Two July 26ths, And The Same Crisis / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellanos, 5 August 2016 — In Sancti Spiritus, the second secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), delivered a speech marking the 63rd anniversary of the assault on the Moncada barracks. José Ramón Machado Ventura began by wishing Fidel Castro well on his 90th birthday and reasserting “the commitment to remain faithful to the ideas for which he has fought throughout his life, and keep alive the spirit of resistance, combativeness, dialectical thinking, and faith in victory he instilled in us.”He added that to write his remarks he studied Fidel’s speech in that same city on July 26, 1986.

A reading of the message conveyed by Fidel Castro at that time reveals a relationship to the critical situation today and the designation of Machado Ventura to talk, 30 years later, in the same place, and in the absence of a plan to rescue the country from a crisis. Continue reading “Two July 26ths, And The Same Crisis / Dimas Castellano”

Coffee: Relations with the US have revealed to the Cuban people the roots of the drop in productivity / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellanos, 18 July 2016 — The statement issued in May of 2016 by the National Bureau of Cuba’s National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) in response to the US Treasury Department’s announcement that it would allow independent producers to export coffee Cuba to the United States should have come as no surprise. Said statement is a faithful reflection of the entity’s nature, as the ANAP does not represent the interests of producers, but rather those of the State, the Government and the Communist Party (PCC). An examination of its founding premises bases suffices to substantiate this.

The forming of associations of farmers and employers, a phenomenon that emerged in the 19th century, was fomented by the freedoms provided for in the Constitution of 1901, and flourished as part of a struggle to defend the interests of their members against eviction and for ownership, better markets, fair prices, low-interest loans and reduced rents, among others. Decree 16 of January 3, 1934, issued by the government of Ramón Grau San Martin, institutionalized the mandatory accreditation of association of producers. In 1937 the First National Farmers Congress was held, and in 1941 the National Farmers Association was founded. These developments would establish such associations as a key institution in Cuban society. Continue reading “Coffee: Relations with the US have revealed to the Cuban people the roots of the drop in productivity / Dimas Castellano”

The Cuban Economy Goes Into A Tailspin / Dimas Castellano

Raúl Castro and former Minister Marino Murillo. (INFOLATAM)
Raúl Castro and former Minister Marino Murillo. (INFOLATAM)

Dimas Castellanos, 1 August 2016 —  On 29 December, 2015 the Cuban president announced before the National Assembly of the People’s Power that “despite the impact of the international economic crisis, exacerbated in our case by the effects of the US blockade, maintained unchanged, and the external financial constraints, which have worsened during the second half of the year, the GDP grew 4% this year, which is undeniably a good result in the midst of these circumstances.”

Let’s take a look at this. The drop in GDP between 1989 and 1993 was 34%. Recovering from this decline requires sustained annual growth of 7%. The measures implemented for that purpose to date have failed. Between 2011 and 2014 the figure was 2.3%; in 2015, 4%; and during the first half of 2016 the GDP actually fell 1%. According to these numbers, we are not looking at a “good result,” but rather the worsening of a prolonged crisis; something similar to the tailspin aircraft go into after they are hit. Continue reading “The Cuban Economy Goes Into A Tailspin / Dimas Castellano”

Randy, The Situation Is Worse Than In The 90s / Dimas Castellano

Randy Alonso (right) on the Roundtable TV show.
Randy Alonso (right) on the Roundtable TV show.

Dimas Castellanos, 3 August 2016 — The newspaper Granma recently published an article by Randy Alonso that commenced by dismissing “media vultures” who “revel in painting a dark picture, according to which Cuba will return to the direst days of the Special Period.”

It is telling that Randy Alonso and the daily Granma would devote time and space to responding to these “vultures,” extraordinary birds that, by feeding on animals in a state of decay, play a vital role in the health of their societies.

In the fulfillment of his mission, Randy quotes Cuban President Raúl Castro on July 8: “speculation and predictions have begun suggesting the imminent collapse of our economy and auguring a return to the acute phase of the Special Period that we faced in the early 90s, and we were able to overcome thanks to the resilience of the Cuban people and their unlimited confidence in Fidel and the Party. We do not deny that adversity may arise, even greater than that we are experiencing today, but we are prepared and better positioned than then to deal with it.” Continue reading “Randy, The Situation Is Worse Than In The 90s / Dimas Castellano”

The Need for a Cuban Middle Class / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellano, 15 April 2016 — Economic and social stagnation in Cuba are related to the lack of a middle class. To defend this thesis and promote debate, I submit the arguments below.

According to Karl Marx, social classes are structured around the ownership of the means of production, while Max Weber saw it from the position of a market that defines access to goods and opportunities. Within this structure, which ranged from the high bourgeoisie to the proletariat, there was the middle class. Since it did not have large amounts of capital, its power and wealth derived from direct participation in business management. Continue reading “The Need for a Cuban Middle Class / Dimas Castellano”

How Democracy Disappeared from Cuba / Roberto Alvarez Quiñones

From the blog of Dimas Castellano: In response to an article in Diario de Cuba about different views on human rights, one reader noted that he would like to read an account of how democracy disappeared from Cuba. In response, Roberto Alvarez Quiñones wrote “At Democracy’s Funeral,” an article which I am posting below.

At Democracy’s Funeral
by Roberto Alvarez Quiñones

Concept

Although — etymologically speaking — the term  means power of the people, the existence and functioning of democracy requires, among others, the following instruments, rights and freedoms: Suffrage, to designate their representatives; equality before the law, to compete for positions; the referendum, to reject or approve the provisions of government; the plebiscite, to approve or disapprove rules and laws; the popular initiative, to submit proposals on issues of national interest; revocation, to override by vote government decisions and to dismiss officials; juries, to collaborate with the judiciary; separation of powers, to avoid its concentration in one or more people; a multiparty system, to provide choices between various options and candidates. Continue reading “How Democracy Disappeared from Cuba / Roberto Alvarez Quiñones”

Cuba’s Constitution of 1976: An Historic Setback / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellano, 1 March 2016 —  “Two Benchmarks of the Cuban Republic” — an article by Pedro Antonio Garcia which appeared in the journal Granma on February 24 — makes a comparison between the 1901 and 1976 constitutions that merits further discussion. Let us look further at three of the author’s main points.

1. It was not the Cuban Revolution that brought down representative democracy but rather the coup d’etat, led by Fulgencio Batista on March 10, 1952, which interrupted the constitutional rhythm of the country. Batista dismissed the president-elect, dissolved Congress and abolished both the constitution of 1940 and the electoral statutes of 1943. Continue reading “Cuba’s Constitution of 1976: An Historic Setback / Dimas Castellano”

The Foreign Investment Law: A Litany of Squandered Opportunities / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellanos, 11 March 2016 — Under the title of “Inversión extranjera, puntal para el desarrollo (Foreign investment, Key to Development” on Friday, March 4, 2016, the daily paper Granma  published a conversation between journalists Sheyla Delgado and Óscar Sanchez with Déborah Rivas, representing the Foreign Trade and Investment Ministry.

In the introductory paragraph the journalists cited how the Professor of Negotiation Emilio Rodríguez Mañalich used to say in class: “Opportunity is like a white blackbird that flies by just once … and if you fail to take advantage of it, you might never see it again.” They go on to say that: “It is precisely opportunities that have been the most immediate result of Law No. 118 on Foreign Investment in the country…” Continue reading “The Foreign Investment Law: A Litany of Squandered Opportunities / Dimas Castellano”

The Importance of Obama’s Visit / Dimas Castellano

A man in an Obama shirt on Havana's Malecon
A man in an Obama shirt on Havana’s Malecon (Reuters, Havana)

Dimas Castellanos, 18 March 2016 — The damage done to US economic interests by the 1959 Revolution led to the deterioration of relations between the two countries. In the midst of the Cold War, disagreements led to a rupture in relations and Cuba’s alliance with the Soviet Union. In this context the Cuban government, in defense of its national “sovereignty”, nationalized the economy, dismantled civil society, restricted freedoms, and took the road towards totalitarianism.

The economic inefficiency of the model introduced was patched up by Soviet subsidies until the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe unveiled the mirage and sunk Cuba into a crisis – dubbed with with the euphemism of “Special Period in Time of Peace” – that has still not been overcome. From that point forward the changes introduced, including the reforms initiated in 2008, have failed. Shortages, high prices, low wages, discontent, corruption and the exodus characterized Continue reading “The Importance of Obama’s Visit / Dimas Castellano”

Crisis in Agriculture: Land for Those Who Work It / Dimas Castellanos

By Dimas Castellano, 9 February 2016

Property and crisis

Once the Cuban Government arrived in power, imbued by an exacerbated voluntarism, it ignored the laws that govern the economy and subordinated them to ideology. From this moment on, the loss of the autonomy that is required by economic processes was converted into a factor of poverty.

In 1959, with the first agrarian reform law, the Government handed over property titles to 100,000 farmers but concentrated in its own hands some 40.2 percent of cultivable land. In 1963, with the second agrarian reform law, the 1,000 farms that had more than five horses swelled the fund of State lands, which grew to almost 70 percent.

In 1976, with the objective of decreasing the numbers of small owners, the Government initiated a project of “cooperativization,” through which it created the Cooperatives of Agricultural Production (CPA), thereby raising the share of land that was State property to 75 percent. The result was inefficiency, scarcity of products and high prices, which obliged the Government in 1993 to convert Continue reading “Crisis in Agriculture: Land for Those Who Work It / Dimas Castellanos”

What People Are We Talking About? / Dimas Castellanos

Havana (El Nuevo Herald)

Dimas Castellanos, 18 January 2016 — A commentary on five foreign policy issues raised by the Cuban president, Raul Castro, on December 29, 2015 during the closing session of the National Assembly of People’s Power.

1. Since 2015 there have been benefits from mutually advantageous, cooperative relationships with various countries, particularly the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

True, but these benefits are the result of a relationship that does not follow the normal laws of commerce. The reduction or total loss of Venezuelan petroleum subsidies and its impact on Cuba would be a repeat of what happened with subsidies from the former Soviet Union. Both examples illustrate the impossibility of sustaining an economy that is not self-supporting and the government’s inability to learn from past lessons. The cold, hard fact is that events in Venezuela help explain the real cause of the reported decline in GDP in 2015. Continue reading “What People Are We Talking About? / Dimas Castellanos”

Five Points: Sorting Through Raul Castro’s Economic Speech

Dimas Castellanos, 16 January 2016 — A commentary on five economic issues raised by the Cuban president on December 29, 2015 during the closing session of the National Assembly of People’s Power.

1. The president stated that, though the effects of the US blockade remain unchanged and external economic constraints have worsened in the second half of the year, Cuba’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 4% in 2015.

Not only have the effects of the “blockade” changed, financial constraints have eased. Measures taken by the White House after the announcement of restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries have led to a relaxation of the embargo. Meanwhile, negotiations to reduce external debt have eased economic constraints, especially after the Club of Paris wrote off three-quarters of Cuba’s debts. Continue reading “Five Points: Sorting Through Raul Castro’s Economic Speech”

The Cuban Exodus: Causes and Effects / Dimas Castellanos

A raft is transported to the coast during the ’rafters crisis’ in 1994. (WILLY Castellanos)

Dimas Castellanos, 30 November 2015 — The unstoppable exodus of Cubans has become a crisis once again. While thousands of our compatriots are stuck at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the Government of Cuba chooses to ignore the main cause.

In recent months, thousands of Cubans have been traveling through Central America for the United States. On 15 November the Nicaraguan authorities blocked their way. On 17 November, Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations stated that these Cubans are “victims of the politicization of the immigration issue by the Government of the United States, of the Cuban Adjustment Act and, in particular, of the application of the call ’wet foot-dry foot’ policy.” Continue reading “The Cuban Exodus: Causes and Effects / Dimas Castellanos”

The Growth of GDP, and the Cuban Railway: Past and Present / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellano, 31 July 2105 — According to a report presented by the Minister of Economy and Planning, Marino Murillo Jorge, in the Fifth Ordinary Sessional Period of the National Assembly of Popular Power, during the first haf year of 2015, the GDP grew by 4.7%.

In reference to transport, among other things, he said: in the first half year of 2015 this sector grew 6.5%, but the goods sector fell short by 700,000 tons, so that there is production which could not be transported and raw materials which was not delivered on time to its destination; between 20 and 25% of the $2,100,000 which, up to the month of March, was paid for demurrage of containers and ships was caused by deficiencies in the railway system and road transport. In order that delegates might understand the importance and characteristics of transport, he explained that for journeys of over 280 km the best way to transport things is the railway, so that, it is important that its activity levels return to normal. Continue reading “The Growth of GDP, and the Cuban Railway: Past and Present / Dimas Castellano”

How Does History Help Us? / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellano, Havana, 17 September 2015 — 120 years ago, between 13th and 18th September 1895, twenty delegates selected from the five corps that the Libertador’s Army was divided into, and formed into a Constituent Assembly, promulgated the Constitution of Jimaguayú.

This Constitution, different from others in that it wasn’t structured in three parts — organic, dogmatic, and with a reform clause — but rather contained 24 consecutive articles without divisions into titles, sections or chapters. In it the Government of the Republic resided in a Government Council with legislative and executive powers. The executive power devolved upon the President (Salvador Cisneros Betancourt), while the legislative power stayed in the hands of the Government Council. In addition to a judicial power, organised by the Council, but functioning independently. The posts of General in Chief and Lieutenant General were vested in Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo respectively. Continue reading “How Does History Help Us? / Dimas Castellano”