• 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.

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

OBAMA’S WAVE AND TANGO TRUMP TERRORISM

Brookings Institution, March 25, 2016

By: Ted Piccone

Original Article: Obama’s Wave

As President Obama finally buried the last remnants of the Cold War” in Havana, jihadi terrorists were unleashing suicide attacks against innocent civilians in the heart of Europe. What a powerful reminder that the old wars against communism are long behind us, replaced now by a much more insidious and unpredictable form of warfare, one that strikes terror in the hearts and minds of citizens, whether near or far removed from the latest carnage.

This fear of the undetected radical in our midst is easy fodder for the overheated U.S. elections season. Leading candidates like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump fell over themselves to demand Obama’s return to Washington to “keep us safe,” as if our sprawling national security apparatus shuts down when Air Force One is out of town. Fortunately, the White House is long accustomed to walking and chewing gum at the same time.

The real battle here is over symbols—of tough talk and bluster, on the one hand, and resilience and “steady hands” on the other, as candidate Hillary Clinton put it in her speech at Stanford University.

Electoral posturing aside, there is a more serious message that our leaders are trying to convey when they react to another terrorist attack. “It’s very important for us not to respond with fear,” Obama said when asked why he did not abandon his historic trip to Cuba in light of Tuesday’s bombings. In addition to deploying drones, detectives and deadly strikes against these terrorist groups, he remarked, we need to demonstrate determination to maintain “our values of liberty and openness and the respect of all people.

This is precisely the message Obama conveyed during his visit to our former enemy, Cuba, and our intermittent friend, Argentina. His remarkable speech to the Cuban people, visits with human rights defenders and entrepreneurs, and friendly gestures—such as doing the wave at a baseball game in Cuba and dancing the tango in Argentina—were powerful instruments to win over hearts and minds, not only in Cuba but around the world, about American intentions and values.

It is this kind of comprehensive package of economic, political and security measures that can turn the tide against violent extremism.

Latin America should know. Its history is replete with internal conflicts driven by the despair of the deprived against the despotism of dictators and corrupt elites. The overlay of Cold War power struggles between the Soviet Union and the United States further fueled the flames of violence.

Now, after decades of conflict, military rule and abject poverty, Latin America is an emerging region of economic growth and democratic stability. Colombia is close to settling the hemisphere’s longest armed conflict. Even socialist Cuba, which is struggling to enter the 21st century as neither friend nor foe of the United States, understands its future depends on a more open economy and better ties with all of its neighbors. Under the more pragmatic leadership of Raul Castro, it has abandoned the role of renegade in world affairs, renounced any support to international terrorism and pledged cooperation on law enforcement and anti-trafficking. It also has largely succeeded in delivering basic social services to its citizens, including free health care and education, while failing to protect fundamental political rights. In this latter area, it has some catching up to do with its neighbors.

Meanwhile, the radicalization of disaffected youth in the Middle East is occurring in countries long known for their hardline authoritarian rule, suppression of women’s rights, silencing of free media, and coddling of religious fanaticism. The silent majority of Arab citizens, who long for greater freedoms and democracy, are once again marginalized as extremists battle over which armed group will wield the power of the state. Might they have something to learn from the story of democratization in Latin America, where radical terrorism is largely contained and citizens take their complaints peacefully to the voting booths or the streets?

This history explains why so much is at stake in how the United States responds to perceived attacks against its way of life. Do we choose the path of surveilling Muslim communities, as Cruz suggests, or barring Muslims from our borders, as Trump avows? This, some say, is precisely what our enemies want, so they may recruit more disaffected followers to their diabolical cause. Or do we have the confidence in our own values of open competition of ideas, freedom of religion and rule of law to offer the world an alternative model for achieving both peace and security? Much depends on the outcome of our own democratic choices this November.

This piece was originally published by TIME.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

ARTÍCULO DE FIDEL, “EL HERMANO OBAMA”

No necesitamos que el imperio nos regale nada. Nuestros esfuerzos serán legales y pacíficos, porque es nuestro compromiso con la paz y la fraternidad de todos los seres humanos que vivimos en este planeta

28 de marzo de 2016

Granma 30 de marzo de 2016

Articulo original y completo: ARTÍCULO DE FIDEL

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

HOW FOES OF WARMER RELATIONS WITH CUBA SLOWLY CAME AROUND: Group of Businessmen Reversed Position, Helping Pave Way for Historic Move

By José de Córdoba

Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2016

MIAMI—On his historic visit to Havana on Sunday, President Barack Obama will be accompanied by a group of prominent Cuban-American businessmen who have one thing in common. For years, they all opposed the very kind of trip the president is taking.

The presence of this wealthy and influential group reflects the transformation of Miami, the capital of the U.S.’s economically successful and politically powerful Cuban-American community. For decades, these men opposed any attempt to soften relations with Cuba’s Communist government. And all, at different stages in their lives, changed their minds.

“We had to decide whether we were going to be an obstacle to a transition in Cuba or an asset to that transition,” says businessman Carlos Saladrigas, 68 years old, who in 2000 founded the Cuba Study Group, a nonprofit that pushed for U.S. engagement with Cuba.

Their change of heart mirrors a broader shift among Cuban-Americans. In Miami-Dade County, Cuban-American support for the U.S. trade embargo fell to 48% in 2014, from 87% in 1991, according to polling by Florida International University.

Having support from such an influential group of businessmen helped give the president political cover as he pursued a major shift of policy, say Cuban-Americans and former White House officials.

“They kept pushing us to do more,” recalls Dan Restrepo, a former national security adviser for the Western Hemisphere. Cuban-Americans “influenced the political climate in Miami at the time, and the president’s policies were made easier by the changed political environment.”

Their position is far from universally embraced and passions about the Castro brothers continue to run high. Earlier this week, Cuban-American Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R., Fla.) said President Obama was ignoring repression on the island to “promote more funds going in the pockets of the regime. U.S. policy must focus less on easing regulations and more on putting pressure on the Castro brothers.”

Support for the embargo is a fundamental issue for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the Republican presidential race this week. Republican candidate Sen. Ted Cruz also opposes rapprochement, which he says has thrown the regime an economic lifeline. Not until the 2016 presidential election contest is settled will the long-term prospects of the Obama administration’s policy be clear.

Among the Cuban-American businessmen to shift are sugar magnate Alfonso “Alfy” Fanjul, one of the owners of Fanjul Corp., one of the largest sugar producers in the U.S., Mike Fernández, a wealthy health-care entrepreneur who was a major donor to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign, and Carlos Gutierrez, who retired as chairman of Kellogg Co.after a 30-year career to serve as President George W. Bush’s commerce secretary, a position from which he supported the Bush administration’s hard line on Cuba.

Mr. Saladrigas, Mr. Gutierrez and Andres Fanjul, Alfonso Fanjul’s younger brother, will be among the Cuban-Americans accompanying Mr. Obama on the trip. Mr. Obama is expected to meet with Cuban President Raúl Castro, take in a baseball game between Cuba’s national team and the Tampa Bay Rays, and meet with dissidents, members of civil-society groups and Cuba’s fledgling entrepreneurs.

For each of the businessmen, Cuba is a personal and passionate matter. Some had family members executed by the Castro regime; others had relatives who spent years in prison. Some, such as Mr. Saladrigas, came to the U.S. as unaccompanied children, initially juggling lowly jobs and studying at night. All of them lost their homes.

Cuban-American businessman Carlos Saladrigas, seen in his Miami home, supported lifting the embargo and will travel to Cuba with President Obama. Photo: Josh Ritchie for The Wall Street Journal

“The one important thing we all share is that although we left Cuba, Cuba never left us,” says Mr. Saladrigas.

Messrs. Saladrigas and Fernández and a handful of the others involved in the outreach program have vowed not to do business on the island for fear of appearing to profit from their activism. “Because of the importance of what we are doing, we have to stay clear,” says Mr. Fernández.

In 1997, Mr. Saladrigas led Miami Cuban-Americans in opposition to plans by the Catholic archdiocese to send a cruise ship full of Catholics to greet the late Pope John Paul II in Havana the following year. Faced with Mr. Saladrigas’s opposition, the archdiocese dropped the plan.

Mr. Saladrigas says he changed his mind after seeing the pope make a plea in Havana to let “Cuba open itself to the world, and let the world open itself to Cuba.”

As decades passed, the Castro regime survived and pinned blame for the country’s economic failures on the embargo.

Mr. Saladrigas says he and other like-minded business people concluded backing the embargo wasn’t an effective strategy. “A lot of people felt good about beating their chests,” he says. “But it’s not about that. It’s about results.”

When Fidel Castro fell ill in 2006, eventually handing over power to his younger brother Raúl, many Cuban-Americans in Miami believed the elder Castro’s absence would open the door to change. The smooth transition of power led some to conclude that a new approach was needed.

“Nothing had changed,” says Enrique Sosa, 76, a retired executive in the oil and chemical industries. “I thought, this [embargo] is no way to knock these guys out.”ENLARGE

Alfonso Fanjul, one of the owners of Fanjul Corp., a large sugar producer in the U.S., is one of the influential businessmen who changed his mind and supported ending the trade embargo. Photo: John Parra/Getty Images

Many in Miami remain concerned that in pushing for normalized diplomatic relations, the Obama administration will neglect the quest for political and human rights that has long been a prime concern for Cuban-Americans.

“We want to get to the same place,” said senior Obama aide Ben Rhodes to a recent town-hall meeting in Miami filled with young Cuban-Americans, some of whom were skeptical of the opening. Mr. Rhodes was the point man in the negotiations that led to the agreement with Havana 15 months ago.

At the meeting, Mr. Rhodes reiterated the U.S. was no longer in the business of regime change in Cuba. He also said Mr. Obama’s policy would lead to change throughout Cuban society.

While Cuba is no longer their home, Cuban-Americans say it still lays claim to their hearts and memories.

“My father’s house, my grandfather’s house are in Havana. I don’t want them back,” says Pedro Freyre, a lawyer whose brother was one of 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban exiles who fought in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and spent almost two years in prison before he was ransomed.

“I want to see a Havana freshly painted, and I want to contribute my bucket of paint.”

On his first trip back in 2002, Mr. Sosa, the retired executive, and family members drove to Camaguey, a province on the eastern end of the island where his family had been cattle ranchers and sugar farmers.

“I realized I didn’t belong there anymore,” says Mr. Sosa, whose father and brother spent nearly two years in prison after being captured in the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Mr. Sosa believes Cuba faces daunting prospects, including the island’s obsession with maintaining tight control over the country’s economic and political life.

That said, “I came to the conclusion that if in order to help the Cuban people you ended up giving collateral help to the Cuban government, it was an acceptable price,” he says. “I crossed that bridge a long time ago.”

Saladrigas

Carlos Saladrigas

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

CUBA ELIMINATES TAX ON US DOLLAR

Havana Times, March 17, 2016 |

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government announced today that it will eliminate its 10% tax on the use of the US dollar on the island. The good news for ordinary Cubans and tourists alike comes in response to Washington’s new measures to further relax the economic embargo on Cuba, reported dpa news.

“The Cuban government has decided to eliminate the 10 percent tax that it applies today on US dollars entering our country,” said Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

He said the decision should enter into force as soon as US authorities allow Cuban state institutions to use the dollar in transactions in the United States, as announced earlier in the week.

The new relaxations on the embargo, announced by the Obama government on Tuesday, officially entered into force on Wednesday.

Besides allowing Cuban institutions to carry out transactions in dollars in the United States the administration also relaxed travel restrictions on US citizens wishing to visit the island.

The gestures by both governments come as a prelude to president Obama’s historic three-day visit to Cuba starting this coming Sunday.

Rodriguez told a press conference in Havana that in the coming days Cuban state institutions will see if in effect the United States has eliminated restrictions on who can use the dollar.

The elimination of the tax in Cuba will be effective only after verification that the Cuban State can use the dollar in its operations passing through the United States, specified Rodríguez. “While there is financial persecution, the tax remains,” he said.

The 10 percent tax on the US dollar was imposed by the government of Fidel Castro in 2004. Many Cubans in Cuba receive dollar remittances from relatives or friends in the United States, and were the most hurt by the measure.

The tax “has served to compensate the Cuban financial institutions for the risks and costs” caused by the use of the dollar by Cuba internationally, Rodriguez noted.

The inability to use the dollar in international trade was to date one of the major impediments for Cuba to access markets.

Other ways the embargo still hurts Cuba

Rodriguez also criticized as inadequate the measures taken by the Obama administration to relax the embargo. The foreign minister said a number of restrictions still apply to Cuban institutions, for example their inability to export products to the United States.

The sanctions imposed by Washington on the island in the 1960s came in retaliation for the nationalization of US companies in Cuba after the revolution and can only be lifted by the US Congress. However, the Republican majority still opposes lifting the embargo.

Obama’s trip to Cuba on Sunday, the second by a US president to the neighboring island in 88 years, is part of the historic thaw initiated in December 2014, after decades of sharp differences.xx xxx

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

CUBA REPORTS FIRST CASE OF ZIKA TRANSMITTED ON THE ISLAND

By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN, Associated Press, March 16, 2016

zzzzz2A female Aedes aegypti mosquito in the process of acquiring a blood meal from a human host.  Photo from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (AP)

(AP) — Cuban officials announced Tuesday night that they have detected the first case of the Zika virus transmitted inside the country, ending Cuba’s status as one of the last nations in the hemisphere without domestic cases of the disease that has been linked to birth defects.

State media said a 21-year-old Havana woman who had not traveled outside Cuba was diagnosed with the virus after suffering headaches, fatigue and other symptoms. On Monday, her blood tested positive for Zika. She remains hospitalized.

Cuba had previously reported a handful of cases of the disease in people who had traveled to countries with outbreaks of the mosquito-borne virus, particularly Venezuela, and appeared to have contracted it there.

Cuba has close ties to Venezuela, a fellow socialist country that sends hundreds of millions of dollars a year in subsidized oil in exchange for Cuban medical assistance that sees many thousands of people travel between the two countries annually.

Zika is being investigated as a possible agent in cases of microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with unusually small heads and brain damage, and also in cases of Guillain-Barre, a rare condition that sometimes results in temporary paralysis.

Cuba has thrown more than 9,000 soldiers, police and university students into an effort to fumigate for mosquitoes, wipe out the standing water where they breed and prevent a Zika epidemic.

President Raul Castro has called on the nation to battle lax fumigation and trash collection, turning the Zika fight into a test of the communist government’s once-legendary ability to marshal the entire country behind efforts ranging from civil defense to bigger sugar harvests to disease prevention.

In recent days the streets of Havana have been crisscrossed by teams of green-clad soldiers fumigating houses with mosquito-killing fog. Residents of the capital say fumigators no longer accept excuses of allergies or requests to spray some other day, as frequently happened in the past.

Still, neighborhoods like Central Havana, where the patient in Tuesday’s case lives, are filled with decaying buildings, piles of uncollected trash and pools of standing water.

The Zika announcement comes at a moment of intense international attention on Cuba: President Barack Obama arrives on Sunday as the first sitting U.S. president to visit in nearly 90 years. The Obama administration on Tuesday announced that it was carving a series of broad new exceptions into the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, removing limits on individual travel that experts predicted would lead to a boom in U.S. visitors.

zzzzzz

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment