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

CUBA: SERVE THE PEOPLE; Cuba Is Facing its Worst Shortage of Food since the 1990s

Government bungling and a shortage of dollars are to blame

The Economist, July 3, 2021

Original Article: Cuba’s Food Crisis

“CUBANS HAVE always been resourceful,” says Ana, the owner of a private farm-to-table restaurant near Havana. “But now we need to be magicians and acrobats.” The communist island is facing its worst shortage of food since the 1990s. Finding ingredients was never easy in a place which imports around 70% of its food. Over the past year it has become nearly impossible. When grocery shops are empty, as is so often the case, Ana tries the internet or the black market, only to find that prices are prohibitively high. Farmers no longer want to sell produce to her, she says, as they need to eat it themselves.

“CUBANS HAVE always been resourceful,” says Ana, the owner of a private farm-to-table restaurant near Havana. “But now we need to be magicians and acrobats.” The communist island is facing its worst shortage of food since the 1990s. Finding ingredients was never easy in a place which imports around 70% of its food. Over the past year it has become nearly impossible. When grocery shops are empty, as is so often the case, Ana tries the internet or the black market, only to find that prices are prohibitively high. Farmers no longer want to sell produce to her, she says, as they need to eat it themselves.

The government blames the shortage of food mostly on sanctions imposed by the United States—sanctions which, on June 24th, the UN General Assembly voted to condemn, as it has done nearly every year since 1992. But since 2001 the sanctions have exempted food. Indeed, the United States is the largest exporter of food to Cuba, though last year those imports were at their lowest level since 2002.

Some external factors have affected the food supply. The jump in global food prices, which in the year to May surged by 40%, the largest increase in a decade, has made imports more expensive. But the main problem is the government’s lack of hard currency. Tourism, normally 10% of GDP, has atrophied because of the pandemic: whereas 4.2m people visited in 2019, just over 1m did last year, nearly all in the first three months of the year. Remittances have also suffered. Before covid-19, commercial airlines would operate as many as ten flights a day between Miami and Havana, all packed with cash-toting mulas. But now only a handful of flights go to Havana each week. In addition, this year’s harvest of sugar—one of Cuba’s main exports—was the worst in more than a century, as a result of drought (the dollar shortage also sapped supplies of fertiliser and petrol).

The government is trying desperately to eke out dollars and skimp on imported goods. Cubans can no longer buy greenbacks from state-operated exchanges at the airport. State-owned bakeries are replacing a fifth of the imported wheat flour they use in bread with substitutes made from home-grown corn, pumpkin or yucca, much to the dismay of consumers, who have complained that bread now tastes like soggy corn. The sale of biscuits has been limited in certain cities to cut back even more on imports of flour.

Since February, in a desperate attempt to collect hard currency, the government has required that foreigners pay for their seven-day mandatory stay in a state-owned quarantine hotel in dollars (since June, this has even applied to some Cubans). To earn more from its diaspora, the state also operates e-commerce sites through which Cubans abroad can pay in dollars or euros for food and gifts to be delivered to people on the island.

Indeed many Cubans abroad are trying to help their family members stave off hunger by sending their own care packages. But even these have become harder and more costly to post. Goods from the United States that once took two weeks to deliver can now take up to four months to arrive, as shortages of fuel and trucks in Cuba make the final leg of the delivery trickier.

Bungled policy responses have made things worse. On June 10th the Cuban central bank announced that, from June 21st, Cubans would not be able to deposit dollars into their bank accounts for an undisclosed amount of time. This is despite the fact that, in order to buy goods in state-owned shops, Cubans need to have a prepaid card loaded with dollars. They will now have to exchange their dollars for euros or other currencies, which involves a fee. Emilio Morales, the head of the Havana Consulting Group in Miami, thinks this was a way to scare people into depositing more before the deadline.

Rather than stabilise the economy, the policy is likely to do the reverse. Some exchange houses in Miami soon ran out of euros. Cuban banks were overwhelmed by queues of panicking people trying to deposit the dollars they needed to buy groceries. “Cuba has 11m hostages and is expecting Cuban exiles to pay their ransom,” says Mr Morales. Ricardo Cabrisas, the deputy prime minister, was recently in Paris negotiating another extension on the roughly $3.5bn of loans owed to foreign governments—the island has been in arrears since 2019. An ultimatum from creditors may help explain the government’s desire to hoover up greenbacks.

Despite making some attempts to liberalise the economy, the government is bafflingly poor at boosting agricultural production or wooing foreign investors. Firms producing food in Cuba earn only pesos, which have little value internationally, but must buy almost all their inputs abroad in a foreign currency. The government requires farmers to sell their harvest to the state at uncompetitive prices and imposes draconian rules on livestock management. Up until last month it was illegal to slaughter a cow before it had reached an advanced age, as determined by the state. Now farmers may kill them either to sell the meat or to eat it themselves. But before they do so, they must jump through a series of hoops, including certifying that the cow has produced at least 520 litres of milk a year. They are also not allowed to let their herd shrink overall, and so can only slaughter one cow for every three calves they add to it—a tall order in the long run, mathematically. As it is, Cuba is having trouble maintaining its existing cattle herd: last year, in the province of Las Tunas alone, more than 7,000 cows died from dehydration. Farmers have to complete paperwork and wait a week for approval, too. “The process of applying to eat a cow is enough to make you lose your appetite,” says a farmer in Bahía Honda.

Rural transportion
Zafra of 2016-20127

Cubans are no strangers to difficult times. Eliecer Jiménez Almeida, a Cuban filmmaker in Miami, was a child during the “special period” of hardship after the fall of the Soviet Union, and remembers how his grandmother sold her gold teeth in exchange for soap, just so that he and his siblings could take a bath. For him and for many Cubans, the question is not how many more of the same indignities their people can endure, but how much longer.

Discontent was slightly less likely when Fidel Castro was in power. He had charisma and mystique that neither his brother and successor, Raúl, nor Cuba’s current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, can replicate. What is more, the Cuban diaspora is larger and wealthier and the internet has shown Cubans that many of their economic difficulties are created by their leaders, not the United States. The best way to stave off popular discontent would be to implement more and bigger economic reforms, at a faster pace, starting with farms and small businesses. It is a measure of Cubans’ disillusionment that the old revolutionary cry of “Hasta la victoria siempre” (On to victory, always) has largely been supplanted by the longsuffering “¿Hasta cuándo?” (How much longer?) ■

Fidel, cutting cane during the Zafra of 1970
Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment


Yvon Grenier

Quillette.  July 2, 2021

Original Article: Margaret Atwood in Cuba

As a Cuba scholar, a student of literature and politics, and an enthusiastic reader of Margaret Atwood’s work, I have collected articles and media clips over the years related to the Grande Dame of CanLit’s many private and official visits to Cuba. Frankly, the file is thin. Generally, scholars engage with her important body of work (more than 60 books, fiction and non-fiction), without mentioning this topic. It is an interesting footnote, no more. Why interesting? Because it illustrates, in her case and as a pattern, how an inquiring mind sincerely committed to human rights and democratic values can turn off its critical antennae. Atwood allowed herself to become a compliant guest in a country that checks almost all the boxes of totalitarianism, minus extensive terror: a single-party state, no rule of law, arbitrary arrests (2,000 of them during the first eight months of last year), stultifying media (even Raúl Castro says so), and a regime of censorship that allows no freedom of speech, association, and only limited freedom of movement; a country with half-empty bookstores selling the same few official writers and hagiographies of the dear leaders.

I am not saying she ever became an enthusiastic apologist, as many Western writers and intellectuals did during the 1960s until the 1971 Padilla show trial. This is not like, say, a Sartre returning from Russia and announcing that cows produce more milk under socialism. Atwood has hardly said anything publicly about Cuba, as far as I know. Rather, Atwood in Cuba is more like a Sartre under the occupation, blissfully unconcerned about what is going on around her. I suspect that, were she asked if she considers Cuba a dictatorship, she would echo Justin Trudeau’s response to the same question back in 2016, and agree that it is. Maybe, like Trudeau, her answer would follow a pregnant pause, but she would be unlikely to deny that reality when forced to confront it. Nevertheless, with a little work, she has shown that she is able to ignore it.

Atwood travelled to Cuba for the first time in the early 1980s. She and her husband, the writer and avid birdwatcher Graeme Gibson (1934–2019), had been invited to participate in a cultural exchange by her former research assistant, who was then working as a cultural attaché at the Canadian embassy. Atwood tells this story in the introduction to a beautiful coffee-table book, entitled Cuba: Grace Under Pressure, written by Canadian writer Rosemary Sullivan with photographs by Malcom David Batty. Sullivan focuses on the private lives of Cubans, not the regime or its politics—“pressure” here refers to economic hardship, not the kind that results from living in a police state, and “grace” is a compliment to the Cuban nation for remaining fiercely independent. So it is a political book after all, just surreptitiously.

Atwood does not say much, but she does address the political question. “Nothing anywhere is as simple as we would like it to be,” she wisely writes, “but there are two verities that can be counted on: 1) no government is its people, and 2) birds don’t vote.” This is particularly true of countries in which neither birds nor citizens can vote. She also writes this:

Graeme promptly got arrested because he’d gone out early in the morning to watch birds, and hadn’t taken his passport—”We have a lot of trouble with people masquerading as spies,” a Cuban quipped later—and he’d wandered too close to something or other. He was stuck in a police station for hours while they tried to find an interpreter. Thus he was late for the hot-shot cultural lunch, and had to explain why. There were quite a few smiles and chuckles: a lot of the people at the table had themselves been arrested, under one regime or another, or at one phase of the Cuban Revolution or another. The story of Graeme’s arrest is still doing the rounds in Cuba, where they think it’s pretty funny.

Fortunately, Gibson, a prominent Canadian guest with a direct line to the embassy, never felt unsafe. It is a rare privilege to be able to trivialise arbitrary arrest in this way, as mere fodder for dinner party conversation.

In 2017, Canada was the guest country of honor at the Havana International Book Fair. A contingent of more than 30 Canadian authors plus several performing artists were invited. Atwood, for whom it was not a first as a Fair’s guest, was the star of the delegation. The speaker of the Canadian Senate presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of the Canadian pavilion. Nobody seemed to notice how highly parametered (from “parameter”: a term used in Cuba to designate the lines not to be crossed) this event always is. The stands overflow with children’s books, but critical literature is a rare commodity. Anyone who wants to see a truly international book fair in Latin America, replete with free discussion and vigorous debates about books and authors, should go to the one in Guadalajara, Mexico, and then compare.

The Havana Times journalist Barbara Maseda reported that during one of the official soirées, Atwood was asked about her favourite Cuban writers. Her response: “Carpentier, of course. Martí. Miguel Barnet. Nancy Morejón. Pablo Armando [Fernández]. Abel Prieto.” She knows there are more, but those were the names that came to mind. Maybe that was just an unrehearsed answer. Atwood never writes about Cuban literature, and her non-fiction work includes just one short comment on a Latin American writer—Gabriel García Márquez, the one every educated Anglo-Saxon knows. Her world is Anglo-American literature, and that is surely expansive enough for one person. But as Maseda perceptively remarks, her choices seemed to be “taken out of a manual of officially approved writers.” “The selection,” Maseda adds, “speaks, perhaps, of the nature of the links that she has kept with the country and its culture: ties built around diplomacy and official events, devoid of the restless curiosity one would expect from the talented literary critic.”

Martí is the nation’s “apostle,” not widely considered to be among the best Latin American writers of his time. Carpentier was indeed a great writer. Barnet wrote one memorable book of ethnology and was the boss of the artists and writers “union” (in the Soviet sense); Morejón and Fernández are respected but minor authors, and Morejón also occupied political positions in Cuba’s cultural bureaucracy. Almost nobody read Abel Prieto’s books, but everybody knows Prieto the minister of culture and cultural apparatchik. Last fall he was particularly vocal denigrating the young artists and independent journalists demonstrating for more freedom of expression in Cuba.

According to the Western Canon of literary critic Harold Bloom, five of the 18 greatest modern Latin American writers were Cubans: Alejo Carpentier (1904–80), José Lezama Lima (1910–76), Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1929–2005), Severo Sarduy (1937–93), and Reinaldo Arenas (1943–90). Except for Arenas and Cabrera Infante, the others wrote most of their books before the revolution and often abroad (Carpentier and Sarduy). Lezama Lima was censored for decades on account of his homosexuality, as was Arenas and another important Cuban writer, Virgilio Piñera (1912–79). Cabrera Infante (a Cervantes Prize winner, the Spanish equivalent of the Booker Prize) and Arenas remain censored on the island to this day. As were Fernández and Morejón during the 1970s. Arenas and Cabrera Infante were fierce and vocal critics of the dictatorship and died in exile. Until very recently, they were officially and completely ninguneados in the island, meaning they were actively erased from official memory. To put it in the parlance employed by Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale, they were “unpersoned.”

The performing artists who were part of the Canadian delegation may not have known all this (although, when I visit a country, I am always curious to know if people like me are well treated there.) But Atwood is a patron of Index on Censorship, a vocal champion of Amnesty International, and a recipient of the English PEN Pinter prize for her work defending writers’ rights. And, as mentioned, she is a frequent visitor to the island. Imagine visiting Moscow for the nth time during the Cold War, attending some Canadian-Soviet cultural event or other, and announcing that the very best Russian writers were Maxim Gorky, Feodor Gladkov, and Alexander Fadeyev, rather than, say, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Anna Akhmatova, and Vasily Grossman.

One needs to work at ignoring reality because it requires a conscious effort to look the other way. Atwood’s particular brand of imagined dystopia—amplified right-wing fantasies—ruffles no feather in the milieu she navigates. Not much bravery is required—at least, nothing like that mustered by precursors like Yevgeny Zamyatin or George Orwell, who is one of her favourite authors.

From 1984 to The Handmaid’s Tale CONTINUE READING

Yvon Grenier is a Professor of Political Science at St. Francis Xavier University and Resident Fellow at the Mulroney Institute of Government. You can follow him on Twitter @ygrenier1.

Posted in Blog | Tagged | Leave a comment


Mon, June 21, 2021, 8:05 PM·2 min read

Marc Jranjk

Original Article: Abdala Vaccine

HAVANA, June 21 (Reuters) – Cuba said on Monday its three-shot Abdala vaccine against the coronavirus had proved 92.28% effective in last-stage clinical trials.   The announcement came just days after the government said another homegrown vaccine, Soberana 2, had proved 62% effective with just two of its three doses.

“Hit by the pandemic, our scientists at the Finlay Institute and Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology have risen above all the obstacles and given us two very effective vaccines,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel tweeted.

The announcement came from state-run biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma, which oversees Finlay, the maker of Soberana 2, and the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the producer of Abdala. Both vaccines are expected to be granted emergency authority by local regulators shortly.

Cuba, whose biotech sector has exported vaccines for decades, has five coronavirus vaccine candidates.

The Caribbean’s largest island is facing its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic following the arrival of more contagious variants, setting new records for daily coronavirus cases.

The Communist-run country has opted not to import foreign vaccines but to rely on its own. Some experts said it was a risky bet but it appears to have paid off, putting Cuba in position to burnish its scientific reputation, generate much-needed hard currency through exports and strengthen the vaccination drive worldwide.

Several countries from Argentina and Jamaica to Mexico, Vietnam and Venezuela have expressed an interest in buying Cuba’s vaccines. Iran started producing Soberana 2 earlier this year as part of late-phase clinical trials.

Cuba’s authorities have already started administering the experimental vaccines en masse as part of “intervention studies” they hope will slow the spread of the virus.  About a million of the country’s 11.2 million residents have been fully vaccinated to date.

Daily cases have halved in the capital, Havana, since the start of the vaccination campaign a month ago, using Abdala, according to official data.  Cuba has reported a total of 169,365 COVID-19 cases and 1,170 deaths.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


I have just read Vegard Bye’s Cuba analysis – a bit late as it was published in mid-2020.  It is indeed an excellent analysis of Cuba’s current situation and prospects.  

This is one of the very best general analyses of the inter-relationships between Cuba’s economic conundrums and reforms, its socio-economic transformationsand the character and functioning of the political system.  Bye has drawn from his own experience in Cuba over a number of decades and from a careful and examination of the broad ranges of literature from within Cuba, from Cuban analysts outside Cuba, and from Cuban-American and international analysts. His chapters on the economic changes since the death of Fidel and their social implications is masterful.  Even better is his analysis of Cuba’s political system in Chapters 4, and 6 to 8.  

This volume is a tremendously valuable resource for a comprehension of Cuba’s current situation and its possible future.  


Title:               Cuba, From Fidel To Raul And Beyond

Format:           Paperback

Published:       August 14, 2020

Publisher:       Palgrave Macmillan

Language:       English

ISBN –             13:9783030218089


This book analyzes the economic reforms and political adjustments that took place in Cuba during the era of Raúl Castro’s leadership and its immediate aftermath, the first year of his successor, Miguel Díaz-Canel. Faced with economic challenges and a political crisis of legitimacy now that the Castro brothers are no longer in power, the Cuban Revolution finds itself at another critical juncture, confronted with the loss of Latin American allies and a more hostile and implacable US administration.


  1. Introduction
  2. Retreat of State as Economic Actor?
  3. Achieving the Required Surge in Investment and Growth?
  4. Political Implications of Socio-economic Changes
  5. T he Evolving International Arena: Fitting into a New Context
  6. More Pluralism or Continued Authoritarianism/
  7. Evolution of Party and State Relations
  8. Towards the End of Gerontocracy
  9. Into the Critical Juncture: Principal Dilemmas and Possible Scenarios


“The text that Vegard Bye presents to us summarizes the ideas and visions that he has been developing after years of observing closely the evolution of the Cuban social, political and economic model, especially during the reforms process led by Raul Castro since 2008. His proposals and analysis have the virtue of not falling into common places and stereotypes so usual in the Cuba subject. He found originality from his firsthand knowledge of the Cuban reality, seen from an international perspective and from the prism of modern concepts of political science.” (Pavel Vidal Alejandro, Professor of Economics at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Colombia)

“This is a timely book and a well-informed contribution to the ever-going debate about Cuba’s future. The author has accumulated decades of experience in assessing and living in the Cuban reality, and the book offers just that, a scholarly as much as a personal view of the events in the Island. Whether you share or not his opinions, this piece will greatly contribute to your knowledge about this fascinating country, in a way that is both enjoyable and useful.” (Ricardo Torres, Professor at the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, University of Havana, Cuba)

“Displaying an expertise gained through several decades of closely watching developments on the island, Bye delivered a very perceptive and informed analysis of the economic and political changes in the post-Fidel era, the outcomes of Raúl Castro’s reform and the political scenarios for the future. A most-needed assessment of Cuba’s contemporary realities from a political science perspective.” (Nora Gamez Torres, Cuban-American journalist covering Cuba and US-Cuban relations for Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald)

“A timely and thankfully heterodox volume that gives readers a front row seat and fresh and locally informed analysis of contemporary Cuban political economy. The book provides both a sober assessment of Raúl Castro’s 10 years of economic reforms (2008-2018) and an early analysis of the first year of Miguel Díaz-Canel’s―Raúl’s hand-picked successor―government. Its unique perspective derives equally from the author’s immersion in progressive projects of national renovation in Cuba and Nicaragua as a war correspondent, United Nations official, and representative of various Norwegian development agencies. Bye’s ongoing collaboration with various leading Cuban NGOs and civil society groups gives his book an insider’s insight and balance rare for a volume by a non-Cuban about such a controversial topic as Cuban politics.” (Ted A. Henken, Associate Professor of Sociology at Baruch College, City University of New York, USA)

“A study on Cuba focused on its most pressing issues. A must-read for any researcher―carefully researched and accessible to anyone interested in the past, present and future of the Cuban Revolution.” (Harold Cárdenas, co-founder of the Cuban blog La Jóven Cuba)

VEGARD BYE is a Norwegian political scientist, writer, consultant and ex-politician. He has represented the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Angola and Bolivia, written extensively on Latin America, and is a consultant specializing on human rights, democracy, conflict and post-conflict societies as well as solar energy. He served as a Substitute Representative (Vararepresentant) to the Norwegian Parliament for the Socialist Left Party from Oslo (1993-1997), meeting in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.  He is currently a Partner at Scanteam a.s., an Oslo-based consulting company focusing on international development and responsible business.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Normalizing relations with the island would go a long way towards promoting one of the president’s “core pillars” of US foreign policy.

June 17, 2021


William LeoGrande

(Washington Post, December 18, 2014)

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki made headlines on March 9, when she said that Cuba was “not currently among President Biden’s top priorities.” The second half of her answer got less attention, though it was equally significant: “…but we are committed to making human rights a core pillar of our U.S. policy.” Shortly thereafter, a senior official reaffirmed her comment, saying that the president would “make human rights a fundamental pillar of his foreign policy,” not just in Cuba but across the Americas. 

This is no surprise. Biden has been an advocate for human rights throughout his political career, and this position on Cuba echoes what he said during the campaign. But human rights policies don’t happen in a vacuum; they are one component of a broader bilateral relationship and their effectiveness depends upon that context. 

Biden acknowledged as much when he criticized President Trump for imposing tougher economic sanctions against Cuba, arguing they had “inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done nothing to advance democracy and human rights.” That was also the central argument President Barack Obama advanced for his 2014 policy of normalizing relations with Havana—that sixty years of trying to promote democracy through coercive diplomacy simply had not worked.

Cuban leaders have always rejected foreign demands that they reform their politics. To them, such demands are an infringement on Cuba’s sovereignty. When U.S.-Cuban relations deteriorate and Washington tightens the embargo, the Cuban government reacts like most governments under attack by foreign enemies. A siege mentality takes hold and internal dissent is regarded as akin to treason — a reaction exacerbated by Washington’s material support for some dissidents, which puts all dissidents under suspicion of being Fifth Columnists. 

But the history of Havana’s relations with both the United States and the European Union also shows that when relations are warming, Cuban leaders have acted unilaterally to improve human rights in order to reinforce the positive momentum. President Jimmy Carter put human rights at the center of his foreign policy, and, when he opened a dialogue with Havana, Fidel Castro released more than 2,000 political prisoners, many jailed since the early 1960s. Castro’s negotiator told U.S. officials the gesture was explicitly a response to Carter’s concern about human rights and his willingness to improve relations.

In President Bill Clinton’s second term, he took steps to reduce tensions by relaxing the embargo on travel and on cultural, educational, and scientific exchanges. In Cuba, the government’s repression of dissidents eased noticeably, prompting the senior U.S. diplomat in Havana, Vicki Huddleston, to describe it as a “Cuban Spring” — an opening that closed again when President George W. Bush returned to a policy of hostility.

When President Raúl Castro was trying to negotiate a new economic cooperation agreement with the European Union in 2010, he responded positively to requests from Cardinal Jaime Ortega of the Cuban Catholic Church and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos to release 52 political prisoners jailed since 2003 for allegedly collaborating with the Bush administration’s regime change policy.

As part of Castro’s agreement with President Obama to begin normalizing relations, Castro released 53 prisoners that were of interest to the United States because of their anti-regime political activity. He also kept a promise to accelerate the expansion of Internet access on the island, which fostered the emergence of independent blogs and news services that increased the Cuban public’s access to information unfiltered by state media. Cuban private businesses flourished during this period, something the Obama administration regarded as an important vehicle for expanding economic freedom on the island and freeing Cubans from dependence on a state salary.

The lesson for the Biden administration as it conducts its review of Cuba policy is two-fold. First, not only does heightened coercion not produce human rights gains in Cuba, it makes the situation worse. Second, a policy of engagement that improves bilateral relations overall creates an atmosphere in which human rights progress is more likely — not guaranteed, but more likely. 

By no means does engagement mean abandoning the U.S. commitment to human rights. Administration officials can and should continue to emphasize the centrality of human rights to the president’s overall foreign policy, underscoring that engagement will advance faster and farther if the human rights situation on the island improves. 

A policy of engagement will enable Washington to resume the bilateral dialogue with Havana on human rights that President Obama began and President Trump abandoned. It will also make it possible for the United States to coordinate with our European allies, who have an ongoing consultation with Cuba on human rights issues under the terms of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement the European Union signed with Cuba in 2016. 

No one should expect these conversations to be easy, but they provide a forum in which the United States can directly raise issues of concern, ranging from prison conditions, the harassment of dissidents, and the demonization of independent media, to the conditions under which Cuban medical personnel serve abroad and the discriminatory treatment of Cuban Americans visiting the island.  

In 1975, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the countries of Europe signed the Helsinki Accords aimed at reducing Cold War tensions. Critics argued that the agreement rewarded the Soviet Union because it recognized the political status quo in Europe. But the accord’s real significance turned out to be the human rights provisions. Though unenforceable, they created an ongoing opportunity for human rights discussion and debate among the signatories, and they legitimized the demands of human rights advocates inside individual countries. In short, détente created the conditions that made human rights progress possible. That’s a precedent the Biden administration should keep in mind as it formulates a new policy toward Cuba.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


En medio de la incertidumbre, la población se resiste aún a incorporar el euro a su día a día.

14ymedio, La Habana | Junio 18, 2021

Articulo Original:  14ymedio,

Ya desde hace meses, es casi imposible comprar cualquier divisa extranjera en un banco de la Isla. (14ymedio)

Mientras se acerca la fecha del 20 de junio, a partir de la cual ya no se podrá depositar dólares en efectivo en los bancos, las dudas crecen entre los cubanos a la hora de comprar divisas. En los grupos de Telegram donde se ofrece cambio de monedas, el euro oscila entre los 80 y los 85 pesos y el dólar ronda los 60 pesos, pero pocos usuarios se atreven a dar el paso ante la incertidumbre creada por la decisión del Gobierno.

“Una cosa son los anuncios y otra la realidad. No se está vendiendo ni comprando nada”, asegura a 14ymedio Alejandro Medina, un trabajador privado de 41 años. “Yo puse un anuncio hace como cuatro días en el grupo donde siempre resuelvo para ver si vendía 100 dólares a 60 pesos y nada, nadie me ha escrito. Todo el mundo está aguantado, hay mucha incertidumbre”. Esperan, dice Medina, a ver qué pasa el fin de semana.

“Los cabezones (dólares) cayeron en desgracia”, lamenta Papito, un cambista ilegal que, en apenas unas horas, fue contactado por una decena de clientes que querían deshacerse de sus dólares

Es la recomendación también de los “profesionales” del gremio. “Los cabezones (dólares) cayeron en desgracia”, lamenta Papito, un cambista ilegal que, en apenas unas horas, fue contactado por una decena de clientes que querían deshacerse de sus dólares. “Les dije que no se volvieran locos y esperaran, a mí no me interesa comprarlos ahora, pero el dólar es el dólar, hay que esperar a ver qué pasa”.

Con el rostro enorme de los padres fundadores de Estados Unidos, los más modernos billetes de dólar se han ganado en los últimos años en Cuba el apodo de “cabezón” para distinguirlos de las series anteriores, con la figura central más pequeña. El sobrenombre se suma a una larga lista de apodos que incluye “verdes”, “fulas” y “moneda del enemigo”.

La moneda de la Unión Europea, candidata a ocupar el trono de la divisa estadounidense, es vista con recelo. “El euro no es tan conocido aquí, tiene otro tamaño, algunos billetes ni siquiera me caben en la billetera”, lamenta Papito, que bromea: “Vamos a tener que pasar un curso acelerado para aprender a distinguir los euros buenos de los falsos”.

La dificultad no la tienen solo los cambistas informales. “Hay muchas aplicaciones de envío de comida a domicilio que el cliente puede elegir sin ver el costo total de la compra en pesos cubanos o en dólares, incluso pagar en efectivo con una moneda o con otra. ¿Ahora van a tener que rediseñar toda la aplicación?”, se cuestiona Yunieski, mensajero de uno de estos servicios de entrega a domicilio.

“Por lo menos con los dólares ya la gente sabía que si estaba el viejito arrugado y medio calvo era de 100 y que si te tocaba el de la barba entonces era de 50”, ironiza, “pero ¿quién sabe nada de puertas ni monumentos europeos? Habrá que ponerse a estudiar”.

Eso sí, Yunieski prefiere el euro al peso convertible, ya en extinción en el país. “No acepto propinas en chavitos porque si no después tengo que pasarme tremendas horas en la cola del banco para cambiarlo. En euros, libras esterlinas y yenes, todas las que el cliente quiera darme”, sentencia.

Ya desde hace meses, en cualquier caso, es casi imposible comprar cualquier divisa extranjera en un banco de la Isla. Un joven cubano que prefirió el anonimato contó a este diario que un día en el banco vio a la cajera guardando en una gaveta “tres grandes fajos de billetes” en euros y en dólares. Él, que quería cambiar pesos cubanos, le preguntó por qué no le vendía de esos mismos billetes. “No tenemos disponibilidad”, respondió la cajera sin inmutarse. Sin cejar en su empeño, el muchacho le preguntó que cuándo pensaban vender dólares y euros. “Los puede comprar en la calle”, aconsejó la empleada estatal.

A la vez que el Estado impone férreo control de las operaciones en divisas, en algunos bancos ya se ha vuelto un negocio redondo el cambio de moneda libremente convertible (MLC) ‘por la izquierda’

Así lo explica a 14ymedio un joven programador informático de 28 años que tiene una cuenta en el Banco Metropolitano de La Habana en la que puede recibir moneda extranjera mediante transferencia y que le permite disponer de una tarjeta magnética para comprar en las tiendas en MLC.

Según explica, ha logrado tener un contacto en la sucursal bancaria donde tiene abierta su cuenta en divisa y ahí un empleado, a cambio de recibir un porcentaje del dinero total transferido, le avisa el momento en que la caja contadora o en la bóveda ha acumulado la cantidad de euros disponibles que quiere extraer.

Mientras tanto, si un usuario común y corriente se dirige al banco y pide extraer 100 euros de su cuenta en MLC, seguirá recibiendo la misma respuesta de los últimos meses: “Lamentablemente ahora no tenemos en depósito esa cantidad”.

Los bancos modificarán su horario este fin de semana “para garantizar los depósitos en efectivo en dólares estadounidenses”, informa este viernes la prensa oficial. El Banco Metropolitano abrirá el viernes y el sábado de 8:30 am a 3:30 pm y el domingo, de 8:30 am a 12:30 pm, y el Banco de Crédito y Comercio y el Banco Popular de Ahorro, el viernes, de 8 am a 3 pm; el sábado, de 8 am a 11 am, y el domingo, de 8 am a 12 pm.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


Mauricio De Miranda Parrondo 17 junio 2021

Original Article

En días recientes, autoridades cubanas anunciaron que a partir del 21 de junio no se recibirían depósitos de dólares estadounidenses en efectivo en las cuentas en moneda libremente convertible (MLC). La razón argumentada se refiere a las sanciones económicas impuestas por el gobierno de Estados Unidos y su agudización poco antes del fin de la administración Trump.

Habría que recordar no obstante que Cuba tiene prohibido operar en dólares estadounidenses desde inicios del embargo, a comienzos de los sesenta, y a pesar de ello ha persistido en el uso de esa divisa como principal moneda de reserva. Incluso, las últimas decisiones relativas a la unificación cambiaria la ratifican como referencia del nuevo tipo de cambio unificado, para lo cual se ha definido un anclaje nominal del peso cubano.

La medida ha sido controvertida, tanto por el momento de su adopción como porque en el fondo no soluciona ninguno de los principales problemas que afectan a la economía insular. Pese a ello, varias autoridades han afirmado que esta decisión se adopta «en defensa de la economía cubana». Me permito discrepar, una vez más, de las opiniones vertidas por algunos dirigentes respecto a cuestiones de política económica. En cualquier caso, es una medida insuficiente para tal propósito.

Las debilidades de la economía resultan de una combinación de problemas estructurales, políticas erróneas adoptadas por el gobierno a lo largo de seis décadas —con graves efectos acumulativos— y de las sanciones económicas impuestas por Estados Unidos durante años. Los efectos de estas últimas están fuera del control de Cuba, puesto que solo el Congreso de ese país puede removerlas. Las dificultades estructurales, sin embargo, dependen de su condición de nación subdesarrollada, agravada por los errores de las políticas económicas.

 A esto debe añadirse que la soberanía nacional, planteada como meta por el proceso revolucionario, no ha podido alcanzarse realmente en la esfera económica. La dependencia que Cuba tuvo respecto a Estados Unidos por varias décadas, fue reemplazada por una no menos profunda a la Unión Soviética.

Cuando este último país se desintegró, la Isla debió enfrentar la crisis económica más profunda de toda su historia, en la que el Producto Interior Bruto (PIB) acumuló una contracción de casi un 35% entre 1990 y 1993. Los efectos de esa crisis no han sido superados plenamente, sobre todo en lo que se refiere a la industria y a la agricultura.

A partir de la victoria del chavismo en Venezuela en 1999, la economía cubana reprodujo con aquel país una relación de dependencia parecida a las anteriormente mencionadas, con la particularidad de que las necesidades de combustible y otros bienes provenientes del país suramericano —aún nuestro principal suministrador de importaciones— eran más que compensadas por la exportación de servicios médicos y profesionales.

Como es sabido, Venezuela viene arrastrando una profunda crisis económica que se expresa en variaciones negativas sucesivas de su PIB entre 2014 y 2020, para un comportamiento anual promedio de -18,9% en el período. Especialmente duros han sido los años 2019 y 2020, en los que su economía se contrajo 35% y 30% respectivamente (IMF, 2021).

En las condiciones actuales, la economía cubana está enfrentando una profunda crisis, agudizada por la pandemia del Covid-19 y los efectos del recrudecimiento de las sanciones económicas por la administración Trump. Sin embargo, el origen de esta crisis no depende de esos dos hechos. En 2019, el PIB tuvo una contracción de 0,2% respecto a 2018, el consumo de los hogares se contrajo en 1,3%, las exportaciones de bienes y servicios en 4,6% y las importaciones en 2,9% (ONEI, 2020).

La sensibilidad de la economía cubana a los choques externos continúa siendo muy alta, y la crisis venezolana tiene efectos contraccionistas en tal sentido.

Después del deterioro de los noventa, el gobierno cubano apostó por reinsertar al país en la economía mundial como proveedor de servicios turísticos. El turismo se convirtió así en prioridad estratégica, ha venido captando un volumen considerable de inversiones y su importancia creció significativamente en los ingresos en divisas.

En 2019, dicho sector aportó el 20,9% de ese tipo de ingresos y superó la sumatoria de las exportaciones de bienes, que solo representó el 16,3% del total. A falta de datos más precisos, el resto fue aportado, esencialmente, por las exportaciones de servicios profesionales y las remesas, lo cual constituyó un total de 7.925 millones de dólares.[1]

sistemático de los sectores industrial y agrícola, cuyos niveles de producción se mantienen, en gran parte de los rubros, por debajo de los alcanzados en 1989.

En 2019, por ejemplo, se produjo solo un 29,9% del azúcar que se obtenía tres décadas antes, 69,8% de los alimentos, 85,9% del tabaco, 7% de los productos textiles, 15% de las prendas de vestir, 9,3% de artículos de cuero, 34,1% de los productos de madera, 4,3% de fertilizantes, 27,1% de materiales de construcción, 12,4% de productos de caucho y de plástico, 1,9% de maquinarias y equipos, 15,8% de maquinarias y aparatos eléctricos, 0,1% de equipos de transporte, 88,1% de sustancias y productos químicos, 48,6% de equipos y aparatos de radio, televisión y comunicaciones.

En los únicos rubros en que superó la producción de 1989, fue en la elaboración de bebidas, con un 113,5%, y en la de muebles, que alcanzó el 179%. El índice general de volumen de la producción industrial en 2019 respecto a 1989 fue de solo 61,3 (ONEI, 2020) y no es que ese año fuera el de mejor desempeño para la industria cubana.

De acuerdo con estadísticas de la ONEI, el sector agropecuario presenta incrementos en 2019 comparados con 1989 en la producción de: frijoles (753,7%), maíz (425,4%), viandas (174,4%), tabaco (66,2%) y otras frutas (211,1%); así como en la carne de cerdo (207,6%) y de huevos (11,3%). Mientras, ha disminuido la existencia de cabezas de ganado (77,5%), la producción de carne de aves (40,9%), carne bovina (48,5%), leche de vaca (55,4%), arroz (73,1%), cítricos (8,1%) y hortalizas (61,7%).

En gran medida, estos desempeños sectoriales son resultado de la combinación de dificultades externas de la economía con una serie de fenómenos internos, entre los que pueden mencionarse: fallas en la planificación, insuficiencias organizativas en la actividad empresarial, escasos estímulos económicos a los productores, errores de política económica causados por el excesivo voluntarismo en la toma de decisiones e inexistencia de mecanismos de control a la gestión del gobierno por parte de la sociedad.

Aún no se dispone de toda la información para 2020, no obstante, se informó oficialmente que el PIB se contrajo un 11,3% respecto a 2019. The Economist Intelligence Unit estimó que la producción industrial se redujo un 11,2%, mientras que la agropecuaria lo hizo un 12,0%; en tanto, el déficit fiscal llegó a representar un 20,1% del PIB. Estas cifras preliminares denotan una muy difícil situación macroeconómica.

Así las cosas, para defender la economía cubana es necesario adoptar una serie de medidas que superen ampliamente el alcance de una disposición marginal como es la suspensión de depósitos de dólares en efectivo en los bancos de la Isla.

Para proteger la economía de la nación, es imprescindible tomar medidas que permitan la recuperación de la industria de su actual colapso y obsolescencia tecnológica, que impulsen la recuperación de los sectores agropecuario, pesquero y del transporte; que desarrollen la infraestructura, rescaten la industria azucarera, diversifiquen e incrementen los rubros exportables, reduzcan la excesiva dependencia externa y fortalezcan la soberanía del peso cubano como moneda nacional, respaldada por una economía en crecimiento.

El desarrollo económico no se garantiza con fórmulas propagandísticas, ni puede asegurarse con el simple deseo de que se produzca. Es imperativo crear las condiciones institucionales y un clima de negocios que favorezca apuestas de inversión, no solo por parte del Estado sino también del sector privado aún incipiente, junto a la inversión extranjera directa (IED).

Esta última es imprescindible, porque el país no cuenta con fuentes suficientes de acumulación de capital y el incremento del endeudamiento no puede ser una opción a considerar. Las posibilidades que brinda el sector privado para constituir microempresas, pequeñas y medianas empresas  industriales, agropecuarias y de servicios son inmensas.

Mientras tanto, el peso podría anclar su tipo de cambio al euro o a una canasta de monedas que reduzca la influencia del dólar en la determinación del valor nominal de la moneda cubana en términos de monedas extranjeras. Adicionalmente, debiera modificarse la estructura de las reservas internacionales del país, eliminando los dólares estadounidenses de las mismas o reduciendo sustancialmente su participación.

Una medida de realismo económico sería la rectificación del error cometido por las autoridades cubanas al establecer una sobrevaluación del peso cubano en su tipo de cambio unificado. La sobrevaluación de una moneda tiene efectos nocivos en la economía de cualquier país, porque reduce la competitividad de su sector exportador, abarata injustificadamente las importaciones y no permite que la tasa de cambio actúe como válvula de escape de la presión que representan los desequilibrios externos. 

En tanto no se creen las condiciones para que se produzcan más bienes industriales y agropecuarios; mientras no se dinamicen la construcción, el sector de los transportes, las comunicaciones, los servicios comerciales y profesionales; si no se alcanzan tasas de ahorro e inversión que realmente impulsen el crecimiento; la economía cubana seguirá siendo extremadamente vulnerable y la soberanía nacional profundamente comprometida. Los malabarismos cambiarios no resuelven esos problemas.

El Estado cubano no cuenta con los recursos necesarios para asegurar semejante tarea económica. El gobierno puede seguir anclado en su idea fija respecto a que la planificación centralizada sea el principal mecanismo de asignación de recursos, o que la propiedad estatal continúe dominando el sistema económico; de hacerlo fracasará una vez más, porque lejos de propiciar el mejoramiento del bienestar de la sociedad, profundizará el actual estancamiento.

No pueden perderse de vista las consecuencias políticas de los errores en las decisiones económicas. Llegados al punto actual, no existe otra opción posible para Cuba que no sea estimular el desarrollo de los sectores privado y cooperativo, sin camisas de fuerza, con la convicción de que en su desarrollo contribuirán significativamente —ellos sí—, a la defensa de la economía cubana; así como crear las condiciones para que se incremente la inversión extranjera directa en sectores que puedan conectar la producción nacional con cadenas productivas globales.

En este proceso, el papel regulador de un Estado democrático es de valor inestimable, para evitar los fallos del mercado, sin restringirlo, y para crear las condiciones que permitan utilizar instrumentos fiscales en la redistribución de recursos con criterios de justicia social.



IMF (2021) World Economic Outlook Database.

ONEI (2020) Anuario Estadístico de Cuba, 2019.

The Economist (2021) The EIU Intelligence Unit Report.

[1] Cálculos con base a ONEI (2020)

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


LATIN AMERICA ADVISOR www.thedialogue.org

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Original Article Cuban Debt Relief

The Paris Club of wealthy nations agreed last week to grant Cuba more time to make payments under a 2015 debt agreement. The decision followed a visit to France by Cuba’s top debt negotiator, Deputy Prime Minister Ricardo Cabrisas. Cuba in 2015 defaulted on payments to the group and only partially met them in 2019. How important is Paris Club debt relief for Cuba? How likely is Cuba’s economy to recover soon from the Covid-19 pandemic, and what are the major factors holding the economy back? How much will the policies of U.S. President Joe Biden affect Cuba’s economy and its ability to return to international credit markets?

Pavel Vidal, associate professor in the Department of Eco[1]nomics at Pontifical Xavierian University in Cali, Colombia and former analyst in the monetary policy division at the Central Bank of Cuba: “Amending the 2015 arrangement is beneficial for both Cuba and the Paris Club. The Cuban government needs to complete its domestic monetary reform and maintain its commitment to debt payments. And the two things go hand in hand. The devaluation of the exchange rate helps to solve the balance of payments crisis. In turn, international capital is essential to maximize the benefits of the devaluation in exports and minimize inflationary impacts. The Cuban economy had to face the pandemic amid an extremely fragile macroeco[1]nomic situation. Cuba’s dependence on tourism deeply affects its private sector. Five years of a balance of payments crisis put into perspective the difficult situation the Cuban economy has been going through after the drop in trade with Venezuela and the tightening of U.S. sanctions.  Defaulting on commitments to international creditors traps the economy in a vicious circle. The shutout from international financial markets makes it more difficult to attract capital to reactivate the economy, thus further reducing future income needed to put international payments in order. Some positive events are likely to help the economy to get through the current crisis: achieving herd immunity thanks to domestic vaccines, a faster-than-expected tourism recovery and the materialization of the announced opening of small and medium-sized private enterprises. The ideal scenario would also include the U.S. administration taking constructive steps. If these events were to occur at the same time, they would amplify and complement each other, thus increasing the possibility of pulling the economy out of the current crisis.”

Arturo Lopez-Levy, assistant professor of politics and international relations at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif.: “After the historic 2015 debt negoti[1]ation agreement with the Paris Club, Cuba made a sustained effort to pay its financial obligations. Presidents Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel acknowledged the importance of honoring debt obligations to restore Cuba’s financial credibility and ease the road for anticipated significant macroeconomic reforms. Cuba’s 2019 constitution signaled a transition toward a mixed economy. In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Díaz-Canel administration launched a massive devaluation of the Cuban peso and implemented a long-postponed currency reunifi[1]cation. These new reforms ease the Cuban state’s roles as regulator, fiscal authority and entrepreneur, which is indispensable to integrating a mixed-market economy. Other recent measures expand the private sector and the creation of small and medium-sized companies. Cuba’s default after 2019 didn’t surprise anyone. The Trump administration tightened the economic siege with 240 new economic and financial sanctions. Trump rolled back Obama’s opening and activated Tittle III of the Helms-Burton law. In 2020-21, the Covid -19 pandemic wiped out most of Cuba’s tourism revenues. By postponing his rapprochement promises, Biden is aggravating the sequels of Covid-19 and obstacles to economic reform. Such neglect pushes Cuba into close relations with Russia and China. Saving the 2015 agreement is a first step toward a viable Cuban economy and realistic debt servicing, a goal that international creditors share. The resurgence forecast expects a rise in tourism revenue next year because Cuba and its most important markets (Europe and Canada) would be fully vaccinated. The government announced a new dialogue with the diaspora, anticipating a focus on economic opportunities to Cubans living abroad. The Cuban economy still has serious problems, such as excessive reliance on food imports, an aging population, limited in[1]vestments and an expected rise in inflation. But the devaluation placed economic reform at an inflection point toward better measure[1]ment and management of its fundamentals. The devaluation should attract remittances, foreign investments and tourists.”

Roberta Lajous, former Mexican ambassador to Cuba: “Like all Caribbean countries, Cuba faces a debt crisis due to dependence on tourist income. But the case of Cuba is cumbersome due to restrictions applying to U.S. citizens traveling to the island. Neighboring countries have generated income by applying a smart visa policy for U.S. citizens able to ‘work from home’ in a relaxed seaside setting. But Cuba depends on European and Canadian travelers subject to strict pandemic lockdown regulations. Economic reform has stalled in Cuba under the dire circumstances prevailing, just after a single currency was finally accomplished. No single issue could be more significant to improving the lives of the Cuban people and stimulating market-oriented reform than the lifting of all U.S. travel restrictions to the island. The Obama administration engaged in exchange policy with Cuba that benefited all involved, but that came to a halt under Trump. Timing is of the essence. If the Biden administration does not move fast, somebody else will offer other sources of income for strategic reasons. Cuba can further economic and political reform given the right incentives, thanks to an educated population. Relations with Cuba could be normalized by eliminating the embargo, which has come in handy to justify Cuba’s lack of advancement in human rights and democracy. If the United States is preparing to engage in a dialogue with Venezuela, why not with Cuba? Both countries have acted in tandem for almost two decades now.”

Carmelo Mesa-Lago, professor emeritus of economics and Latin American studies at the University of Pittsburgh: “The Paris Club’s postponement of Cuba’s debt payment was based, according to Minister Cabrisas, on the ‘unprecedented penuries’ caused by Covid-19 and its impact on tour[1]ism, former U.S. President Donald Trump’s strengthening of the U.S. embargo and 54 hurricanes since 2000. But two other causes were not mentioned: the worst economic cri[1]sis in Venezuela’s history, which has reduced buying of Cuban medical services and oil supply, and the island’s inefficient economic system, which despite some structural reforms has been unable to stop the GDP decline. Cabrisas and the Paris Club have so far not revealed the terms of the agreement, but it’s certainly a relief for Cuba, which has been suffering its worst economic crisis since the 1990s. The government is inoculating the population with its own vaccine, but still we lack reliable data on its results. Even if successful, Cuba is confronting severe obstacles for a recovery:

1.) the monetary and exchange-rate unification has provoked at least a 500 percent increase in inflation, generating open protests by Cubans;

2.) the most important monetary-unification measure, the closing of state enterprises in the red and the subsequent rise in open unemployment, has been postponed for one year, hence fiscal subsidies (18 billion pesos) will continue;

3.) tourism that generated about $3 billion annually—the second-largest source of hard currency—has been virtually closed for more than one year and will take time to recover; and

4.) President Biden has not removed any of the damaging measures that Trump imposed.”

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment


Marc Frank

Wed, 16 June, 2021,

Original Article: Cuba’s Inflation Accelerates

Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cubans woke up all last year wondering where they could find basic goods such as milk, pork, rice, beans, medicine or shampoo. These days, they also ask themselves: “if I do, what on earth will it cost?”

Amid widespread shortages, the near-bankrupt, import-dependent country has increased sales of goods in convertible currencies like the dollar over the last year, even as it stopped exchanging pesos for those currencies.  That has forced many Cubans to acquire convertible currencies on the black market where they have surged to as much as threefold the official rate since the government sharply devalued the peso https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/explainer-how-cubas-monetary-reform-will-take-place-impact-economy-2020-12-11 in January.

Alternatively, Cubans must purchase the products “at even higher peso prices from resellers,” said Cuban economist Omar Everleny.

Many goods are simply no longer sold in peso shops despite billions more pesos now being in circulation.

The result of dollarization, scarcity and devaluation: prices have skyrocketed and inflation will likely come in at a minimum of 500%, and as much as 900% this year, according to Pavel Vidal, a former Cuban central bank economist who teaches at Colombia’s Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali.  “Every day becomes much more difficult because the prices of everything continue to rise,” said Arisleidis Blanco, who works at a private cafeteria in Havana.

Cuba’s government largely blames U.S. sanctions, which were ratcheted up under former President Donald Trump, and the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged Cuba’s tourism industry, for its economic woes. Some critics say the main issue is the inefficiency of the state-run economy, despite some market-style reforms.

The Communist-run state retained its World War Two-style ration card that offers some highly subsidized goods. It also increased state wages and pensions, up to five times, when it devalued the peso by around 95% in a bid to cushion the blow.  But that covers only some 60% of the population and leaves many Cubans struggling to navigate wildly fluctuating prices to cover their needs.

“The government used to sell LED light tubes for 30 pesos,” state bakery employee Ana Rebeca Labrada said. “On the informal market they now cost 400 to 500 pesos and there are none in the government stores, not even for convertible currency.”

Cuba’s government says there is no money in the bank to exchange or import the goods and sell them for pesos which cannot be exchanged outside the country to buy more.

The economy declined 11 percent last year after years of stagnation and according to Cuban economists has continued to fall so far in 2021.

Inflation should just be a temporary setback, authorities say, with the economy due to pick up as the pandemic subsides and reforms yield results. The devaluation for example aims to boost exports and reduce imports in the medium term.

That is little solace though for Cubans struggling to shop for basic goods as COVID-19 cases hit new highs.

Economists like Everleny say the U.S. embargo is real but the government needs to implement long overdue reforms to boost supply and until then, the informal market, and with it surging prices, will continue to flourish.

Last week, the state was selling rice only on the ration card for 10 pesos a pound and on the informal market it was 60 pesos, said Havana resident Miriam.  A 50 peso bottle of cooking oil fetched 200 pesos and a pack of hotdogs 80 pesos compared to the 27.50 pesos when available at the stores, she said. Powdered milk was being rationed for children and the elderly at 2.5 pesos a bag and sold for 300 pesos on the street, she said.

Queuing for currency exchange

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment



El autor, aborda la despolitización de la sociedad en Cuba a través de la consigna de la Revolución, a su vez, reafirma la necesidad de la crítica y de la discusión política, así como del conocimiento del sistema político.

Cuba es un país desbordado de política, y a la vez extrañamente apolítico.

​A pesar de toda la inflación de los símbolos políticos, no hay espacio para discusiones políticas genuinas, debates verdaderos, y análisis a fondo del proceso político. Escasean fuentes confiables de información y evaluación de las políticas públicas en la isla. La política está en todas partes, pero como tótem (¡La Revolución!) y tabúes, no como un proceso deliberativo en el sentido de Aristóteles o Hannah Arendt.

​A pesar de la aparente fertilidad de las ciencias sociales en Cuba, medida por el número de revistas académicas y institutos de investigación, lo que encontramos todavía en Cuba son ciencias sociales y humanidades desangradas, que sí hablan de problemas en la isla, pero nunca de poder. Eso solo lo puede hacer a fondo en el exilio y por cubanólogos de afuera, pero casi siempre con datos insuficientes. Por eso los estudios cubanos se basan demasiado sobre repertorios discursivos, dada los escasos datos cuantificable y la falta de transparencia institucional en la isla. Incluso las estadísticas económicas son, a menudo, poco confiables.

 Dentro de la Revolución, No Política

​En la conocidísima novela 1984 de Orwell, desbloqueada en la isla a partir la Feria del Libro de 2016, la Newspeak, o neolengua, “was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.”[2] De la misma manera, el gobierno cubano se ha esforzado para despolitizar la sociedad, “achicando” el lenguaje utilizado para hablar de política en el país, reduciéndolo a consignas (o mots d’ordre en el sentido de Bourdieu). La consigna mayor es la misma “Revolución”: origen y fin (mito) de la política; fuerza infinita, omnisciente y omnipresente; actor y proceso; persona, en el sentido de máscara (Grenier, 2020). ¿Quien es responsable de tal o cual decisión? En fin, la Revolución, es decir todo y nada.

Una temprana víctima del achicamiento del lenguaje fueron las ciencias sociales, en particular la ciencia política, eliminada como disciplina académica a principio de los años sesenta bajo la consigna: “La universidad para los revolucionarios” La sociología también fue abolida de 1980 a 1991. Un marxismo leninista de corte soviético (e.g. Konstantinov, Yajot, Makarov) pronto se convirtió en pensée unique en la isla. Con “las ideas de emancipación social de Marx, Engels y Lenin” (Constitución de la República), no hace falta ciencia política—disciplina burguesa por definición, ya que supone una autonomía de la esfera política, y que a la pregunta “quién obtiene qué, cuándo y cómo”, para citar la famosa definición de la política del politólogo Harold Lasswell, la respuesta no puede ser solamente la burguesía o el proletariado.

El economista y cubanólogo canadiense Arch Ritter destaca algunas de las implicaciones de esta situación. Para él, “una de las consecuencias de la ausencia de la disciplina de ciencia política en Cuba es que solo tenemos una vaga idea de cómo funciona realmente el gobierno cubano. ¿Quién en el Politbureau y el Comité Central del partido realmente toma decisiones? ¿Hasta qué punto y cómo las presiones de las organizaciones de masas afectan realmente a la toma de decisiones, o el flujo de influencia siempre es de arriba a abajo y no el inverso? ¿Qué papel desempeñan las grandes empresas conglomeradas que se encuentran en la economía del dólar internacionalizada y la economía del peso en el proceso de formulación de políticas? ¿La Asamblea Nacional es simplemente una concha vacía que, por unanimidad, aprueba cantidades prodigiosas de legislación en períodos de tiempo extremadamente cortos?” (Ritter, 2013). Enseguida pregunta retóricamente: “¿Por qué este análisis político está esencialmente prohibido en las universidades cubanas? Puedes adivinar la respuesta” (Ritter, 2013). Bueno, sí, podemos: tiene que ver con los tabúes acerca de “quién obtiene qué, cuándo y cómo”.[3] Como lo afirmó Masha Gessen con respecto a la sociología en la Rusia de Pútin: “An ideal totalitarian regime would find a way to obtain sociological data without the sociologists” (Gessen, 2016). No existe un régimen totalitario ideal, así que el plan B es tener científicos sociales, pero controlados.

 Fingir el Pensamiento Crítico

​Los estudiosos de las ciencias sociales e intelectuales en Cuba deben rechazar el dogmatismo y celebrar la crítica y los debates, como invariablemente lo hace el mismo liderazgo político[4]. Sin embargo, es sabido que de ninguna manera se puede cuestionar los dogmas oficiales sobre la infalibilidad del liderazgo histórico o la identificación de la dirección con la Revolución, así como la irrevocabilidad del sistema político comunista de partido único. En otras palabras, hay que fingir el pensamiento crítico.

​Ha sido aconsejable para los científicos sociales partir de un repertorio marxista leninista, como fundamento metodológico e ideológico de todas investigaciones, o al menos no confrontarlo con una perspectiva alternativa. Se ha podido explorar teorías no-marxistas (el posmodernismo fue popular durante los años 90), pero con cuidado, sin cuestionar el paradigma único. También se acogen con beneplácito las blandas descripciones de las estructuras jurídicas y los debates pseudo técnicos sobre las políticas públicas en revistas de ciencias sociales como Temas.

​Previsiblemente, los “debates” en Cuba cuentan con oradores ultra-cautelosos que en su mayoría están públicamente de acuerdo unos con otros, siendo toda la energía redirigida hacia las polémicas contra los enemigos oficialmente sancionados y los flagelos intemporales del gobierno: dogmatismo, burocratismo, corrupción, descontento juvenil, residuos pre-revolucionarios del sexismo y el racismo, y por supuesto, el imperialismo norteamericano, el “bloqueo” y el orden mundial capitalista. Todos se animan para “mejorar el socialismo” y la revolución. El liderazgo político rutinariamente desafía a los “intelectuales públicos” y periodistas a atreverse más, no menos: signo infalible de la presencia de la censura sistemática.

​En cualquiera de los “debates” de “Último Jueves”, por ejemplo, las soluciones a los problemas convergen hacia el ideal oficialista: más participación, más compromiso con La Revolución, y a mejorar un sistema político en construcción perpetua. Es significante que cuando unos se atreven a abordar el tema de “cómo funciona el sistema político en Cuba,” como fue excepcionalmente el caso de un “debate” de Último Jueves en febrero de 2016, no hubo ninguna discusión sobre “cómo funciona”, solamente comentarios generales sobre posibles mejoras, las cuales invariablemente pasan por una reafirmación de las aspiraciones oficiales. Cuanto menos se habla de poder, más se habla de ideales políticos universales (justicia, participación, igualdad).

 Pensée unique

​El marxismo de corte leninista permite una politización de la “ciencia” y conlleva un aura científica a la política (el “materialismo científico”). Ha sido una ideología conveniente para el gobierno cubano y para otros gobiernos comunistas por dos razones, ambos relevante para entender el marasmo de las ciencias sociales cubanas.

​En primer lugar, abrazar y estudiar sus textos canónicos adormece la curiosidad sobre los procesos de toma de decisiones reales bajo un tipo de régimen que fue solo un sueño durante la vida de Marx: el comunismo. Marx escribió ampliamente y a veces con perspicacia sobre las fallas estructurales de las sociedades capitalistas (y pre-capitalistas). Pero aparte de sus nebulosas referencias a la Comuna de París y las glosas sobre las estrategias revolucionarias en su “Crítica del Programa de Gotha”, el análisis de Marx del comunismo es más teleológico que político. En la Cuba de hoy, el marxismo leninista es un repertorio de códigos ideológicos y un arma que permite criticar los enemigos del gobierno.

​En segundo lugar, el marxismo (no tanto su versión leninista) puede usarse como una teoría o un paradigma en ciencias sociales, como ocurre en todo el mundo–hoy en día en las humanidades y estudios culturales más que en ciencias sociales y para nada en economía. Pero en sociedades abiertas, el marxismo compite con otras teorías e interpretaciones, lo que le da una vitalidad inexistente en países donde es una pensée unique como en Cuba. No es sorprendente que el marxismo no sea muy sofisticado en Cuba: la ausencia de crítica genuina, la cual pasa por la confrontación con otras perspectivas, es una sentencia de muerte para cualquier perspectiva científica o filosófica.

​Un tropo común utilizado por los porteros de las ciencias sociales oficiales es que el marxismo cubano es crítico y humanista, al revés del marxismo soviético “rígido” y “mecánico”, defendido (y definido) por nadie. Se puede criticar el “estalinismo”, entendido como desviación del modelo leninista original (oficializado en la misma constitución cubana), pero no la Constitución de Stalin de 1936, la cual es el modelo por la constitución cubana de 1976. En Cuba, el rechazo del “marxismo mecánico” es mecánico. Tiene que ver con posicionamiento político y burocrático, no con la práctica de la crítica, sin la cual ningunas ciencias sociales pueden florecer.

​Hay buenos cientistas sociales en Cuba, por la misma razón que hubo buenas pinturas erótica en la época medieval: porqué el talento y la imaginación siempre pueden manifestarse a pesar de los parámetros más estrechos.

 MSI, 27N, y Articulación Plebeya

​El espacio público se abrió inesperadamente con la irrupción del Movimiento San Isidro en septiembre de 2018 y la manifestación frente al ministerio de cultura el 27 de noviembre de 2020 (27N). Se trata de un movimiento de jóvenes artistas y periodistas independientes, con demandas bastante parecidas a la Glasnost (más espacio de expresión), pero con relámpagos de críticas metapolíticas que amenazan el régimen. Recordamos que el mundo del arte goza de una autonomía relativa y condicional impensable en la universidad. El arte de vanguardia, por definición disonante y elitista, es también una fuente importante de proyección internacional y de divisas por las arcas del estado (el embargo no se aplica a la venta de producción artística).

​No hubo, que yo sepa, apoyo significativo de la universidad al movimiento, salvo una larga petición, con más de quinientos nombres de “intelectuales cubanos,” titulada “Articulación Plebeya”.[5] Si no me equivoco, la grande mayoría de los firmantes viven en el extranjero, y el texto de la petición se limita a celebrar el bien común, la paz, el medio ambiente, el diálogo, la inclusión, y mucho más parecido, todo “dentro del marco de las leyes y la Constitución.” Aunque llama la atención el pasaje sobre el rechazo a “toda acción estatal violenta,” el tono más conciliador que el del MSI o 27N indica claramente la presencia de parámetro más estrechos en la academia que los que rigen el mundillo de las artes y de lo que podemos llamar la sociedad civil cubana.


​Un país no puede sobrevivir sin historiadores, matemáticos, economistas, biólogos, etc. Aparentemente sí se puede subsistir sin genuinas ciencias políticas … pero ¿a qué precio? Y las ciencias sociales en general, ¿que pueden cumplir si el máximo de crítica posible es la revista “Temas”? ¿Y si Cuba Posible ya no es posible?

​Para funcionar bien y utilizar plenamente su capital humano, un sistema político necesita transparencia, información, examen crítico de las políticas públicas, sin miedo a la verdad. En Cuba se necesita mejores datos sobre cómo funciona realmente su sistema político, y análisis a fondo de los problemas y de sus posibles causas políticas, levantando el velo del secreto que cubre la mayoría de las transacciones políticas. ¿Es esto posible “dentro de la Revolución”?


Grenier, Y. (2020). Cuban Studies and The Siren Song of La Revolución. Cuban Studies.

 Ritter, A. (2013). Political Science: When Will Cuban Universities Join the World?. The Cuban Economy. Recuperado de: https://thecubaneconomy.com/articles/2013/06/political-science-when-will-cuban-universities-join-the-world/

 Gessen, M. (2016). Sociology, According to Putin. The New York Times. Recuperado de: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/05/opinion/sociology-according-to-putin.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth-Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt-region-3&module=inside-nyt-region&region=inside-nyt-region&WT.nav=inside-nyt-region

 [1] St. Francis Xavier University​

[2]. “Achicar” el lenguaje también es una característica de la distópia totalitaria en la obra maestra de Boualem Sansal, 2084, La fin du monde (Paris: Gallimard, 2015).

​[3]. Asimismo, Armando Chaguaceda afirma que “la ausencia de estudios a fondo y la falta de acceso público a temas clave como la composición de la élite política cubana y su circulación real y mecanismos de toma de decisiones mantienen casi toda la producción en el campo en un nivel superficial.” Armando Chaguaceda, “House of Cards and Political Science in Cuba,” Havana Times, 21 March 2014,

​[4] Ver el último capítulo de mi libro: Yvon Grenier, Culture and the Cuban State, Participation, Recognition, and Dissonance under Cmmunism (Lexington Books, 2017): chapter 6: “Faking Criticism.”

​[5] “Articulación plebeya: a propósito de los sucesos en el Ministerio de Cultura,” El Toque, 28 de noviembre, 2020.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment