• 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."

U.S. State Department Publishes Positive Evaluation of Cuba’s Narcotics Control System

Original: Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Report, March 7, 2012

The Section on Cuba is reproduced below:

Cuba

A. Introduction

Cuba is located between some of the largest exporters of illegal drugs in the hemisphere and the U.S. market. Drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) frequently attempt to avoid Government of Cuba and U.S. Government counter drug patrol vessels and aircraft by skirting Cuba’s territorial waters. Bilateral interdiction efforts and GOC intensive police presence on the ground have limited the opportunities in or around Cuba for regional traffickers.

The goals of Cuba’s counternarcotics enforcement effort are to reduce the available supply of narcotics on the island and to prevent traffickers from establishing a foothold. The Cuban Border Guard (TGF) maintains an active presence along Cuba’s coastal perimeter, primarily to deter illegal emigration, but also to conduct maritime counter-drug operations and coastal patrols. Cuba’s domestic drug production remains negligible as a result of active policing, stiff sentencing for drug offenses, very low consumer disposable income and limited opportunities to produce illegal drugs, either synthetic or organic, in quantity. Cuba’s counternarcotics efforts have prevented illegal narcotics trafficking from having a significant impact on the island.

Cuba is party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends

1. Institutional Development

In 2011, Cuba continued “Operation Hatchet,” their multi-agency counternarcotics strategy. Led by the Ministry of Interior, “Operation Hatchet” includes the efforts of Cuba’s ministries of Armed Forces, Judicial, Investigations, Public Health, Education and Culture, and the Border Guard. The combination of forces is intended to reduce supply through vigilant coastal observation, detection and interdiction, and reduce demand through education and legislation. The Cuban government’s extensive domestic security apparatus and tough sentencing guidelines have kept Cuba from becoming a major drug consuming country. The Government of Cuba did not publicize new counternarcotics legislation policy initiatives or related budget increases supporting such measures in 2011.

Cuba continues to demonstrate a commitment to fulfilling its responsibilities as a signatory to the 1988 United Nations Convention based on adherence to the Convention’s Articles. Cuba criminalized drug related offenses as outlined in Article Three; including 39 judicial agreements with partner nations regarding judicial proceedings and extradition. Furthermore, in accordance with Article Nine, the Government of Cuba continued to exhibit counternarcotics cooperation with partner nations. The Cuban government reports having 32 counterdrug bilateral agreements and two memoranda of understanding (MOU) for counterdrug cooperation. Cuba regularly participates in international counternarcotics conferences, such as the United Nations’ Heads of National drug Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEA), and submits quarterly statistics on drug interdictions and seizures to the United Nation’s International Narcotics Control Board.

The Cuban government is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the UN Convention against Corruption, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and its Protocol Against Illicit Manufacturing of Trafficking in Firearms and The Barbados Plan of Action of 1996. Cuba is not party to the Caribbean Regional Maritime Agreement which opened for signature in 2003. The 1905 extradition treaty between the United States and Cuba and an extradition agreement from 1926 remain in effect. In 2011, these agreements were not employed to hand over fugitives. Instead, bilateral arrangements were made to have the fugitives detained and deported from Cuba and directly placed in the custody of the receiving nation for further prosecution.

2. Supply Reduction

Major transshipment trends did not change from 2010. During calendar year 2011, the GOC reported a total of 9.01 metric tons of illegal narcotics interdicted (including 8.3 MT in wash-up events), a 360% increase from the previous year’s 2.5 (MT). Government anti-drug forces reported disrupting three smuggling events and captured six traffickers (3 from the Bahamas and 3 from Jamaica). Statistics on arrests or prosecutions were not made available.

There were no significant changes in Cuba’s overall counternarcotics strategy or operations in 2011. Domestic production and consumption of illegal drugs remained very limited, and Cuba concentrated its counternarcotics supply reduction efforts by preventing illegal smuggling through Cuban territorial waters, rapidly collecting reported narcotic wash-ups, and preventing tourists from smuggling smaller amounts of narcotics into the country. The Ministry of Armed Forces and Ministry of Interior’s combination of fixed and mobile radars, coupled with visual and coastal vessel reporting procedures make up an effective network for detecting illegal incursions of territorial air and sea by narcotics traffickers. The Cuban government attempts to interdict vessels or aircraft suspected of narcotics trafficking with Cuban assets. At sea, Cuba has had increasing success. Cuba continues to share go-fast vessel information with neighboring countries, including the United States, and has had increasing success in interdicting go-fast vessels. In 2011, Cuba reported 45 real-time reports of “go-fast” narcotics trafficking events to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). TGF’s email and phone notifications of maritime smuggling to the U.S. have increased in quantity and quality, and have occasionally included photographs of the vessels suspected of narcotrafficking while being pursued.

Overseas arrivals continue to bring in small quantities of illegal drugs mostly for personal use, although the extent of this problem remains unknown. The Ministry of Interior conducts thorough entry searches using x-rays and trained counternarcotics detection canines at major airports. Government officials detained 20 tourists, compared to 123 in 2010, for attempting to smuggle small quantities of narcotics into Cuba.

To combat the limited domestic production of marihuana, Cuba set up “Operation Popular Shield” in 2003 to prevent any domestic development of narcotics consumption or distribution of drugs, remained in effect and netted over 9,830 marijuana plants and 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, compared to 9,000 marijuana plants and 26 kilograms of cocaine in 2010.

3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment

The combination of extensive policing, low incomes, low supply, and strict drug laws (involving up to 15-year prison sentences) have resulted in very low illicit drug use in Cuba. There are nationwide campaigns aimed at preventing drug abuse, and the quantity of existing programs for the general population appears adequate given the very low estimated numbers of persons addicted to drugs in Cuba. The National Drug Commission, headed by the Minister of Justice, with representatives from the Attorney General’s office and National Sports Institute, remains responsible for drug abuse prevention, rehabilitation and drug policy issues in Cuba.

According to the Cuban government, the Ministry of Health operates special drug clinics, offering services ranging from emergency care to psychological evaluation and counseling to treat individuals with drug dependencies. There are no programs specializing in drug addiction for women and children. The Government runs three substance abuse clinics that cater to foreigners, and the Catholic Church runs a center to treat addiction in Havana.

The Cuban government occasionally broadcasts anti-drug messages on state run media and operates an anonymous 24-hour helpline. In addition, Cuba reports the dangers of drug abuse are a part of the educational curriculum at all levels of primary and secondary schools.

4. Corruption

Cuba has strong policies in place against illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, and laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. Cuba reports a zero tolerance for narcotics-related corruption by government officials and claims there have been no such corruption occurrences in 2011.

C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives

Cuba and the United States share a mutual interest in reducing drug flows in the vicinity of the island, and in 2011, Cuba maintained a significant level of cooperation with U.S. counternarcotics efforts. Although the United States does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Cuba, there are respective Interests Sections in Havana and Washington, DC. In Havana, the U.S. Interests Section (USINT) has a USCG Drug Interdiction Specialist (DIS) to manage and coordinate counternarcotics efforts with Cuban law enforcement officials. The United States does not provide any narcotics-related funding or assistance to Cuba.

On a case-by-case basis, the USCG shares tactical information related to narcotics trafficking and responds to Cuban narcotics related information on vessels transiting through Cuban territorial seas suspected of smuggling, or tactical information on drugs interdicted within Cuban territory. Cuba also shares real-time tactical information with the Bahamas, Mexico and Jamaica. Bilateral cooperation in 2011 led to multiple at-sea interdictions.

The Cuban government presented the United States with a draft bilateral accord for counternarcotics cooperation, which is still under review. Structured appropriately, such an accord could advance the counternarcotics efforts undertaken by both countries.

D. Conclusion

Cuba continues to dedicate significant resources to preventing illegal drugs and illegal drug use from spreading on the island, so far successfully. The technical skill of Cuba’s Border Guard, Armed Forces and police give Cuba a marked advantage against DTO’s attempting to gain access to the Caribbean’s largest island. Greater communication and cooperation among the U.S., its international partners and Cuba, particularly in the area of real-time tactical information-sharing and improved tactics, techniques and procedures, would likely lead to increased interdictions and disruptions of illegal trafficking.

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Council on Foreign Relations: “Addressing the Risk of a Cuban Oil Spill”

Original here: Council on Foreign Relations: Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 15   March 2012

Scarabeo 9, en route to Cuba

Authors: Captain Melissa Bert, USCG, Military Fellow, U.S. Coast Guard and Blake Clayton, Fellow for Energy and National Security

The imminent drilling of Cuba’s first offshore oil well raises the prospect of a large-scale oil spill in Cuban waters washing onto U.S. shores. Washington should anticipate this possibility by implementing policies that would help both countries’ governments stem and clean up an oil spill effectively. These policies should ensure that both the U.S. government and the domestic oil industry are operationally and financially ready to deal with any spill that threatens U.S. waters. These policies should be as minimally disruptive as possible to the country’s broader Cuba strategy.

The Problem

A Chinese-built semisubmersible oil rig leased by Repsol, a Spanish oil company, arrived in Cuban waters in January 2012 to drill Cuba’s first exploratory offshore oil well. Early estimates suggest that Cuban offshore oil and natural gas reserves are substantial—somewhere between five billion and twenty billion barrels of oil and upward of eight billion cubic feet of natural gas. Although the United States typically welcomes greater volumes of crude oil coming from countries that are not members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a surge in Cuban oil production would complicate the United States’ decades-old effort to economically isolate the Castro regime.

Deepwater drilling off the Cuban coast also poses a threat to the United States. The exploratory well is seventy miles off the Florida coast and lies at a depth of 5,800 feet. The failed Macondo well that triggered the calamitous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010 had broadly similar features, situated forty-eight miles from shore and approximately five thousand feet below sea level. A spill off Florida’s coast could ravage the state’s $57 billion per year tourism industry.

Washington cannot count on the technical know-how of Cuba’s unseasoned oil industry to address a spill on its own. Oil industry experts doubt that it has a strong understanding of how to prevent an offshore oil spill or stem a deep-water well blowout. Moreover, the site where the first wells will be drilled is a tough one for even seasoned response teams to operate in. Unlike the calm Gulf of Mexico, the surface currents in the area where Repsol will be drilling move at a brisk three to four knots, which would bring oil from Cuba’s offshore wells to the Florida coast within six to ten days. Skimming or burning the oil may not be feasible in such fast-moving water. The most, and possibly only, effective method to respond to a spill would be surface and subsurface dispersants. If dispersants are not applied close to the source within four days after a spill, uncontained oil cannot be dispersed, burnt, or skimmed, which would render standard response technologies like containment booms ineffective.

Repsol has been forthcoming in disclosing its spill response plans to U.S. authorities and allowing them to inspect the drilling rig, but the Russian and Chinese companies that are already negotiating with Cuba to lease acreage might not be as cooperative. Had Repsol not volunteered to have the Cuba-bound drilling rig examined by the U.S. Coast Guard and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to certify that it met international standards, Washington would have had little legal recourse.

The complexity of U.S.-Cuba relations since the 1962 trade embargo complicates even limited efforts to put in place a spill response plan. Under U.S. law and with few exceptions, American companies cannot assist the Cuban government or provide equipment to foreign companies operating in Cuban territory.

Shortfalls in U.S. federal regulations governing commercial liability for oil spills pose a further problem. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) does not protect U.S. citizens and property against damages stemming from a blown-out wellhead outside of U.S. territory. In the case of Deepwater Horizon, BP was liable despite being a foreign company because it was operating within the United States. Were any of the wells that Repsol drills to go haywire, the cost of funding a response would fall to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF), which is woefully undercapitalized. OPA 90 limits the OSLTF from paying out more than $50 million in a fiscal year on oil removal costs, subject to a few exceptions, and requires congressional appropriation to pay out more than $150 million.

The Way Forward

As a first step, the United States should discuss contingency planning for a Cuban oil spill at the regular multiparty talks it holds with Mexico, the Bahamas, Cuba, and others per the Cartagena Convention. The Caribbean Island Oil Pollution Response and Cooperation Plan provides an operational framework under which the United States and Cuba can jointly develop systems for identifying and reporting an oil spill, implement a means of restricting the spread of oil, and identify resources to respond to a spill.

Washington should also instruct the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct basic spill response coordination with its counterparts in Cuba. The United States already has operational agreements in place with Mexico, Canada, and several countries in the Caribbean that call for routine exercises, emergency response coordination, and communication protocols. It should strike an agreement with Cuba that is substantively similar but narrower in scope, limited to basic spill-oriented advance coordination and communication. Before that step can be taken, U.S. lawmakers may need to amend the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 to allow for limited, spill-related coordination and communication with the Cuban government.

Next, President Barack Obama should issue an export-only industry-wide general license for oil spill response in Cuban waters, effective immediately. Issuing that license does not require congressional authorization. The license should allow offshore oil companies to do vital spill response work in Cuban territory, such as capping a well or drilling a relief well. Oil service companies, such as Halliburton, should be included in the authorization.

Finally, Congress should alter existing oil spill compensation policy. Lawmakers should amend OPA 90 to ensure there is a responsible party for oil spills from a foreign offshore unit that pollutes or threatens to pollute U.S. waters, like there is for vessels. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Congressman David Rivera (R-FL) have sponsored such legislation. Lawmakers should eliminate the requirement for the Coast Guard to obtain congressional approval on expenditures above $150 million for spills of national significance (as defined by the National Response Plan). And President Obama should appoint a commission to determine the appropriate limit of liability cap under OPA 90, balancing the need to compensate victims with the desire to retain strict liability for polluters.

There are two other, less essential measures U.S. lawmakers may consider that would enable the country to respond more adeptly to a spill. Installing an early-response system based on acoustic, geophysical, or other technologies in the Straits of Florida would immediately alert the U.S. Coast Guard about a well blowout or other unusual activity. The U.S. Department of Energy should find out from Repsol about the characteristics of Cuban crude oil, which would help U.S. authorities predict how the oil would spread in the case of a well blowout.

Defending U.S. Interests

An oil well blowout in Cuban waters would almost certainly require a U.S. response. Without changes in current U.S. law, however, that response would undoubtedly come far more slowly than is desirable. The Coast Guard would be barred from deploying highly experienced manpower, specially designed booms, skimming equipment and vessels, and dispersants. U.S. offshore gas and oil companies would also be barred from using well-capping stacks, remotely operated submersibles, and other vital technologies. Although a handful of U.S. spill responders hold licenses to work with Repsol, their licenses do not extend to well capping or relief drilling. The result of a slow response to a Cuban oil spill would be greater, perhaps catastrophic, economic and environmental damage to Florida and the Southeast.

Efforts to rewrite current law and policy toward Cuba, and encouraging cooperation with its government, could antagonize groups opposed to improved relations with the Castro regime. They might protest any decision allowing U.S. federal agencies to assist Cuba or letting U.S. companies operate in Cuban territory.

However, taking sensible steps to prepare for a potential accident at an oil well in Cuban waters would not break new ground or materially alter broader U.S. policy toward Cuba. For years, Washington has worked with Havana on issues of mutual concern. The United States routinely coordinates with Cuba on search and rescue operations in the Straits of Florida as well as to combat illicit drug trafficking and migrant smuggling. During the hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides Cuba with information on Caribbean storms.

The recommendations proposed here are narrowly tailored to the specific challenges that a Cuban oil spill poses to the United States. They would not help the Cuban economy or military. What they would do is protect U.S. territory and property from a potential danger emanating from Cuba.

Cuba will drill for oil in its territorial waters with or without the blessing of the United States. Defending against a potential oil spill requires a modicum of advance coordination and preparation with the Cuban government, which need not go beyond spill-related matters. Without taking these precautions, the United States risks a second Deepwater Horizon, this time from Cuba.

Oil Wells, along the Via Blanca, Matanzas Province, Photo by Arch Ritter, 1997

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Small Businesses Face Challenges in Cuba

By Frank Barnako; Market Watch (Wall Street Journal); Feb. 28, 2012

Nerci, Cuenta Propista and Artisan, Photo by Arch Ritter, November 2008

HAVANA, Cuba — Cuba’s latest big idea is small business.

In the last year, the Cuban government has expanded the number of areas in which it allows entrepreneurs to launch small retail businesses. More than 350,000 Cubans are now licensed to have their own businesses, according to media reports. The streets are lined with Cubans providing locksmith services; fixing watches; selling pizza, hardware or clothing; and offering other services and commodities. Read a story about daily life in Cuba.

Felix is one of them. Opposite Havana’s Capitolio building, which looks remarkably like the U.S. Capitol, he operates his shoeshine and repair business with an old metal chair for his customers to sit on and a wooden crate as his own workbench. Sometimes, he shines shoes for tourists. Most often, he’s repairing the scuffed and scarred footwear of Cubans. Felix gets about 50 cents for a pair of high boots. White shoes cost $1.

Carlos, another small businessman, is a barbero . His barber’s chair is on the sidewalk in front of his mother’s apartment. He cuts hair with an electric clipper and comb for 75 cents.

Neither Felix nor Carlos is getting rich, not even slowly. It costs money to be in business. The government, which has owned all property in the country since Fidel Castro took power in 1959, collects rent for workspace. Business owners also pay monthly income and social security taxes.

Costs and risks

For the thousands of “cuentapropiatas,” the self-employed, being in business for themselves is a huge change from being a ward of the welfare state that is the Cuban economy. Most Cubans work for the government, in jobs ranging from the menial to the clerical and semiprofessional. Housing, medical care, food rations and education are provided free by the government. The average Cuban’s monthly income is about $20. Doctors are the highest-paid, earning perhaps $350 a month.

Entrepreneurs have to weigh their chances of doing better than a government paycheck. There is an incentive to tap into the vibrant tourist economy, which brought 2.5 million people to the island last year. Tourists spend “Cuban convertible pesos,” which can be used in government-owned retail stores that actually have inventory for sale. They also give tips, making jobs as taxi drivers and hotel waiters among the best on the island. But the lure of “provided free by the state” is anathema to ambition. See photos of daily life in Cuba.

The costs and risks of being his own boss are not too high for Edwaldo, who, with a friend, has gone into the hardware business. It has been slow the first few months, he says. “But I think it will get better.” His store is on the front stoop of his apartment building. The hallway is the store’s space. Unlike many other hardware stores, his display is not on a windowsill of an apartment encased by security bars.

His venture is more iffy than many other entrepreneurs’, whether they’re selling sandwiches, pizzas or white plastic bags outside farmers’ markets. That’s because the hardware guys need stock to sell. They trade in items like Chinese-made TV remote controls, faucets, saw blades and paint brushes that, in the states, they could buy from manufacturers or distributors. Except there is no private wholesale or distribution system in Cuba. So they get items from friends or family who may bring them from the U.S.

They also trade with other merchants and even recycle what they may find in the debris of crumbling buildings or sites where buildings are being renovated. There is no Home Depot. Building materials must be shipped in, most likely from Spain or Mexico, according to the island’s official historian, who oversees rehabilitations.

Running a business is also difficult because of a lack of marketing tools. If a merchant wants a sign over his store space, the government will charge a monthly fee. While there are two Cuban television stations, they don’t carry advertising. There are no billboards, and only recently has the telephone company, Etecsa, accepted Yellow Pages–type advertising for a new directory, according to Granma, the Communist Party’s newspaper. The cost is $10, the paper said. Each listing will include a company’s name, address and phone number.

President Raul Castro, five years his brother’s junior, has set a goal of moving 1 million state workers off the government payroll. That would reduce the burden for the state while at the same time increasing income from their rents and taxes. Think of it as a strategy to reduce costs and increase income, at the expense of contradicting 53 years of history on this Caribbean island.

Archibald Ritter, an economist at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa, says the government’s liberalized stance toward self-employment “is steadily, inexorably and permanently reversing Fidel’s economic heritage — though not his political institutions.” A major part of Fidel Castro’s life “is being canceled,” he says.

The Associated Press has watched a dozen of these start-ups in Cuba over the last year. A third have already failed. One wonders what will be the social cost of Raul Castro’s new socialism if the seemingly genetic optimism of these Cubans is blunted by the realities of a society with little consumer disposable income. Could Castro be sowing the seeds of a troubled harvest?

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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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