Distribution of Donations: Bread for Today, Hunger for Tomorrow

A Youth Labor Army market in Havana lists few foods for sale while empty stalls predominate. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 29, 2021 — The Cuban communists announced in the State newspaper Granma that they have begun the distribution of food products that have come from international donations (Russia, Mexico, etc.) into the network of state warehouses.

An insistent rumor had been circulating on social media: the products will end up for sale in the MLC stores — which take payment only in foreign currencies — in order to obtain foreign exchange at a crucial time for the regime. But this has been flatly denied by the Minister of Internal Trade, Betsy Díaz, who took the opportunity to link the distribution of donations with the rollout of the August standard family basket – in the ration stores — in 98% of the country’s municipalities, another way for the regime to appease the social unrest that led to the explosion of July 11th.

Under the communist regime, the regulated basket continues to be the only option for those Cubans who don’t have dollars, and therefore can’t shop in MLC stores, or informal markets, where it’s easier to find essential products, but at greatly inflated prices.

This perverse mechanism, which eliminates at its roots Cubans’ right to free choice, has been in force for more than 60 years. Never before in history has a scarcity-based rationing system continue reading

lasted so long in a country. In Spain, it did so for almost two decades after the civil war. In Cuba there have been no wars, no climatic or natural disasters. Only the express will of a communist regime for controlling the population from the point of view of consumption.

Now, at a critical moment when Cubans’ blindfolds have completely fallen off their eyes, and they’ve identified the communist government as responsible for the national economic disaster, the authorities have once again trotted out the standard family basket in an attempt to sidestep the protests. They have a difficult task.

Basically because when you look closely behind the standard basket, you realize how perverse the mechanism is. Let’s take an example: each Cuban receives from the “ration book” a total of 7 pounds of rice per month. This amount is set by central planning because rice is a product in high demand in Cuba. And they may be right, but what about those Cubans who don’t like rice and would rather eat, say, cookies, or taro, or potatoes? That doesn’t matter to the planner. Cubans, all Cubans, regardless of their tastes and preferences, have to eat rice. And whoever doesn’t like it can do whatever they want with their 7 pounds. But can you come up with a stupider mechanism for regulating consumer choice? It’s hard.

Even more so when, as a result of the donations received, it’s announced that those 7 pounds for the month will be increased by an additional 3,  so that if you don’t like rice, the regime will now give you 10 pounds. The book and its political regulation are above individual preferences. No free choice is possible. Well, a solution may be for you to sell your monthly ration to a neighbor, or give it to someone. But it doesn’t matter what individual Cubans do with the rations that the state gives them. All that matters is the need to deliver that rice, in this case 7 pounds plus another 3.

Who can get their head around this distribution mechanism, with arbitrary allocation, perverse in the 21st century? When will the Cuban communists realize the uselessness of the basket and all the instruments they have to control the population? Someone will say that they have been a success, in view of the last 62 years in which they have done and undone whatever they wanted in Cuba. And therein lies the quandary, that this is over, that there is no way to continue deceiving and manipulating Cubans, and that either they change, or they are going to have a very bad time.

The communist planners know more than we think. If that economic intelligence had been put in the service of a rational and efficient functioning of the economy, it would be a different story.

The Minister of Internal Trade explained that, thanks to donations and the existence of large volume of a certain group of products, food modules have been designed with rice, pasta, grains, and sugar, which will be delivered at a rate of one per household, to all Cuban families, gradually. The territorial sequence established for deliveries is Havana, Matanzas, Ciego de Ávila, Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, Guantánamo and the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud, giving priority to the most densely populated areas where the social explosion of 11-J was most intense.

In addition, she said that products arriving in the country through donations that cannot be “confirmed for all the households on an equal basis” (without explaining very well what this confirmation consists of) will not be included in the distribution; and this is where the logical doubts arise about what is going to happen to these “non-approved” products and where they are going to go.

Meanwhile, canned meat delivery is announced in specific places; oil in other areas; cans of tuna, in others; beans; powdered milk to those over 65 in other areas, and thus, by means of a light rain the authorities intend to put out the fires of social protest and at the same time announce that, if you behave well, you will have powdered milk or tuna. A series of political arbitrariness that confirms the perverse nature of the system of the regulated basket, the old ration book.

There are those who think that the regime is going to take advantage, for its own benefit, of the international donations in order to calm the social protests and buy time. Bread for today and hunger for tomorrow. The underlying problems are not solved with donations, but by changing the productive structure of the nation so that Cuba, the Cubans, can be more efficient and productive. Moreover, there are those who think that these donations will merely act as a palliative of the most intense pain that the nation is suffering, and as soon as they are used up, which will surely happen, the discomfort will return because then there will be no one to stop it.

If the regime wanted to buy time with this distribution of products in order to promote structural reforms, its action would be correct. But we fear that the necessary 180-degree turn towards economic freedom that Cuba needs doesn’t enter into its plans. The donations will be bread for today and hunger for tomorrow.

Translated by Tomás A.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban President Diaz-Canel Hides Behind “Voluntary Work”

Miguel Díaz-Canel has tried to present an image of a modern president close to the people.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 27, 2021 — They say that the Díaz-Canel government is not responsible for the national economic disaster. But every day they give us evidence of it. The State newspaper Granma now echoes a report of the communist leader’s day of “voluntary work” in the Havana neighborhood of Fontanar, in the Base Business Unit (UEB) Granja Boyeros, belonging to the Metropolitan Agricultural Company.

Díaz-Canel turned up there to celebrate his own July 26, and to send a message to “the generations of living Cubans whose working days at the foot of the furrow during those seasons we will never forget. They are at the center of all nostalgia, the time to remind us that working with our own hands is a necessity and a privilege that Cuba deserves to have.”

Tremendous. If he believes that, he’s lost. If he doesn’t believe it, he’s a great actor. Those of us who are Díaz-Canel’s age think of volunteer work with anything but nostalgia. It was a coercive nightmare of a regime that forced everyone to think and act in the same way.

Volunteer work was a communist instrument of social coercion implanted at the very beginning of the revolutionary process to divide Cubans. Those who went to volunteer work were continue reading

the favorites, the ones who deserved praise and rewards. Those who freely showed their disagreement were classified as ‘gusanos‘ (worms), enemies of the revolution, and were professionally and socially punished. Castroism was very simple in mechanisms of punishment and reward. Either you were with him, or against him. There was nothing in between.

Voluntary work, linked to the land, failed to increase productivity and procure more food. Quite the opposite. Requiring people lacking agricultural knowledge to work in various tasks, many of them specialized, caused production yields to plummet.

Any responsible politician would have immediately put a stop to volunteer work by observing those indicators, but Fidel Castro, who already had millions of dollars in Soviet subsidies at that time, thought otherwise. And volunteer work was not only maintained, but the specialized Schools in the Countryside were established for high school youth, and UMAP (“Military Units to Aid Production’) farms for homosexuals.

Those were the years of the communist regime’s greatest cruelty, so I don’t know how nostalgically Díaz-Canel should remember those dramas unless he has a masochistic bent.

Granma’s chronicle doesn’t hold back, and presents Díaz-Canel’s workday as a gondola ride through the canals of Venice. Yes “a heartwarming morning . . . closing with a relaxed meeting, marked by music, photographs that many young people took with the president, and a joy that is born of mutual understanding, of feeling that they had celebrated, in the best way, a special day in the country’s history.” A way of hiding from the reality of arrests and very summary trials of those who peacefully protested in the demonstrations.

Also, volunteer work is not your thing. And immediately the act came truffled with corporate elements of the regime that is currently immersed in a serious crisis. It is not surprising that the National Coordinator of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) and Hero of the Republic of Cuba, the former spy, Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, passed by. Whose presence should be interpreted as reinforcing the most hardline wing of the regime to Díaz Canel, the encouragement he needs to continue with the arrests and summary trials of the protesters. There were, of course, allusions to Fidel “who from being an accused went on to become a defender of the people through ‘History will Absolve me'” in an interpretation of historical events as always manipulated and uncertain.

But the best of the gondola ride came when Díaz-Canel wanted to talk about the future.

And that set off alarms, due to its dangerous distancing from reality. The pact with the hardline sector has worked. And instead of Díaz-Canel talking to the Cuban people to resolve the crisis, he shut himself up in the postulates that have led him to disaster. Maybe from sunstroke during the short day of volunteer work. These things happen.

The most surprising thing was that he then mentioned the entrepreneurship of young people, as well as continuing to promote more spaces for dialogue. The usual dialogue, that of “inside the revolution everything, outside the revolution nothing.” He questioned “the difficulties they have been facing in the midst of Covid-19” without providing solutions to them, and proposed “increasing the legal foundation for everything that society undertakes; and continuing to improve our concepts, our culture of public and business administration.”

From so much talk about companies and entrepreneurs, some were left waiting for an allusion to volunteer work, but there was only a reference to “community work that has always been developed in the revolution; to make the socialist state enterprise more efficient; to renew the ways of participation of the population; to renew the role of mass organizations,” while insisting on “eliminating the causes of marginalization, of crime, of vulnerable people and families.”

Then he talked about preventing children from dropping out of school, so that they don’t become criminals, so that young people disengaged from study and work don’t become criminals, adding that “if someone commits a crime, that we have a social program in prison that is capable of transforming them, so that after they leave prison the society is able to assimilate them and they can feel that they are advancing in society and not regressing.”

After citing the features that distinguish us, he introduced the concept of “creative resistance,” not understood as overwhelming, but quite the opposite: “to resist and see how I advance, how I rip a bit out of each problem every day, how I multiply myself, how I grow, how I find prosperity faster for myself and for everyone.”

They have no remedy.

According to Díaz-Canel, creative resistance and unity “are the two conquests that want to fragment us, if they promote hatred, division, if they take away our ability to resist creatively, then they colonize us because we lose our identity.”

Obsessive and outdated ideas that have very little to do with the reality of the times and the demands of a society that is fed up with so much talk, and wants actions, like those demanded by the protesters in the streets of San Antonio de los Baños.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Social Protests, the Embargo, and the Cuban Communist Regime

The Cuban dictatorship has militarized the streets of the island to prevent the protests from multiplying. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 26, 2021 – It’s easier to blame the US embargo or ’blockade’ for all the ills of the Cuban economy. And also to believe it. But this is nothing more than an irresponsible attitude, which has reached its end.

The Cubans who came out to protest on July 11, and who will do so again at another time, know that the problems in the economy are due to poor management by their leaders. they are through with excuses, and blaming others.

The propaganda of the regime through its media, sometimes suffocating, doesn’t get through to Cubans, who are ready to demand accountability as soon as the right moment arrives. People turn off the television when the “Roundtable” comes on. A program lacking in credibility.

The demand for holding the rulers responsible begins to take shape. Responsibility for having created an economic system that restrains existing productive potentials, that just seeks to appropriate the latest hard currency entering the country in order to spend it on the objectives of that system.

Responsibility for having frustrated for 63 years the aspirations of several generations of Cubans to continue reading

have their own private assets, to be owners of the means of production, and to use them according to criteria of profitability.

Responsibility for installing a distribution mechanism based on rationing and scarcity, eliminating the efficient action of the market in driving the economy.

The list of responsibilities is so extensive that we could occupy a good part of this blog space, and all of them could be summarized in one: the communist social model does not work.

It has not worked, nor can it be expected to do so in the future. Its days have come to an end, and Cuban society wants change. This can be done in one of two ways: either through a rupture that puts and end to a stage that can be classified as permanently lost; or through government negotiation and dialogue with society to promote an orderly transition.

Of course there are numerous intermediate positions between these two, and nothing is yet to be written about the future of Cuba, but there is no doubt that the people spoke very clearly on July 11, and the regime should take note.

Clearly a change is coming, and a profound one. Even within the regime there is no room for inflexible positions, since many leaders have become aware that things are really very bad, so that there is no place for superficial changes or cosmetic patches, but rather more profound changes and changes must be made, and quickly, with positive expectations for the future. There are many leaders who know that this chimera of a “prosperous and sustainable socialism” will never be achieved because the model itself prevents it.

Despite this perception of reality, the Cuban communists continue to delay any structural change that modifies the fundamental aspects that prevent the economy from improving. In the current situation, they rely on the effects of the pandemic and the loss of income from tourism, among others, but in reality they are fleeing from assuming responsibilities, and that behavior is not the most appropriate.

Cubans increasingly disbelieve the story of the sanctions against Cuba and that the interference of the United States complicates the process from within, and they see it as a permanent excuse, aimed at avoiding necessary changes that, moreover, are urgent.

Perhaps for this reason the recent sanctions against members of the regime have not provoked a reaction similar to previous times, largely because many Cubans know that these measures have a limited duration and appear more as symbolic reprimands than anything else.

The authorities look askance at the neighbor to the north because what really worries them is that there will be a final cut in remittances. Much more than a denunciation of members of State Security (known as black berets) or a high-ranking military officer, as has happened. The serious thing about the situation is that while this was happening, hundreds of very summary trials were being conducted against the participants in the social protests on the island without procedural guarantees, sending people to prison.

The time has come to speak accurately. Cuba is neither blockaded nor embargoed by thousands of ships that surround the island. That image is absurd and really only existed for a few days when the Soviets tried to turn the island into a base to launch their nuclear missiles at cities in the United States.

The blockade does not exist; Cuba trades with, and receives investments, tourists, and capital from 192 countries of the world, with absolute freedom. As long as there are analysts and observers who entertain themselves in codifying something that does not exist, it is not helpful.

The debate must be about the problems and solutions that are within Cuba, and which have to be resolved among Cubans. Thinking about Obama, Trump, or Biden, believing that they are worried about losing votes, and that therefore they act in one way or another because of  electoral pressure, is a misconception.

Relations between the United States and Cuba are well defined by a partisan consensus that has much to do with the inability of the Cuban authorities to resolve a dispute that, moreover, was originally caused by Cuba, and not by the United States.

The Havana regime holds the key to resolving this dispute between the two countries. The Cuban people during their peaceful protests on July 11 said this very clearly.

But the regime’s wanting to do it or being interested in doing it is another thing altogether. To conduct a debate about concessions by the United States to soften these measures is to waste time.

The hunger and desire for democracy in Cuba have less and less to do with the alleged embargo/blockade, no matter how much the regime pretends otherwise. The solution to end it all is in the hands of the regime. It is past time to get to work.

 Translated by Tomás A.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuba’s State Newspaper Doesn’t Know What Democracy and the Rule of Law Are

Fidel Castro speaking to the multitudes. Among his famous pronouncements: “Within the Revolution, everything, against the Revolution, nothing.” and “Elections? What for?”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elias Amor Bravo, Economist, 24 July 2021 — The Cuban communists believe so little in democracy that they go so far as to explicitly insult democrats with the things they say and do. Only a completely ignorant person who despises government of and for all people, can say in a headline of Granma, the official newspaper that expresses the opinion of the regime, “the people of the United States send syringes in order to save us, while their government seeks to sow chaos in Cuba.”

This distinction between the people and the government in democratic countries  makes no sense, since in a democracy, the sovereign people elect their government, which, once it assumes authority, directs the affairs of the nation serving the interests of everyone. Understanding these principles isn’t easy for those who have spent 63 years making and unmaking the destinies of the nation at will, so that later, Spanish or Italian deputies will have doubts about whether the Cuban communist regime is a dictatorship.

At Granma they are surprised that in the United States there can be a difference of opinion between a government and the society it represents. But clearly that’s the case. In a democracy, all ideologies coexist without a second thought. Coexistence allows societies to advance from a plurality of opinions. Fortunately, in democracies, there is no Fidel Castro who proclaims to the world “Within the revolution, everything, against the revolution, nothing.” Or the even more insulting, “Elections? What for?” continue reading

In a democracy, it is even legitimate for the government to have a different opinion from that of other social sectors; but there is no repression or torture, there are no political crimes. The important thing is compliance with the Law, which arises from popular sovereignty represented in a legislature in which all voices fit. Justice dictates sentences based on these laws, regardless of political power. In a democracy, there are no enemies, only adversaries, and differing political options are measured in the electoral arena, where all parties compete for maximum social support.

I insist that those writing for Granma at the dictates of the regime should not be surprised that the US solidarity movement with Cuba announces the shipment of six million syringes for vaccination against COVID-19, and, at the same time, that “the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) shouts from the rooftops that now, in order to give the counterrevolution access to the latest two million dollars destined for subversion, it must adapt its proposals to what happened after July 11.”

This difference in positions between civil society and government is what the communists don’t acknowledge. When they rule, the Bolshevik hierarchy prevails: you are either with them or against them. Intermediate positions are not valid. Adversaries must be eliminated or demonized as despicable “gusanos” (worms), who are not given the slightest opportunity for involvement. Those who survive the degrading political repression have no choice but to flee to other countries. Cuba has 2.2 million natives abroad, many of them people who want to live on the island, but are not allowed to.

The Cuban communists cannot understand this. It doesn’t fit with their obtuse, Cold-War-era thinking, that in a democratic country a government agency makes rules and acts according to the guidelines of the government on which it depends. Its operation is regulated and subject to periodic audits. It responds to a legislature that demands accountability, and if the taxpayer’s money is not spent correctly, responsibilities are assessed. This procedure is unknown in Cuba and goes in other directions. USAID, like all U.S. government agencies, works like this.

But at the same time, in free societies there may be associations, organizations, and entities in civil society and the private sector that hold positions different from those of the government. They finance themselves with their own resources, design their plans independently of political power, and answer to their owners. In Cuba, obviously, these types of entities are prohibited by the communist regime, except for mass organizations that act as conduits of communist power.

Returning to the issue at hand, the Cuban communists are obsessed with everything that threatens their imposed position of authority. Justifying whatever they need to, they don’t care about clandestine arrests, the absence of habeas corpus, and slapdash summary trials that condemn even minors. For this reason, USAID announced a few days ago that it would grant financing of up to two million dollars to those projects that promote democracy and human rights in Cuba. What’s wrong with that? If the Cuban communists don’t voluntarily take steps toward democracy, this type of strategy seems to be the most successful way to help the Cuban people.

It is logical that they attack the government of the United States and its institutions, describing their programs as “one of the most obvious interventionist strategies of the United States around the world, and historically used against the Cuban revolution,” and although there is some truth in this, there is no doubt that if this “strategy” were successful, many problems would be solved that do not seem to have a solution, but that the Cuban people demand, whether you see the proclamations of July 11 or not.

There is nothing wrong with the solidarity movements of the United States, Spain or Mexico sending syringes or whatever else is needed to Cuba. Hopefully the regime would act with greater flexibility in all international cooperation programs directed at the island, and not only with those that benefit its interests. In the different democratic countries, pro-Castro associations operate with absolute freedom, exert pressure on governments, and keep an active watch on the most active opponents and dissidents. In Cuba, no one thinks of the operation of organizations that are contrary to the regime. They are all outlawed.

This is reality, and we are not inventing anything new. Cuban democrats want the best for Cuba and we are not going to question the shipments of syringes, medicines, antibiotics, etc., that Cuban industry does not produce or that it sells abroad before delivering them to its citizens, if this can help our fellow citizens who live on the island.

But what we will never question are the legitimate actions of a democratic government, because that would be throwing stones at our own roof. The governments of the United States, Spain, and Mexico, are entitled to follow the political actions that they understand to be the most appropriate to promote peaceful changes to democracy in Cuba.

And the same can be done by the European Parliament, the OAS and any democratic organization or country that sympathizes with the Cuban people, subjected to a one-party dictatorship which has remained in power for 63 years without allowing free and democratic elections.

Confrontation against the people and government of the United States is a failure of responsibility, a shame that reveals the true face of the Cuban communist regime. They are running out of ammunition.

Translated by Tomás A.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuba: There is No Time Left, You Have to Act

Pre-Covid, tourists take pictures in the Havana’s Plaza Vieja. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 22, 2021 – No one should be deceived. The Spanish or Italian tourist who travels to Cuba for pleasure and vacation has as much interest in the current political situation on the island as those legendary Swedes who came to Spain in the 60s in search of sun, sand, and the “macho Iberian.”

Those Scandinavian women didn’t know who Franco was, didn’t give a damn that freedom fighters in the cities were being arrested by the secret police, or that the trade unionists were seeking sanctuary in churches to claim holy ground and avoid repression by secret police.

They were going to spend a week or two in Benidorm, the Costa Brava, Marbella, or Mallorca; in short, more or less the same thing that happens with Italians and Spaniards in Cuba, who choose Varadero, María La Gorda, or Holguín to enjoy paradise.

Since the “Special Period,” tourism trends to the Island have been adapting to the times, but rarely does a tourist seek out activists or dissidents, and in many cases they even reject continue reading

them. Here we also find no differences with the “Swedish”.

I remember not long ago that some Spanish friends who visited Cuba told me that when they saw the Ladies in White marching with their gladioli near the church of Santa Rita, the tour guide informed them that they were crazy, or rather, mentally ill, and simply recommended ignoring them, let alone approaching them. When they returned to Spain and learned who those brave women were, they couldn’t believe it.

The same thing happens with foreign investors. Spaniards, Canadians, Italians, or Dutch come to Cuba to do business, involving very large sums of money, deal with people who are Party leaders holding positions in the Administration bureaucracy. They are trapped in a vicious circle that they escape at the earliest opportunity. Even those who try to take advantage of the benefits offered by the Government for those doing business in the Port of Mariel  Special Benefits Zone, find that they cannot freely hire the most qualified workers, but must resort to a state entity which, at its discretion, supplies them with the employees that they designate. And they leave.

In Spain, the manufacturers of capital equipment and intermediate goods established during the Franco dictatorship continued to expand their scale of production during the democratic stage, and few if any businesses left the country forced by political change and supposed situational requirements.

One might think that tourism and foreign investment could open for Cuba an opportunity for growth and development similar to the one that Spain experienced for decades in order for it to reach its current levels of prosperity. It’s not advisable to think that it’s the same. Because it’s not.

There are very important differences that explain why those small coastal hotels on beautiful Mediterranean beaches could be transformed into international hotel chains with thousands of well-managed and profitable shopping districts. Or, that the small open-air cafes could evolve and end up obtaining several Michelin stars. Similarly, car and truck manufacturers and foreign companies established in the 60s and 70s did not leave the country during democracy–quite the opposite–and reached significant levels of development.

In Cuba, no one should wait for these processes. Where does the fault lie? Of course, it’s not necessary to think about the blockade or embargo, which is always the standby argument of the communists. The responsibility is much closer than what is believed, and has to do with the economic and social model that governs the country, based on the Marxist-Leninist ideology that turns the human being into a slave of state political power. A system that has proven to be a failure, and for this reason it has been disappearing in all the countries of the world where it was implanted by force, allowing economic capabilities to appear that have improved the quality of life and prosperity of their inhabitants.

Cubans see that the years pass, and that the communist ideological obsession prevents things from improving. Tourism, which set the goal of 5 million travelers years ago, struggles to survive the Covid-19 pandemic without approaching the figures cited in any year. Foreign investment stagnates and, what is worse, decreases, not only because of the global economic crisis, but because the regime does not offer attractive alternatives, nor does it allow international entrepreneurs to do business freely with self-employed workers.

If the economy prospered in Spain, yet doesn’t in Cuba, despite both betting on similar drivers, it’s necessary to wonder why. And it’s not necessary to go very far to discover that Cuba’s 2019 constitution maintains a Marxist-Leninist model in which ownership of the means of production is in the hands of the state, and the market as an instrument of allocation is subject to government intervention.

And that this model is precisely what prevents the Cuban economy from loosening up and improving the living conditions of the people. This model is a backwardness, an anachronistic element that no one wants to maintain, as the Chinese or Vietnamese have done, and that Cuba, its authorities, will have no choice but to do the same, and more drastically and without so many detours.

Social protests throughout Cuba have clearly indicated which path the communist authorities should follow: negotiate and disappear. Nobody wants communism, nobody wants it to continue the same as it is now. Cubans want change, and they are willing to fight for it. The way is clear. You have to get to work as soon as possible. One minute wasted in this process can be terrible.

Translated by Tomás A.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Remittances to Cuba: A Detailed and Cogent Explanation

Many families use remittance money to remodel their homes. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 21, 2021 – President Biden has ordered his Administration to carry out a rigorous study of the remittances that are sent from the United States to Cuba. The objective is to determine how residents of the United States can send money to the country without benefiting the framework of the communist regime. The idea is that remittances should serve to provide a better quality of life for Cubans and not benefit the regime, an idea that stumbles over unquestionable facts.

The Cuban economy is completely controlled and determined by the state. The means of production are state-owned and the loopholes that exist for private enterprise are very narrow and complex because they require resorting to the black market while also operating in the crosshairs of State Security.

This being the case, this Remittances Working Group created by Biden will have a difficult time solving the Sudoku puzzle that will allow “identifying the most effective way to send remittances directly to the Cuban people.” without going through the control of the regime. Others have tried it before, and ended up throwing in the towel. continue reading

There is no doubt the remittances that Cubans living in the United States send to their relatives on the island have become the main source of foreign exchange for the Cuban economy during the pandemic. Without tourists, without oil from Venezuela to re-export, with limited income from doctors posted abroad, without foreign investment and exports of goods, the regime has devised a series of measures to drain this flow of remittances into the state coffers.

At each step taken by the control mechanisms established by the United States Administration to ensure that remittances reached the desired destination, the Cuban regime responded with harsh slaps, showing its absolute opposition to losing control of the money that enters the country by this route. There have been months of intense boxing, in which no one has emerged victorious. Only the people of Cuba who have relatives abroad have been harmed by the measures that have been adopted, on both sides of the Straits of Florida.

The subject of remittances and their effects is well known in the economic literature. So President Biden’s working group would do well to read all the work published by The Havana Consulting Group in recent years, where they work out the dynamics of the economic processes behind such financing.

By way of summary, I advance some conclusions. Remittances are necessary for many Cuban families to get out of situations of misery. But they cannot be used as investment capital or allocated to businesses except in a few cases. Nor can they easily be used for housing, because there is no legal framework for it.

Remittances tend to be spent on essential goods bought in MLC (Freely Convertible Currency) stores, and when they reach a certain level, families use them to indulge in some additional pleasure, in privately run but state-owned restaurants or hotels.

In general, they do not involve improvements in domestic equipment, in the motorization index or even help to finance bank loans, due to the prices and the insecurity that such expenditures generate, almost always associated with explaining where the money comes from. For all these reasons, a good part of the money from remittances moves in informal markets, both in exchange and goods. Even under these conditions, the state exercises its control.

The most obvious example is that the communist economy of Cuba has been prepared by the government to reduce and drain the remittances that reach Cubans, but it is incapable of generating added value with them.

For this reason, remittances in Cuba have not meant an improvement in economic development, well-being, or development of the population, as occurs in other countries, but rather they generate a vicious cycle of dependency that can in no way be considered positive for the national economy.

From the above, it can be concluded that 80-90% of the remittances that arrive in Cuba end up in the hands of the regime, recycled for its operations, almost always of unproductive current expenditure. It is unavoidable. The owner of the productive assets of the country all he has to do is open his hands so that the dollars fall. The control exercised by the communist government over the financial and banking system is absolute. Banks in fact function as state offices with direct links to state security as information agents.

Moreover, communications and new technologies are also under state control, because they are also owned by them. Sending money to Cuba through the financial system and new technologies is to place it directly in the coffers of the state, which Biden does not want to benefit with remittances. If others have failed in this endeavor, what are the possibilities now that the money of Cubans who fled the country which they didn’t want to live in, will serve to support its authoritarian government?

The protests that have rocked the island since July 11 may be a valid argument to advance this issue. Chronic shortages of basic products, restrictions on civil liberties, and the government’s poor management of the Task Order, coupled with the outbreak of the coronavirus, have increased levels of social unrest to unexpected heights. And the government knows it. Its violent and uncontrolled reaction is disproportionate to the social protests that are fully justified by the economic situation. Ceding numantine* positions in matters of reserves is within reach because the regime needs them.

But if nothing is expected from a government used to getting away with it for 63 years, perhaps a little more proactivity could be interesting. Suspending remittances for a time until those responsible for the repression of the demonstrations are identified, or stopping any shipment until the more than 500 who were detained after the protests leave prison, can be a good way to start playing with a firm hand, a game that the communist regime will have lost before it started.

Its dependence on remittances in the current environment in which Venezuela can no longer meet its commitments is critical. Linking the continuity of remittances to steps that the regime would never take on its own initiative can be a good lesson for everyone to understand what is first and foremost in the framework of relations between the United States and Cuba.

It is the carrot and stick doctrine that authoritarian regimes reluctant to grant reforms are perfect for. Then there will be time to facilitate a supposed development of diplomatic and consular relations between the two countries.

If the White House succeeds in its endeavor, so be it. Everything that can contribute to facilitate a transition to democracy, freedoms, and human rights for Cubans is primary.

Someone could say that remittances are essential for the Cubans who receive them and they would be absolutely right.

But freedom, democracy, and political pluralism are fundamental for all Cubans. And that is the message that has to be transmitted to the tyranny. Let’s see if they want to understand.

*Translator’s note: The Spanish expression Defensa numantina may be used to indicate any desperate, suicidal last stand against invading forces. (Source: Wikipedia)

Tomás A.


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Cuban Agriculture and Valdes Mesa, Where the Water Enters the Coconut

Salvador Antonio Valdés Mesa, first vice president of Cuba’s Council of State Council. (Trabajadores)

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Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 23, 2021 – Valdés Mesa seems to have finally discovered “where the water enters the coconut.” Cuba’s State newspaper Granma took a headline from a phrase he used in a meeting with farmers in the provinces of Sancti Spiritus and Ciego de Ávila: “The first one who has to win is the agricultural producer.”

Yes. He’s right. Since the time of the French physiocrat Juan Francisco Quesnay back in the 18th century it has been known that the land has to win, basically because otherwise it is abandoned. That’s easy. Physiocracy* encouraged economic thought for decades to place agriculture at the center of economies, and well into industrialization and later, classical economists relied on agriculture to explain their various models. There is no doubt that the agricultural sector has to produce, and also to be efficient doing so — to earn money, to be profitable.

In Cuba, Valdés Mesa, who judging by his age must have known the flourishing Cuban agriculture before 1959, must be suffering from the unbearable feeling that he is witnessing the end of an economic model that never served any purpose. continue reading

His visits to provinces throughout the country to evaluate the conduct of agricultural production and its immediate prospects must have shown him the harsh reality of failure. For example Ciego de Ávila, with sufficient water reserves due to its geography and water table, as well as workers experienced in the agricultural sector, is trying to boost agricultural production, but gives the impression it is unable to achieve even a self-sufficient supply of food.

Therefore, seeing that the case is lost, wherever he goes Valdés Mesa launches into the same “harangues” (which have already been referred to in earlier entries in this blog). Now, in his rally speeches, attended by everyone from prominent party members, the Minister of Agriculture, and provincial governors, to leaders of state-owned companies and a long list of authorities, everyone listens carefully, applauds, and supports everything the communist leader says.

In this final act, he has returned to the idea that the first and most important thing that farmers and other agricultural producers must achieve “is to produce more food for the people,” and for them “they must win.”

Isn’t it strange that no one looked surprised at these assertions, since it’s well-known that if Cuban agriculture doesn’t produce more, it’s not because of the farmers, but because of the innumerable impediments, obstacles and interferences that the regime imposes to subjugate the producers and limit their earnings to prevent them from getting rich.

It’s one thing to say there are difficulties and shortcomings, as Valdés Mesa does, but another that those problems are always there, that they’re never adequately addressed, and that Cubans continually complain that food doesn’t come. This is something that has to be solved. Now.

The harangue of the old communist leader to increase production addressed the question of the fit of the famous 63 measures approved by the regime to try to boost the agricultural sector, which are not giving the predicted results, since food is still lacking. It’s not strange that the authorities are concerned, because the engines that drove the protests of July 11 are still there, and, at least for the moment, no solution has been found to correct the mess.

That’s why Valdés Mesa said that “this process is slow” and added that “we lack dynamism, we have bureaucracy, and the biggest obstacle is that we haven’t had the capacity to reach all the producers, and if someone should be clear about the measures it is the agricultural producer.”

It’s good that occasionally someone from the regime accepts responsibility, even if it is with a small mouth and a quiet voice. The truth is that immediately afterward, the blockade was trotted out as the first cause of all the evils, to which were added the financial difficulties and the importation of products and services that are necessary. And back to square one, because if we weren’t facing an inefficient agricultural sector, these problems would surely not exist.

The key is that Cuban land produce and make money, as the French Physiocrats of the 18th century wanted. The good thing is that the farmers clearly understand this, and some brave people, annoyed by the tone of his assertions, told Valdés Mesa so.

Cubans have lost their fear, and this is manifested even in notes published by Granma, which admit positions that in many cases are contrary to those of the regime.

What is inconceivable is that areas of Cuban geography specially prepared for agriculture have difficulty achieving stable and continuous production. It would be necessary to consider whether the current design based on mini-industries, or socialist state companies, such as Agropecuaria La Cuba, Isla de Turiguanó Livestock, and Ceballos Agroindustrial, is the most appropriate to produce more. Without a doubt, less state economy and more empowered private sector would provide much better results.

The farmers (such as Jaime de León López, from El Vaquerito Credit and Services Cooperative (CCS); Martín Alonso Gómez, from Reinaldo Maning CCS; Rolando Macías Cárdenas, from CCS José Antonio Echeverría; and Carlos Blanco Sánchez, director of Agropecuaria La Cuba) who participated in the event know that in order to increase production, another less interventionist model is needed, with fewer obstacles, and from which the state withdraws, granting decision-making capacity to the private sector. And above all, to make money, that the land be profitable, and that the scale can be increased through investments.

Needed structural transformations are being delayed unjustifiably and prevent achieving rational and efficient production processes that allow the farmer to “win”, as Valdés Mesa said. The calls of the communist leader to avoid “empty lands”, to promote productive centers, to comply with crop diversification plans, and in short, to follow the 63 measures approved by the government, sounded like an empty coconut after explaining his idea of where the water enters. One more waste of time, and problems that don’t allow procrastination.

*Translator’s note: Physiocracy is an economic theory developed by a group of 18th-century Age of Enlightenment French economists who believed that the wealth of nations derived solely from the value of “land agriculture” or “land development” and that agricultural products should be highly priced. Wikipedia

 Translated by Tomás A.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Worthy Cubans are at the Protests Fighting for Freedom

Young men in plainclothes armed with sticks and bats to confront the protestors in Cuba. (Cubalex)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 16 July 2021 – With nearly 200 people detained and disappeared, because their families say they do not know where to find them, with the Black Berets patrolling through the streets asking random passersby for documentation, with the army and state security forces ready to go out at any moment to forcefully repress whichever protest, Cubans now have in the state newspaper Granma and in president Díaz Canel yet another demonstration of the regime’s stupidity, an example that the Castro brothers’ paradise has ceased to exist, as simple as that.

Turning to quotes from Fidel Castro’s speeches at this point “this country will never again lack patriotic virtues” and with everything that is happening, it is reckless and closes any possibility of finding a way out from what is happening in Cuba. Basically, because Fidel Castro does not serve as an example of reconciliation, possible dialogue and consensus. He never wanted dialogue with anyone, only with himself, and during his life, he generated an exclusionary political and social model, that distinguished, for his own benefit, between revolutionaries and ’worms’. He never wanted to understand the plurality of the Cuban community and when he had the opportunity to clear up unknowns and recover democracy as a political system, he said “elections, for what” which marked the origin of the disaster that came after.

Made and unmade at his whims, based on his priorities, above all in matters of economic affairs closing Cuba in the Bolshevik armor of the Cold War, knowing that he had at his disposal a court of sycophants ready to applaud any of his misdeeds. Basically, because if they didn’t, the weight of the law could fall upon them, the repression or the exile and the bicycle and the pajamas*. With Fidel Castro, his paradise functioned in a very clear way: Either you were with him, or against him, and in the latter case, continue reading

you had to prepare for the worst.

Nobody could question his crazy decisions. He mortgaged the productive capital of the nation several times, expropriating several generations of Cubans, stuck Cuba in the worst warlike conflicts of the world, he confronted his neighbor to the north for political motives, supported terrorist movements and said all kinds of barbarities in the United Nations, receiving enthusiastic applause from many ignorant people. It would be necessary to consider what purpose this painful inheritance he left serves, if it is not to bury it and forget it permanently.

In reality, nothing that Fidel Castro left serves to resolve the real problems of Cuba and much less, the ones that can come in the future. The inheritance is sterile, useless and characterized only by an explosive verbiage of which Cubans are fed up. Only in this way can we understand the spontaneous protests against Ramiro Valdés, who many people identify as a representative of those times.

This is why the fact that they say in Granma that the Revolution is an inheritance that requires continuity seems incredible at this point. What requires what? Don’t lose even a minute of your valuable time. The Revolution does not compel anything. The Revolution could disappear tomorrow and nothing would happen, well, yes, what could happen is that the doors of freedom could open wide and that Cuba would stop being a failed state, without a future. The Revolution has passed by, if it even really existed at all. The social and economic model that was implanted by force in Cuba as of 1959, too. The economy testifies to it, and the social unrest that has provoked the protests has much to do with the anger Cubans have with the conduct of the incompetent government that is incapable of bettering the conditions of their lives.

Granma’s quote about Fidel Castro’s difficult times, referring to a speech from 1992, is not wasted. Then the tyrant said that “difficult times are difficult times. In difficult times the number of hesitant people increases; in difficult times — and this is a law of history — there are those who get confused, there are those who get discouraged, there are those who cower, there are those who soften, there are those who betray, there are those who desert. This happens in every era and in every revolution.”

That vision is consistent with the tyrant’s unhealthy personality. It has nothing to do with reality, because in difficult times societies fight to open spaces to their participation and question those responsible for those visible “difficulties,” as is happening in Cuba at the moment. The obsession with implanting the ’Ordering Task’** on January 1 had to bring with it negative, hard, difficult consequences, as has already happened. It is normal for Cubans to blame those responsible for these decisions. The government and the party. And to make demands of those responsible. Difficult times help understand many things, for example, that the propaganda that tends to destroy the free personality of men ends up dying of ineffectiveness.

The tyrant was right in only one aspect from that phrase cited in Granma. Certainly difficult times “are really when men and women are tested; difficult times are when the ones who are worth something are really tested.” He is absolutely right. Here they have them in front of their noses. The hundreds of thousands of Cubans who went out and will go out again to the streets to fight for freedom and against communism, are the people of worth who are in Cuba, and who want a better future for themselves and for their children. The tyrant could not negate that they are brave people, of courage, full of patriotic virtue for all Cubans, an example to follow. In front of them, the revolutionaries are the ones who travel in busses to repress those who protest and who ask for the “little bag” for their services. The choice is clear. There is no other way to say things.

Fidel Castro said that “there are people who are not aware, there are people who don’t understand, there are people, even, who will never understand.” Of course, to understand him alone was worth it, and for many years what Cubans thought, believed and fought for, was what Fidel Castro offered them. He showed them to think, but when people really put themselves to thinking independently, state security smashed them. Because of that, Fidel Castro accused them of not understanding, because those Cubans simply didn’t think like him, they were worms, a sickness, and they only had one alternative — flee the country.

Díaz-Canel, who by this age should be thinking about the future of Cubans, goes around quoting this speech of the tyrant that can backfire. With this fake wickerwork he could not weave any basket, and he will end up losing the little credibility that he has left, if he has any left at all after inciting a civil war and ordering his “revolutionaries” to smash the “enemies.” The world cannot remain impassive towards this scenario that has opened up in Cuba, and that will surely continue to grow, because the origins of this unease are far from being corrected. The people have simply grown tired of living in the Castros’ paradise.

Translator’s notes:

*Ousted, senior officials in Cuba, told to go home and stay there and keep their mouths shut, are said to be on the “pajama plan.” 

**The so-called ’Ordering Task” — Tarea ordenamiento — is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others. 

Translated by: La Estrellita  


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuba: Notes on a Roundtable with Nothing New to Say

A Cuban entrepreneur operates a micro business during the pandemic. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 15, 2021 – The first reaction of the Cuban communist dictatorship to social protests was the repression and imprisonment of numerous protesters—this is to say, fear. The second has been propaganda, with the Roundtable television program espousing the government’s viewpoints.

Yesterday, this medium led the charge with Manuel Marrero, Cuba’s prime minister, and some speculation. In the end, it was the same as always. Buying time with superficial patches designed to appease social tension but which shortly will prove to be useless. On the other hand, the back and forth between the Cuban communist regime’s two power centers continues, and that tension is no longer hidden. At least, it was clear in the Roundtable, with a relaxed Marrero dressed in a black guayabera.

Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero appearing on the Roundtable program. (Ahora!)

The prime minister began by talking about the blackouts, assuming that it is an issue that worries people and is a factor in the protests. Nevertheless, he came to say that the power plants of Lidio Ramón Pérez (Felton), Antonio Guitera, and Máximo Gómez were not in the process of production and required “synchronization.” This a major issue behind the rolling-blackouts.

In addition, the PM warned that the matter was not resolved, so the blackouts will continue as long as the origin is not resolved, and this origin is none other than the lack of funding. He set the goal of permanently having 500 megawatts of reserve. This would be the only way to cover one of the large plants if it failed. The issue is that currently there is a reserve of 133 megawatts.

According to Marrero, in order to achieve the 500 megawatts reserve, the entire process of repairing and starting up the currently paralyzed machines must be continued. Many wonder what prevents these tasks from being performed on a regular basis, or alternatively, what the workers of these state monopolies do. Marrero did not speak about that. continue reading

Conclusion: there will continue to be blackouts, they will arrive without warning, suddenly, when people least expect it, and they will continue to affect the population. There is no alternative. And he ended by blaming Covid-19 and the growing need from quarantine centers, which has required protecting hospital circuits. They have had to resort to generators (12,000), which pollute and are the only response the regime can produce to the electrical chaos.

However, Marrero concluded by saying that the national energy situation is moving towards stabilization, and once again he insisted on the need to “save as much as we can save,” an argument that exasperates people who do not know what else to do to save. The dependence on oil, from Venezuela, that does not arrive leads us to think that the situation will not improve and that the minister lied. We will see.

In regards to vaccinations, he announced that by the end of August, almost 60% of the population will be fully vaccinated, but the difficulty is in producing enough vaccines, a statement that collides with recent announcements about possible sales of the vaccines developed in Cuba — Abdala and Soberana — to countries like Iran.

BioCubaFarma had delivered 3.4 million doses to the Ministry of Public Health and in June another 4.8 million, so that by July 12, 7,618,028 doses have been applied. As a percentage, this volume is close to group immunity in Cuba, yet Covid-19 is increasingly out of control throughout the country. Someone must have thought that something strange might be happening, because if, as Marrero said, Cuba exceeds the world average for the percentage of people who have received at least one dose, something is wrong.

He continued by stating that the Abdala vaccine’s efficacy of 92.28% places it among the most effective in the world, but without citing research from the WHO or other authorized bodies. He spoke of pediatric trials, the complexities of Covid-19, the difficulty of producing vaccines, in short, he did not say anything that is not known, without acknowledging that in the battle against Covid-19 Cuba (the great healthcare power) has lost. And that also causes discontent in the population.

At this point, the program segued into demagoguery and populism. The first came out of the blue and was unexpected. The regime authorizes the importing of food, hygiene, and medicines through special means. Remember, in this regard, the stores that only take payment in hard (i.e. foreign) currencies (MLC) were also announced as temporary and have been in operation for almost two years.

The decision of the regimen is justified by the shortage of drugs in hospitals and pharmacies. In other words, Cubans who come from abroad will be able to bring medicines without limits, an activity that will generate business, because the national system is collapsed due to the shortage of foreign exchange. Although the Cuban national industry produces almost 80% of the official drugs, the most affected products are related to antihypertensives, antibiotics, analgesics, contraceptives, vitamins and products for dental use.

At this point in the program, the United States embargo appeared, as it was responsible for the fact that suppliers, due to pressure and new US government measures, were unable to guarantee shipments. Marrero did not mention that Cuba’s trade with the United States currently includes more than 50 million dollars of medical imports.

He highlighted the measure, which is due to the priority of the production of medicines to combat covid-19 and the hospital network, for hemodialysis, hypertensive, antibiotics, diabetics and oncology patients, as well as for quarantine centers and the network of pharmacies. There is no doubt that more than one Cuban will be vaccinated with vaccines from abroad, which are more reliable.

In addition to medicines, food and hygiene items may be brought from abroad to natural persons, a decision that will relaunch the ’mule’ business, at levels similar to those before the MLC stores began operating. In fact, limitations on the quantities per type of article allowed are no longer in force, allowing for the free importation of these goods and also, as a gift, free of customs duties.

In essence, exceptionally and temporarily, immediately (Monday, July 19) the communist regime of Cuba authorizes passengers with accompanying luggage to import of food, personal hygiene and cleaning products, and medicines without limit and free of payment of tariffs until December 31, 2021. The limits will be set by the airline. It is a shame that the regime recognizes that it cannot feed the population or meet their demands for hygiene and medicine, and throws in the towel. The loss in foreign exchange that is will experience for this decision is in the millions.

Marrero then referred to the new measures for the distribution of regulated food. So complex is the communist bureaucracy that the case of people who have settled in other provinces, even without legal address, and who do not have a ration book in the place where they reside, have to be evaluated. It is intended to update this regulation that what should be done is to delete it.

Some 30,000 people are in this situation, mostly in the capital, although it also occurs in other territories. They also talked about the measures in the agriculture sector that, according to Marrero, have allowed an increase planting plans and have created the basis for moving forward, but he did not offer a single piece of information. And about the monetary system, he limited himself to saying that “decisions continue to be made regarding issues that arose during the implementation.” And a little more.

Another populist measure announced at the Round Table is the elimination of the obligation to use the salary scale for the payment of wages. It was the economy minister who took the floor to explain this matter.

He pointed out, by way of introduction, that on May 26, in a session of the Council of Ministers, the process of improvement of economic actors was approved, which includes the non-state sector and the state sector, with the state company as the main subject of the economic model.

And he cited the two measures approved for implementation in the state company. On the one hand he presented an update on the status of the process of elaboration of the legal norms on micro, small and medium enterprises, self-employment and non-agricultural cooperatives and, on the other hand, with reference to the agreements of the 8th Communist Party Congress, pointed out that the improvement of the remuneration system for the work contributed, that is, how the salary is set in the socialist state enterprise, was one of the priorities set.

The first steps have been taken in modification of the payment systems and the incorporation of the distribution of the profit as mobile income of the workers and the government has agreed to eliminate the obligation to use the salary scale for the payment of salaries in state-owned companies.

As the minister said, it is “a measure of great depth and depth, which gives autonomy to the direction of the state company and a great deal of responsibility. The payment of salary by a scale that, in practical terms, is already approved by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, which is not the same as having an approved salary fund and having the autonomy to distribute that fund in correspondence with the different positions, activities, professions of the staff in the company.” Of course not. The decision can lead to a spiral of wage increases without a productivity counterpart that ends up resulting in a lack of profitability of the companies, which forces them to come up with more subsidies from the budget.

For this measure to have an impact on the business sector, no matter how gradually it is imposed, productivity and competitiveness devices fail, which depend on market demand and technology. It is like building a house starting with the roof. Playing with salary scales and breaking the principles of “Cuban collective bargaining” without reforming the basic principles of the economic system can be a disaster for the field of labor relations.

The minister recognized this when he said that companies have to “have accounting, organization, development in human resources management, adequate internal control, which allows us to test and generalize this measure to the rest of the economy until it reaches all the state companies.” Ah, what don’t they have?

It is fine to increase the salary of workers, but productivity is essential and if companies are not free to configure their productive structure, this measure is not going anywhere.  The minister knows that if he wants to respect the principle that the more that is earned the more wealth is generated, the more efficient it is and the more it contributes to the State, there is no alternative but to privatize the business system, and establish a respectable framework of proprietary rights. There is no other way.

It is not a question of giving the non-state sector “certain freedom to set the amount of money paid to workers, which we are incorporating into the operation and management of the socialist state enterprise.” It is about liberalizing the technical and organizational elements linked to the productive structure so that companies can make decisions freely, both state and non-state.

Next, the Minister of Economy made reference to the new measures regarding the ways of functioning and operating of the micro, small and medium state enterprise, as part of the strengthening of the socialist state enterprise itself, which is owned by the state, assuming it must have a role distinct from that in a private company. The question is immediate, why should it be this way? There is no reason why the management of a company, state or non-state, is different. Both must respond to their boards of directors in terms of profitability, producing goods and services with demand in the market and at good prices.

Although the minister does not believe it, the budgeted units, companies and Higher Organizations of Business Management, and also scientific centers and universities, must act as described. The issue of mirco, small and medium-sized businesses (MSMEs) is being circled a lot and there is the feeling that the communist government does not want them to be free of, but rather subject to, political control. Bad business. Free enterprise does not believe in subordination of any kind or in political hierarchies or obedience. It only responds to the board of directors and its clients and stakeholders. The owner is the owner, and must be responsible for his company to workers and customers. Any patching is inefficient and will not make MSMEs work.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Change to Democracy in Cuba Has Started

“Cuba’s communists have no remedy.”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 12 July 2021 — Cuba’s communists have no remedy. They destroy the economy and peaceful coexistence in the country, and instead of seeking a solution to the devastation they have created, they meet in their exclusive Sanhedrin, the Political Bureau of the party’s central committee, to analyze what they call “provocations orchestrated by counterrevolutionary elements, organized and financed from the United States with destabilizing purposes.”

On the other hand, and it could not be otherwise, they give the highest appraisal  to the “call from comrade Díaz Canel” which, in case someone does not remember it, was a plea to promote the civil confrontation. In this are the Cuban communists in their conclave, which according to official media included the participation of Raúl Castro. Ah! But did anyone think that the last of the Castros had left power?

The sudden call, the messages of support for Díaz Canel and the strange presence of Raúl Castro (strange because some information placed him in Venezuela), confirm what is already known. Cuban communism is in its lowest hours. It does not know what to do against popular movements very critical of the model. People don’t just want aid, medicine and food. People scream for freedom and an end to communism.

This time, the protests, broadcast in real time thanks to telephones and social networks, have not been anticipated by the organs of civil espionage and State Security Intelligence, and thus the communist conclave in which, at a minimum, some pegs are going to be tightened. That’s fine. To the extent that there are people who will receive punishment for continue reading

not having been able to foresee what is happening, and even, for not repressing and punishing the mobilized people with the maximum force, the greater the number of people who will break with the official line and leave their communist militant membership card, and later, you already know. From one day to the next, Ceausescu in Romania, ended up executed by the participants of the same demonstration that he had called in his support.

The lessons that the communists should learn from Díaz Canel from what is happening in Cuba are several and some of them have been anticipated in this blog.

First, that the Cuban people are fed up with communism as an official and political doctrine. That the model of the 2019 constitution does not serve to make the country work, and that the experiments rarely go well, such as the Ordering Task (la Tarea Ordenamiento), and the stores that take payment only in freely convertible currency (MLC).

Second, for the same reason, the people want freedoms and a legal framework for coexistence of a democratic and plural nature. The people do not want a single party and neither do they want the dictatorship of the proletariat. People do not agree with Díaz Canel on many things, but perhaps the most important is that everyone believes that Cuba is a dictatorship, no matter how many rights the leaders list.

Third, that Díaz Canel has failed in just two years and so has his political project. And that before it gets worse, his fate would be to remove him from the presidency. The problem is who to propose, and above all, to do what? Because this is the important thing, regardless of the individuals. To know where Cuba is going.

Fourth, the propaganda of the regime is over. Despite the pressure exerted by this, at all levels, the popular demonstrations show that an discourse that is an alternative to the official Roundtable TV program and the state newspaper Granma has taken hold in the population, showing that the institutional communication policy has also failed.

Fifth, and as a second derivative of the previous one, one cannot be blaming the United States for everything bad, the blockade, the embargo, etc., etc. It is still curious that fewer than 15 days ago the regime obtained a political “victory” in the United Nations by obtaining a large majority against the United States for the embargo, and while that was happening and the official media did nothing but talk about this issue, in Cuba the machinery for social explosion was heating up.

Sixth, the economy is important. The social unrest caused by the popular uprising has much to do with the deterioration of the economy as a result of the Ordering Task that began to be applied on January 1. Last year, with the pandemic at its highest levels, people weathered the crisis and there were no protests. But this year, with the uncontrolled peso exchange rate, triple-digit inflation, nominal wages losing purchasing power, subsidies plummeting, and people distressed by the lack of food, all of them effects of Ordering Task, the situation has changed and the responsibility lies with the government and its stubbornness for implementing an unnecessary policy, poorly designed, poorly executed and lacking in rigor and credibility.

Seventh, to believe that this social outbreak can be controlled and eliminated through the repression of the state security apparatus. Big mistake. The protesters have clearly shouted “we are not afraid” and this message is essential to understanding what is taking place in Cuba, which is a breakdown of the framework of coexistence imposed by the communist regime. More repression will make it very difficult to get out of the hole, what they must do is open spaces or disappear. There is no alternative.

Eighth, international attention to Cuba is at a maximum. Unlike previous crises that could go more or less unnoticed, there is also a general understanding, support and adherence to the people who spontaneously participate in the demonstrations that spread throughout the country. The main world leaders have warned Cuba of the consequences of applying harsh repression against protesters. It will be necessary to see what happens to the disappeared and detained, who number in the hundreds.

Ninth, there is the impression that the institutionality of the regime does not serve to solve the underlying problems that hit the country, and that there is no replacement for it. Raúl Castro’s participation in the communist conclave confirms that there is no future, but that one lives in the past, a remote past that was thought to be surpassed, and that returns to the fore from the worst places in memory.

Tenth, Díaz Canel is wrong to believe that those who support him, the “revolutionaries,” are the owners of the street. He is wrong, because there are really many fewer of them. And if democratic elections were held at this time, the offer led by Díaz Canel could be extra-parliamentary. The communists, who feel supported by their leaders, will change their shirts tomorrow and are at the forefront of political change. It has happened in all dictatorships that have evolved to democracy. And it can happen in Cuba. Ending up alone is very sad.

The seed is in the ground and will bear fruit. As much as they want to achieve the opposite, the people have spoken and done so with first-rate clarity. The leaders, if they were responsible, would go to work. They are not, and for that reason, the worst awaits them, a long agony that can bring about the collapse. Recognizing that Cuba has begun a march towards freedom, political pluralism, democracy and respect for human rights, without the communists, is something more than evident. Trying to stop that process, crazy.


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Now, the Street Belongs to Everyone in Cuba

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, in his television appearance on July 11. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Valencia, 12 July 2021 — On an important day for freedom and democracy in Cuba, Díaz-Canel, in an improvised appearance on television, could not think of anything  to say other than “the order of combat is given: Revolutionaries take to the streets.”

A bad business. Pitting some Cubans against others is a bad precedent that can lead to a civil war. Fortunately, the Cubans who took to the streets are peaceful people, who only aspire to live better, enjoy the benefits of work and get rid of the repressors of State Security that harass them daily.

On the other hand, with the eternal communist propaganda, Díaz-Canel places the conflict exactly where it is not, which is on the anguished people. The problem is him, his economic policies, the disastrous result of the ’Ordering Task’*. He was warned and, with everything, he decided to go ahead. Now he has what was expected.

Díaz-Canel acknowledges that the situation is difficult. Neither more nor less than is being experienced in other countries of the Caribbean, Latin America and the world. Cuba is no exception. Covid-19 hits the world economy hard and even developed countries resent the current scenario. continue reading

The difference with Cuba is that no one, in their right mind, has inplemented a hard adjustment policy in the midst of the pandemic, Rather there is an inopportune policy, incorrectly designed and poorly implemented, forced by the ideological circumstances of a communist congress. And now its effects are here.

Blaming the United States embargo for what is happening no longer believed by anyone. Credit has been exhausted. The Cubans who came out to protest know that the only one who suffocates the economy is Díaz-Canel and, therefore, the social outbreak is already here. There’s no turning back. Díaz-Canel is responsible for the food shortage in the country and the inability to boost the economy. If Venezuela can no longer ship its compromised oil, it’s a bad business, but the fault lies with him. The campaigns to discredit the Cuban communist regime are deserved, and more will come, because the credit has run out.

Half of the television appearance was directed to attacking the United States and the other half, to avoid personal responsibility for everything that happened. Díaz-Canel is alone, he no longer has General Raúl Castro protecting his excesses. The communist organization that took to the streets yesterday in response to his call does not faithfully reflect the new Cuban society. It crumbles like a sugar cuba, it has no future. And that loneliness in the dome of power terrifies Díaz-Canel, who does not understand how it is possible that he is not loved.

Cuban communists do not know how to manage social protest, because they have experienced 63 years of leading an endless project that has resulted in failure. And now, they are clinging to a power that no longer responds to social needs, nor to the demands of these times.

All authoritarian regimes end this way, some in traumatic situations like Ceausescu’s Romania. Díaz-Canel knows that he will never be the Cuban Gorbachev, and that terrifies him. He has lost the opportunity offered by the historical scenario for a profound transformation of Cuban society, and now he is afraid, and he is throwing his “militants” into a civil war that, in advance, they have lost.

Does Díaz-Canel really believe that, if there were no such thing as a ’blockade’, the current situation in Cuba would be much better, that is, and his chances of remaining in power indefinitely would be greater? He is wrong. The worst thing is that he believes that his regime is not a dictatorship because it gives healthcare to the population and seeks the well-being of all.

Once again he is wrong. The people no longer believe this argument that could serve Fidel Castro 40 years ago. The Cuban communist dictatorship, for the many programs and public policies that it deploys for everyone, is a dictatorship that vindicates violence, the confrontation of one against another and the use of an undemocratic, contemptuous and reactionary language that does not contribute to, much less calm, the situation.

Díaz-Canel’s television appearance was a good example of this by introducing a new figure, the “confused revolutionaries,” who even he does not believe in at this point. Those who have participated in the spontaneous demonstrations throughout the island this past Sunday have no confusion and know what they want: in fact, they chanted it continuously: freedom, democracy and a better future.

*Translator’s note: The so-called ’Ordering Task” — Tarea ordenamiento — is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others. 

Editor’s Note: This text was originally published on the Cubaeconomía blog and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.


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Why Can’t a Cuban Farmer Buy a Tractor With Cuban Pesos?

A Cuban farmer plows the land with oxen (CC)

14ymedio biggerElias Amor Bravo, Economist, 8 May 2021 — It is hard to imagine a Spanish or French agricultural producer wanting to buy a tractor and having pay for it in dollars in a store in Spain or France. I comment on this circumstance here and my interlocutors are surprised. Then comes the tentative question, can’t a Cuban farmer buy a tractor and pay for it in his country’s currency, the Cuban peso (CUP)? And I have to answer, No.

I explain that the communist regime has devised a network of stores for the agricultural sector that sell only in freely convertible currency. In these stores you can find all kinds of inputs, fertilizers or tools for agricultural production, but you have to pay in dollars. This measure of the Logistics Business Group of the Ministry of Agriculture (Gelma) has been underway for some time as another of the mechanisms devised by the regime to take possession the scarce foreign currency that circulates in the country.

They have already done it with the stores in MLC (freely convertible currency) to collect the foreign currency that reaches families in the form of remittances from abroad. Now with the Gelma stores they want to collect the resources from the agricultural sector. So when, this Friday, the first 14 tractors were moved to the shopping centers of seven provinces for sale exclusively to agricultural producers, more than one had to use a calculator to check how much they should pay for that means of production which, for some, is essential, especially for those producers who have the most land under cultivation, who are the fewest in number overall. continue reading

For this reason, the tractors to be sold are of small power, according to reports in the state newspaper Granma, of 32, 80 and 82 horsepower, with the latter even coming with air-conditioned cabins. The first units have been directed to stores in the provinces where requests have been received from producers, that is: Pinar del Río, Artemisa, Mayabeque and Villa Clara, as well as Sancti Spíritus, Santiago de Cuba and Granma.

Apparently, as the authorities have pointed out, these vehicles are the result of the negotiation of a consignment from the Central Company of Supply and Sales of Heavy Transport Equipment and its Parts (Transimport) to be marketed in Gelma stores in MLC. They will be joined by another ten that will arrive with the same purpose. The source of the tractors is international industry, so their sale will not entail any benefit to the Cuban productive sector.

In short, to be able to buy this equipment, Cuban farmers with the Cuban pesos (CUP) they generate on their farms have to have the necessary financing, in dollars, to do so (from a bank or in the case of a remittance, they will have to explain the origin of the funds).

In the current situation of the economy, there are doubts about the possibility of obtaining financing in dollars or any other currency, so the funds must have another origin (such as money from sales to the hotel sector, which is also at a minimum, as a consequence of the collapse of tourism). Most likely, the Cuban farmer who cannot pay in Cuban pesos, will have to go to the informal exchange markets to get dollars.

In fact, you can forget about the official exchange in the cadecas — the government exchanges because they do not function.  Instead, the farmers will have to accept the exchange rate offered by the operators in the informal economy, which is around 53 pesos per dollar, which will mean an unjustified increase in the price of the tractor, as the government’s plan is to not lower prices, even if the tractors go unsold.

Once the dollars have been obtained and deposited in a bank account in MLC in one of the state banks authorized to do so, the buyer will have to make the payment through the magnetic card backed by the account. Then they can take possession of the tractor. What would be easier would be to go to Gelma’s store with the value of the tractor in Cuban pesos, pay it and let Gelma be in charge of obtaining the foreign exchange.

But this is not possible, of course, because the regime wants to collect the dollars from the informal circuits, where the farmer goes to get the dollars, even if this makes what he has to pay in national currency twice as expensive. The regime doesn’t care. The farmer who needs the tractor will be the person who gets the foreign exchange for the government, as do those who buy food or cleaning products in stores that sell only in MLC.

By the way, this occurs because foreign exchange in the Cuban economy is so scarce that the regime has devised whatever ways are necessary to capture it in order to meet its needs. In Spain or France, the mechanism is as stated. The tractor is bought in euros, and if it has had to be imported, for example, from China, this has already been done by a private importer who paid in Chinese currency after having managed the euros.

Any resemblance to the Cuban reality is impossible. To make it all worse, the Cuban farmer who is going to buy a tractor must not forget to take with him his certificate from the municipal Delegate of Agriculture, which accredits him as a producer. It is the same as always, without authorization from the local communist, nothing can be accomplished. There is not even the freedom to buy a tractor.


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Diaz-Canel at the Ibero-American Summit: The Failure of a Speech

Diaz-Canel speaking at the Ibero-American Summit. (en.escambray.cu)

14ymedio biggerElias Amor Bravo, Economist, 22 April 2021 — Bad. Very bad. The first international speech from Miguel Díaz-Canel, from his new position of First Secretary of the Communist Party, as well as president of Cuba, at the forum of the Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government, on April 21, 2021, held in Andorra. Analysts say only first two minutes were correct, when he expressed appreciation to the host authorities for organizing the event in the complicated conditions of Covid-19.

Later, everything fell apart into a string of nonsense that left Díaz-Canel’s profile as a political leader very effected. Between the acoustic difficulties and the nonsense he spouted, Díaz-Canel appeared as what he is, or what he intends to achieve, a low-level provocateur who is looking for handouts, without showing any interest in making things easier for Cuba to return to the concert of nations.

Because to whom did Díaz-Canel address his speech at the summit? It is not an easy answer.

He could have dedicated his speech to what he has done every time he has participated in an international forum, “selling medical and professional services” wrapped up in a false international cooperation. But from the first moment, he must have understood that the occasion was not the most propitious. And having the brilliant speeches by the presidents of Chile and Colombia before him, the repetitive proposals of a “Cuba that has experience to offer and gives special relevance to innovation for  a 2030 sustainable development goal,” he turned around and, without further ado, began to release poison. continue reading

The first axis of the speech: a complaint that little progress has been made in the 2030 Agenda, but what does he know about the progress of this program in the most advanced countries and the investments that are being mobilized in this regard? What does he know of President Biden’s summons to 42 leading countries in the world to propose immediate progress on this matter? Once again, as in the times of Fidel Castro, Díaz-Canel threatened the world with chaos, total disaster and the disappearance of humanity if his positions are not followed.

Despite the long time that has passed, the alarmist speech-making of Fidel Castro remains anchored in the genes of the successors of the regime. A shame. With what Diaz-Canel knows about innovation and technological development (his doctoral thesis is about that, precisely, and he even allowed himself to recite his 2014 speech at the summit on these same topics) he did not give a single explanation and/or reference to this matter, which he passed over as if it were nothing. With headlines, and little else.

The second axis of the speech was another classic of Fidel Castro, the debt and its unbearable weight. While other countries requested deferrals or more flexible and creative ways to pay, Díaz-Canel focused on eliminating his country’s commitments. He cares little about what may be behind Cuba’s foreign debt, and he even denounced “the impact of unilateral coercive measures that violate International Law and obstruct our legitimate right to development.” Well then, speak up, denounce in international courts that someone from the Club of Paris or London would do well to remember him or Cabrisas.

The third axis was the “fair, democratic and equitable international economic order” that the communists spend their lives demanding from the rest of the world, but which they rarely respect in their own countries. For example, see the political repression in Cuba, which does not stop, even with Covid-19 running rampant throughout the country. It is still nonsense for Díaz-Canel to say that the “Sustainable Development goals will continue to be a chimera for most of the peoples of the world,” and not stop for a moment to explain the lack of food that exists in Cuba, the lines, the desperation and the climate of uncertainty and social unrest that spreads through the country.

Surprisingly, making use of his “personal honesty,” he denounced “the current development paradigms, because they cause poverty and exclusion of the majority due to their irrational patterns of production and consumption that, under the designs of the market, disdain what is most valuable: life and human dignity.”

The market, the neoliberal order, the anathemas of Castroism always have an outlet in these speeches, but they rarely refer to the internal situation of Cuba where the other paradigm, the Marxist and Leninist communism, continues to rage for 62 years. I understand the surprise of foreign investors in Cuba, startled to hear this kind of thing from the president of Cuba. Some would have the opportunity to quickly pack their suitcase and go home.

Díaz-Canel did not miss the opportunity to speak about a vague series of issues such as an inclusive Ibero-America, insisting on financial and technology transfer from developed countries to the poorest, the situation of the pandemic and the healthcare and social protection systems, where he took the opportunity to attack some “petty interests of a few,” while claiming once again the role of the state, why not?

He even had the audacity to announce the five vaccine candidates available in Cuba, two of them, Soberana 02 and Abdala, in Phase 3 of a clinical trial and announced the goal of immunity to the entire Cuban population before the end of 2021 with said vaccines to emphasize the prominence that Cuba gives to science and technology.

He could have stayed on this ground until the end, but incomprehensibly, he turned the speech around. And the time has come to attack the United States in a thousand ways, which he identified as “an enemy of Cuba due to the intensification of the blockade and its support for acts of violence and disrespect for the law to promote social and political instability in our country.” He even attributed to the United States alleged campaigns of “discrediting and boycotting Cuba’s medical cooperation.”

But not satisfied with this untimely intoxication, the reference to Venezuela arrived. It was surprising, but to be expected. Díaz-Canel defended the legitimacy of the Maduro government because it “emanates from the express and sovereign will of his people,” which implies accepting the result of what they call elections in that country. And he contrasted it with what he called “pressure from foreign powers” in clear reference to the United States.

This part of the speech could not have been well-received by the US Secretary of State and it is most likely that it has opened a parenthesis difficult to close in possible relations with Cuba. President Biden has information to know what to do. It is not lawful to have normal relations with a country that takes advantage of its presence in any international forum to launch unjustified attacks against its northern neighbor.

And this was what happened in this part of the speech, in which Díaz-Canel not only said that it was unfair to blame the Venezuelan government for the economic and social situation facing the country, to denounce, once again, “the application of cruel unilateral coercive measures , projected and applied by the United States accompanied by several of its allies, with the aim of causing suffering in the population.”

I can only imagine what the organizers of the forum, and especially the presidents of democratic countries, should think of such an annoying presence. And not satisfied with the above, he ended by saying that, “it would be useful and sincere to recognize that the US design of intervention in Venezuela failed miserably and placed other countries that supported it in an unsustainable political and legal situation.”

He didn’t have to say anything else to say in the speech. At that point, when Díaz-Canel sided with the political power that leads Venezuela and commits the crimes denounced in international democratic forums, such as the European Parliament, he excluded himself from the international order.

In Díaz-Canel’s opinion, “it should be recognized that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is a sovereign State, and the interference must cease, acting with respect to the United Nations Charter and the proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace.”

Precisely what the governments of Cuba and Venezuela do not practice with their own peoples. Diaz-Canel dixit.


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Last Castro Speech in Cuba

Brothers Fidel and Raul Castro before Fidel’s death.

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, April 16, 2021 — There is expectation, and even a certain morbid curiosity, about what Raul Castro will say in his speech before the upcoming Communist Party Congress, a conclave that will serve as his final farewell as leader. The feelings are understandable given that he will be the last Castro to occupy such a prominent position in Cuban political life.

His brother Fidel used to have the starring role at these events, eliciting tears and applause from many of his followers, both national and international, without saying much of anything. Can we expect the same of Raul. I don’t think so.

Do not expect a panoramic speech, with dramatic overtones and triumphalist rhetoric, full of revolutionary fervor and messages intended for domestic consumption. No one buys that stuff anymore. From 1971, when the first speech was given, to 2021, our year of living dangerously, these speeches had to be carefully crafted if they were to reach their target audience. They are now aimed at those who still do not understand the collective madness of trying to assimilate into society a political party whose propaganda has continually distorted political and social reality. continue reading

And that’s Raul’s problem. Having survived for so long, anything he says at this congress will be applauded by the opportunists. But it will not reverberate with large segments of the population whose minds will be elsewhere and who long ago learned to tune out the official dogma. The revolution and everything it represents have grown old, which is why preparing the speech now requires so much care.

The reasons?

First of all, Cuban society has changed. People want to move forward, improve their quality of life, increase prosperity, end poverty. They know the government is responsible for the never-ending system of rationing, that it is a tool the regime uses to keep the population under its economic control. How to get out of this quandary, not even Raul Castro knows. Who would ever have imagined that Cuba’s communists would one day open foreign currency stores to sell basic products? Let’s see if Raul says something about that in his speech.

Secondly, at this point it is hard to fool people with obsolete, outdated messages which have no relevance in the face of worldwide trends such as globalization, digitalization and a new industrial revolution. Cubans have travelled overseas, they own cell phones and personal computers, they talk to foreign tourists. They are not isolated they way they were during Fidel Castro’s first congress. It is a historical oddity that Raul Castro, the person responsible for restoring some basic freedoms, became the victim of a process he started. That’s how it goes.

Thirdly, there is the issue of time. There is no going back, no matter how much we might want to do so. The train only moves in one direction, towards the final destination. Rewinding the clock is not an option. One could talk about the present but it is complicated, difficult, chaotic, and there are no concrete solutions. No one is interested in the future because all that matters now is getting by day to day. And any mention of past congresses is just a waste of time.

We will have to keep in mind what he says is largely determined by what the scribes, the guardians of official ideology and the bootlickers allow him to say. They exercise their influence by correcting speeches and inserting their own thoughts and ideas into the words of others. It would be a shame if this gang were responsible for Raul Castro’s last words to his party comrades. I am still hoping that the last of the Castros will pull a rabbit out of his hat and then retire to his eastern refuge.

The dream of any matador is to leave the bullring through the main gate of the plaza after a great performance, basking in the adulation of the crowd. But a time of severe economic crisis unlike any in the last five years is no time for communist fanfares. The people, the masses, would not understand. Though the crowd will not reward Raul with spoils of battle, he can at least try to leave the communist conclave with a good taste in its mouth. What will matter to the rest world, which in this case will be listening in, is that this will be the last time.

Therefore, if I were writing Raul Castro’s official farewell speech, I would recommend that he acknowledge the following:

That he did not have the courage to see the reform process he started to its conclusion. That he ended it too soon, succumbed to pressure and left things unfinished, with only 13% percent of the workforce employed in the private sector.

That he made a mistake in choosing his successor. That Diaz-Canel has not been up to the job, working on his doctorate in the middle of a crisis.

That the Castro family is out of control and possibly in danger. That they can be seen coddling their puppies while driving their high-speed luxury cars and hosting lavish banquets while most Cubans go hungry.

That, like his brother, he will not write anything in his final years of life. That he will retire and go fishing. That he will be happy.

That he has missed the chance to leave Cuba a big inheritance. That he no longer blames the U.S. embargo, or “blockade,” admitting it was always a secondary issue, that it was his brother’s thing, not his.

That he has left the nation’s economy in much worse shape than he found it. That he was not able reform the system and make it viable. That he acknowledge it is not viable and that he is leaving it to those who come after him to change it. That he insist this is something that must done.

That the momentum to restore relations with the United States faltered because he lacked political will and because his brother used his position as an influential writer to wreck the process from the sidelines. That there were too many missteps before Trump came along and everything fell apart.

That he has been unable to overcome the legacy of his brother, no matter how hard he tried. That people now speak less and less about Fidel and that, for this, we should all be grateful.

That there were too many years were spent stalling for time. That, yes, things should have changed during Perestroika, but Gorbachev upstaged Fidel, and Fidel never let anyone get in his way.

That, with him, the Castro dynasty ends. Once and for all. That he does not really care might happen to them other than that they stay safe, that he will leave them what he can. That they do not cry for him, that he doesn’t deserve it, that he be cremated and his ashes scattered in the Sierra Maestra, that they forget about him as though he had never existed.

That he ask forgiveness and walk away in silence.


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Cuba: Reforms in the Countryside Should Not be Left Half Done

Cooperatives are one of the forms of agriculture in Cuba. (Bohemia)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 5 April 2021 — While more and more images are arriving of the impact of the social protests that increase throughout Cuba — including the San Isidro Movement and UNPACU — the communist leaders try to cope with the great problem of lack of food and introduce small reforms such as renting a part of the State Agricultural Markets (MAE) to farmers, agricultural land leaseholders and cooperatives, as sources of supply. Meanwhile, the inefficient and unproductive state intermediary, ceases to provide these functions.

Measures that have yielded, where they have been implemented, immediate results, such as a greater number of products sold, higher collections from sales, customers who are more and better satisfied thanks to greater freedom of choice, in short, small advances in the serious problem of scarcity that exists in the country. The field-to-market channel, previously obstructed by communist inefficiency, now serves as a win-win for everyone.

However, the incorporation of private management into the State Agricultural Markets for the commercialization of agricultural products is a formula that, without reaching the structural reforms that the Cuban economy needs, confirms that where private initiative increases its participation and occupies spaces that, until then, had been prohibited by communism, the economy begins to function again and to produce. continue reading

This means that it is not a question of leasing the facilities from the private sector, while the state continues to be the absolute owner of the means of production, but rather that it is necessary to privatize, transfer ownership of the means to private actors so that they can be drive profitability, motivation, and scale growth.

Everything that can be done in Cuba to open spaces in the economy and society to private initiative should be welcomed. And it is necessary to provide legal guarantees so that a return to nationalization does not take place, when the regime wants, but rather that there are stable reforms that provide security to the new private actors. The same thing will happen with the opening of licenses to 2,000 activities or the allocation of food services and small businesses to private operators.

All of a sudden, positive effects will be noticed, because private initiative works much better than state initiative, and is capable of reversing the state of prostration and inefficiency in which the economy finds itself. It is a pity that these opening decisions are adopted by the Cuban communist regime as a consequence of social pressure and the latent threat of a social outbreak of great proportions. The transfer of economic power to private parties should be the result of a decision based on the opportunities that arise from it, and that it is the only way to open general spaces for freedom, prosperity and development in Cuba.

Trade reforms, as a note from the State newspaper Granma says, have been applied slowly and only in certain areas, because the government does not want to lose control of the economy. And this despite the fact that the new markets sell between 10 and 13 products, planning to expand that to 23, a consumer basket unknown to many Cubans, made up of numerous meats, vegetables and fruits, among others. The level of collection also increases, around 19,000 pesos as a daily average, a figure higher than previous businesses, and all this without increasing prices, despite the general inflationary environment.

The leasing of the establishments incorporates another measure, which is still in the testing phase, in Ciego de Ávila and Morón, according to which greater autonomy is granted to the management of the market itself, which has transport and can contract for products directly anywhere in the province, as well as in the base business units of Acopio.

Announced in the same Granma article is the possibility of making online sales for which the customer can pay digitally, and then has 12 hours to reach Market 3 (Marcial Gómez, corner of Benavides ) to collect their products in more prominent formats. The objective is to transfer the products purchased in this way to homes, say those responsible for it.

All of these reforms are positive, but they fall short. There is no private property either at the origin of production, or in the distribution markets. Private property grants the necessary independence and autonomy from political power for free and unconditional decision-making by the members of the supply chain, except for the objective of efficiency and profitability. It is necessary to continue the reforms towards the legal and structural aspects that weigh down the economy and lead to the current scarcity and poverty.

The problem of the Cuban countryside, its unproductivity and inefficiency, is not fixed by leaving production cost increases that fall on the profitability levels of the producers, as Murillo has done with electricity, water or airplane transport among others, by disproportionately increasing budget subsidies, with the increase in the additional public deficit that this may entail in a context of high inflation. The Ordering Task has dealt a severe blow to the agricultural sector and these patch-type measures try to mitigate the effects. But they are not being taken in the only area that matters, that of structural reforms.


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