• 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."

Still More “Good Advice” from Fidel!

By Arch Ritter

Fidel visits a collective farm. The manager of the farm says: “Fidel, all our chickens are dying and we don’t know what to do.”

Fidel replies: “The chickens are suffering from a salt deficiency. Feed them more salt.”

The workers on the  farm then feed the chickens more salt. A year later, Fidel happens to visit the chicken collective again. The manager says “Fidel, almost all our chickens have died. What should we do?”

Fidel pulls on his beard, thinks hard, and says sagaciously: “Your chickens are suffering from a deficiency of pepper. Feed them some pepper.”

The chickens are then fed pepper. The following year, Fidel again passes through the farm. The manager says: “Fidel, all our chickens have died. We are lost.”

Fidel says: “What a pity. And I still have so many more good ideas.”

[This story came to me originally with a Rabbi in the place of Fidel.]

Cuba’s economic history is in part a history of his “Good Ideas”, imposed on Cuba, with the support and adulation of acolytes, devotees and yes-men and with the suppression of criticism. Think of Instant Industrialization (1961-1963), the “Revolutionary Offensive (1968), the 10 million tons sugar harvest goal, the “New Man”, the Havana Green Belt project and shutting down half the sugar mills (2002).

Fidel now has yet another “Good Idea” reproduced below in his new reader-friendly format, namely a haiku-length quasi-twitter statement. Perhaps he learned from Yoani Sanchez that “brevity is the soul of wit” and also beats three-hour verbosity.

Reflections of Fidel
Nutrition and healthful employment
(Taken from CubaDebate)

“THE conditions have been created for the country to begin massively producing Moringa Oleífera and mulberry, which are sustainable resources [for the production of] meat, eggs, milk and silk fiber which can be woven by artisans, providing well-remunerated employment as an added benefit, regardless of age or gender.”

Fidel Castro Ruz
June 17, 2012
2:55 p.m. •

(See Reflections  of Fidel)

This looks like déjà vu all over again with Fidel proposing a new massive scheme. Thankfully the former President is totally out of the economic picture. If he were still the Big Boss in charge of the central planning system, we could expect some billions would be invested in another untested hare-brained scheme. I still remember Fidel’s adulatory descriptions of “Black Velvet,” the Canadian breeding bull, which was supposed to revolutionize Cuba’s milk cow herds and lead to unlimited supplies of milk, butter etc. Now the new agricultural miracle is Moringa Oleífera and mulberry!

In contrast, President Raul, the pragmatist, might order a study for some four years before deciding whether or not to run a pilot project. Or, more likely now, perhaps an independent farmer might give it a try and if it works, others will adopt it and then in time still others– which is how innovation occurs in a decentralized market economy.

Moringa Oleífera

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Presentations from the Bildner Center, (CUNY) “COLLOQUIUM ON THE CUBAN ECONOMY” May 2012,

On May 12, The Bildner Center at City University of New York, under the leadership of Mauricio Font organized a one-day conference analyzing the recent experience of the Cuban economy in its process of transformation.  All of the Power Point presentations from the  “COLLOQUIUM ON THE CUBAN ECONOMY” have been posted on the  Center’s Web Site. The presentations of the Cuban participants, all from the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, namely Omar Everleny, Pavel Vidal, Camila Piñeiro, and Armando Nova, are especially valuable and informative as they provide up-to-date and inside analyses of major issue areas. Mauricio, Mario González-Corzo, and the team are certainly to be congratulated for organizing this event

All of the presentations can be be accessed at the Bildner Web Site via the hyperlinks listed below in the form of the program of the conference.

Session #1: Cuban Updates on Actualización

1. Cuentapropismo y ajuste estructural
Omar Everleny, University of Havana

2. Microfinanzas en Cuba
Pavel Vidal, University of Havana

3. Non-state Enterprises in Cuba: Current Situation and Prospects
Camila Piñeiro, University of Havana

4. Impacto de los Lineamientos de la Política Económico y Social en la producción nacional de alimento
Armando Nova, University of Havana

Moderator: Mauricio Font, Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies

Session # 2: Strategic Initiatives: Agriculture

1. Measuring Cuba’s Agricultural Transformations: Preliminary Findings
Mario González-Corzo, Lehman College, CUNY

2. U.S. Food and Agricultural Exports to Cuba – Uncertain Times Ahead
Bill Messina, University of Florida

Moderator: Emily Morris, Economist Intelligence Unit in London

Session # 3: Revamping Socialism: Perspectives and Prospects

1. Actualización in Perspective
Mauricio Font, Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies

2. Cuban Restructuring: Economic Risks
Emily Morris, Economist Intelligence Unit in London

3. Prospects in a Changing Geo-Economic Environment Archibald Ritter, Carleton University, Canada

ROUNDTABLE: Implications and Future Agenda


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Al Jazeera on “The Truths and Tales of Cuban Healthcare”

The full article is available here:The Truths and Tales of Cuban Healthcare  and here;  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/06/201265115527622647.html. The Introduction and an excerpt are reproduced below.

The state-run system has been praised, but many specialists now fear they are falling behind international standards.

Lucia Newman  Last Modified: 18 Jun 2012 08:30

If there is one thing for which Cuba has received praise over the years, it is the Communist government’s state-run healthcare system. Much of this praise is well-deserved. Despite its scarce resources, Cuba has one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates – just slightly lower than that of the US. Life expectancy is 77.5 years, one of the world’s highest. And until not so long ago, there was one doctor for every 170 citizens – the highest patient-per-doctor ratio in the world.

Of course, the government can afford so many doctors because they are paid extremely low salaries by international standards. The average is between $30 and $50 per month.

And the benefits of this healthcare have not only been felt by Cubans.

Under Fidel Castro, the former Cuban president, hundreds of child victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, left without proper medical attention after the collapse of the Soviet Union, were invited to Cuba. A hospital was constructed to treat them while they and their families set up temporary residence in Tarara, a beautiful seaside neighborhood near Havana. Many remain there today.

Decline

By the time I moved to Cuba in 1997, there were serious shortages of medicine – from simple aspirin to more badly needed drugs.

Ironically, many medicines that cannot be found at a pharmacy are easily bought on the black market. Some doctors, nurses and cleaning staff smuggle the medicine out of the hospitals in a bid to make extra cash.

Although medical attention remains free, many patients did and still do bring their doctors food, money or other gifts to get to the front of the queue or to guarantee an appointment for an X-ray, blood test or operation.  If you do not have a contact or money to pay under the table, the waiting time for all but emergency procedures can be ridiculously long.

Many Cubans complain that top-level government and Communist Party officials have access to VIP health treatment, while ordinary people must queue from dawn for a routine test, with no guarantee that the allotted numbers will not run out before it is their turn. And while the preventative healthcare system works well for children, women over the age of 40 are being shortchanged because yearly mammograms are not offered to the population at large.

I saw many hospitals where there was often no running water, the toilets did not flush, and the risk of infections – by the hospital’s own admission – was extremely high.

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Ernesto Hernández-Catá: “THE GROWTH OF THE CUBAN ECONOMY IN THE FIRST DECADE OF THE XXI CENTURY. IS IT SUSTAINABLE?”

Ernesto Hernández-Catá has agreed to have his recent essay “The Growth of the Cuban Economy in the First Decade of the XXI Century: Is it Sustainable?posted on this Web Site. It was written for presentation at the forthcoming 22nd annual meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy in Miami in August 2012. The full study is available here: Ernesto Hernandez-Cata, “The Growth of the Cuban Economy in the First Decade of the XXI Century”.


Ernesto Hernández-Catá

Conclusion

Income and production increased rapidly in Cuba during the first decade of the XXI century. Growth was fueled by a surge in government spending and a boom in services exports and investment—all of them made possible by rapidly increasing in payments received from Venezuela. The expansion in both domestic and foreign demand during the decade did not visibly result in higher inflation or in a massive deterioration of the country’s external position, partly because potential output also increased rapidly reflecting the strong performance of investment. (In this connection, it is a good thing that part of the Venezuelan money was used to finance capital formation rather than consumption.) However, capacity utilization also increased markedly, and the gap between actual and potential GDP must have dwindled considerably, leaving little room for supply to respond to additional demand pressures.

While there was no explosion in the current account of the balance of payments for most of the decade, severe pressures did emerge in 2008 and the authorities had to restrict imports, ration foreign exchange, and take measures that damaged the nation’s reputation in world financial markets. The Central Bank also intervened on a large scale to keep the exchange value of the Cuban peso fixed—a policy that cannot continue forever.

The large size of Cuba’s dependence on Venezuelan aid makes the country hostage to fortune. A sudden interruption in such aid would trigger a deep recession and put the balance of payments in a critical position. Therefore the structural measures that were taken or announced in 2009 and 2010 should now be extended and pursued much more aggressively. This will not be easy. But as Russia’s former Finance Minister Boris Fedorov once said, dependence on foreign largesse is a luxury that a free country cannot afford.[i]

[i]  At the Conference on Russia’s Economic Reform held in Stockholm in June 1994. In response to an injunction by Jeffrey Sachs to suppress hyperinflation by fixing the value of the Ruble and borrowing massive amounts from abroad.

Ernesto Hernandez-Cata was born in Havana, Cuba in 1942. He holds a License from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland; and a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University. For about 30 years through, Mr. Hernandez-Cata worked for the International Monetary Fund where he held a number of senior positions, including: Deputy Director of Research and coordinator of the World Economic Outlook; chief negotiator with the Russian Federation; and Deputy Director of the Western Hemisphere Department, concentrating on relations with the United States and Canada. When he retired from the I.M.F. in July 2003 he was Associate Director of the African Department\, where he dealt with Ethiopia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other countries. He was also  Chairman of the Investment Committee of the IMF’s Staff Retirement Plan. Previously he had served in the Division of International Finance of the Federal Reserve Board. From 2002 to2007 he taught economic development and growth at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the University of Johns Hopkins. Previously he had taught macroeconomics and monetary policy at The American University.

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Mark Frank on Cuban Access to Internet and Telephone Technology

By Mark Frank, (Reuters) – June 15, 2012

The original article is here: More Cubans have local intranet, mobile phones

The number of Cubans linked to the country’s state-controlled intranet jumped more than 40 percent in 2011 compared to the previous year and mobile phone use rose 30 percent, the government reported, even as Cuba’s population remained largely cut off from unfettered access to the Internet.

Communist-run Cuban monopolizes communications in the state-controlled economy. There is no broadband Internet in Cuba and the relatively few Internet users suffer through agonizingly long waits to open an email, let alone view a photo or video, which also hampers government and business operations.

The National Statistics Office said the number of ?Internet users reached 2.6 million last year, up from 1.8 million in 2010, although almost all were likely on the local intranet through government-run computer clubs, schools and offices.

Some of Cuba’s Intranet Users

Cuba reports intranet use as Internet use even though access to the Internet is banned without government permission.

The number of mobile phone users increased to 1.3 million in 2011, up from 1 million in 2010, the government said. Cubans do not have Internet connectivity on their phones. Cuba’s population is 11.2 million people.

Cell phone usage has grown by leaps and bounds since 2008, when the government first allowed all Cubans to buy the phones. That first year there were 330,000 users. Mobile phones are available only in a local dollar-pegged currency and sending even a Twitter message from a mobile phone can cost more than the average daily earnings of many Cubans.

There were 783,000 personal computers in the country, or 70 per 1,000 residents, though around 50 percent of those were in state hands, according to the report available at www.one.cu/ticencifras2011.htm

During a recent tour of Cuba by a Reuters reporter, no Internet users were found, though a few people said they occasionally accessed the Web using black market passwords or hotels.

WORST IN LATIN AMERICA

Cubans who want to leave the country often cite local telecommunications, rated as the worst in Latin America by the United Nations International Telecommunications Union, as one of the reasons.

Officials say that data detailing individual use of Internet and ownership of computers and telephones is misleading and argue the country’s technological priorities are on encouraging social use at government-operated computer clubs and through services that provide professionals access to literature in their fields.

Cuba blames the United States embargo for denying access to underwater cables, saying it must use a satellite system and is limited in the space it can buy. In February 2011, a fiber optic cable was laid fromVenezuelato Cuba to provide download speeds 3,000 times faster than Cuba’s current Internet and capable of handling millions of phone calls simultaneously. To date there is no evidence the cable is operational and the government and state-run media have remained mum on the matter.

Cuba has around a million fixed telephone lines. The country has a total telephone density of just 22.3 percent.

Access to satellite television is also severely restricted. Satellite TV access in Cuba is illegal without special permission from the government and authorities regularly raid neighborhoods and homes in search of satellite dishes.

 

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Cuba in the 2012 Yale University “Environmental Performance Index Rankings.”

By Arch Ritter

In the recently published Yale University 2012 Environmental Performance Index, Cuba’s ranking is surprisingly strong. Its position in the world is # 50 which looks pretty reasonable in comparative international perspective, though the Yale study classifies Cuba as a “Modest Performer”. (The ranking for Canada is #37 and that for the United States is # 49.) In the Latin American context, Cuba is tied for 8th place with Argentina. Other Latin countries rank higher: Costa Rica at #5; Colombia #24; Brazil #30; Ecuador #31; Nicaragua #35; Panama #39; and Uruguay, # 46.

On a second related index, namely the Trend EPI, or the trend rank based on performance over the last decade, Cuba ranks #101 in the world and #12 in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

The Yale Index now seems to be “the gold standard” in such environmental performance indices. Comprehensive information on the Yale index is available on their web site: Yale University 2012 “Environmental Performance Index Rankings”. The detail of the final results and background studies for the 2012 Report are all available here:  File Downloads.

A pictorial summary of the methodology and indices used to construct the composite index are presented in Chart I below, and Cuba’s performance in the various component indices is pictured in Chart 2.Chart 1

Chart 2:

According to the Yale study, and illustrated in Chart 2, Cuba performed well in the following areas:

  • Environmental impacts on health and the environmental burden of disease;
  • Forest cover and planting (reflecting the conversion of sugar lands to plantation);
  • Protected Areas;
  • Agricultural subsidies.

Cuba’s performance was considered weaker in

  • Air quality;
  • The ecosystem effects of water resources;
  • Fisheries;

Cuba was judged to be more or less “OK” on water resources for human consumption and CO2 emissions.

A second study produced as Appendix 5 of the Republic of Cuba – European Union Country Cuba’s Strategy paper and national indicative programme, 2011-2013, Appendix 5  provides  additional information on Cuba’s environmental performance that is more worrying. Among the environmental performance measures and commentaries that it includes are the following:

  • “Of the flora in Cuba about 48% is in danger, of which around 22% in serious risk. Of the fauna these figures are 30% in danger of which 14% in critical risk.”
  • There is an almost complete lack of infrastructure to manage water pollution. “Of the 2,160 main contaminant sources recognized by UNEP, 1,273 or 59 percent, release their pollution into the Cuban environment without any treatment whatsoever. Another 433, or roughly 20 percent, receive limited but inadequate treatment before being discharged.”
  • “Some 17 or 18 percent of urban sewage receives treatment before discharge into Cuban waterways.”
  • According to UNEP, approximately “341,716 tons per year of organic material are discharged into Cuban waters, equivalent to the pollution generated by a population of over 22.3 million people (almost twice the actual population).”
  •  “….it has been estimated that annually 863.4 billion gallons of contaminated water finds its way into Cuba’s rivers, much of it industrial.”
  • “Salt-affected soil covers 14 percent of the national territory, or approximately 1 million hectares. The cost of recovering these salt-affected soils has been estimated at $1.43 billion. This is one of the main contributors to soil erosion which according to the Cuban government, affects 60 percent of Cuba’s territory, which has given rise to serious concerns about desertification, or extreme topsoil loss.”
  • “Waste is collected efficiently in most parts of the country but dumped in uncontrolled dumpsite for the mayor part. The existing landfills for Havana are full and new two landfills will be constructed, making use of state-of the art technology (ground water protection, leakage and leaching control).”

In addition, as visitors to Havana can attest, air pollution is a serious concern though it seems to have improved somewhat since some of the older Soviet era trucks, buses and the “Camellos” have been taken off the streets. The smoke from the old electricity generation plant and the refineries in Havana also has a major effect when the wind is in the wrong direction. The waste waters of Havana are sent by sewage pipe – clearly visible from the eastern part of the Malecon – one kilometer off-shore where they are swept into the Florida Straits – thankfully missing the beach areas or east Havana, Varadero, Cayo Coco, Guardalavaca etc.

All in all, like virtually all other countries, Cuba has no grounds for environmental complacency.

Smoke from Havana’s Thermal Elecctricity Plant, from the Edificio Fochsa,  Photo by Arch Ritter

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Dagoberto Valdes, ” Cuba Does Have Ideas, Projects and Actors for Its Future”

Dagoberto Valdes has published an interesting article on Cuban democracy in the Cuban Study Group’s “From the Island” series. The essay is available here: Dagoberto Valdes, From the Island June 2012 and here: Cuban Studies Group: From the Island: Issue #11

Here is a brief excerpt from Valdes’ text:

“WHAT CUBA NEEDS IS TO LEARN TO BUILD, PIECE BY PIECE, THE ROAD TO DEMOCRACY.
Therefore to those who stop, or attempt to monopolize for their own benefit the processes of change, arguing that there is no outstanding leader and viable project, we could say that Cuba does not need more of this. Its history, past and recent, shows conclusively where these two messianic and excluding aspirations eventually lead. On the contrary, Cuba needs to believe and be convinced that democracy is built, block by block, step by step, with all the pieces of the national puzzle. “Democracy is the worst of all political systems, with the exception of all others”—joked very seriously, Winston Churchill. This may be one of the political lessons that Cuba needs most to come out of its civic illiteracy. Never seek the perfect project, forever. Democracy is the art of trial and error, without improvisation, or opportunism, or unethical pragmatism. And not to tie the score means not to tie to the nation, to any political project, exclusive economic or social. And much less one that is considered the kingdom of heaven here on earth.
What Cuba needs is to learn to patiently assemble the national puzzle without ignoring, discrediting, or destroying any of its “pieces” that are not such, but free and responsible citizens or peaceful and non-sectarian groups. Must also avoid considering actors and projects as parts of a machine manipulated by a single group or person who, without transparency, believe they can lead the masses to a future that is cooked in the backyard of the nation.
What Cuba needs is to create viable and pluralistic thought to start designing its own future consistent and faithful with its historical roots, cultural heritage, spirituality and idiosyncrasies.”

DAGOBERTO VALDÉS HERNÁNDEZ, (Pinar del Río, Cuba, 1955)

Intelectual católico. Graduado de ingeniero agrónomo (1980)
Fundador del Centro de Formación Cívica y Religiosa (1993)
Fundador y director de la revista Vitral (1994-2007) (www.vitral.org)
Miembro del Pontificio Consejo Justicia y Paz del Vaticano (1999-2005)
Presidente del Instituto de Estudios Cubanos (IEC) desde 2007.
Director de la revista Convivencia desde 2008. (www.convivenciacuba.es)

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Encuesta de Opinión Pública Cubana 29 Febrero– 14 Marzo, 2012

The International Republican Institute has produced its seventh survey of public opinion on the economic reforms, on future reforms and utilization of electronic media. A variety of interesting results emerge but there are no major shifts of opinion since the previous few surveys which are reviewed comparatively in the presentation.

The full presentation is available here: Enquesta IR Feb-Mar 2012

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Cuba’s Debt Situation: Official Secrecy and Financial “Jineterismo”

By Arch Ritter

Does Cuba have an “external debt problem”? Is servicing the debt, that is, paying the interest and amortization, a serious burden for the balance of payments?

Unfortunately, Cuba does not provide sufficient information to analyze this issue clearly. One searches in vain in the documentation of the Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas (ONE) and the web site of the Banco Central de Cuba (BCC) for useful and up-to-date information on debt magnitudes or the cost of servicing the debt. Why is it that all the countries in Africa – excepting Somalia and South Sudan – and all the countries of Latin America can provide up-to-date information on their debts but Cuba can not? [For Africa see the African Economic Outlook, 2012, Table 12    and for Latin America, Naciones Unidas, CEPAL, CEPAL, Naciones Unidas, Balance Preliminarde las Economias de America Latina y el Caribe. 2012]

One can only conclude that Cuba’s debt issue is a matter of “official secrecy”. Presumably it is not due to incompetence in the Central Bank or the Statistical Agency.

Surprisingly, the present lack of timely and detailed information on the external debt is in sharp contrast with the situation under the government of President Fidel Castro in the 1980s. In this period, the BCC published detailed information on the external debt which permitted independent external analysis (See for example A. Ritter, “El problema de la deuda de Cuba en monedas convertibles”; “Cuba’s convertible currency debt problem”, – Revista de la CEPAL; CEPAL Review, 1988, not available in electronic format.)

The most recent number for Cuba’s external “gross debt” provided by the ONE for 2008 was 11.6 billion pesos in Moneda Nacional. This constituted 19.1% of Cuba’s GDP for that year (ONE AEC Table 8.2). These numbers are undoubtedly higher now in 2012 after the 2008-2009 recession.

The total external debt ostensibly amounted to 92.7% of Cuba’s exports of both goods and services in 2008. This does not seem unduly onerous. However, Cuba’s service exports, paid for primarily by the Government of Venezuela in exchange for medical and other services are vulnerable to change if Hugo Chavez were to leave the scene or lose the forthcoming presidential election. These service exports are unsustainable in the long run in any case as countries develop their own medical services.

As a percentage of merchandise exports, Cuba’s gross debt comes in at 325%, a magnitude that is more onerous. Unfortunately lack of relevant information prevents a determination of debt service as a percentage of exports of goods and services or of merchandise exports alone.

But how meaningful are these gross debt figures?

Cuba’s external debt is in foreign currency. Cuba’s domestic GDP is measured in Moneda nacional. What is the reasonable exchange rate for translating Moneda Nacional into a common foreign currency such as the US Dollar? The appropriate exchange rate would not be the official 1.00 CuP = $US 1.00. Nor would the appropriate rate be  24.00 CuC = $US 1.00, which was the exchange rate of the CuP (in Moneda Nacional) to the CuC (or the Convertible Peso.) If it were the latter, then the hard currency debt of 11.6 billion would be 458% of Cuba’s GDP, an amount that would be horrendous. Likely the true weight of the external debt is somewhere the 19.1% of GDP and the astronomical 458% of GDP, but we have little idea exactly where.

Cuba underwent a debt crisis in the late 1980s when it faced a total hard currency debt of $US 5.5 billion. It resolved the problem by first arranging a series of reschedulings. When these did not solve the problem, Cuba suspended negotiations on July 1, 1986, and entered a debt moratorium paying neither interest nor amortization.

According to a report by the Republic of Cuba-European Union entitled Country Strategy Paper and National Indicative Programme for the period 2011-2013. 24 March, 2010, “Annex VIII: Debt Sustainability Analysis.” Cuba’s creditors, excluding the former Soviet Union, were owed a total of $31.7 billion in 2008. The total volume of debt outstanding now in 2012 is undoubtedly higher than the 2008 figure. Some 20 billion of this was “inactive” or no longer honored by Cuba, but we do not know which debts were no longer active.

Under President Fidel Castro and perhaps Raul Castro as well, Cuba has played an interesting and remunerative game, making economic friends with a succession of suitors, obtaining trade, official and bank credits from its partners, and then reneging on the debt. The most dramatic example was of course the former Soviet Union which extended credits amounting to around 20 billion transferable rubles, or some $US(1988) 28 billion. This debt plus other debts with the countries of the Soviet Bloc is not acknowledged by Cuba will never be repaid.

More recently, Venezuela, China and Iran have been the favored economic partners with Cuba extending credit to promote their exports. Will they also be “stood up”, “let down” or “dumped” by Cuba when the credits run out?

Certainly when Chavez leaves the scene and when Venezuela decides to end its special relationship with Cuba, Cuba will likely declare a moratorium. Are there additional suitors who are willing to enter a special economic relationship with Cuba and provide new credit lines? I can no longer see a waiting list of suitors. However, there may well some ready to succumb to the charms of Cuba, its diplomats and its trade negotiators. Perhaps Brazil is next in line!

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Blogger Yoani Sanchez filed the demand to know why she’s banned from leaving Cuba.

By Juan O. Tamayo; jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com May 30, 2012

Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez has filed a notice with the Interior Ministry demanding to know why she’s not allowed to travel abroad, the latest in a string of daring legal challenges to the communist government.
Sánchez said the notice filed Wednesday asks Interior Minister Abelardo Colomé Ibarra to explain why the ministry office that is in charge of exit permits never answered her Nov. 18, 2010 request for the reasons behind the refusals.
Colomé Ibarra now has 60 days to respond to her complaint of “administrative silence,” Sanchez said. If he doesn’t, she will file a lawsuit against the minister seeking a court order that he must reply.
“Of course, I know what’s going to happen. But I want to maintain that innocence of having hope,” Sánchez added, referring to the high probability that her complaints will go nowhere in a country where the courts faithfully follow the government line.
Cubans who want to travel abroad require a government permit, known as a “White Card” and regularly denied to dissidents. It has turned down several Sánchez requests to travel abroad to receive prizes, attend conferences or for other reasons.
She has repeatedly asked for an explanation at the Interior Ministry’s Office for Immigration and Foreigners’ Affairs, but received none. Her notice Wednesday elevated her question to the minister’s office.
“It’s a step before a lawsuit,” she told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana. “It is a legal, juridical opportunity in the hands of citizens, which allow an appeal against Cuban authorities when the authorities have not responded to a petition.”
Her notice was the latest in a handful of bold attempts by dissidents and others to use Cuba’s legal system to challenge official actions. The courts have knocked down almost all the cases, including some filed against police.
But the Cuban Juridical Association is still fighting a three-year-old case seeking the legal recognition of the Justice Ministry as a group of lawyers that provides legal advice on a nonprofit basis, usually to government critics.
CJA chief Wilfredo Vallín, who also is advising Sánchez on her case, took the first step required to register the group in April 2009 by asking the Justice Ministry’s Registry of Associations to certify that no other group had registered the same name.
The registry never replied so the 1992 graduate of the University of Havana Law School elevated his request to Justice Minister María Esther Reus. When she didn’t reply, he filed suit under Cuba’s Law for Civil, Administrative and Labor Procedures.
To his surprise, a three-judge panel first officially accepted Vallín’s complaint, and then ordered Reus to appoint lawyers to defend her. Cuba’s highest court, the Supreme Tribunal found a technical fault with one of his filings last year but allowed the case to continue and later ordered the minister to reply to Vallín’s initial request.
The Justice Ministry certified last June that no other group was registered with the same name or purpose as the CJA, but earlier this year it rejected the CJA’s application for recognition on technical grounds. Vallín has vowed to appeal.
Ministry officials had never officially recognized any dissident group, making them illegal and therefore subject to sanctions for the crime of “illegal association.”
Cuba’s justice system argues that the role of the law is to promote stability and the development of a “socialist society.” Dissidents put on trial are almost always convicted.
Lawyers are required to work for the government or government-approved Collective Law Offices, where criminal defense attorneys can be hired. But lawyers who spend too much time defending dissidents are sometimes fired from the law offices.

Arch Ritter, Yoani Sanchez and Reinaldo Escobar, Havana April 2012

 

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