Cuba: Is There Really a U.S. Embargo?

While the communist revolution was nourished by huge annual subsidies from the USSR during the height of the cold war, no one spoke of the embargo. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Valencia, 3 February 2022 — With regard to the embargo, which the official Castrist press has converted into a lightning rod, it is interesting to share some reflections which, for obvious reasons, will be very different from those launched by communist propaganda.

The truth is, taking advantage of the 60th anniversary of the provision that marked the beginning of this United States policy, which has been maintained for a long time though few remember its origins, the official press has organized a coven of propaganda that never fails to attract attention.

For this reason, without wishing to pontificate on a topic on which thousands of articles, books, reports, statements, etc. have been written, my proposal for this blog entry centers on a simple and easy-to-explain decalogue related to the embargo.

1. From 1960 to 1990 no one remembered the embargo.

While the communist revolution was nourished by huge annual subsidies from the USSR during the height of the cold war, no one spoke of the embargo or blockade, except for those days around the time the Soviet missiles arrived in Cuba, which the U.S. Marines forced to be sent back. When the millions dried up, then, with the Special Period in tow, the old embargo argument was dusted off. And so it is today.

2. There is a much more severe internal embargo.

It is the embargo practiced by the communist regime against Cubans, preventing them from having a modern and efficient economic system in which the right to property can be exercised, free elections, the accumulation of assets and wealth, the market as an instrument of resource allocation and free enterprise. This embargo is the one that keeps the Cuban economy impoverished and without a future.

3. An embargo, as such, does not exist; Cuba maintains economic relations with the whole world.

One only needs to observe the data on commercial relations, exports and imports, foreign investment, tourism, etc. Cuba is not limited in establishing economic relationships with whomever it wants, continue reading

as long as it has a need and can offer something in return. Even with the United States, in the form of food and medical equipment for $200 million a year, and more importantly, remittances, valued at $5 billion, from Cubans who had to flee the regime. That has nothing to do with an embargo or a blockade.

4. There has never been an acknowledgment of the events that gave rise to the claims. 

One could argue that the revolutionary regime offered to pay legitimate owners for their confiscated property in “junk bonds” backed by the sugar quota provided to the United States, which at that time, could not be met. That is why there has never been a recognition of the damages caused to the legitimate owners by the confiscation of property and much less a willingness on the part of the regime to pay the value of the expropriated assets, as in any other country in the world. The property rights which were the object of nationalization have not died and without a doubt, the claims and acknowledgment of the original owners or their heirs will be fundamental for the return of democracy to Cuba.

5. The United States continues to be the only defender of democracy in Cuba.

The United States has staunchly provided refuge to almost two million Cubans who fled the lack of freedom and prosperity of the communist regime, making it possible for many of them to realize their dreams. Thanks to the United States it is possible to tell the regime in Havana what it is, and what it represents, while observing the shameful and fickle behavior of other democracies, like those of Europe, which sometimes are against and sometimes in favor of the regime. The United States has always stood its ground and that should be recognized. Even bringing Cuban-Americans to the nation’s political institutions, which instills pride and recognizes the value of minorities in that great nation.

6. Three generations of Cubans have grown up with the embargo and they know why.

Escaping the country has been the only outlet for those who detest a forcefully imposed economic and social model which is resistant to change and evolution. For that reason, as soon as people are able to leave the country, they establish themselves in the United States, because despite having been educated about the evils of imperialism, the United States still is and will continue to be, the main reference point for many Cubans. As much as it pains the communist regime.

7. Ideology and propaganda are less and less capable of arguing against the embargo.

The official discourse is being extinguished. The new generations of Cubans do not believe the official language and the obsolete propaganda it exudes. Despite the continuous attacks on the United States and its institutions by the official Cuban press or whomever desires to unburden themselves, Cubans dream of living in the neighboring North, where in addition, they have acquaintances, family, and friends who can help them get ahead. It’s interesting, but it doesn’t occur to any Haitian, Honduran, or Salvadorean to migrate to Cuba; everyone aspires to establish themselves in the United States.

8. The histrionics at the United Nations results in hilarious and irresponsible calculations.

If the calculation of the damages caused by the embargo were actually $144 billion, the revolutionary regime would be making the ridiculous even more absurd by proposing this figure. Let’s think about what that represents, in 60 years, $2.4 billion annually, which is less than one-third of what Cuba receives annually in remittances from the United States. If they wanted to provide figures, they could have put more effort into it.

9. The embargo exists because that is how the communist regime wants it.

There is no room for doubt. It has generated rivers of ink that have allowed Cuba to have something to say to the world, occupy a media space in some newscast. And, above all, to be heard by those who want to fall for it. The David and Goliath of the Bible function in politics and if we consider that neither the end of the cold war, nor globalization, nor the fourth industrial revolution have altered the messages, there is no doubt that the conceptual authors of the embargo, who had an exceptional teacher in Fidel Castro, have been successful in adapting the concept to the times. The regime needs the embargo, just as it needs to identify the United States as an enemy. It is profitable.

10. The embargo served so that some Cubans live much better than others, within Cuba.

There is no doubt about it. The top leaders live oblivious to hardships of an unproductive economy and their pay is more than sufficient to justify the false submission to orders of the singular party. Those with access to dollars, around 30% of the Cuban population with family abroad, may live even better and the regime’s creation of MLC stores [stores that sell goods in hard currency] clearly indicates that it wants to make them privileged so as to access that hard currency.

All these considerations could raise the primary question, which is none other than, is there really a United States embargo on Cuba? Review other similar situations throughout history and you will see how much difference could be produced and which masterful techniques could be used to take advantage of things. The best thing about this is that the embargo, if it exists, has an expiration date: a democratic and free Cuba. And this has never been recognized by the communist revolutionaries. Why would that be?

This article was originally published in the author’s blog, Cubaeconomía.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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.

Organoponics and Food Self-sufficiency in Cuba

Urban agriculture in Havana (flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, 10 December 2021 — The insistence of the communist Cuban regime in promoting urban, suburban and family agriculture as a way of achieving food sovereignty is now past a joke. Because it is one thing to amuse yourself in communist conclaves with these types of proposals which take you nowhere. There are darker motives, of that there is no doubt. But something else entirely is their idea of growing pumpkins or taros in parks or gardens, in flower pots, or raising pigs in your back yard; that is a solution to absolutely nothing.

In every country in the world, for considerations of hygiene, coexistence with other people, and social organisation, this kind of practice has been forbidden since the middle of the last century. That this is what they want to do in Cuba, to put something on the table for lunch, or one meal a day, gives you an idea of how little the communist leaders understand, and how little they know about agriculture and stock breeding. To set out on a headlong flight  on a matter this important is totally irresponsible.

In this blog, we have several times discussed the proposals which this “national group of urban, suburban and family agriculture” has come up with. The group is the organisation set up by Raúl Castro himself to advance these activities, and which, according to the state newspaper Granma, has just carried out its umpteenth tour, apparently number 90, and, also “through all parts of the country,” in order to “assess the production of vegetables using organoponic technology,” in parks, gardens, yards and flowerpots. No more, no less.

It isn’t surprising that there  is a shortage of food in Cuba when a government bets on this kind of production model instead of focussing on more important things. We get the impression we are clearly seeing the death throes of the communist social model when they do this sort of thing. And never more clearly than in products so specific and in so much demand from the Cuban people as vegetable production using organoponic technology. Its like a nightmare, and one of the worst.

Why do we say that urban, suburban and family agriculture  can’t solve the food problem in Cuba? continue reading

First of all , because it is a short run production model producing small quantities, just enough for a family’s own consumption, or at most for the people in a couple of streets, and on this basis, unable to resolve a problem which affects most of the society.

The Cuban agricultural sector, instead of producing in smaller spaces, needs to achieve increasing output to scale where it gets to the minimum point on the unit cost curve, with efficient technology, or, to put it into simple terms, growing things on land areas sufficient for what it wants to harvest. Vegetables, for example, require parcels of land of a certain size in order to grow things at the best prices.

Communist ideology’s rejection of wealth is a political obstacle to land distribution which, in other countries, like Vietnam, has been the solution to agricultural shortages.

Secondly, in contrast to what the communist leaders say, this programme is unsustainable, and, on the contrary, is high-risk. We have referred to sanitary conditions, but we have to pay attention to the processes and techniques used in production. To revert to obsolete and unproductive methods is hardly sustainable, calling for higher input than in efficient land plot sizes.

To bring agricultural activity near to urban areas where people are pursuing their lives, entails social risks. For example, crop irrigation; where does the water come from? Perhaps from everyone’s drinking water supply? This is unsustainable, and wasteful, which will end badly. Also one could mention use of fertilisers and plant protection products, which can be applied to organoponics in urban gardens, next to roses or daisies. All very pretty, but dangerous.

Thirdly, and most importantly, no-one can expect any kind of food self-sufficiency, despite Granma saying that they “have stabilised production.” If we want to talk about statistics, the ONEI (National Statistics & Information Office)  confirms that during 2021 (January to September period) vegetable production, including all varieties, has experienced a reduction of 214 thousand tons compared with the same period the previous year, that is 8.5% less, so that Cubans had less supply than in 2020, which was already a bad year. Less to choose from all the time.

Granma itself acknowledges, citing an expert in this programme attempting to cultivate taros in public gardens, that the levels of production achieved “are insufficient in most of the subprogrammes.” And, it has to be said, they will continue to be.

This “national group of urban, suburban, and family agriculture” can continue visiting every area in Cuba, and coming up with slogans in all of them, in order to carry on with its tours the following year. At the end of the day, going around like that at least does not get in the way of the work of the farmworkers working their furrows,  who are the ones who are really committed to food self-sufficiency in the country, but who are impeded by the government with all sorts of obstacles and intrusions.

Without any doubt, this model of garden agriculture will not increase agricultural productivity, nor assist food self-sufficiency, and certainly not local resilience and sustainability. It is a foolish dream from the past, like when Fidel Castro  in the middle of the “Special Period,” gave Cuban families chickens from the state farms to raise in their own homes, just to entertain people who had nothing to do, but will never produce more food nor sort out any kind of self-sufficiency.

The Cuban communist regime needs to understand that if it wants to provide a food supply to the people in this country, it needs to start by forgetting about 30 pounds per capita of agricultural products in their projects, or about worn-out experiments like organoponics, and let Cuban farmers decide what to produce, how much to produce, at what prices, and, above all, free to do it where they think convenient, and employing the area of land they wish, not what has been leased out by the local communists, Organoponics won’t appear anywhere. And won’t destroy the few gardens surviving in parks, accentuate the general destruction of the urban landscapes, or produce infections of back yards, and flower pots, with weeds, insects, and also cause sanitary and social problems.

Translated by GH

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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.

Hard-Currency Debit Cards: Much More than a Waiting List

Harvesting crops in Cuba. (Bohemia)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elias Amor Bravo, economist, November 1, 2021 — If there is one sector of the Cuban economy with no reason to be grateful for the changes the revolution brought about, it is agriculture. It employs almost one fifth of the nation’s workforce but contributes only 5% to GDP. Productivity is 80% below the economic average. As a result it cannot meet the food needs of the entire population.

None of this was the case before 1959. Responsibility for this serious problem lies with the communist economic model adopted by Fidel Castro. After pushing through a disastrous agrarian reform program, he expropriated all private-sector land and handed it over to an indolent and inefficient state bureaucracy, which is directly responsible for the chaos.

Then Raul Castro came along, acknowledged it was disaster and leased back the land (without granting property rights) to farmers who agreed to play by the new rules. Things still did not work.

Then came the era of agricultural experiments. All kinds of communist tomfoolery was tried without any acknowledgement of what actually had to be done. Many new amendments have been added to the 2019 communist constitution but not the one it so urgently needs. Land cannot be collectively owned by everyone.

It’s absurd to think the state is capable of managing farmland for the public good. It will never be able to produce enough. The experiments were continue reading

nothing more than patches on faulty marketing, contracting and scientific applications. They did not yield the expected results. Agriculture has remained stagnant, waiting for opportunities to open up in the private sector and for property rights to be restored. Vietnam provided these opportunities and, in little more than five years, famine was a thing of the past.

Recently, the State newspaper Granma has been reporting on the latest experiment. The government now says that agricultural producers whose crops are exported will be guaranteed a percentage of the proceeds in the form of hard currency. This is part of a package of measures (no less than sixty-three) that, the government complains, “farmers do not know about because they do not read them.” Meanwhile, Cuban farmers ignore the new regulations and go about tilling their fields, trying to find a solution to the many obstacles the system puts in their way.

Granma stated, “Some eight months after these measures took effect, changes are beginning to be seen in agricultural and livestock performance, with better numbers in the supply of milk, meat, fruit and honey… yes, though still far from satisfying current demand.” Curiously, however, the economics minister, Alberto Gil, looked at his balance sheet for the first nine months of this year and acknowledged a few days ago that no agricultural production targets were met. So who’s right?

But back to the issue at hand. According to Granma, the measure that has had the greatest impact is the one that gives farm producers a percentage of the proceeds in freely convertible foreign currency (moneda libremente convertible or MLC), which they can use to buy supplies to increase production and support their families.

The question is, why do they only get a portion of the proceeds and not the full amount? What is preventing producers from being able to reap the full rewards of their time and effort? Why is the state extracting all the income and wealth rather than relying on the tax system?

The Granma article describes a situation in Guantanamo where — and here comes the good part — there has been a significant “decline in the number of MLC debit cards issued to farmers who, without these cards, cannot receive the hard currency they have earned from the export of their products.”

Damn! So who has that money now? To provide some idea of the scope of the problem, Granma reports that, of the 20,000 fruit, vegetable and livestock farmers in the province, only 300 have these cards. The numbers speak for themselves.

The regime now requires MLC cards be used for a growing number of retail transactions to prevent foreign currency from circulating freely as cash, as farmers would prefer. One would assume, then, that the regime would see to it that its inefficient state-run banks would get the cards out quickly. Though the cards are essential to the whole MLC operation, that is not happening.

They trot out the usual excuses, which boil down to two things: reduced operational capacity due to Covid-19 and low interest on the part of consumers, who have made little effort to acquire the cards since efforts were made to streamline the process in November 2020 as part of currency unification reforms.

Anything that could stimulate agricultural production, though we have serious doubts this is even possible, is always delayed or stymied by the inertia of the government sector. The same could be said of the banking sector as well, which also has no incentive to make sure things work.

On the one hand, the banks do as they are told. They require farmers to open  accounts in person, in spite of the threat from Covid-19. Small farmers open bank accounts without a clear idea what they will get out of it. When they later encounter roadblocks, chaos is unleashed. Imagine how that turns out. Very badly indeed.

So far, only a few bee keepers and those who pay taxes to the Milk Company have been issued cards. And as Granma points out, many have not gotten them because bureaucratic rules require producers to provide copies of their lease and their ID cards to open an account.

Then the merry-go-round begins. The communists always manage to entangle everyone in their problems. On the one hand, officials say the country wants everyone to get what he or she deserves for his or her time and effort while at the same time claiming that MLC cards will help the economy.

To achieve that objective, every agricultural producer will need extra support because not all farm cooperatives have the computers and infrastructure needed to achieve this. In other words, farmers toiling in the fields will have to be computerized. How many Cuban peasants do you think have access to this technology?

Producers are more interested in being left alone to do what they do, which is tilling the fields. It is not clear to them why they would need a plastic card — many, in fact, are using the cards they already have to run their operations — especially when they are being told from on-high to get one even though it does not address their specific needs.

Add to that the banks’ complicated and cumbersome management of the cards, and delayed payments from the state. The benefit of the new card is that it would allow farmers to receive something from the sale of their exports. But if they are not receiving the full proceeds from those sales, why would they be interested? Then there are the payments producers have still not received for the crops they have already delivered. This further erodes confidence in the state, which has a reputation of not paying its bills and currently runs a deficit equal to 20% of GDP.

Officials should be encouraging economic actors to focus their attention on the things that really matter to them, not on red tape and communist craziness. If there are entities that are selling things online and generating significant hard currency income that they can later use to buy things in government-run MLC stores, let them keep doing it.

If economic actors benefit from entering into joint ventures or other cooperative business relationships, let them do it if they serve the interests of all parties. These are the keys to a functioning economy, which Cuban communists have made impossible for six decades. A return to rationality and efficiency is necessary but it is not enough to overcome backwardness and supply shortages.

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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 Reason for the Blackouts in Cuba: Monopoly Costs and Prices

An old fashion oil lamp provides light on a counter where none of the electrical appliances can be used.. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, 30 October 2021 —  Blackouts have become a threat to Cubans this October, although in no way can they be considered only a current phenomenon. The difference between what happened before, and now, is the information offered by the authorities to explain why these unpleasant events occur. Undoubtedly, the regime must believe that they can calm citizens who are very annoyed with blackouts or companies facing a forced paralysis of their activities, but they are wrong.

The statements transmitted to the population through the state electricity monopoly confirm that the blackouts are going to continue and that, at least for the moment, it must be assumed that daily life will continue to coexist with the unexpected lack of electricity supply, and that this will happen even if the bills are paid as if nothing had happened. The monopoly also explains that the regime, far from telling the truth, hides itself in technical gibberish to avoid placing the responsibility for the blackouts on state management.

This week the information from the Electrical Union has been very intense. On Tuesday, they announced possible service interruptions as a result of a failure in the transmission line connecting with the Ernesto Guevara thermoelectric plant (CTE), in Santa Cruz del Norte, which led to the shutdown of Units 1 and 2 of that plant (155 MW), as well as others, Unit 6 of the Diez de Octubre CTE (90 MW), due to leakage in the boiler, and Unit 5 of the Antonio Maceo CTE (80 MW), due to the turbine speed regulator. continue reading

For the Electrical Union, the origin of the problem came from the greater impact on “peak hours.” which was 480 MW at 7:10 at night. Later, at 8:26 pm, Unit 1 of the CTE Ernesto Guevara (80MW) was incorporated, while Unit 2 was damaged by a leak in the furnace. It was not enough. This was followed by “service disruptions,” a convenient term, throughout the early hours of October 27, as a consequence of the reported breakdowns and, also, due to the behavior of the demand, which exceeded what was expected by 100 MW. From 2:00 am, the impact remained below 100 MW and, as of 6:02, the service was restored. Four hours of blackout.

At 7:00 in the morning, the availability of the national electrical system was 2,080 MW compared to a demand of 2,020 MW “with all the load served,” almost at the limit. As of 9:00 am, possible blackouts were noted again, this time due to a generation capacity deficit, with a maximum of 250 MW.

The information from the Electrical Union indicated that Unit 2 of the Ernesto Guevara CTE, unit 6 of Diez de Octubre,  Unit1 of the Lidio Ramón Pérez CTE and Unit 5 of Antonio Maceo remained out of service due to breakdowns. Meanwhile, maintenance work was being carried out on Unit 4 of the Antonio Maceo CTE. In addition, limitations persisted in thermal generation with 698 MW. As a consequence of the foregoing, 1,038 MW were not available in distributed generation and the breakdowns mentioned, and 329 MW corresponded to Units under maintenance.

The statement said that Unit 1 of the Lidio Ramón Pérez thermoelectric plant, which completed its hydraulic test, could improve the situation once again in the national electricity service. The Electrical Union indicated that for the peak hours of October 27, the incorporation, in addition to Unit 1 in question, of the CTE Lidio Ramón Pérez (260 MW), of the Rincón (15 MW), and Varadero (17 MW). An availability of 2,734 MW and a maximum demand of 2,700 MW were estimated for the “peak,” for a reserve of 34 MW. This meant that, given the low levels of reserves, the authorities ended up recognizing that blackouts could occur.

A new note from the Electrical Union regarding October 28 highlighted that there were no blackouts in the electricity service in the morning and afternoon. However, as of 6:14 p.m., the service began to be affected due to a generation capacity deficit. During peak hours the maximum impact was 247 MW at 7:30 p.m. As a consequence, from 9:31 p.m. there was a blackout of 3 hours and 17 minutes. The electricity monopoly apologized for the inconvenience to those who wanted to rest by watching television or listening to the radio.

Next, the causes of the blackout were explained again, starting with the exits of Units 5 and 7 of the CTE Máximo Gómez de Mariel, the delay in the entry of Unit 2 of the CTE Ernesto Guevara, which synchronized at 19:59 hours, as well as the increase in demand above the planned 62 MW. Later, at 11:08 p.m. due to the unexpected departure of Unit 6 of the Máximo Gómez CTE (90 MW), another blackout occurred, with a maximum of 80 MW, which was reestablished at 12:01 a.m. on the 29th.

The electricity monopoly indicated in its statement that the availability of the national electricity system at 07:00 hours was 2,183 MW and the demand 2,045 MW with all the load served, estimating that there would be no power outages due to a deficit in generation capacity during Friday morning and afternoon, to maintain the expected conditions. And this is the question, how difficult it is to maintain those conditions.

The Otto Parellada CTE and the Máximo Gómez CTE Unit 5 remained out of service due to a breakdown, waiting for someone to repair them. Unit 3 of the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes CTE was out of service for condenser cleaning, Unit 6 of the Diez de Octubre CTE and Unit 4 of the Antonio Maceo CTE were under maintenance, also ceasing to supply electricity to the grid. At Energas Varadero, 40 MW in the steam turbine was out of service and at Energas Boca de Jaruco so was a gas turbine with 30 MW, so the limitations on thermal generation were maintained (425 MW).

For the Friday peak, the electricity monopoly predicted several Units would come on line, specifically Unit 3 at CTE Carlos Manuel de Céspedes with 130 MW; Unit 5 of the CTE Máximo Gómez with 30 MW; Unit 6 of the CTE Máximo Gómez with 85 MW and an engine in the CDE Mariel with 5 MW, with the use of 291 MW in diesel engines. Under these conditions, an availability of 2,761 MW and a maximum demand of 2,650 MW were estimated for peak hours, for a reserve of 111 MW. So if these conditions were maintained, no blackouts were foreseen, although the reserve levels were low at this time.

These statements, appearing almost daily in the communist state press, with the same justifications of outages, breakages, lack of maintenance, disconnections of power plants, peak hours, etc., etc., not only end up tiring the population, but also come to confirm what Minister Gil said in his analysis of the economy before the National Assembly, placing “blackouts as one of the nation’s main problems, and one of the most difficult and complex to solve,” at least in the short term. In any case, who compensates Cubans for the blackouts, and how? This is an issue that is not discussed, but it is essential to put this situation in order.

The minister made a more general analysis of the matter, with reference to the energy shortage and its high cost, but also cited these problems and mechanical breakdowns, to to justify the unjustifiable. He did not tell the truth. And the electricity monopoly, in its communiqués, I’m afraid, did not either, going for the technological nonsense, without allowing the Cubans to really know what the origin of the problem is.

The Electrical Union functioned relatively reasonably in providing its services before January 1, 2021. Yes, of course there were blackouts, but much less so than now. In fact, during the closures of the pandemic, in Cuba there were almost no blackouts. It is a phenomenon of the moment, and that is related, on the one hand, to the small rebound in economic activity that is taking place on the Island, after the end of 2020.  The communists not only had not foreseen that to meet growing needs for electricity there need to be more production on the grid.

On the other hand, nobody wants to agree that, after the increases in electricity rates agreed to in the “Ordering Task*,” people were going to protest, as in fact happened. Electricity rates rose exponentially as of January 1 because the monopoly had no choice but to face wage increases without productivity benchmarks that compromised solvency. But the new rates were immediately questioned by all social sectors, forcing the regime to back down, thereby compromising the supply levels of the state monopoly, which are highly sensitive to prices.

The subsequent story is known. Who could be interested in providing a service, even a minimal one, when the prices charged to consumers do not pay them properly and they have to face imposed wage increases without reference to productivity?

It is already known that no leader of the Cuban economy will speak of this, but it is the origin of the problems with the blackouts and with many other sectors of activity. The Home Services price index prepared by the ONEI (which included electricity) increased by 152.8% in the interannual rate as of September, almost 90 points more than the average inflation rate, of 63.3%. The Ordering Task has upset the weak balances of the Cuban economy, specifically the relative prices of goods and services, and the blackouts will continue until the electricity monopoly restores its profitability and ensures the availability of resources to cover its very high costs (the regime seems to think that it no longer want to grant more subsidies and this cannot end well).

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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: On the 61st Anniversary of the CDRs, is This Goodbye?

Gerardo Hernández Nordelo highlighted the work of the elderly in the CDRs. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elias Amor Bravo, Valencia, 28 September 2021 — The CDRs reach 61 years of age and carry the same problems as any organization that reaches that age. An article in the State newspaper Granma addresses it. The CDRs need young people, and above all, to be updated, to catch up. The old paradigm was left hollow, empty, and is not up to the standards of these times. Will they succeed?

The demographic change occurring in Cuba compromises the CDRs ability to stay afloat. It is logical. The original leaders of the blocks who joined Fidel’s initial call are no longer there. Their children are likely old. And here is the issue: their grandchildren or great-grandchildren, who are my age, are interested in other things. The youngest disregard organizations that lack a future, and that do not provide a relevant activity. It is the law of life.

Furthermore, young people are not interested in protecting a Revolution that has also become old, but rather, they desire change. On July 11th, they shouted “Freedom” and “No to communism” in the streets. Someone should take note of these proclamations, because they will come back even stronger. Young Cubans have made the leap and do not want to find themselves caught up in the same web as their parents or grandparents, in which the prize was a jabita – a little goodie bag with groceries or personal hygiene products. On the contrary, they dream of spaces open to freedom and progress, built on different foundations. continue reading

Young people are not interested in protecting a Revolution that has also become old, but rather, they desire change (14ymedio)

The young people compare themselves with members of the CDRs and find no common ground. They are different generations in which the so-called revolution’s demagogic pressure is continually shrinking thanks to social media, the internet, information and communication. Young Cubans have discovered the “big lie” much better than their grandparents or parents. That story of closing a country to external influences is over. Cuban communism struggles to preserve a space for propaganda. However, similar to other authoritarian regimes throughout history, little by little it is left with nothing to say.

It no longer inspires pride, it never did, to belong to a CDR. Nor does it offer any advantage, under the current political conditions on the island. Belonging to a CDR is to distance yourself from the community, to be forced to fulfill certain obligations, almost always problematic, and to live a life of ideological obedience that does not lead anywhere. Could any 25-year-old want that?

Hence, the leaders of the organization are wracking their brains to see how they attract young people to the CDRs. Because as the old guards retire, many of these repositories of information about accusations are closing forever, and they disappear as if they never existed. This ends up being much better, because thousands of Cubans have been harmed, in one way or another, by some activity carried out by a CDR in “defense of the revolution.”

Seeing them disappear, like any of the buildings in the center of cities that collapse due to inclement weather, might end up being the best ending. Young people do not want to be the successors of a poisoned inheritance, one which, most likely, in a democratic and free country, should be brought to justice for its misdeeds. Who would want that?

Interestingly, Granma says that “the CDRs offer a perfect trench for those who want to transform their community and their environment, and work towards solving the problems of the neighborhood”; empty words, thrown to the wind. Young Cubans, highly qualified and with a clear desire for solidarity, know that helping others has nothing to do with acting as the block’s CDR. Luckily, this is also over. The population pyramid has buried the CDRs.

If the non-renewal of the population by the base is problematic, it is more complex to not know what to do with the CDRs and, above all,  which activity they should focus on in 2021

If the non-renewal of the population by the base is problematic, it is more complex to not know what to do with the CDRs and, above all, which activity they should focus on in 2021. The strategy.

Though this effort is pending, it seems the directors of the organization are not paying it the attention it deserves. To think that the CDRs should continue to “defend the revolution” is to force them to be against the vast majority of a society that has already sent its first, very clear messages about the urgency of the changes.

The facts. Putting the CDRs to care for the environment and animals, as the organization’s top leader, Hernández Nordelo, told Granma, is surprising to say the least. The vague and undefined announcement that the organization will take on new tasks, including inciting the population to keep watch from their communities as a way to preserve itself, is at best cryptic and complex to understand. What do they want to preserve with the CDRs, perhaps the buildings, or the streets, which we’re not allowed to be in right now?

It would be unfortunate if the CDRs end up chasing stray dogs or stopping the felling of trees. Of course, there are things that are better left unsaid so as not to end up being hilarious. For those who played a key role in the origins of the revolution it was a great social effort to destroy the life and property of citizens by preparing a report of alleged criminal activities, often false and based on rumors. In the movie The Lives of Others, the East German state security spy ends up delivering print ads to homes when communism disappears forever. It could be a good ending for the day after, luckily, it is forthcoming.

It would serve the CDRs very well to disappear in this way, without making noise, closing the embarrassing and painful files that never should have been opened. (14ymedio)

Hernández Nordelo, who enjoys this canonry at the head of the CDRs as a reward from the communist regime for his spy activities (he could have obtained director general position in some joint venture in the state with much better pay and privileges), said “We must ask ourselves which CDR do Cuba, the Revolution and the Cuban CDRs need, and continue working in that direction.”

Well, he should ask himself, and do it as soon as possible, because as has already been pointed out, in a matter of years, not many, the people he will have at his disposal will be an army of grandparents willing to play a game of dominoes, keep an eye on the pig in the yard or harvest a pumpkin in a corner of the park. And little else.

Conclusion. The CDRs have already fulfilled their role and must pass. They’ve used up all the energy Fidel Castro gave them and passed through the phase of contempt and decadence Raúl Castro gifted them. They have neither renewal nor mission, and any organization that suffers from these ills must say goodbye. For the good of society, for the good of history. It would serve the CDRs very well to disappear in this way, without making noise, closing the embarrassing and painful files that never should have been opened. Nobody, absolutely nobody, will miss the CDRs in Cuba, not now and, of course, much less, later. It is time to say goodbye and forget an experience that has left in its wake much more damage than social benefit.

Translated by Silvia Suárez

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This text was originally published on the blog Cubaeconomía.

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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.

Does the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Have a Future?

The Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, after his arrival in Mexico to attend the Celac summit, with the Mexican Foreign Secretary, Marcelo Ebrard. (Twitter / @ SRE_mx)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Valencia, 18 September 2021 — As might be expected, this Saturday the official Castroist press turns to the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), which is celebrating its sixth summit in Mexico and which has justified the official visit to that country of the Cuban communist leader, received with great fanfare but little money, by Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Amlo). After all, the Morena Party is an organization that shares many ideals and principles with the Cuban Communist Party. Birds of a feather flock together. Cuba’s State newspaper Granma titled its article Celac has the floor, but I believe, however, that the most important thing is to think about whether Celac has a future.

The answer is much more speculative and less emphatic than these communist declamations to which Granma has us accustomed, as if it were a question of glossing a permanent historical feat. Hopefully one day the editorial committee of this newspaper will realize how ridiculous they appear to the world. I hope it will be soon, and in a free nation in which one of the fundamental principles to be respected is freedom of the press.

Let’s go to the matter at hand, does Celac have a future?

It should be remembered briefly that this organization arose under two fundamental principles: opposing the Organization of American States (OAS) until it disappeared and assuming the principles of the so-called 21st century socialism, which was gaining space in the region through the flow of Chavista oil that had been put at the service of this adventure. The organization’s agenda was created by Chávez, Lula and the material author, Fidel Castro, who in the last years of his life dreamed of a regional project that would serve to end up pitting some countries against others.

Fortunately, the second principle is far from being achieved and continue reading

does not seem feasible. Furthermore, Celac, its principles, its funding, its political relations and interdependencies have shown notable limitations in facing the global challenges of this century. Specifically, the arrival of covid-19 has thrown more than a few shadows of doubt on the usefulness of this organization.

For this reason, this sixth summit is interesting, because speculation about Celac will be on the table, no matter how much diplomacy has tried to soften the positions and reach an agreement that allows the continuity of the project, revitalizes its organization and gives it new airs right. This is a very difficult time when countries, for obvious reasons, have to focus on solving their own problems and stop fooling around with adventures that only fit in heated minds, many of them physically or politically disappeared from the face of the region.

That is why the organization has decided to focus on the first principle: ending the OAS. A good example of the Celac crisis is that instead of advancing projects and tasks for the organization, some leaders have recovered the old thesis of forcing the disappearance of the OAS as a matter of priority. Those who defend this proposal, led by Amlo, think that Celac can only have a future to the extent that the OAS is ended, while at the same time they see it as a body subordinate to Washington.

Serious mistake. Strengthening Celac does not have to do with disappearing the OAS or any other regional cooperation project, such as the Ibero-American Cooperation Summits promoted from Madrid, which this year turned into hilarious speeches against the United States embargo.

Contrary to the ’Uniformity Theses’ everything fits in diversity. To impose a single way of seeing things and to demand a painful uniqueness based on common principles that, luckily, not all countries endorse, is absurd. This search for unity within diversity is a founding trap for Celac, from which, when it falls, it is very difficult to get out. A good example: what some authoritarian leaders describe as “foreign interference”, others see just the opposite, and therefore it is difficult to advance.

Charactierizing the OAS as “discredited, dying entity, contrary to Latin American interests and compliant with the script drawn up by the United States Government to keep our peoples subdued” is another good example of that “uniformitarian” language that wants to be imposed on all the governments of Latin America, when precisely not all think the same. Also, someone could end up thinking the same of Celac.

All these Celac champions should realize that if the OAS has not disappeared there is a reason why, and that rather than seeking changes in attitude or radical positions, it makes much more sense to advance in cooperation, dialogue and understanding, because at the end, that’s what it’s about. And not to pit some nations against others, from positions that are contrary to public liberties, respect for human rights and plural democracy.

The communists of the State newspaper Granma call this strategy of understanding and conciliation “cosmetic band-aids” or “non-conceptual reform” and declare their commitment to the destruction of the OAS, a company in which they identify the members of 21st century socialism, as if these were the only ones that exist in Latin America or have the right to impose their principles and ideas on the rest.

Focusing the future of Celac on the disappearance of the OAS seems to be the objective of this sixth summit. They will forget about covid-19, the poor economic results in the region, as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Carribean (ECLAC) has recently reported, the need to boost world trade and investment by transnational companies, to ensure stable and quality employment for citizens of their countries and thus overcome their economic backwardness.

They will not talk about that, because whoever finances this whole type of adventure, the Chavista Venezuela, is not there for great celebrations, and, in the absence of the black gold of that country, it is necessary to find some way to finance the Celac and its existence.

I am very afraid that this will be the matter to be discussed in this sixth summit, but Granma and the official Cuban press will not say much about it. They are justifying with unpresentable arguments the continuous blackouts that the country suffers, also originating from the lower supplies of Venezuelan oil.

Will Mexico and Amlo be able to carry Celac on their shoulders? I doubt it. Because it is one thing to raise a battle and quite another to win it.

And the stage is not for this type of show. The sixth summit will be like the others: a collection of silly messages and photographs, and someone telling Díaz-Canel: “You eat and you go.”

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This text was originally published on the Cubaeconomía 
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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 is Depopulated, and the Regime Looks the Other Way

Cuba schoolchildren at a daily assembly repeating: “Pioneers for Communism, we will be like Che!”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 30 August 2021 — There is no worse way to escape from problems than to not face them. The State newspaper Granma published an article entitled “The problem is not that the population ages, but that it decreases” which, among other things, highlights the fact that, as of 1978, the fertility on the island has not covered the replacement rate of the population. Without fertility it is impossible for the population of a country to grow. Do they realize that now?

The fact that Cuban women of childbearing age do not have immediate plans for motherhood is something that should concern communist leaders, because it involves serious present and future risks. In this blog we have denounced it on numerous occasions. Cubans reject paternity and/or maternity: in the absence of migration, Cuba depopulates.

The alarm signals sounded at the end of 2020 because the population was reduced, as fewer people were born than those who died, according to official information from the ONEI (National Office of Statistics). The drama is served. The Cuban population is moving away from the trends registered in recent decades, while the migratory balance is negative and life expectancy grows again, not accounting for the negative influence of the victims of Covid-19.

If a journalist asked Cuban President Díaz-Canel for an assessment of this situation, which brings with it numerous problems for the country’s potential growth, it is most likely that he would launch a harsh criticism of the US embargo (and call it a ’blockade’) of the United States, without assuming direct responsibility for his government.

The fall in fertility has much to do with the lack of future expectations of Cubans, especially the youngest, and the notable distrust continue reading

that exists in broad sectors of society about the possibility of living a future of well-being and quality of life. In short, a better future for the children.

This idea reduces the number of children of a couple. Whoever tries to compare this demographic behavior of Cuba with that which existed before 1959 is lying. It is true that Cuban fertility had undergone significant changes towards modernity at the beginning of the 20th century, but in no case were the results as gloomy and pessimistic as the current ones. Cubans of the 1950s had two or three children, and they ensured the replacement of the population. Furthermore, Cuba in those decades had one of the highest in-migration balances in Latin America.

In 2021, Cuba faces high mortality and very low fertility, with data never before known in history and in other countries that have been more successful in their population policies. At the same time, these changes are fueled by continuous and increasing economic failures of the communist social model, a general impoverishment of the population, the supply crisis in most sectors, and the bankruptcy of the interventionist state, incapable of stimulating population growth.

Experts who affirm that Cuba is in an advanced stage of the second demographic transition justify their argument by saying that it presents fertility and mortality indicators similar to those of developed countries in Europe. They are simply wrong or do not want to acknowledge the harsh reality of the problem they face. Cuba cannot be compared to Norway, Denmark, Italy or Spain. Nothing to see there. If the socioeconomic conditions of the different countries are taken into account, it is evident that the Cuban problem is different.

The same specialists allege that the causes of the demographic decline in Cuba respond to the economic and housing situations, the sociocultural pattern, the social and economic characteristics of the country in each moment, external and internal migration, high divorce rates and individual socioeconomic problems. But with this, it cannot be explained why there are cases of young couples, with good jobs, their own home, family independence, and they do not want to have children. The matter is complicated and obliges one to avoid superficialities.

What has failed? Everything. There is not a single economic, social, legal, cultural, social aspect, or ethical values, that indicate that in Cuba the situation can be reversed, not even by hypocritically blaming women for the drop in fertility. This is a problem that is difficult to fix, which will require great collective efforts to overcome as the population deficits will accumulate in the coming years.

And if society does not have anchors to solve a problem of this magnitude, which is becoming more and more entangled, the attitude of the communist government of putting its head under the ground waiting for it to fix itself does not work. The ostrich tactic may end up creating more problems on the horizon for years to come.

In particular, family policies in Cuba, based on an enormous intrusion of the state into family and individual life, have been an absolute failure, and the process of economic and social destruction on the island has taken care of the rest.

The drop in fertility in Cuba is the most visible result of the failure of the regime’s public actions. Worse still is to imagine the impossible, and from there to fall into the most absolute of the ridiculous.

For example, Granma’s phrase that “low fertility is also a combined effect of a society with high levels of sexual and reproductive health and access to contraception, which recognizes equal rights and opportunities for people, it represents an achievement that is still pending in many countries in our region.

If burying one’s head in the sand is serious, it is even more so to act irresponsibly and recklessly in a matter of great economic and social impact, with effects on future generations. What seems evident is that those who have the responsibility of achieving a successful country, with an economy capable of integrating everyone’s wishes, are unable to face the demographic challenge, and have thrown in the towel, thinking that over time it is possible that everything will change and the current status quo be overcome.

The regime is unable to understand that its policies to support the population, interventionist, interfering, controlling and intrusive, simply do not work. They believe that what they do is enough, and they don’t want to acknowledge the disaster.

But to believe that this is fixed by prioritizing the provision of subsidies to mothers with three or more children under 12 years of age for the construction or rehabilitation of houses is a big mistake. Or that this policy can be better developed from the provinces and not with a national vision, or that it depends on the state of housing, or the attention of the Ministry of Public Health to infertile couples, etc. etc. what they do is  squander resources from a depleted state budget.

And what is worse, resources that are not evaluated in terms of their effectiveness in achieving the objectives.

The problem is that within a year the situation will have worsened, and the regime will continue to “evaluate and analyze issues related to demographic dynamics as an aspect to prioritize for the economic and social development of the nation, as well as compliance with the care program to this vital matter.” But that time has already come to an end, and we must act. Another failure in sight.

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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.

Marrero, Fidel Castro and Nazareno: The Return of Moringa

Moringa tree. From hendrycreekhideaway.com

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elias Amor Bravo, Economist, August 14, 2021 — More than a hundred references to “Fidel” swamp the official communist press on a day like today, his birthday. This blog will not be offering any remembrances or testimonials to the work of this communist dictator but, among the jumble of information we have found, one article in particular merits attention.

I am sure the story, which was published in Cubadebate, will have disappeared, within a few days from lack of interest. It deals with a particular tribute made by the Cuban prime minister, Manuel Marrero, on August 13 to Fidel Castro.

Marrero had the bright idea of visiting the Nazareno basic production unit, founded in late 1963 by Castro. At that time it was conceived as an experimental farm for the development of new agricultural technologies. These were the early years of the so-called “revolution,” which faced the same problems as today. Severe food shortages were already becoming common, which forced the regime to adopt the odious ration book.

This was not the case in previous years, when stores provided Cubans with a full array of food choices. So what caused this disaster? Simple. The expropriation and confiscation of continue reading

farms, the expulsion from the country of agricultural entrepreneurs, the complete transfer of ownership and concentration of property in the hands the state, and the creation of a new Marxist-Leninist economic model that, in less than two years, destroyed what had been been a fertile and productive agricultural sector.

Facing no resistance from the field, Fidel Castro indulged in his experiments. These involved things such as White Udder, which was supposed to be the “little cow that would produce more milk” than the big ones, coffee that would grow under the skies of metropolitan Havana, and other even more terrible ideas such as the country school and the UMAP farms. All were refined and directed by an ineffective bureaucracy known as the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (INRA), which was headed, of course, by Castro himself.

In a way, Marrero’s trip to Nazareno served as a remembrance of Castro’s excesses, which even today prevent Cubans from eating like the inhabitants of any normal country. As an experiment Nazareno could have turned out well. But it didn’t.

Its recognition by the state and the Department of Science, Technology and Innovation (ECTI) as a potential plant protein program made it a full-fledged administrative “experiment,” one of many that, aside from its disastrous impact on the economy, has been an abject failure. Moreover, a failure that can be easily measured. Have any of Castro’s scientific initiatives and developments improved the Cuban diet? Has Nazareno contributed to this in any way?

I can imagine the communist leader’s sense of failure on his last visit to the experimental facility in 2016, when he tried to explain the enormous benefits of moringa while, according to Cubadebate, inspecting the fields and calling for further research. This was the comeuppance for someone who made a multitude of mistakes in an unfortunate quest for power and an attempt to transform a system that worked much better than the one he replaced it with. Castro’s work has to be evaluated within objective parameters, to view it as it actually was: an undeniable disgrace and a waste of money that did not improve living conditions for Cuba or her citizens.

As it turns out, Marrero could not have chosen a worse location to commemorate the dictator’s legacy than Nazareno. High-level government decisions like these have to be scrutinized carefully because the make-up of the entourage accompanying Marrero on his visit to the agricultural station offers an insight into the situation Cuba’s communist regime now finds itself.

The entourage was made up of the first-secretary of the communist party in Mayabeque, the provincial governor and the director general of ECTI, which runs the San Jose de las Lajas farm. In their presence, Marrero expressed appreciation for Castro, pointing out, “Since 1963, the year I was born, the commander-in-chief, Fidel Castro, was already dreaming of these places, dreaming of a great idea that little by little he was developing.” In retrospect, maybe it would have been better if he hadn’t done so much dreaming considering how everything turned out.

Marrero goes out of his way to show solidarity with the culture of failure that began with Castro. He also makes it his own, and in a way, sees it all in the Nazareno facility. His message is spine chilling and goes more or less like this: If the commander has failed in things like the Nazareno project, we have forgiven him. Please, do the same for us. We need it and will be grateful if you give us the same support. From failure to failure, I rolled the dice when it was my turn, like in a board game.

Marrero even justifies the failure of Castro’s experiment, arguing that it was created, among other things, to be “a great laboratory, to break down barriers, to seek solutions by appealing to the main protagonists, peasant and agricultural workers, who were making those dreams come true in coordination with scientists, who contributed ideas and stayed here to combine them with practicality, with reality.”

Obviously, the recipe did not work. The experiment did not take into account the basic requirement of any economic activity, which is to satisfy the needs of the consumer. It was conducted to make Fidel happy, to see to it that his feverish ideas were carried out. No one was interested in the results. Now, fifty-eight years later, Cubans do not have enough food and there are no foreign exchange earnings to import it.

Marrero also said he was proud that Fidel Castro’s ideas had taken shape at Nazareno and that knowledge gained there — plant proteins, genetics, food production in all its scope — had been applied throughout the country. Moringa was back in the spotlight. The best way to honor Fidel, in Marrero’s opinion, “is to keep these ideas alive, to keep demonstrating that anything is possible and to bring each and every one of his ideas to fruition.”

At this point the prime minister realized there were some young people present. None of them appeared in the Cubadebate article but he addressed them, telling them they are part of the Nazareno farm. If they make these experiences, these ideas, their own, he said, this would “be the start of a true continuity with the all work Fidel as done here.” As if young Cubans in 2021 cared anything at all about Fidel, who passed away five years ago and who is already on his way to becoming a footnote in history. Tributes like Marrero’s are of increasingly little interest to them.

For Cuba, Castro’s dreams of revolution turned out to be a nightmare, especially for its youngest citizens, who have grown tired of waiting for the “New Man” who never comes. Fidel’s dreams were never achieved. In fact, when he left this world in 2016, the economy that Cubans inherited was much worse than the one he himself inherited in 1959.

The in-depth investigation that will have to be carried out when a democratic government comes to power will reach the same conclusion. Fidel’s legacy, for which today’s communists have so much praise, will be subjected to a balanced and objective assessment. This will lead a rewriting of  Cuban history post-1959. The communists know this and, therefore, take full advantage of the propaganda machine at their disposal to impose their own point of view. But they will fail at this too because no one in Cuba believes this stuff anymore, much less that Fidel’s experiments are of any use, or that they have to be applied on a widespread basis.

Marrero could have chosen somewhere other than Nazareno to remember Castro. The decision was calculated. Nobody cares one iota about the Castro regime so, in that sense, the choice backfired. During the tour with his entourage, someone must have asked the obvious question: Why is it that, no matter how good we are or how much Fidel did for us, we still have to line up to buy a few sweet potatoes once we leave here?

If this kind of experimental facility carries out so much research, why aren’t we seeing economic results in the Cuban countryside in the form of increased production? What good is all this experimentation if we have to import more than two billion dollars worth of food a year?

Marrero was not wrong to play to his intended audience. The old-guard communists like this sort of thing. They know without a doubt that they were wrong to cast their lot with Castro but now it’s too late. It is a different matter when it comes to the young. Most likely they view all these experiments and innovations as absurdities, devoid of all rationality, which stand in the way of a functioning Cuban economy.

Extolling Castro in the context of the agricultural sector makes little sense. This visit was clearly an attempt by Marrero to ingratiate himself with the hard-line communist wing of the party. But he knows that Nazareno did little to feed the country. Moringa included.

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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 Cuban Government Has Built a Trap to Attract Capital From the Diaspora

An economist wonders why investment in local development is scarcely allowed. Billboard: Achieve the maximum efficiency and quality. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Elias Amor Bravo, Valencia, August 10, 202114ymedio bigger

Not with my money.

And of course, not now. The official Castroist press has reiterated that the Cuban communist government is now considering promoting investment on the island by residents living abroad. One more return to what is supposed to be the principle from which the nation’s economy should never have departed? Absolutely. It is not advisable to be wrong.

In reality, the fundamentals haven’t changed, because the 2019 Constitution does not alter, but maintains the socialist-communist model of economic management. In this text, the ownership of the means of production continues to be “collective” in the hands of the State, the market continues to be prohibited from allocating resources, and private enrichment is penalized.

Nothing has changed in the fundamental foundations of the system, because even expropriation and confiscation remain in the constitutional text as Government weapons to destroy private property and accumulated wealth. You have to be very careful when investing in Cuba, because the economic system is completely different from the one that exists in the rest of the world, except in North Korea.

But the government has decided to build a trap to attract continue reading

Diaspora capital. The capital that is not allowed to be generated in Cuba by the population residing on the Island, is now intended to be brought from abroad. It is no longer just a matter of attracting remittances, but that Cubans from abroad, unlike their compatriots who are prohibited from doing so, can participate privately in the processes of socio-economic development in the nation. It’s what was missing.

All the countries of the world that have residents abroad, organize policies to attract their capital, technology, experience, and relationships. Spain did it in the 1960s, and Mexico, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic do it today, and they are successful at it because they know what to do. Nationals of one country who emigrate to another to work and carve out a future do so always thinking of a return, and for this, part of their earnings are used to accumulate capital, a business, or an activity that allows them that return.

Cubans haven’t been able to act in this way since 1959. Leaving the country in search of a better life and freedom brought with it the conversion into “worms” — enemies of the regime who had to be crushed or forgotten. Under such conditions, who is the government going to ask for money, and what for? I don’t think this policy is going to be successful, but if it is, some of the features it will have, as announced, are worth listening to.

Apparently, the regime intends that the policy of attracting capital from Cubans abroad only applies to those priorities established by the government’s agenda. In other words, a Cuban resident in Spain or France will not be able to invest freely in what he wants or considers pertinent, but in what the regime authorizes beforehand. But of course only after going through a long and complex bureaucratic process whose end God only knows.

Ernesto Soberón, who is behind this whole new “experiment,” has made sure to make this point very clear, so that no one is misled, and this should be enough to close the portfolio and forget about it. Soberón knows how investment decisions are made in a free economy, so his initiative to direct capital from abroad to only certain activities has very little to do with economic rationality. Another failure is looming on the government ledger. Most likely they will end up blaming the embargo, but in this case, the regulatory system is so intrusive that it will end up being the origin of the disaster.

The search for links between the Island and Cubans living in other latitudes offers a stark idea of the regime’s predicament: it is desperate to find financing, which isn’t coming, because tourism and export earnings are paralyzed by the pandemic.

So if this financial need is so urgent, it is impossible to understand why the regime has decided to allow Cubans living abroad to only invest in local development projects and cooperation exchanges – areas absolutely controlled by the State – which will significantly limit the business opportunities that can be developed.

Cubans will not be able to invest in the agricultural sector, in housing or real estate, in other companies (because they are state-owned) or in education or health (because that is prohibited). Ultimately, it is intended to take a bite out of remittances, not only from their usual use of buying necessary goods and services that are not offered by the regulated (rationed system) basket, but also from the possibility of the family in Cuba investing in a business that could  generate income for themselves.

Soberón acknowledged that they are still working on the regulations, and that they still need to create the legal bases and consider another series of issues necessary for an effective implementation of this entire process, so they are still far from any final approach on this matter. He added: “All this is being worked on, beyond the manipulation on the subject that there will always be by certain media and sectors.”

Manipulation? Who is manipulating what? And how? It isn’t worth wasting time on something that won’t work, because Soberón doesn’t wants the Diaspora’s capital to come to the island, and Cuban businessmen living abroad should not fall into this mousetrap that the Government is preparing, with what is truly very poor quality cheese.

Instead of liberalizing the economy and leaving behind the socialist-communist model, which weighs down the performance of the economy, the authorities tangle everything up with an issue they have invented in order to continue blaming the embargo or “blockade” for all the evils of the economy.

Now they say that, although for someone to invest in a country they must bring money, market or technology, the main difficulty, not only for Cubans, but for everyone, is transferring hard currency to the nation. And this is due, according to the Government, to the permanence of the blockade imposed by the United States, which is also true in the case of remittances and their possible use in enterprises.

Soberón maintains that if the US government obstructs these shipments, if it prevents money from arriving, that is another problem for the Cuban community that does not depend on what Cuba can do. Once again, the responsibility lies with the United States. In reality, I don’t see how the United States can prevent a Cuban retiree in Spain from sending a payment by way of a Spanish bank he’s done business with all his life to an investment project in Cuba.

In fact, I know of the case of someone who has returned to Spain after verifying how unfeasible it was to return and that he would find himself in a much worse situation than the one he left behind. It will not be an easy matter. The money must be profitable and its allocation must be free, with limits only on criminal activities. In reality, I’m afraid that the regime doesn’t want the Diaspora’s money. What it’s after is another argument to say, once again, that the United States is to blame for everything. They never get tired.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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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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.

Responsibility for Cuba’s Economic Crisis

Los Quimbos is made up of 100 marginal homes in which more than 500 Cubans live, without water or sewage, and many without electricity. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elias Amor Bravo, Economist, August 7, 2021 — Once again the Castro regime is tripping over itself to pass a series of laws aimed at, according to the official press, “strengthening the Cuban socio-economic model.” These actions, adopted with urgency but little forethought, have received the approval of the Council of State.

Government, Council of State, Communist Party: the triad of those responsible for the failure of the economy. They have not covered their tracks so there is no way that history will absolve them. Nothing more and nothing less than eight separate laws, issued as decrees, which presumably will be published in the Official Gazette in the coming days. They deal with the so-called “socio-economic strategy of the country.”

Regulations about which very little is known. Given the way parliamentary and the governmental regulatory processes work in Cuba, we will not find out what is in them until they take effect, without their ever having been subject to public scrutiny.

Among the regulations that got the green light from the Council of State — the regime’s supreme decision-making body and therefore the party responsible for whatever ends up happening — is a law on micro, small and medium-sized companies. It allows for the creation of continue reading

these types of businesses in a way “coherent with the legal framework,” recognizing their role as an “actor which has an impact on the productive transformation of the country.”

This law seems to mark a return to a situation that existed until 1968, when Fidel Castro’s fateful “Revolutionary Offensive” abolished all legal private enterprise throughout the country. Now, fifty-three years later, this appears to be an attempt to roll back that decision. We’ll see if the regulations governing these businesses encourage them or not. One has to be vigilant.

The council gave its approval to a law on non-agricultural cooperatives, which will regulate their formation, operation and dissolution. Expanding the cooperative sector throughout all areas of an economy seems reasonable, even in a free-market economy, where cooperatives work well. They should work even better in Cuba, especially in sectors where they are currently not allowed, like banking, education and even health care. This is another piece of legislation to which we will have to pay attention since we do not yet know enough about its contents.

The council adopted on a law on self-employment that updates some general provisions and regulates other particulars. Undoubtedly this is another important piece of legislation since it is not yet known in which direction the regime intends to go in controlling the growth of one of the few areas in the communist economy in which private enterprise is possible. It would be a mistake if its operation were restricted given that inappropriate limits have  already been set for newly formed medium-sized businesses. In any case, self-employed workers should have the same legal protections and abilities as any company to operate with autonomy and independence, free of excessive government control.

Also approved is a law on private sector employment and a special social security provision for self-employed workers. It will cover partners in non-agricultural cooperatives and in micro, small and medium-sized businesses. The goal of this law is to offer these workers the protection of  social security benefits. Its guidelines establish a means of control and suppression of private sector conomic activity, which to a large extent is dictated by the very nature of the country’s economic and social model.

On the other hand, it establishes a method for financing social security, which is beginning to have problems paying for pensions due the aging of the population and low tax collection rates.

Likewise, an amendment to Decree-Law 113, adopted in July 2012, was approved. It modifies the tax code and is aimed at increasing tax revenues, affected by the country’s serious economic crisis. Although its contents are unknown, it will try to relieve the financial pressure caused by a recession that has been dragging down the Cuban economy since the second half of 2019.

Another law — one dealing with the conservation, improvement and sustainable management of soils and the use of fertilizers — was incorporated into the set of guidelines that received the Council of State’s approval.

Agricultural supplies are in short supply because they cannot be bought abroad due to the lack of foreign exchange earnings. And in sixty-three years no communist leader has bothered to produce them. It remains to be seen how this legislation will deal the situation, which is limiting agricultural production.

Also mentioned in the Granma article is the law on real estate records. It establishes public registries of property ownership, applying information and communication technologies, as provided in the Decree-Law 335 of the public records system.

Having failed to address the dark issue of expropriations that took place between 1959 and 1968, it is patently absurd that the regime devotes so much attention to pubic real estate records when, in many cases, these registries attributed property titles to owners other than the actual ones. This is another assault on legality that will have to be corrected by a government at the service of all its citizens,

The provisions approved by the Council of State, with their complementary regulations, were announced in Granma  and will be published in the Official Gazette of the Republic but, as always, with barely any public or parliamentary debate and without input from the Cuban people.

These provisions are being approved solely on the basis of communist political imperative even though their feasibility depends on acceptance by the population. The experiments in this case are being driven by the current economic and social situation, which is pressuring officials to act, though they are not going in the right direction.

Cuba’s communists have already shown this year that they intend to govern without listening to the people. Currency unification was a politically a high priority but caused the worst economic crisis in the country since the Special Period.

The July 11 demonstrations were a clear sign that the people cannot take it anymore. It is not a question of the Council of State approving more and more regulations in hopes that the social situation will calm down. It is about committing to measures that really transform the legal and economic framework so that the nation can prosper in freedom.

This, on the other hand, is just entertaining an impossible idea. We are far beyond that point. To “strengthen the process of updating the Cuban economic model” is to turn our backs on reality, to go down a path different from the one Cubans want while trying to save what little remains of an experiment that has been a historical failure. Meanwhile, we will continue to wait for the guidelines to be published in the gazette to find out what they say and question them if appropriate.

The Council of State has lost an historic opportunity to provide the changes the country needs for the good of all Cubans. It is actively complicit in incompetent and unsuccessful actions by a government that places legislation on the table for its approval based on ideological communist obligations.

The Council of State could have returned these decrees to the government, or to the National Assembly, without approving them, as is its legal right, thereby taking a clear stand on the uselessness of these measures when it comes to restoring nation’s economy.

They are complicit in the disaster and are as responsible as the Communist Party, to which they are beholden, for the national disaster. Every day that goes by makes it more likely history will judge them harshly.

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Cuba: Incorrect Resolutions. Means of Buying Time

The stands in state agricultural markets in Cuba are frequently largely empty. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, August 2, 2021 — In difficult times, anything is possible. Including privately leasing state-owned vehicles that aren’t being used [Resolución 207/2021, published in the Official Gazette of the Republic number 68]. So the Cuban communist regime, faced with the most serious economic crisis since “Special Period” times, has decided to adopt a series of legal norms to “overcome some of the obstacles that prevent the agile and efficient functioning of the economy.” They’re late, they know it, but just like that, they all jump into a pool in which there is less and less water. The path of failure is served. Let’s see why.

I’m referring, first of all, to Resolution 320 of the Ministry of Finance and Prices (MFP) published in the Official Gazette No. 68 Extraordinary, of July 30, 2021, which proclaims the generic objective of stimulating the increase in agricultural production.

In the end, after a half-dozen experiments in the commercial sphere, the regime has realized that the agricultural problem is in the sphere of production. But it refuses to recognize the origin of the disaster and goes back to its old ways, with patches like this Resolution which, instead of fixing the problems, may end up continue reading

enlarging them.

In fact, this rule is intended to put an end to the failure of a previous one, Resolution 18 of the MFP, of February 15, 2021, which established that, in price agreements with non-state forms of management, they took into account the maximum prices set by the provincial councils and the municipal administrations, establishing the famous “price cap” according to which they could not exceed two times the price in agricultural products.

What do they do now? Well, just the opposite, in order to reverse the economic aberration of the capped prices. As they have seen that this policy is the origin of scarcity and lack of supply by producers, who see their efforts as not cost-effective, well nothing, with the new rule they abolish the price caps, and with this they again point out that the objective is to improve marketing policy, while not losing the repressive reference “without prejudice to continuing to confront abusive and speculative prices.”

So Resolution 320 annuls what is established for maximum stockpile and wholesale prices of agricultural products, but, and here comes the technical error of the rule, “only those that are destined for social consumption, medical diets and those designated to the Family Care System (malanga, taro, plaintain, banana, and sweet potato).”

At this point it’s worth asking why they’re removing price caps for only these agricultural products, and not for all in general? Is it becuse in this case the government wants to buy cheaper from its suppliers, because it has less money, and with this decision it’s sending a signal that it cares very little about what happens to the rest of the consumers?

It is true that the state budget is running out, and there are fewer and fewer resources for subsidies, but does this mean that the prices of services associated with social consumption, etc., are going to be aligned with market prices perhaps?

The MFP says on its website that the measure aims to “create better conditions for price coordination and contracting with producers, both for social consumption and for sale in the retail market, since it recognizes the current costs to starting from the economic limitations of the country are due to the tightening of the blockade, the effects of covid-19, and the global economic crisis,” but other consumers who can exert pressure on demand (such as those who buy products for processing), are left out.

What communists should learn is that the market is a comprehensive resource allocation instrument that works efficiently when all decisions are within its purview. Fragmenting the market and pointing out who can assign via supply and demand, and who cannot, because they must do so from political power, is a serious mistake that has very negative consequences in terms of relative prices, profits and income and costs. And the worst may not yet have come.

In addition to Resolution 320 that eliminates the capped prices of products intended for certain social consumption, in the same Gazette, the Ministry of Finance and Prices issued Resolutions 321 and 323. By means of the the first, authorized entities are exempted from paying customs tax to provide the import service to non-state forms of management, for the importation of inputs and raw materials that they contract for the exercise of their activities, until December 31, 2021. Are these the entities of the “Malmierca model,” or can they also be the self-employed who dedicate themselves to these tasks? Is this measure going to apply to both?

The measure is somewhat complex and will oblige those who engage in these activities to declare which products they bring in from abroad are consigned for sale in the market, with special reference to those inputs and raw materials destined for agricultural production, not applying to finished products. Once again the authorities generate confusion with this measure, by not clearly defining who is exempted from paying customs tax and who is not, and especially why.

The rule establishes in its wording that its objective “is to reduce costs and stimulate the production of goods and the provision of services by non-state forms of management, which will benefit other actors in the economy and the population.” If they really wanted to achieve this, what would be advisable is tax relief on all goods from abroad. The patches only go so far.

For its part, Resolution 323 exempts from the payment of taxes on personal income and on sales to natural persons who carry out “garage sales,” in accordance with the regulation published a few days ago by the Ministry of Internal Trade. The rule says that “the tax treatment for these sales is established taking into consideration that they do not have a systematic nature, and are intended to boost trade and diversify product offerings to the population.” That garage sales can help the Cuban economy work better is a limited-scope idea whose results will not take long to verify.

Finally, Resolution 322 of the MFP, published in the Official Gazette No. 69 Extraordinary, of July 30, 2021, exempts natural persons from paying customs duties for the non-commercial importation of equipment that takes advantage of renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency, their essential parts and pieces, complying with the provisions of the Minister of Energy and Mines.

The equipment that benefits from this measure — solar heaters, photovoltaic pumps, small wind turbines, geomembrane biodigesters, biogas motor pumps, solar lighting, and solar air conditioning systems, as well as the essential parts and pieces of this equipment — are not part of the non-commercial import value authorized for natural persons, and must be presented to Customs separately from the rest of the imported articles.

Through this measure, it is intended to encourage the importation of this equipment, with the aim of diversifying the development of renewable energy sources and increasing their participation in the country’s electricity generation matrix. Are we perhaps facing a bullish rally of non-renewable energies? Permit me to smile.

On a more serious note. With a state deficit above 20% of GDP and all sources of income down due to the serious economic crisis, is the regime in a position to accept lower tax revenues from tax bases with supposedly increasing activity? Where’s the catch?

[1] Resolución 207/2021, publicada en la Gaceta Oficial de la República número 68

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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