• This Blog on The Cuban Economy is dedicated to Cuba's Generation "A". Although inspired by Yoani Sánchez' blog "Generation Y" this is not dedicated to those with names starting with the letter "A". Instead, it draws from Douglas Coupland's novel Generation A which begins with a quotation from Kurt Vonnegut at a University Commencement that was brought to my attention by Andrew Johnston of Ottawa: ".. ... I hereby declare you Generation A, as much as the beginning of a series of astounding triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago."

    The objective of this Blog is to facilitate access to research resources and analyses from all relevant and useful sources, mainly on the economy of Cuba.

CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS DE LA ECONOMÍA DE LA UNIVERSIDAD DE LA HABANA EXPULSA AL PROFESOR OMAR EVERLENY

Diario de Cuba | La Habana | 16 Abr 2016 – 4:54 pm. | 12

Articulo original: Profesor Expulsado

 zqz

Omar Everleny, profesor titular en la Universidad de La Habana.

Omar Everleny, profesor titular de Economía Cubana en la Universidad de La Habana, fue expulsado el viernes 8 de abril de su puesto laboral en el Centro de Estudios de la Economía Cubana, según confirmó el propio economista a DIARIO DE CUBA.

“Es cierto”, dijo Everleny interrogado sobre la expulsión. “A través de una resolución del director de mi centro se me informó que fui separado definitivamente de la entidad”, añadió.

La resolución no está firmada por el rector de la Universidad, sino por el director del Centro de Estudios de la Economía Cubana, Humberto Blanco. “Es de suponer que no fue él (Blanco) el que inventó esa historia, pero al firmarla tiene responsabilidad en él”, dijo Everleny.

Consultado sobre las razones dadas para el despido, señaló: “Hablar con la prensa extranjera, dar algunas conferencias o participar en encuentros con personas y haber aceptado remuneración, lo cual es totalmente falso”.

“Yo no cobro esas conferencias. Si después, al final, me hacen un regalo los que participan para que coja transporte… pero yo nunca he fijado ni he firmado ningún documento donde diga que he recibido un monto por dar una conferencia”, aseguró Everleny.

Además de “indisciplina” y “actitud irreverente”, otra causa esgrimida para separarlo de su puesto fue “haber dicho que existe una comisión de Estados Unidos en la Universidad (de La Habana), una cosa que reconoce todo el mundo”, añadió.

“Al final, detrás de eso no es así la cosa, es que yo he hecho algunos escritos, documentos, pero siempre dentro del proceso, no he tenido una posición contraria, lo que he dicho es para mejorar la economía cubana”, afirmó Everleny.

El profesor del Centro de Estudios de la Economía Cubana manifestó que siempre se ha mantenido “dentro de los parámetros permitidos”.

“Nunca me he salido de una crítica en el área de la economía cubana, que ha sido mi objeto de análisis, nunca he hablado de otro tipo de indicadores políticos. He dicho lo que pienso de la economía, que hay que avanzar más rápido, que la inversión es lenta, ese tipo de cosas”.

En una entrevista concedida en marzo de 2015 a Forbes, Everleny —a quien la revista consideró uno de los economistas más influyentes de la Isla—, decía: “Aunque creo en la gradualidad que el Gobierno de Raúl le ha dado a las reformas estructurales de la economía cubana, pienso que la velocidad podría acelerarse, dado que aún no son perceptibles para una mayoría de la población cubana, los resultados de esas reformas, en términos de bienestar económico”.

Se refería entonces a “salarios desestimulantes para incrementar tanto la producción como la productividad del trabajo”, a la “verticalidad y la centralización de las decisiones”, precios altos mantenidos y “a un incremento del deterioro de la infraestructura física del país” o “deterioro de los servicios sociales”, y añadía también que “estaban en camino soluciones para mitigar estos efectos”.

Omar Everleny declaró a DIARIO DE CUBA que planea presentar una apelación el lunes. “Voy a empezar ante el órgano de justicia de base, que es la propia Universidad, y después puedo ir a tribunales laborales”.

El analista está todavía informándose sobre el camino a seguir ante la separación de su puesto laboral.

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

WHAT DID OBAMA ACCOMPLISH IN HAVANA?

By Luis Martínez-Fernández

March 4, 2016, INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE, Latin American Advisor

Complete Article here: Latin American Advisor, March 4 2016

Last month, Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president in 88 years to visit Cuba. Obama had a one-on-one meeting with President Raúl Castro, and the two held a historic joint news conference from Havana’s Gran Teatro on the importance of democracy and human rights, and later met with dissidents in the U.S. Embassy.

 Was Obama’s trip to Cuba a success?

Did Cuban officials display a willingness to improve relations and advance reforms?

What did Obama and Castro accomplish during the visit?

Will businesses that want to work with Cuba find it easier moving ahead?

Will Obama’s visit win over more congressional support for ending the embargo?

“Barack Obama’s meeting with Raúl Castro last month was yet another step to normalize relations between their respective nations. In spite of their contrasting statements and behavior, both presidents

advanced a common primary agenda, namely the improvement of economic relations to allow the free fl ow of capital, goods and services. While generally deemed a concession to, and a victory for, the most progressive wing of the Democratic Party, the unfolding rapprochement is actually more substantially

benefi cial to large capital, commercial and economic interests, closely aligned with the Republican Party. Back in the 1990s, the push to ease the U.S. embargo produced an unholy alliance of voices as disparate as those of Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters and Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey;  agribusiness tycoon Dwayne Andreas and Dr. Benjamin Spock; and most surprisingly the American Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. Strange bedfellows, to say the least.

In the current context, even formerly rabid anti-Castro voices have joined the end-the-embargo conga line. What passes for the left continues to display a generally festive attitude toward the looming normalization of relations, notwithstanding the fact the success of U.S. capital will hinge on the continuation of a militarized repressive regime that forbids workers from striking and pays them only around 8 percent of what foreign corporations disburse for the permission to hire them. Indeed, very few progressive voices have criticized the continuing violations of human rights and the potential erosion of Cuban sovereignty because of the proposed return to neocolonial enclave capitalism. Surprisingly, many otherwise progressive voices are using the trickle-down argument to sustain that the lifting of the U.S. embargo will benefit all Cubans. Strange argument, given the fact that the much-trumpeted trickle-down effect never materialized in the United States. If anything, the Cuban people are likely to endure a trickle-up effect similar to what has transpired in China, Russia, and Vietnam, with ruling elites amassing prodigious fortunes at the expense of the working population.”

Latin American Advisor. March 4 2016:

zLuis Martínez-Fernández, professor of history at the University of Central Florida

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

THE BUSINESS CASE FOR A SUSTAINABLE CUBA

Julia Sagebien

Huffington Post, MARCH 3 – April 13

Original HP articles: Business Case for Cuba

The Business Case for a Sustainable Cuba — Part 2: Leapfrogging Back to the Future

Posted March 3, 2016 | 10:27 AM

Contemplating the fate of a post-embargo Cuba has been a popular pastime for some time. On December 17, 2014, the day that the U.S. and Cuba simultaneously announced their rapprochement, the pastime broke out of the academic and policy…

 Continue Reading: Part 2: Leapfrogging Back to the Future

The Business Case for a Sustainable Cuba — Part I: Five Sectors Ready to Go

March 2, 2016 | 2:58 PM

The Cuba-U.S. commercial rapprochement reached its punto de caramelo (the tipping point where heated sugar and water alchemize into candy) during the week of February 15-19, 2016. Last week saw the visit of a high level Cuban delegation to Washington (received by an equally high level delegation of US counterparts),…

  Continue Reading: Part I: Five Sectors Ready to Go

 

So…You Want to do Business in Cuba? A Mini-Guide For U.S. Businesses, Social Entrepreneurs and NGOs

April 13, 2015 | 11:47 AM

Since the December 17, 2014 joint announcement by Cuba and the U.S.A. that the two nations were re-establishing diplomatic relations, there has been heightened interest in the US over the prospects of developing relations with the island nation. Opportunities between American and Cuban businesses, NGOs, cultural and sports organizations, and…

Continue Reading: Mini-Guide for U.S. Business in Cuba

 

Julia-Sagebien1

Dr. Julia Sagebien is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Management at Dalhousie University and a former Full Professor at the University of Puerto Rico.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

THE “STONES” IN HAVANA: IS ROCK ’N’ ROLL STILL THE MUSIC OF REBELLION IN CUBA?

IAN BURUMA

The Globe and Mail, Friday, Apr. 08, 2016

Original Article: “Rolling Stones in Havana”

zz3Sir Mick Jagger in Concert

After U.S. President Barack Obama’s trailblazing visit to Cuba, a free concert by the Rolling Stones in Havana might seem like a relatively minor event. Mr. Obama revived relations with Cuba after more than a half-century of deep hostility. The septuagenarian Stones just played some very loud music.

Yet, symbolically, the concert was not minor at all. To grasp the importance of the Stones’ performance before hundreds of thousands of adoring Cubans, you have to understand what rock ’n’ roll meant to people living under Communist dictatorships.

In the 1970s, for example, Czechoslovakia, like other Communist states, was a dreary, oppressive, joyless place, where mediocre party hacks set the tone, and creativity was stifled under a blanket of enforced conformism. Rock ’n’ roll was considered a noxious form of capitalist decadence. A local rock band named Plastic People of the Universe, performing in English, was arrested in the late 1970s for “organized disturbance of the peace.” Recordings by the Rolling Stones and other Western groups were banned.

And yet records were smuggled into Czechoslovakia and other Eastern European countries, where they were treasured by young rock fans, including dissident playwright Vaclav Havel, who would become the country’s president. The forbidden sounds – loud, anarchic, sexy – offered an escape from the drabness of a tightly policed normality. Rock ’n’ roll allowed people to imagine what it would be like to be free, if only for fleeting moments. For that reason, the authorities viewed it as profoundly subversive.

Rock fans in Western democracies listened to groups such as the Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground, or Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, for pleasure. There was a certain amount of political bluster among rock stars, to be sure, but this was widely regarded as frivolous posturing. Not in countries such as Czechoslovakia, where the music – more than the posturing – was an expression of serious rebellion. The defence of the Plastic People of the Universe became a public cause for dissidents such as Mr. Havel, ultimately giving rise to Czechoslovakia’s Charter 77 movement.

When Mr. Havel offered Mr. Zappa an official role in his democratic government after the Communist regime had fallen, the musician was as astonished as everyone else. But it showed how much his music had meant to people such as Mr. Havel, when they had to listen to it secretly, risking arrest.

The role of rock music in countries behind the Iron Curtain was beautifully dramatized in Tom Stoppard’s 2006 play Rock ’n’ Roll, in which a Havel-like character, named Ferdinand (after characters of the same name in Mr. Havel’s own plays), extols the music as a supreme form of political resistance. Other characters in the play scoff at this notion, treating musical subversion as trivial. Mr. Stoppard, like Mr. Havel, clearly doesn’t agree. The play ends with the Rolling Stones’ historic concert in Prague in 1990.

Rock is ecstatic music. Ecstasy allows people to let go of themselves. This is not always benign. Mass hysteria at Nazi rallies was a form of ecstasy, too. So is the behaviour of soccer crowds, which can sometimes turn violent.

I once witnessed a group of highly respectable Singaporeans letting go of themselves in an evangelical church service. Urged on by an excited Japanese preacher, men in grey suits started writhing on the floor, foaming at the mouth and jabbering nonsense. It was not an edifying spectacle. In fact, it was frightening. But the Japanese preacher was not wrong to say that people – especially, as he put it to his congregation, buttoned-up Japanese and Singaporeans – sometimes need a relief from everyday conformity.

Music-induced ecstasy is not the same as speaking in tongues in a religious frenzy. But the experiences are related. That is why official guardians of social order are so often eager to ban such practices.

As far back as 380 BC, Plato warned against departing from traditional forms of music. Musical innovation, he wrote in The Republic, and especially exciting new sounds, were a danger to the polis. He believed that lawlessness began with unorthodox kinds of musical entertainment and advised the authorities to put a stop to such things.

Last month, Mick Jagger told his Cuban fans, in Spanish, that “finally the times are changing.” Perhaps they are. President Obama struck a similar note in his farewell speech in Havana. He spoke about a new era, “a future of hope.” He told Raul Castro, the stiff-legged Cuban strongman (who is more than a decade older than the Stones frontman and almost three decades older than Mr. Obama) that he should not fear freedom of speech.

These are fine words. But real political freedom in Cuba may be slow to come. And the example of China shows that individual hedonism can be successfully combined with political authoritarianism. (The Stones have already played in Shanghai, even though the Chinese authorities insisted on vetting their songs.)

But it is a start. Rock ’n’ roll has officially come to Cuba. Mick Jagger paid proper respect to Cuba’s own ecstatic musical traditions. Cubans already know how to dance. The next, much bigger step is for the autocrats to get off the floor.

Ian Buruma is professor of democracy, human rights and journalism at Bard College, and author of Year Zero: A History of 1945.

zz4 zz5 zz6zz2

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

CUBA’S FUTURE ECONOMIC MODEL IN SPOTLIGHT AT PARTY Congress

By Christine Armario and Andrea Rodriguez, Associated Press

HAVANA — Apr 8, 2016,

Original Article: Future Economic Model

 Castro-VI-Congreso-Partido-Comunista_CYMIMA20151220_0001_16-1

President Raul Castro at the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party, April 2011.

Victor Rodriguez imagines a future Cuban economy that will let him import large quantities of thread, export the women’s clothing he designs and keep him from worrying about obtuse regulations such as where he can place items on his small retail stand.

“Maybe then I could think about opening a full store,” he said.

One month after President Barack Obama’s visit, islanders are now looking to Cuba’s upcoming Communist Party congress for the clearest picture yet of how far their leaders will open the economy to deeper free-market reforms — if at all.

The congress being held April 16-19 comes at a critical juncture in Cuba’s history, with diplomatic relations with the U.S. generating enthusiasm but bringing limited improvements to the island’s ailing economy. It’s also likely to be the last Communist Party congress with any Castro in power as President Raul Castro has said he intends to retire in 2018 when he will be 85, turning 86 that June. His older brother Fidel stepped aside at age 79 in 2006 in what he said was a temporary move after suffering a serious illness and retired for good two years later.

“This is basically setting the future of Cuba,” said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, an economics professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

The congress has already generated much attention with party members complaining about a lack of the advance debate on economic and social reforms seen in the past. The party’s official newspaper, Granma, published a lengthy article explaining that instead of inviting new public discussion of reforms, this year’s congress will focus on the continued implementation of market-oriented changes enacted in 2011 in Cuba’s most significant economic overhaul to date.

“Everybody’s wondered since 2011, what’s the end game?” said William LeoGrande, an American University expert on U.S.-Cuba relations. “What are they anticipating Cuba will look like when the restructuring is done? Will it look like Vietnam? China? Something else?”

Based on the Marxist-Leninist model, the Communist Party of Cuba is the only legal political party on the island. It holds its congress roughly every five years to map the island’s political, social and economic future — except for a 14-year stretch from 1997-2011.

The latest congress will bring together 1,000 party members from throughout the island to discuss Cuba’s plan going forward. Among the things members will consider this year is a description of the island’s economic development model through 2030.

So far, Cuban leaders have indicated the government intends to maintain strong control of the island’s centrally planned economy. Less clear are the roles the state and private market will play, and how much the non-state sector will be permitted to expand.

Since assuming power in 2006, Castro has instituted scattered free-market reforms to alleviate the island’s deep fiscal woes while preserving the communist system ushered in by the 1959 revolution. In 2010, he announced plans to permit more small businesses and reduce state employment. The 2011 Communist Party congress passed 313 resolutions that included legalizing car sales, encouraging the development of mid-size cooperatives with dozens of employees and eliminating an exit permit all Cubans once needed to travel outside the country.

Cubans were also permitted to buy and sell homes for the first time since the early years of the revolution.

Emilio Morales, an economic analyst who heads the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group, said the reforms to date have encouraged the growth of a small business sector that includes retail enterprises like Rodriguez’s clothing stand, stylish new restaurants and polished 1960 Cadillacs and other old cars serving as taxis. About 500,000 Cubans now run their own businesses, yet total private-sector employment represents just a fraction of the economy — an estimated 23 percent of all employment in 2014, compared to 18 percent in 2011.

There are signs the number of self-employed workers could be leveling off: According to Cuban state figures, there were 496,400 in January, down from 504,600 in May 2015.

To increase that number, Morales said the government must lift restraints on access to wholesale markets and expand private enterprise to fields such as law and engineering, which currently aren’t among the 201 categories of small businesses allowed.

Many Cubans are anxious to see their economy grow; the vast majority struggle to meet daily needs, with state workers earning an average of $20 per month. Many say they want Cuba to preserve universal benefits such as free education and health care.

“We should never lose what we’ve gained,” said Graciela Hidalgo, 67, a retired Interior Ministry worker.

Six Communist Party members interviewed by The Associated Press said they believe the congress will move to expand private businesses but not embark on dramatic reforms. President Castro has cautioned he wants to move “slowly but surely” and that Cuba won’t administer “shock therapy.”

“I think we’ll keep moving in the same direction, enabling small private property, expanding some aspects of commercialization,” said Esteban Morales, one of the party members interviewed and a noted intellectual.

Analysts have viewed China and Vietnam as examples of how Cuba might preserve its socialist system while moving toward a market-driven economy. Yet Cuba scholars say the reforms to date have been relatively minor compared to the early stages of mixed socialist-free market economies in those countries.

“Cuba’s economic situation isn’t one for moving slowly and surely,” said Emilio Morales, the analyst in Miami.

Party watchers will also be waiting to see what the congress says about Cuba’s political future after Castro retires. Many in 2011 expected him to “rejuvenate” the party of 700,000 members by appointing young leaders to key positions. He ultimately named revolutionary figures Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, then 80, and Ramiro Valdes, then 78, as his principal deputies.

Three relatively young politicians were promoted to the 15-member party leadership council in lesser capacities.

Many believe Castro now has no choice but to appoint younger leaders.

“First we have to resolve the economic problem, that’s a priority,” said Carlos Alzugaray, a longtime Cuban diplomat and analyst. “But there is a particular juncture in Cuba right now, which I call a generational transition. And we need to create the institutions that will help that new generation to govern the country effectively.”

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

UN ENCUENTRO CON BARACK OBAMA

Miriam Celaya, La Habana | Marzo 23, 2016, 14yMedio

Original article: Encuentro

Miriam Celaya’s account of Obama’s meeting with independent analysts, journalists, and activists.

Seguramente, este martes 22 de marzo de 2016 resultó una jornada memorable para los 13 representantes de una parte de la sociedad civil independiente que tuvimos la oportunidad de reunirnos con el presidente Barack Obama en la embajada de EE UU en La Habana.

Durante los días anteriores, se nos había invitado a participar en una reunión “de alto nivel”, en el marco de la visita del presidente estadounidense a la Isla, y ya en la propia embajada se confirmó lo que todos esperábamos: Obama se encontraría con nosotros a puertas cerradas, lejos de los micrófonos y cámaras de la prensa, que solo estuvo presente para una sesión de fotografías, instantes antes de que comenzara el intercambio off the record entre el presidente y los invitados cubanos.

Estuvieron presentes también otros altos funcionarios estadounidenses, que no intervinieron en el diálogo entre Obama y los activistas y periodistas independientes cubanos.

A lo largo de una hora y 40 minutos se produjo el encuentro, donde todos los invitados tuvimos la ocasión de expresar criterios diversos sobre cuestiones relacionadas con la nueva política de diálogo y acercamiento entre el Gobierno de EE UU y Cuba, así como de sugerir de qué manera consideran algunos activistas que esta nueva relación podría favorecer de una forma más eficaz el avance en materia de empoderamiento de los cubanos y consolidación de la sociedad civil.

Pese a las diferentes posturas y proyectos allí representados por los cubanos, la gran mayoría se manifestó abiertamente a favor de la política de acercamiento y diálogo iniciada por el presidente Obama

Pese a las diferentes posturas y proyectos allí representados por los cubanos, la gran mayoría se manifestó abiertamente a favor de la política de acercamiento y diálogo iniciada por el presidente Obama desde diciembre de 2014. Sin embargo –y desmintiendo lo que pregona el discurso gubernamental en sus campañas difamatorias contra la disidencia interna–, ninguno de los activistas solicitó algún tipo de financiamiento ni apoyo material para su proyecto.

Obama, por su parte, hizo gala de buen talante, inteligencia, sensibilidad y capacidad para escuchar a todos, a pesar de que varios activistas se extendieron en sus presentaciones, lo que limitó la posibilidad de intercambiar más con el mandatario estadounidense, como deseaban muchos de nosotros. No obstante, las intervenciones de éste, en su estilo franco y utilizando su habitual lenguaje directo y alejado de grandilocuencias innecesarias, constituyeron una verdadera lección de política que no dejó lugar a dudas sobre su seguridad en estar transitando el camino correcto.

Esta reunión demuestra la voluntad del Gobierno estadounidense de mantener un canal de comunicación abierto con todos los interlocutores de la sociedad cubana, con independencia de sus ideas políticas, sus ideologías, credos y programas

Obviamente, siempre queda mucho por decir en este tipo de encuentros, pero de cualquier manera esta reunión demuestra la voluntad del Gobierno estadounidense de mantener –como ha sido tradición y práctica política hasta hoy– un canal de comunicación abierto con todos los interlocutores de la sociedad cubana, con independencia de sus ideas políticas, sus ideologías, credos y programas. Esta postura no contradice la importancia de continuar el actual diálogo oficial con las autoridades cubanas y deberían imitarla los gobiernos y funcionarios de todas las sociedades democráticas del mundo, siempre dispuestos a ignorar a la disidencia y a negar el papel que le corresponde en el proceso de cambios que ha comenzado a operarse en Cuba.

Obama honró a los activistas de la sociedad civil independiente al dedicarnos una parte generosa de su tiempo en su breve paso por la Isla y mostró un respeto absoluto por los cubanos, por nuestra soberanía y por los proyectos de los luchadores pro-democracia. Una idea suya resume lo esencial de su política: el futuro de Cuba y la construcción de la sociedad democrática corresponden solamente a los cubanos de la Isla y de la diáspora.

En lo personal, este encuentro con Obama me dejó grabada la impresión del hombre sencillo que es, de su inteligencia extraordinaria y de su conocimiento de la historia de Cuba y de las relaciones entre nuestros dos países. Un hombre grande, cuyo nombre quedará definitivamente relacionado con el proceso de transición cubana, tal como lo conocerán las futuras generaciones de hijos de esta Isla.

z1Miriam Celaya and Barack Obama

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

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S SPEECH TO THE CUBAN PEOPLE IN HAVANA CUBA MARCH 22, 2016

President Obama’s speech to the Cuban People, on YouTube. March 22, 2016

An impressive speech of  historical significance for Cuba, the United States and Latin America; one of the best of Obama’s many excellent speeches.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

UNUSUAL DISSENT ERUPTS INSIDE CUBAN COMMUNIST PARTY

By Andrea Rodriguez and Michael Weissenstein
Associated Press, Mar 30, 2016

Original article: Dissent inside the Party

HAVANA (AP) — Days after President Barack Obama’s historic visit, the leaders of Cuba’s Communist Party are under highly unusual public criticism from their own ranks for imposing new levels of secrecy on the future of social and economic reforms.

After months of simmering discontent, complaints among party members have become so heated that its official newspaper, Granma, addressed them in a lengthy front-page article Monday. It said the public dissatisfaction over the lack of open discussion before the upcoming Communist Party congress next month is “a sign of the democracy and public participation that are intrinsic characteristics of the socialism that we’re constructing.”

The article did little to calm many party members, some of whom are calling for the gathering to be postponed to allow public debate about the government’s plans to continue market-oriented reforms for Cuba’s centrally controlled economy.

“The base of the party is angry, and rightly so,” party member and noted intellectual Esteban Morales wrote in a blog post published before Obama’s visit. “We’ve gone backward in terms of democracy in the party, because we’ve forgotten about the base, those who are fighting and confronting our problems on a daily basis.”

Across the country, Cuba’s ruling party is facing stiff challenges as it tries to govern an increasingly cynical and disenchanted population.

Struggling to feed their families with state salaries around $25 a month, many ordinary Cubans see their government as infuriatingly inefficient and unresponsive to the needs of average people. The open anger among prominent party members in the middle of sweeping socio-economic reforms and normalization with the United States hints at a deeper crisis of credibility for the party that has controlled virtually every aspect of public life in Cuba for more than a half century.

The article in Granma appeared less than a week after Obama won an enthusiastic response from many ordinary Cubans by calling for both an end to Cold War hostility and for more political and economic freedom on the island. The unsigned article shared the front page with Fidel Castro’s sharply worded response to Obama, in which the 89-year-old father of Cuba’s socialist system said, “My modest suggestion is that he reflect and doesn’t try to develop theories about Cuban politics.”

Many Cubans are skeptical of free-market capitalism, wary of American power and cannot envision a society without the free health care and education put in place by the 1959 revolution. Party member Francisco Rodriguez, a gay activist and journalist for a state newspaper, said Obama’s nationally televised speech in Old Havana, his news conference with 84-year-old President Raul Castro and a presidential forum with Cuban entrepreneurs represented a sort of “capitalist evangelizing” that many party members dislike.

Rodriguez told The Associated Press that Obama’s well-received addresses to the Cuban people had nonetheless increased pressure on the 700,000-member Communist Party to forge a more unified and credible vision of the future.

“Obama’s visit requires us, going forward, to work on debating and defending our social consensus about the revolution,” Rodriguez said.

While Cuba’s non-elected leaders maintain tight control of the party and the broader system, the last party congress in 2011 was preceded by months of vigorous debate at party meetings about detailed documents laying out reforms that have shrunk the state bureaucracy and allowed a half million Cubans to start work in the private sector.

In the run-up to the party congress scheduled to begin April 16, no documents have been made public, no debate has taken place and many of the party’s best-known members remain in the dark about the next phase of Cuba’s reforms. Granma said 1,000 high-ranking party members have been reviewing key documents.

“My dissatisfaction is rooted in the lack of discussion of the central documents, secret to this day, as much among the organizations of the party base as the rest of the population,” Rodriguez wrote in an open letter Sunday to Raul Castro, who is also the top Communist Party leader.

Under Castro’s guidance, the 2011 party congress helped loosen state control of Cubans’ economic options and some personal freedoms, moving the country toward more self-employment, greater freedom to travel and greater ability to sell personal cars and real estate. The Granma article argued that the months of debate before the approval of those reforms made a new round of public discussion unnecessary. It also acknowledged that only 21 percent of the reforms had been completed as planned.

The April 16-19 party congress “will allow us to define with greater precision the path that we must follow in order for our nation, sovereign and truly independent since Jan. 1, 1959, to construct a prosperous and sustainable socialism,” the article said.

Rodriguez, who works closely with Castro’s daughter Mariela, the director of the national Center for Sexual Education, said the Granma piece was unsatisfactory. He called for the Seventh Party Congress to be delayed, saying many fellow party members share his point of view.

In the days after the Granma article appeared about two dozen people, many identifying themselves as party members, posted lengthy comments on the paper’s government-moderated website that criticized the article and the secrecy surrounding the upcoming party congress, which is widely seen as helping mark the transition of power from the aging men who led Cuba’s revolution to a younger generation.

“It is one of the last congresses directed by the historic generation,” wrote one poster identifying himself as Leandro. “This is, I think, a bad precedent for future leaders, who will feel like they have the right to have party congresses without popular participation.”

Dissent? What dissent?

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

THE US AND CUBA: INCREMENTALISM, REVERSAL RISK AND THE DICTATORS DILEMMA

By Cardiff Garcia                        ,

Financial Times, London, March 21, 2016

Original Article: The US and Cuba_ incrementalism reversal risk and the Dictators Dilemma _ FT Alphaville

Introduction:

To analogize the ongoing diplomatic maneuvering between the US and Cuba to a scenario of mutual hostage-taking doesn’t sound charitable, but it might be the best framework for understanding a relationship long defined by its baffling surrealism.

And it’s a useful lens through which to see not only President Obama’s visit to the island, the first by a sitting US president in almost nine decades, but also the specific actions taken by each side in the time since the intent to normalize relations was first announced on 17 December 2014.

Last week John Kavulich, president of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, described this idea to a roomful of lawyers at the US-Cuba Corporate Counsel Summit in New York. On the US side, Obama clearly wants to make the rapprochement an enduring foreign-policy legacy of his administration, and the Cuban government knows this. It can afford to test Obama on how far it needs to go in the direction of economic and political liberalization before satisfying American requirements to continue deepening the relationship.

But Cuba’s efforts to modernize its economy also depend heavily on the country’s relationship with other countries and with foreign (non-US) companies, and specifically on the potential source of foreign investment they can provide. Except these firms and countries are hesitant to provide much investment while the US embargo is in place and Cuba is locked out of most multilateral institutions.

In other words, Cuba needs the momentum towards diplomatic restoration and the end of the US embargo to continue beyond the end of Obama’s time in office. To ensure this happens, the Cuban government will have to take meaningful and credibly permanent steps towards providing greater economic and political freedoms.

The liberalizations on both sides have been made incrementally to this point. The gradual pace was partly for logistical reasons, but I’m sure it was also the result of suspicions inside of both countries about the intentions of the other side.

 Continue Reading:  The US and Cuba_ incrementalism reversal risk and the Dictators Dilemma _ FT Alphaville

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

A POLICY LONG PAST ITS EXPIRATION DATE: US ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST CUBA

William M. LeoGrande

Social Research: An International Quarterly, Volume 82, Number 4, Winter 2015, pp. 939-966 (Article)

Original Article: US Economic Sanctions Against Cuba, William LeoGrande

ABSTRACT

The embargo against Cuba is the oldest and most comprehensive U.S. economic sanctions regime against any country in the world. It comprises a complex patchwork of laws and presidential determinations imposed over half a century. Presidents have tightened or relaxed it to suit their own strategy—some seeking to punish the Cuban regime by economic pressure, other seeking to improve relations by resorting to soft power rather than hard. The impact of U.S. sanctions has also varied, at times inflicting serious harm on the Cuban economy, and at times being merely as an expensive annoyance. But the embargo has never been effective at forcing Cuba’s revolutionary regime out of power or bending it to Washington’s will.

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