis. Somehow it escaped my attention. The full report is located here: Cuba’s Food & Agriculture Situation Report, USDA, 2008

The study includes a lot of detailed information with plentiful graphics  and tables.  It is especially useful in detailing US agricultural relations with Cuba – the US having quickly squeezed out Canada as principal exporter of foodstuffs to Cuba as soon as such exports were legalized in 2002. Below is the Table of Contents plus a few charts.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

The Historical Context Underlying U.S.–Cuban Relations

Economic Background

Cuba’s Natural Resource Base and Demographic Characteristics

Population, Food Consumption and Nutrition Issues

Tourism and the Demand for Agricultural Products

Cuba’s Market Infrastructure and the Role of Institutions in Cuba’s Food and

Agricultural Sector

Cuba’s International Trade Situation

Other Observations

Summary and Conclusions

Addendum Current Commodity Sector Situations

Sugar

Tobacco

Citrus

Tropical Fruit

Vegetable, Pulse, and Tuber and Root Crops

Livestock and Poultry

Coffee

Fishing

Appendix 1: Summary of Flowcharts on Cuba’s Food Supply and Distribution Systemand the Hard Currency Food Chain: Implications for U.S. Exporters

Appendix 2: Cuban Agriculture and Food Trade Data

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Special Section of the Journal “Canadian Foreign Policy”: The Politics of Canada-Cuba Relations: Emerging Possibilities and Diverse Challenges,

A publication appeared in 2010 on Canda-Cuba Relations. It is now hyper-linked in this Special Edition of Canadian Foreign Policy Volume 16 Issue 1; Spring 2010 edited by Professor Lana Wylie. Political Science, McMaster University, Hamilton Canada. The journal is produced by the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa. This issue is a bi-national production with Cuban authors as well as Canadians. Summaries of the articles are summarized below. The complete essays are available in the hyper-linked source above.

SPECIAL SECTION – The Politics of Canada-Cuba Relations: Emerging Possibilities and Diverse Challenges

 

INTRODUCTION

SHIFTING GROUND: CONSIDERING THE NEW REALITIES IN THE CANADIAN-CUBAN RELATIONSHIP

The articles in this issue of Canadian Foreign Policy consider the current relationship as well as survey the history of Canada’s association with Cuba, touching on the highs and lows of the relationship and making suggestions about the future direction of Ottawa’s policy toward the island state. In selecting the articles that would appear in this issue, the editorial team at the journal and myself, as special editor for this issue, strove to ensure that the issue reflected a range of approaches and perspectives. The nine scholars who penned the following articles thus write from the perspective of six different disciplines: Geography, Political Science, History, Spanish and Latin American Studies, Business, and Economics. Even more interestingly, they tackle the relationship from both the Canadian and the Cuban perspectives, and bring fresh epistemological approaches to the study of the issues.

Peter McKenna, John Kirk, and Archibald Ritter are well-established Canadian scholars with careers that have been  devoted to the relationship. Not only have each of them spent much time in Havana, but they have done so in many capacities, from being visiting scholars at the University of Havana to advising the Canadian government about the direction of policy. In this issue they give us important perspectives on how the history of Canada’s approach toward Cuba is likely to shape the current direction of policy. The various approaches taken by Heather Nicol, Calum McNeil, and Julia Sagebien and Paolo Spadoni both challenge established ways of making sense of the relationship and complement the perspectives taken in other articles of the issue.  Each of these scholars has contributed much toward our knowledge  of Cuba, and in this issue they make crucial observations about the  various ways in which we have to come to understand the relationship. However, it was especially important that an issue devoted to furthering our understanding of the Canadian-Cuban  relationship reflect on it from both the Canadian and Cuban  perspectives. Luis René Fernández Tabío and Raúl Rodríguez help  us appreciate the view from Cuba. The two articles by the Cuban  contributors further demonstrate that what Canadians take as  given facts about Cuba, or about Cuba’s relationship with Canada, are notsettled at all.

CANADA AND THE CUBAN REVOLUTION: DEFINING THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT 1959-1962 RAÚL RODRÍGUEZ RODRÍGUEZ

The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 was a turning point in the history of the Cuban republic; a new Cuban government started a process of socio-economic and political transformations. The initial reaction of the United States government—with the additional support of the Cuban propertied class—led to the deterioration of  the United States-Cuba bilateral relation.

As the US economic sanctions were instituted, the Cuban government turned to other Western states, Canada among them, to try to minimize the economic impact of US policy. Canada’s export-oriented economy was poised to benefit from the new  opportunities offered by the Cuban market, and Cuba offered  Canada a means to assert its sovereignty by forging an independent  foreign policy stance. Canada was forced to observe  restraint and allegiance to its NATO partners, and especially to its closest ally, the United States—the state most hostile to the outcome of the Revolution in the context of Cold War. This complex scenario started to unfold in 1959, and was fraught with challenges and opportunities for Canada Cuba bilateral relations.

THE CHRÉTIEN YEARS:EVALUATING ‘CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT’     PETER MCKENNA AND JOHN M. KIRK

For most of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s ten years in office, his approach toward revolutionary Cuba was predicated on a policy of constructive engagement, or principled pragmatism. The piece begins by outlining the nature and extent of Canada-Cuba engagement, exchange, and dialogue during the Chrétien period. The article will then identify what worked in terms of bilateral relations and what did not, and in light of the Chrétien highs and lows, it will highlight the key lessons learned and explain why. Lastly, it will conclude with a series of policy recommendations for Canadian governments (current and future) to contemplate if Ottawa—especially given the changing United States-Cuba dynamic—hopes to enhance and strengthen ties with a post-Fidel Cuba.

CANADA-CUBA RELATIONS: AN AMBIVALENT MEDIA AND POLICY     HEATHER NICOL

This study examines Canadian newspapers and Parliamentary texts dating from 2000 to 2009. It suggests that there is, and has been, a consistent relationship between media portrayal of Cuba issues since the mid-1990s, but that in recent years as Canada’s  certainty of, and support for, Cuba has declined, a contradictory press facilitates an ambivalence towards Cuba that reflects the current state of Canada-Cuba relations.

Since 2000, less than one percent of all newspaper articles published in all Canadian major dailies have discussed Cuba. This lack of media coverage is striking, considering that Canadian companies have invested largely in Cuba and that Canadians have been among the largest groups of vacationers to the island for quite  some time. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has invested millions in official development assistance, while the current Conservative Government plays upon human rights issues on the island and the inherent failures of former rounds of Canadian constructive engagement to resolve these. The maintenance of normalized relations with Cuba has been  consistently challenged in Parliamentary debates by Conservative MPs. The latter have linked human rights abuses on the island with an increasingly critical approach to Canada’s traditional policy of constructive engagement.

CANADA’S ECONOMIC RELATIONS WITH CUBA, 1990 TO 2010 AND BEYOND     ARCHIBALD R. M. RITTER

During the Colonial era, from Independence to 1959 and throughout the regimes of Presidents Fidel and Raúl Castro, Canada and Cuba have maintained a normal and mutually beneficial economic relationship. During the first half of the 1990s, this relationship was invaluable for Cuba as it adjusted to the loss of Soviet subsidization and to its disconnection from the former Soviet Bloc. In these years, Canadian participants were enthusiastic and optimistic about future economic relations. However, in the 2000s this was replaced by greater realism and some skepticism concerning the possibilities for deepening economic interaction.

Following a brief review of the evolving relationship from 1959 to 1990, the nature of the economic relationship between Canada and Cuba is analyzed in more detail for the 1990 to 2009 era. The future economic relationship is then explored, focusing on Cuba’s economic recovery and policy environment, and the probable impacts of normalization with the United States.

CANADIAN–CUBAN ECONOMIC RELATIONS: THE  RECOGNITION AND RESPECT OF DIFFERENCE      LUIS RENÉ FERNÁNDEZ TABÍO

Despite geopolitical and ideological obstacles, the economic relationship between Canada and Cuba has, for the most part, been characterized as a prosperous and positive exchange for the two countries and its people over time. This paper suggests that Canadian-Cuban relations hold the potential to function within a different framework as a kind of new paradigm for North-South relations in the Western hemisphere in the face of US hegemony and its confrontational policy toward Cuba. With Canada and Cuba having benefited from a practice of good business, perhaps this exchange has provided a stable and prosperous base for the two nations to critically analyze structures to build upon for future relations. The significance of this relationship could be explained as a kind of mutual understanding the two have in the making of a new history, the outcome of the two countries having shared a common geographic position in relation to the United States.

TO ENGAGE OR NOT TO ENGAGE: AN (A) EFFECTIVE ARGUMENT IN FAVOUR OF A POLICY OF ENGAGEMENT WITH CUBA     CALUM MCNEIL

This paper seeks to explore the role of emotion in Canadian and American policy toward Cuba, with specific consideration of the emotional and normative dynamics associated Canadian-Cuban policy during the 1990s, and with the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996. A key point of comparison of this analysis is the assumption shared by both Canadian and American policy toward Cuba that regime change is inevitable, and that it will invariably correspond to the norms predominant in the domestic political systems of both states. It is my contention that a consideration of emotion allows us to gain insight into the decision-making behaviour in both states—and amongst the mass publics contained within them. It also allows us a means to more fully understand the possible particularities that distinguish the rational calculus of one state’s policies from another. By broadening our understanding of these, I illustrate how a policy of engagement is preferable to either embargo or constructive engagement.

THE TRUTH ABOUT CUBA?    JULIA SAGEBIEN AND PAOLO SPADONI

The search for truth in and about Cuba is an elusive and puzzling pursuit primarily affected by: 1) competing narratives of contested events; 2) the emotional distress that accompanies the experience of cognitive dissonance; 3) the Cuban cultural propensity towards vehement disagreement; and 4) the syncretic capacity of Cubans to inhabit several worlds at the same time. Canadian Cuba observers must strive to develop a balanced understanding of these competing narratives about Cuba and of the people

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Arturo Lopez-Levy and Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, “A Clash of Generations: U.S. 50 Year Old Embargo Meets Scarabeo 9”

Original from Infolatam: http://www.infolatam.com/2012/02/13/cuba-choque-de-generaciones-la-scarabeo-9-y-el-embargo-de-50-anos/

Scarabeo 9, the semi-submersible oil rig contracted by the Spanish company Repsol completed its journey from Singapore to Cuba. Repsol’s rig will explore Cuba’s exclusive economic zone, an area in the Gulf of Mexico of about 112000 square kilometers. Oil exploration in the zone is being contracted to several foreign companies such as Venezuela’s PDVSA, Malaysia’s Petronas, and Vietnamese PetroVietnam. Cuba’s Ministry of Basic Industry estimates the oil reserves in the zone are between 5 billion to 9 billion barrels of oil. CNN GPS host Fareed Zakaria referred to Cuba’s total oil potential as between 5 billion and 20 billion barrels of oil.

The start of the oil exploration will not derail Raul Castro’s reform program. At a minimum, oil will not come from the offshore wells soon enough, while the reforms are needed immediately. The Cuban government needs to create jobs for the million and half workers that are supposed to leave the government sector in the next two years as part of the reforms program proclaimed last April by the Cuban Communist Party in its VI Congress. It must also alleviate critical situations of poverty in the five most eastern provinces, where unrest has been rising. With or without oil, the Cuban economy sorely needs to develop an environment in which businesses and individuals feel confident to invest.

The development of an oil based economy also poses a challenge for the anti-corruption policy President Raul Castro claims to support. The risk of potential backdoor deals and traffic of influence associated with the volume of oil profits cannot be contained without more transparency to hold corrupt or incompetent officials to account. To improve the quality of governance, the Cuban government must accelerate its opening to the best monitoring world practices and the training of its project managers, accountants, economists, and regulators. It must also lessen controls over the media and nongovernmental activities in ways that they can monitor and identify negligent and corrupt officials.

The impact on U.S.-Cuba relations:

In the early 1990’s, several studies of Cuban future scenarios (Edward Gonzalez and David Rondfelt’s “Cuba Adrift in a Post-Communist World”

of the Rand Corporation for instance) warned that a discovery of oil in Cuba would be a game changer for U.S-Cuba relations. Given the expectation that it will find oil in Cuba’s waters; the mere arrival of Scarabeo 9 strengthens Havana’s position versus Washington’s policy of isolation.

One must add that oil offshore exploration in Cuba has important implications in terms of U.S. national security, energy and environmental policies. Facing the danger of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Cuban American oil expert Jorge Piñón, associated with the University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geo-sciences, recommended an industry wide license “allowing U.S. oil equipment and services companies to provide goods, services and personnel to oil companies operating in Cuba in the event of an emergency”.

At a minimum, Piñón suggested that CUPET, Cuban oil company be allowed to join the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) “in order to gain experience in deep-water drilling by the sharing of industry health, safety and environmental best practices through IADC conferences, training seminars, and technical publications in areas such as drilling and completion technology; standards, practices, legislation and regulations which provide for safe, efficient and environmentally sound drilling operations”.

The activation of the American business and environmental community about oil exploration in Cuban waters is already in motion. In December 2011, a joint delegation of the International Association of Drilling Contractors and the Environmental Defense Fund visited Cuba to explore ways to cooperate with Cuba beginning by common responses to potential spills. Last fall Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) and Mary Landrieux

(D-La) sponsored a bill to allow “U.S. citizens and residents to “engage in any transaction necessary” for oil and gas exploration and extraction in Cuba — “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” The bill passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources with the support of The Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association (PESA).

Even in the “worst case scenario” for Cuba of a Republican victory in 2012, historical precedents such as the lifting of the embargo against Vietnam allow us to predict that the pro-embargo lobby doesn’t have the spine to stop the push of the American petroleum lobby. The opening of Agricultural trade with Cuba in 2000, showed how a mobilized and well-funded American farmers community defeated the pro-embargo lobby in a matter of two years. In the last decade, food sales to Cuba averaged $350 million a year. The trade peaked in 2008 at $ 700 million. If Scarabeo 9 discovers oil, the potential profits of American trade and investment in Cuba will easily exceed the agricultural trade revenues.

The Way Forward:

Sooner or later, we will read an op-ed by a pro-embargo lobbyist explaining that all this is a campaign by the Cuban government to entice the American business community, and that the only way forward is for the United States to fight with the companies that dared to explore oil fields next to our shores, respecting international laws and showing goodwill to our government but refusing to go along with the Cuban American right wing lobby in Southern Florida. It will insist that there are neither reforms nor reformist elements to nurture by engaging Cuba.

Here is a better course: The Obama Administration, which wasted a year since Repsol-YPF contracted the platform in China, should instead include Cuba in all regional cooperation efforts to design mutually beneficial hemispheric energy and environmental protection policies. To pursue such a goal and protect Florida and Gulf coast, the American and Cuban government should begin negotiations to train their officials for coordinated responses against accidents in the Florida Straits and protect their installations against any potential terrorist attack, from enemies of the United States or violent Cuban exile groups.

 

To nurture economic reform and anti-corruption initiatives in Cuba’s dealing with the oil industry, is clearly in the national interest of the United States. Since American companies contracting overseas are regulated by the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, by far a more restrictive anti-corruption legislation than any of the countries involved in Cuba’s oil industry, President Obama can argue that it is in U.S. national interests to license American oil companies to contract any oil related activity in Cuba, beginning by environmental protection. This is legal within the framework of the Helms-Burton law.

A secure and stable world oil market is a fundamental United States national security interest. All serious predictions by American academic and intelligence community are forecasting the globalization of energy demand and an increase in world demand for oil by 20% or more over the next two decades, mainly in emerging markets. The risks of disruptions of oil extraction, refining or transportation, and oil spills are always present. Washington should not postpone anymore an urgent discussion about the convenience and the opportunity costs of refusing to engage Cuba’s oil industry.

Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado

Arturo Lopez-Levy

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New Publication, CUBA: PEOPLE, CULTURE, HISTORY

A near-encyclopedic volume on Cuba was recently published by Charles Scribner’s Sons but has received surprisingly limited publicity- at least from my perspective up here in winter-time in the True North. I have not yet seen the volume myself nor have I even seen the Table of Contents. However, the description of the substance of the volume below looks interesting.

If my finances were infinite, I would certainly buy a copy, even though the price ranges from $284.44 to $454.95, depending on the seller.

I contributed two essays on the Cuban economy. These are available here:

Archibald Ritter  “The Cuban Economy, Revolution, 1959-1990”

Archibald Ritter, “Cuba’s Economy During the Special Period, 1990-2010”

Here is a brief description of the volume:

Editor in Chief: Alan West-Durán, Northeastern University

 Associate Editors: Victor Fowler Calzada, Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba (UNEAC); Gladys E. García Pérez, Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba (UNEAC); Louis A Pérez, Jr., University of North Carolina; César Salgado, University of Texas; Maria de los Angeles Torres, University of Illinois, Chicago

Charles Scribner’s Sons,  An Imprint of Gale, Cengage Learning 2011

 INTRODUCTION

In an exceedingly complex and changing global situation,  understanding Cuba is an important and challenging task. The Scribner CUBA: People, Culture, History is a reference work that goes beyond a mere presentation of facts, biographies, and “ready reference” information, which is widely available on the Internet, to offer deep interpretation. The book will offer on the one hand, twenty-one interpretative essays on major topics in Cuban history, culture and society, as well as over one hundred twenty-five shorter essays on artistic, literary, and nonfiction works; major events and places of cultural significance.

The major essays will not only cover Economics, Sugar, Tobacco, Religion, and Food, but also Cuba and its Diasporas, Ecology and Environment, Sexuality, Gender, Race and Ethnicity, the Arts, Language, Sports and Cuban Ways of Knowing and Being, among others.

The short essays will focus on specific literary works, photographs, paintings, political documents, speeches, testimonies, historical dates, key places and cities on the island and abroad. For example:  literary works include “Los Versos sencillos”; “Paradiso”; and “The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love”; works of nonfiction include: “Cuba: Azúcar y Población”; “Indagación del choteo”; and La historia me absolverá”; works of visual art: “La Jungla”; and “Los Hijos del agua conversando con un pez”; works of music: “Guantanamera”; “Misa cubana”; and “Mambo #5”; cinema: “Lucía”; and “Fresa y chocolate”; events: “Violence and Insurrection in 1912: A Racial Conflict”; and “January 1, 1959”; and places of cultural significance: “Baracoa”; “Holguín”; “Isla de Pinos”; “Spain”; and “New York,” to name a few examples.

By combining longer overview pieces with short and focused descriptive and analytical ones, CUBA  aims to give the curious and interested reader a way to comprehend the country by presenting the major forces that have shaped the island historically and culturally. Rather than overwhelm the reader with thousands of entries and biographies, CUBA offers a close look at major themes that are emblematic to the country’s unique history. CUBA is a reference guide for readers undertaking a journey of comprehension; it is not a work that presumes to have all of the answers.

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Baranyi and Legler: “Canada’s long engagement with Cuba: paradoxes and possibilities”

By Thomas LEGLER y Stephen BARANYI, Universidad Iberoamericana (México) y Universidad de Ottawa (Canadá)

América Latina Hoy, 52, 2009, pp. 131-146; Canada’s long engagement with Cuba, paradoxes and possibilities

Professors Legler and Baranyi have produced an interesting analysis of Canadian relations with Cuba and the possible implications for the European Union and the United States which somehow I missed a few years ago. A Spanish language version of  full document is hyper-linked above. Unfortunately it is not available in English.  Here is the Abstract in English however.

ABSTRACT: The European Union, Latin America and even the United States have each initiated distinct processes of dialogue with Cuba. What relevant lessons can be drawn from Canada’s long history of engagement with the Revolution? This article documents the evolution of Canada-Cuba relations since the 1940s, focusing on the ups and downs of these relations since a policy of «constructive engagement» was launched in the mid-1990s. It argues that this approach (in its many guises) has not had a major influence on the liberalization of Cuban politics. Moreover, what little influence Canada had during the «Special Period» has diminished with the economic recovery and the diversification of Cuba’s external relations over the past decade. As such, the authors conclude that the most appropriate strategy for Canada and other «engagers» is to take a coordinated, long-term approach of supporting a variety of endogenous change processes inside Cuba. A realistic strategy should include ongoing but low-profile dialogue with the current regime, cooperation with a wide range of possible reformers within and beyond the state, and support for broader social changes through trade, foreign investment, tourism, academic and cultural exchanges.


ThomasLegler

Stephen baranyi

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Reporters Without Borders: Again Cuba’s “Freedom of the Press” is the Worst in the Henmisphere

No surprises here. Once again, Cuba unfortunately comes last in the Hemisphere in a ranking regarding human rights. In this case. Reporters without Borders annual Freedom of the Press Report for 2011 comes to the conclusion that observers of Cuba are familiar with, namely that freedom of expression in Cuba exists only in the minds of the members of the Politburo of the  Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

The full report can be found here: Reporters without Borders, Press Freedom Index, 2011-2012. The Website for the Report is here: http://en.rsf.org/. The Reporters without Borders coverage on Cuba is here: Cuba Page.

Below is a quick summary of the methodology used by RWB for the calculation of its index.

“The ranking reflects the situation during a specific period. This year’s index takes account of events between 1 December 2010 and 30 November 2011. It does not look at human rights violations in general, just press freedom violations.

To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders prepared a questionnaire with 44 main criteria indicative of the state of press freedom. It asks questions about every kind of violation directly affecting journalists and netizens (including murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats) and news media (censorship, confiscation of newspaper issues, searches and harassment). And it establishes the degree of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for these press freedom violations. It also measures the level of self-censorship in each country and the ability of the media to investigate and criticize. Financial pressure, which is increasingly common, is also assessed and incorporated into the final score.

The questionnaire takes account of the legal framework for the media (including penalties for press offences, the existence of a state monopoly for certain kinds of media and how the media are regulated) and the level of independence of the public media. It also reflects violations of the free flow of information on the Internet.

Reporters Without Borders has taken account not only of abuses attributable to the state, but also those by armed militias, clandestine organizations and pressure groups.”

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Jeff Franks: Key political risks to watch in Cuba

By Jeff Franks, for Reuters; HAVANA | Fri Feb 3, 2012 10:57am EST

HAVANA Feb 3 (Reuters) – Cuba is opening the door to private management of some state-run cafes and food service outlets in an apparent test of further reforms aimed at keeping the island one of the world’s last communist countries.

The government said food prices rose nearly 20 percent in 2011 in a warning sign that economic change will not be painless.

Spain’s Repsol YPF brought the massive Scarabeo 9 drilling rig into Cuban waters and began drilling what Cuba hopes will be the first of many wells in its untapped offshore oilfields.

ECONOMIC REFORMS

In eastern Holguin province, officials said 211 state-owned cafeterias would be leased to employeesin a semi-privatization similar to what has been done nationally with barber shops and beauty salons the past year and recently expanded to other service businesses such as watch repair and carpentry shops. The Holguin program has not been mentioned in national media, but is likely a trial run before it becomes generalized, as was done with the other services.

The government, which wants to slash a million jobs from its payroll and encourage more private initiative, has said it will turn many small businesses, nationalized since the 1960s, over to employee cooperatives. It is encouraging self-employment, with more than 362,000 people now working for themselves. Economy Minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez told the National Assembly in late December that 170,000 state jobs would be cut in 2012 and as many as 240,000 new non-state jobs added. The government’s goal is to have up to 40 percent of the island workforce of 5.2 million in non-state jobs by 2015.

President Raul Castro has made reform of Cuba’s lagging agricultural sector a top priority and the Cuban state, which owns 70 percent of the country’s land, has leased 3.5 million acres (1.4 million hectares) to 150,000 private farmers since he succeeded older brother Fidel Castro as president in February 2008. In some areas, the state has increased the land farmers can lease to 165 acres (67 hectares), extended their leases to 25 years, allowed them to build homes on the land and will let them pass the leases on to family members. Yet food output was up just 2 percent in 2011 and still below 2005 levels.

That, reduced food imports by the cash-strapped government and reforms allowing farmers to sell more of their production for market prices combined to make food prices shoot up in 2011. The National Statistics Office reported that meat prices rose 8.7 percent while produce prices increased 24.1 percent, for an average of 19.8 percent on the year..

At the same time, the average monthly salary inched up only a few percentage points to the equivalent of $19 a month, the government said. The statistics stated what Cubans already knew — their buying power has shrunk under Castro’s reforms.

President Castro told the National Assembly that Cuba still expected to spend $1.7 billion on food imports in 2012.

He also emphasized at a Communist Party conference the importance of an ongoing crackdown on corruption, which already has shuttered three foreign firms and sent executives of some of Cuba’s biggest state-run firms to prison. He said the party would implement term limits for the country’s leaders, but he gave no details.

What to watch: The pace of reforms and their consequences; The development of small businesses; Agricultural production and food prices.

FINANCIAL HEALTH

Castro said the economy grew 2.7 percent in 2011 and was expected to rise 3.4 percent in 2012. Cuba said it drew a record 2.7 million tourists in 2011, bringing in revenues of about $2.3 billion.

Travel industry experts say tourism has boomed this winter as the Arab Spring scared Europeans away from northern Africa, relaxed U.S. regulations made it easier for Americans to visit the island and Castro’s reforms drew visitors curious to see the effects of changes. They said Cuba needs more hotels to accommodate its growing tourism industry, which is a top hard currency earner for the country.

Cuba is heavily indebted and still recovering from a liquidity crisis that led to a default on payments and freezing of foreign business bank accounts in 2009. Castro told the National Assembly that accounts for foreign suppliers to Cuba had been unfrozen and steps taken to prevent the problem from happening again.

Hopes that reforms would bring more foreign investment have been slow to materialize, but Brazilian company Odebrecht said it would sign a contract to help Cuba improve its troubled sugar industry. One executive said the deal would include ethanol production. Long-awaited golf course developments, aimed at attracting wealthier tourists, remain on hold.

What to watch: Resolution of outstanding short-term debt; Signs of increased interest in foreign investment; Growth of tourism and Cuba’s ability to handle it

OIL PLANS

The Chinese-built Scarabeo 9 arrived in Cuban waters and at January’s end began drilling the first of three exploration wells in Cuba’s part of the Gulf of Mexico. Spain’s Repsol YPF and its partners plan to drill two of the wells and Malaysia’s Petronas and its partner, Russia’s Gazprom Neft, will drill the other, all this year and with the same rig.

The project has drawn opposition in the U.S. Congress, but, to allay safety concerns, Repsol allowed U.S. experts to inspect the Scarabeo 9 in Trinidad and Tobago. They said it met all international engineering and safety standards.U.S. companies are forbidden from operating in Cuba by the U.S. trade embargo.

Cuba depends on imports from its oil-rich ally Venezuela, but says it may have 20 billion barrels of oil offshore. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated 5 billion barrels.

What to watch:  Results of Repsol’s exploratory well;  U.S. pressure to stop the drilling.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

A planned Papal visit in Marchimproved ties with Brazil, whose President Dilma Rousseff paid an official visit in January,are bright spots even as Cuba faces a more hostile Spanish government elected in November.

A major concern for Cuba is the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a loyal ally whose government provides 114,000 barrels of oil a day and investment to Cuba. He underwent chemotherapy in Cuba and has declared himself cancer free, but experts say it is too soon to tell. If he were unable to continue in office, it would be a big blow to Cuba.

U.S.-Cuba relations, which thawed briefly under President Barack Obama, have been frozen by the imprisonment of U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross.He is serving a 15-year sentence for providing Internet gear to Cuban Jews under a U.S. program promoting Cuban political change. A document reported to be the court’s sentence said Gross knew the political aims of his work and tried to hide it from Cuban authorities despite his claims to the contrary.

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Spain’s Repsol begins Cuba offshore drilling-sources

By Jeff Franks | Reuters – 17 hrs ago; HAVANA (Reuters)

Spanish oil company Repsol YPF has begun drilling the first well in Cuba’s long-awaited exploration of offshore oilfields that the communist country says hold both billions of barrels of oil and the key to greater prosperity, industry sources told Reuters on Thursday.

The massive Scarabeo 9 drilling rig, which arrived in Cuban waters two weeks ago, began drilling into the sea floor about 30 miles northwest of Havana on Tuesday night, the sources said.

A Repsol spokesman said the company could not comment on “operational details.”

The newly built, high-tech rig is operating in 5,600 feet of water, or what the oil industry calls “ultra-deep water,” in the Straits of Florida, which separate Cuba from its longtime ideological foe, the United States.

Sources close to the project said such wells generally take about 60 days to complete.

Repsol, which is operating the rig in a consortium with Norway’s Statoil and ONGC Videsh, a unit of India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp, has said it will take several months to determine the results of the exploration.

The well is the first of at least three that will be drilled in Cuban waters with the Scarabeo 9, which was built in China and is owned by Saipem, a unit of Italian oil company Eni.

Sources have said that Repsol will drill the first well and then the rig will go to Malaysia’s Petronas in partnership with Russia’s Gazprom Neft and then back to Repsol for the third well.

It is not clear what happens after that, although some sources have said Repsol, which is leasing the Scarabeo 9 from Saipem at a rate said to be more than $500,000 a day, will move the rig to Brazil for exploration there.

Cuba has said it may have 20 billion barrels of oil in its northern waters, which are its part of the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated it may have 5 billion barrels of oil, but its study does not include the entire Cuban gulf zone.

EASE FINANCIAL WOES

Cuba, which is in the midst of reforming its Soviet-style economy, is hoping oil will ease it chronic financial woes and bring energy independence from its socialist ally Venezuela. It receives about 115,000 barrels daily from the oil-rich South American country.

But if oil is found, experts say it could take five years or so to begin production because more drilling will be needed and production infrastructure put in place.

Repsol drilled the only previous offshore well in Cuba in 2004 and said it found oil but that it was not “commercial.”

It has been difficult to find a rig for more drilling because of the 50-year-long U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, which limits the amount of U.S. technology that can be used.

The Scarabeo 9, which is of Norwegian design, has only one piece of American equipment – the blowout preventer, a key part that failed in the 2010 blowout of a BP well in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

The BP well, which was in more than 5,000 feet of water and spilled 5 million barrels of oil, stained hundreds of miles of U.S. coastline.

In Florida, 90 miles north of Cuba, the Cuba offshore project has raised fears that a similar accident could damage the state’s beaches and coral reefs.

Drillers in Cuban waters could get within 45 miles of Florida, while in the U.S. gulf no exploration is permitted within 125 miles of the state.

At Repsol’s invitation, a team of U.S. experts inspected the rig in December in Trinidad and Tobago and said it complied with all existing engineering and safety standards.

But the United States, which has no official diplomatic relations with Cuba, has only made safety preparations from afar and has not been otherwise involved in the project.

Countries such as Norway and Brazil have helped lead an international effort to get Cuba ready for oil exploration and the possibility of an oil spill.

The project has gone forward despite opposition in the United States from Cuban exile leaders, who have proposed legislation in the U.S. Congress to try to stop Repsol.

They fear that oil will enrich and assure the survival of the Communist government they have long opposed.

“We need to figure out what we can do to inflict maximum pain, maximum punishment to bleed Repsol of whatever resources they have if there’s a potential for a spill that would affect the U.S. coast,” U.S. Rep. David Rivera from Florida told a congressional subcommittee in Miami on Monday.

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Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, 2011 Conference Proceedings

ASCE, the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy has just published the Proceedings of its 2011 Conference. The Proceeding include a wealth of information and analyses. All articles for 2011 and indeed all the Conference proceedings for the last 21 years are freely available on the ASCE Web Site

Below is the Table of Contents for the 2011 Proceedings with all articles hyper-linked to the original ASCE source.

Preface

Conference Program

Table of Contents

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