Cuban Economist Omar Everleny Perez Fired For Maintaining Contacts With US / 14ymedio

Economist Omar Everleny Perez. (Palabra Nueva)
Economist Omar Everleny Perez. (Palabra Nueva)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 April 2016 — Economist Omar Everleny Perez was expelled from the Center for Studies of the Cuban Economy at the University of Havana, accused of maintaining contacts with representatives of the United States and passing on information about the work of the Center without authorization. An academic and a consultant on the reforms promoted by President Raul Castro, Everleny Perez had been critical of some government measures.

According to a senior academic source, the rector of the University of Havana is responsible for the firing, being the “one who pulls the strings behind the curtain.”

The news of the expulsion began circulating last weekend, although it occurred a few days after US President, Barack Obama’s visit to the island in late March.

In December 2014, after the announcement of the reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the United States, the expert was excited about the repercussions it would have on the island. “I think the change will be much faster than we think, because the possibilities are endless because it will unlock one of the main problems of Cuba, which is the inflow of foreign exchange,” he said.

Obama’s recent trip to Cuba raised a wave of criticism from the authorities that reflect the concerns of some sectors of the regime to the new situation created by the resumption of diplomatic relations with Washington. The first to speak out, at the end of March, was former president Fidel Castro, who reproached the US president for his “syrupy” words.

On Monday, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party Obama’s trip was “a visit in which there was an all out attack on our conception, our history, our culture and our symbols.” The voice of the number two man at the Cuban embassy in Madrid, Miguel Moré Santana was added in a video that recently spread through the social networks, where he called the coverage of Obama’s visit by the Spanish media “a display of cultural, psychological and media war without parallel.”

Everleny Perez, 56, has been viewed for years as an example of what can be done from within the system. His criticisms have been directed on many occasions to the excesses of centralism and he has ensured that Cuban state companies “have many ties to the non-state sector, which has advanced much more.” He has also been a champion of cooperatives, especially in the non-agricultural sector.

In an extensive interview with the magazine Palabra Nueva last February, he called on the government not to establish price controls on agricultural products, and the government decided to do at the beginning of this year, “because we already tried that in the long run the results are not what was hoped for.”

The resolution of dismissal from the Center for Studies of the Cuban Economy, signed on 8 April, speaks of the “permanent separation” of Everleny Perez after more than three decades of collaboration with the university.

Specializing in development economics, Perez met on numerous occasions with foreign scholars, especially Americans, as part of his work at the Center for Studies of the Cuban Economy.

In 2013, he was removed from the management of the institution for defending employees who wanted to publish in unofficial media and he also withdrew his membership in the Communist Party.

This reckoning, rather than an individual matter, is seen as a warning to those excited about an eventual deepening of reforms, similar to what happened when many were enthusiastic about Soviet perestroika in the late nineties.