The Cuban Economy is Close to Collapse

Cubans’ wages grew insignificantly compared to the increase in inflation and even lost a lot of value at the exchange rate with the dollar. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, September 29, 2023 — In the latest edition of the State TV’s Roundtable program, Cuba’s Minister of Economy Gil reaffirmed the “socialist” model to get the Cuban economy out of the rut, a combination of rejection of the market and a determined commitment to planning that are, in short, the causes of the vicious circle in which the economy finds itself. There is no better way to die by killing. Castroism, in the terminal phase, can still cause a lot of damage to Cuban society. Because contrary to what the minister said in the program, Cuba’s economy is not on “any path of economic recovery.” It’s very close to collapsing. No one should be fooled.

There is not a single indicator of the economy that improves. In fact, the Roundtable gave examples of short-term anxiety for survival and mentioned the case of children’s milk, which is not assured, or coffee deliveries that are increasingly dependent on imports. There is no area in the Cuban economy that shows positive data, and it cannot continue like that.

Even the renowned “regulated basic basket” is at the center of citizens’ concern, because there have been delays and products that have not been able to be delivered in the corresponding month. External dependence on food requires having foreign currency that the people don’t have. The solution for the communists is to stop importing and to reduce the population’s food. A disaster. continue reading

The Roundtable focused on the analysis of the “complex situation that the country is experiencing in terms of electricity generation due to fuel deficit, as well as the impact on other priority aspects for the people,” with the participation of the aforementioned Alejando Gil and the Minister of Energy and Mines, Vicente de la O Levy.

Vicente de la O Levy was in charge of starting the program and explained “the country’s strategy to guarantee the stability of electricity service, especially in the months of July and August” with high level of consumption. He referred to an action plan aimed at increasing the hours of planned maintenance, in order to recover power and not have to work against the accumulating effects. In that sense, he cited the recovery of Unit 6 of the Mariel Thermoelectric Plant and the sites of Mariel and Moa themselves, which allowed the incorporation of more than 300 megawatts (MW). However, blackouts continued to occur.

He also talked about the drilling of two Energás gas wells, which were not available due to lack of fuel and the maintenance to Felton. The minister said that all these actions bore very good fruit, and that, despite a record increase in consumption in July and August, it was possible to maintain service with minimal effects, which only reached 2% compared to the previous year, maintaining the well-known blackouts, always present in the reality of the country.

The minister also said that there is now greater availability in terms of power than in previous moments, but he said that “the problem is in the fuel,” and despite the efforts made with all the fuels, the problem remains. At that point, he said that “we have not reached zero, nor are we going to reach zero” – a really disturbing phrase that gives a fairly approximate idea of the current situation.

Regarding the energy matrix, consumption is still highly concentrated in non-renewable energies. The current model has really changed little from the one that existed in Batista’s time, despite the fact that 64 years have passed. This is the case of diesel, of which Cuba consumes between 120,000 and 130,000 tons per month.

So that in the face of the impossibility of acquiring fuel, the only way to alleviate the shortage is by reducing consumption, and here the minister spoke of energy-saving measures, both in the state and residential sectors, the latter with the highest consumption of that service. Yes, energy savings in Cuba. Seeing is believing.

The minister is asking Cubans to live in the dark, since, he said, a 20-watt light bulb turned off in four million homes, means a savings of about 8 MW, which is what a municipality consumes on average. The minister wants a better organization and rational use of air conditioning equipment, but although he didn’t say it, that means turning everything off and returning to the caves.

And at this point, after explaining the severity of the moment, he pointed out that an improvement can occur from October, with the entry of Energás, and again, the gradual arrival of fuel. This argument served for the usual bravado against the northern neighbor and the embargo/blockade, which, according to the minister, continues to be the main obstacle to accessing spare parts and other necessary resources in the maintenance of thermoelectric plants. False. The main obstacle is Cuba’s lack of credit in the international financial markets because of not paying its debts. Things have to be explained, and the truth should always be told.

He then said that he continues the action plan to recover the generation units with the use of national fuels, which are highly polluting and go against any environmental effort. He also said that the Electric Union, in its strategic development, is moving towards renewable energies, to achieve independence from imported fuels, but he did not cite percentages or investment value.

At this point, the Minister of Economy Gil said that saving does not mean to stop doing but to consume less without paralyzing activities, and he added “that the top management of the country, in a meeting with the authorities of all the provinces, analyzed in detail the strategies that are to be adopted in each territory.” And here came the surprise of the night when the minister recognized that among the decisions are those of “postponing activities that are not of an urgent nature, resuming teleworking where possible, and reducing the use of high-consuming equipment, such as air conditioners in offices,” measures that recalled the times of the pandemic.

These decisions, although the minister does not acknowledge it, imply a decrease in the level of activity in some workplaces, which accentuates the severity of the economic stagnation and recession in which the Cuban economy finds itself, and with it the difficulties to get out of the current crisis. The solutions and alternatives that the authorities are looking for, once again, go against the economic situation that is meant to be fixed.

The decision to prioritize fuel to agriculture in this period of deficit, to guarantee the production and supply of food to the agromarkets, is a desperate action that says very little in favor of who adopts it if then there are effects due to lack of fuel in public, local, intermunicipal, interprovincial, workers’ transport, and the ferry to the Isle of Youth.

The most serious of all is that this set of measures arise from an exercise of central economic planning, which is still in the DNA of the Cuban communist regime. This is summarized by Minister Gil when he says, “All those who receive fuel designations know the amount decreed and can better organize themselves to look for  available alternatives. It’s a momentary experience that we can maintain.” Does he really think that’s the case?

The minister was convinced that there will be palpable effects, and that the economy is approaching a scenario of contraction, but “there will be no collapse.” It is not so clear that this will be the case since Prime Minister Marrero, a few days ago, said about the energy saving measures that they “must be extended to all economic actors,” in clear contradiction to that discrimination expressed by the minister. The Cuban economy has been collapsing for a long time, and, what is worse, to deny it or not recognize it is a reckless attitude of the authorities. They should take a look at themselves.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Attention to Vulnerable Groups: Another Black Hole in Cuba

A study has revealed that in 21% of Cubans who live below the poverty line often go without breakfast, lunch or dinner due to lack of money. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 9 September 9, 2023 — The two refrains that the Cuban communists repeat ad nauseam fall apart in a spectacular way. The first, that “the United States crushes us with the embargo” sounds more and more like a hollow shell. The US sends Cuba more than 8 billion dollars a year in remittances, so no one can believe the “persecution,” and if they do it’s for political reasons.

The other thing that is repeated like a broken record is that “in Cuba no one is left helpless or abandoned to their fate.” This is even more difficult to believe once the bases of collectivism have been broken since the entry into force of the so-called Ordering Task.* In a nutshell, the Cuban communists are running out of excuses.

Not many days ago, Cuban President Díaz-Canel promoted a meeting to evaluate the progress of social programs aimed at the care of people who are in a vulnerable situation. The state press at the service of the regime has not missed a single opportunity to build a false reality.

The meeting was attended by, among others, First Vice President, Valdés Mesa, Prime Minister Marrero and the Minister of Labor and Social Security, Marta Elena Feitó. The latter was in charge of a speech to update everyone on the state of implementation of each of the programs of care for the vulnerable and to highlight what still has to be done in each of them, “to give continuity and preserve the social accomplishments achieved.”

The propaganda message of this meeting is that it was the so-called revolution that was responsible for the “main achievements with the universalist approach to social policy.”  Specifically, those in Education, Health, Social Assistance, Social Security, and others were cited. Obviously, the minister of labor can say what she believes, but surely she would be surprised if instead of being the informant, she uses public opinion, the expressions of Cubans, about the state of these services. Maybe she knows continue reading

them, and that’s why this meeting says just the opposite. The more the communist leaders distance themselves from the people, the greater the rejection they will receive.

The alleged social equity of the Cuban communist regime is going at great speed down the drain of history. And without that fundamental basis, little more can be done on that unfortunate Island, where every day the leaders launch new experiments to gain a time that they no longer have.

The minister made an express mention of the “children’s programs” whose family nuclei deserve attention, or those destined for “communities.” In both cases, these are  “experiments” of the regime that do not have the slightest justification except to maintain and reinforce control over a population that lacks resources to improve their life prospects.

These experiments continue to bet on collectivism “in a multidisciplinary way,” because the programs include the ministries of Public Health, Education, Higher Education and Culture, as well as the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation. Imagine the cost of these useless programs and the impact they have on the budget, since the situation of Cubans does not improve.

The communist leaders emphasize that they want family and community participation, but in reality this participation is “directed” and “controlled” by the single party that thus instrumentalizes social segments to consolidate political, bureaucratic and ideological structures. Meanwhile, who is producing and what do they produce?

Hence, absurdities are raised such as offering Cuba’s ninis — a term used to describe young people in vulnerable situations who do not study or work — jobs in the neighborhoods in which they live and also for the benefit of the community itself. They don’t realize that those young people, frustrated with their reality, leave the country as soon as they can to build alternative and prosperous lives in other countries, where they quickly leave the status of nini behind. Perhaps Cuban communists should ask themselves why, in an economy as social and collectivist as the one they say they have created, these ninis even exist.

Castro policies do not solve these problems, just as they don’t serve to achieve a prosperous economy. In reality, those “benefits and services,” which have been created by the so-called “revolution,” do not help vulnerable families to overcome their situation. The budget resources allocated to these activities artificially inflate an unsustainable public deficit, which is at the origin of the lack of monetary control that exists in the country and causes double-digit inflation of the highest in the world.

In fact, many of these programs could be eliminated and things would not change significantly, except for the plethora of officials, communist politicians and bureaucrats who live from their implementation. The minister emphasized that the cost is 6 billion pesos, but in reality it is much more if Education and Health items are added. More than 60% of the public budget is committed to collectivist programs, the results of which are well known. In Cuba, groups at risk of social exclusion are flourishing and increasing, and I’m not the only one saying this: the communist leaders themselves say the same thing.

That failure of the policies of benefits to families and vulnerable people is symptomatic of other structural ills that afflict the Cuban economy, placing it close to total bankruptcy. The situation of collective vulnerability spreads and increases incessantly, and the government is unable to face the process.

Basically, there are not enough resources to meet those needs and they have to be financed. Nothing is free. Mobilizing billions of pesos for the vulnerable means that the money cannot be used, for example, to build hotels, and the political priorities have become very clear in recent years. The economic resources available can’t be stretched, even when it comes to those segments of the population who are vulnerable, which, according, to official sources, have been increasing in recent years. Apparently there are no policies for this situation.

The communists are worried because the State can’t handle it anymore and has to make cuts in certain benefits, which breaks the collectivist vision of the revolution. Problems grow and the tourists observe poverty in the Cuban streets, not only in the distressed buildings but in the people, and time is running out. That is why they affirm that “it is important not only to demand of the State, but also of the families who have the obligation to take care of those people, because it is a collective responsibility to take care of them.” Things are getting quite complicated. They have already begun putting the responsibility on others, and for that they use the family code.

The Minister of Labor said that “we are going to begin to better update the population on all the services that exist and where to go to receive them.” She did not talk about reducing expenses and improving management efficiency. Everyone left happy from the meeting convened by Díaz-Canel to talk about the disadvantaged groups. The regime is getting further and further away from social reality.

*Translator’s note: The Ordering Task is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso (CUP) as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency, which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy. 

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Prosperity in the Cuban Countryside or Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch

Cuba farmer working the land with oxen

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 4 September 2023 — The Stalinist doctrine that has governed the Cuban economic and political system for 64 years spares no effort in trying to prove the impossible. They have pulled out of a hat a story that intends to show that with a correct direction and collective effort, it is possible to weed out unproductivity in an agrarian cooperative that was practically abandoned, dead. The example is intended to be extended to the Cuban agricultural sector in that forward flight to produce food in which the regime finds itself.

It is unfortunate that Cuban communists continue to believe in this kind of thing, when experience says otherwise. Collectivism is the direct road to poverty, misery and hunger. This doctrine comes from the rules of scientific communism, and it has led Cuba to the current disaster, which seems to have no solution. Inventing stories, in these conditions, is reckless. This is not the path that Cuban agriculture needs to take to be efficient and produce more and better.

What happened in the Antonio Maceo Agricultural Production Cooperative (CPA) in Granma Province is a unique story, but how many similar experiences currently exist in the Cuban economy? In any case, the elements that have facilitated the supposed success of this project are usually difficult to find in others. Collectivist formulas with the design applied by the Cuban regime have never worked when it comes to producing more and better.

The story is still surprising. As stated in the article, “on the verge of being dissolved about two years ago due to its low production, non-payments to workers and financial losses, the Antonio Maceo CPA, of the municipality of Guisa in Granma, currently shows a very different panorama in which productivity is harvested.” And the rest of the booklet is a cult of communist propaganda intended to present the case as a success. However, there are some dark spots.

With the epic that characterizes Castro’s prose, everything seems to have happened thanks to the commitment of a young peasant, Rudisney Roselló Arévalo, who came to lead the aforementioned cooperative a few years ago. The first thing he observed was a panorama described as pitiful: “empty lands, others half cultivated, disgruntled workers … financial debts and defaults,” a magnificent description of the Cuban agrarian panorama today. continue reading

Rudisney, seeing that “there was a desire to change direction,”  says that there was nothing magical in the radical transformation shown today by those lands dedicated to various crops and fruit trees. He had no choice but to turn to the communist organization for support. Nothing in Cuba is done without it.

The cooperative was dominated by losses that amounted to more than two million pesos and was about to be dissolved, with debts to companies and payments owed to workers. Of the original  workforce of 37 workers, only 16 cooperative members remained. The available land, 90 acres, was depressed, and only 10 were in production, less than 10%. In those conditions, producing was a chimera.

And it is here that the state press dashes for home and puts in Rudisney Roselló Arévalo’s mouth words that cannot be true, such as when he emphasizes that “collective work has been the key that has allowed them to achieve, in just over two years, the visible productive transformations that the Antonio Maceo CPA shows today.” It’s good that they force him to say certain kinds of things, but in the end if they end up believing them, that’s their problem.

Without owning the land, which would have been enough to move production, Rudisney had to entertain himself with what the communists let him do, such as “drawing up strategies to pay the debts that existed with the cooperative members” or holding cooperative meetings for everything, such as, “carrying out the actions of land preparation and planting of the papaya and guava voluntarily. The money that the CPA would save would be used to honor the debts with the workers.”

Think about the workload up to this point, especially the planting, and there is nothing at all. It’s all administrative bureaucracy. But behold, the CPA managed to get out of the productive rut into which it had fallen, and, as if by magic, “the land will respond with better harvests, and the income would allow it to start paying salaries monthly and distributing profits every three months, a reality that encouraged other workers to reintegrate into the cooperative.”

Honestly, doesn’t it remind you of the chickens and the eggs?

Not content with narrating the facts so far, the article cited the case of Yusdel Reyes Pérez, a worker reinstated to the CPA, after having left in 2018 because he failed to receive his salary. Yusdel said that “a year ago I found out that the coop was taking another path, and I recently returned to try my luck. The truth is that the change has been great.”

And he clarifies: Where before there used to be weeds, now there is cassava, sweet potato, corn, melon, cucumber, guava, garlic, onion, sesame … and all this with improvements for the workers who have returned to occupy the 37 places that in some cases have paid 20,000 pesos or more when a harvest is completed, double what a provincial inspector earns, which is almost nothing.

They have managed to function as a family, and they have attracted others to devote themselves to agricultural tasks, which has led to the recovery of the CPA. Of course, “several organizations have also intervened, with the support to carry out voluntary work in the preparation and planting of the land.” You can already imagine which organizations and under which principles (the popular council and various organizations and entities) helped. So it’s the same as always.

What they don’t talk about in the state press is the issue of land. Efforts to return it to production have been important, and the threat of pests is there due to the lack of inputs. But the most important thing is that the CPA land is the same amount; they do not allow it to grow in dimension, much less reach some formula for private ownership. The land still belongs to the state, the owner of all the land in Cuba, which cedes it on a whim, especially when the weeds become impossible to control.

This story would have a better ending if the CPA land really belonged to the cooperative members. Not only would they produce more, but they would also obtain higher yields. State ownership of land slows down the expansion of the Cuban agricultural sector and limits its chances of feeding all Cubans. As an example, of the 89 cultivable acres that the CPA has, only 10 are between sowing and being ready to sow. The eternal drama of always: the land is not taken advantage of 100%.

The case of Rudisney and the Antonio Maceo CPA, if it is true, is an exception in the Cuban countryside. In order for our protagonist not to throw in the towel, the communist regime has to understand the influence of motivation on production. No one doubts that the Antonio Maceo CPA, from the municipality of Guisa, can have a favorable moment for future campaigns. But this can only be done by moving away from boring collectivist practices, which do not lead anywhere.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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: If Gas Stations Eliminate Payment in Cash, What Will Happen Next?

Gas stations all over Cuba often have long lines of vehicles are waiting their turn. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 3 September 2023 — With the Cuban economy suffering the acute effects of stagflation (economic stagnation and inflation), from which the authorities are unable to extract themselves, the demand to give continuity to the banking reform being referred to as bancarización* and the elimination of cash in payments for different goods and services continues with renewed force. Cubans continue to encounter initiatives of the regime that, far from facilitating things, make them more and more difficult. All this was discussed in a recent edition of State TV’s Roundtable program, in which the issue of electronic payments in the Cimex and Tiendas Caribe shops and at gas stations was raised. The first two have always been worried about being first in line for the digitization process required by the regime, so they are taking steps to reinforce that position. Gas stations seem to be forced, likewise, to demand cards from their customers for payment and to stop accepting cash. And they said it was going to be a gradual process.

However, these Roundtable programs end up becoming a space in which initiatives that are related to what happens in reality are announced by the attendees, so that, once again, the attendees defended bancarización in their respective areas of action, without revealing the background data that are really related to it.

Because if the CIMEX  Corporation and Tiendas Caribe are intended to be meant as key players in the development of digital commerce experiences that drive the bancarización process, they should indicate what percentage of the Cuban population has access to their products and services. For this it is necessary to mention the informal exchange market, which, as Minister Gil acknowledged in the Assembly a few months ago, barely reaches 30% of the retail sector.

The rest of Cubans, existing in the area of poverty and loss of purchasing power because they only have Cuban pesos, have it much worse. So everything said in this edition of the Roundtable has to do with a limited part of the Cuban population, a scenario of deep and serious economic and social inequalities that the regime accepts, and even promotes, because it needs to dispose of those currencies that circulate in the population, at any price. continue reading

And since in these Roundtables we are never amazed by what is said, it turns out that one of the attendees, Yamil Hernández, manager of Fincimex**, explained that his entity has been charged by a monopoly regime with managing the only financial card processing center that exists in the country, presenting this as “an idea of Fidel Castro concretized in the 90s that allowed us to conform to international standards of being able to process international cards and create the bases of national issuers and domestic cards in the country.” Yes, unbelievably, Fidel Castro personally decided who made the plastic money in Cuba. Just Imagine.

After this “tribute” to the dictator, Hernández pointed out that in recent years there has been a “quantitative and qualitative leap in the processing of international and national cards, demonstrated by the technological transitions we have been able to undertake, the volume of transactions managed and the number of POS operations in the nation.” And he pointed out that the deployment of the IP network in the country did not take place until a date as recent as 2018.

In this regard, he indicated that 18,530 point-of-sale terminals are currently operating in the country, with an annual growth of 39%, clearly unbalanced and asymmetrical, since notable territorial inequalities are observed, with the provinces with the lowest increase being Guantánamo, Mayabeque and the Special Municipality of the Isla de la Juventud (Island of Youth). He also acknowledged that as the number of transactions grew, “difficulties still persist in the use of POS, since there are about 3,000 terminals that have not been used in the last quarter. In sum, 23% of the network, almost a quarter of establishments, have no operations.

The director pointed out that they have the objective of achieving the disaggregation of the network, since currently 70% of the network is focused on the organizations with the best connectivity conditions belonging to the tourism sector, CIMEX, TRD and the Bank. Other actors such as ETECSA, Mincin, airlines and non-state actors also have a number of POS in their establishments, but in the rest of the Cuban economy, the segment of poverty and the Cuban peso, these percentages are not given. And it doesn’t look like that’s the way it’s going to go.

Because, in addition to this development, the existence of recurring complaints in the population is recognized, of which the most relevant is the connectivity and the absence of an infrastructure that guarantees the connectivity of Fincimex and the response of the issuer. And here were cited several cases that really affect the process of bancarización of operations, such as local disconnections or problems with the platform that require a continuous level of investments, which the regime does not guarantee, given the concentration of investments in hotels.

Another no less important complaint from the population has to do with the requirement to capture the client’s personal data when an operation is carried out. People still do not trust service providers despite the fact that banks or businesses are obliged to validate identities. The fear of control is a real brake on operations.

Likewise, the director reported that 77% of Cimex establishments accept the QR code for payment, which is operated by the largest POS network in the country, and he announced the intention to “create new added values, re-analyze the commissions applied to customers, personalize the service, incorporate Android technology and wireless POS, as well as sustain the quality of the network.”

Regarding the QR code, he said that two types have been developed, one issued by the equipment itself and 127 units where the QR code is issued by the cashier, which allows two payment variants, by national and international cards and by QR codes. He announced the intention to expand the number of wireless POS terminals with all modalities such as those recently incorporated into the restaurants of the historic center.

Next, Marta Mulet, commercial specialist of Tiendas Caribe, intervened, and pointed out that since March 2022 they added different payment channels, which allowed sales to triple after starting in a single store and gradually extending the process to the rest, such as on the beaches of eastern Havana or at “electronic fairs that are organized with different organizations and actors in the provinces.”

Regarding the operation of electronic payment in the country’s services, Yamil Hernández said that there is a culture in that sense, that it was making its way from transactions with business cards and that seven million transactions with cards of this type have already been processed. In any case, given the small size of the fleet of cars and private vehicles in Cuba, the impact of these transactions is limited, and, once again, it brings notable economic and social inequalities.

Among the means of payment that were studied to carry out the operations were disposable cards, a product designed for eventual consumers (tourists, for example), who can purchase them in more than a thousand Cimex establishments, with telecommunications agents in Cimex and in Cadecas. He reported that more than 19 million disposable cards have already been sold to date and that the process has been modified, according to the needs of consumers. For example, the possibility of linking up to five cards at one time and the development of a mobile application that allows customers to check the balance of their cards, to see if they are active, etc.

Electronic pins are also available to customers, a modality developed in conjunction with Transfermóvil, and through this application, customers can buy a fuel coupon. When they go to the gas station, Transfermóvil shows a QR code, which the clerk scans and charges through that route. And here it was said that the “most innovative option is the rechargeable chip card, designed for customers who do not necessarily bank, since it is a modality that does not require connection, and as long as there are credits on the chip, the operation is authorized.

The card is free of charge, distributed in the Fincimex offices located in the provincial capitals. In the case of Havana, it is also available in 23 Cimex establishments. To create a credit on the balance, Yamil Hernández reported that there are 433 points where it can be done, by bank card transfer or in cash.

The Roundtable attendees concluded that the gas stations are an “avant-garde institution in the use of digital payment in Cuba” and that this transformation implies a challenge in terms of attention to the consumer and the need to instruct him. Lázaro Ayala, director of Servicentros of Cimex, said that “a work schedule was designed to implement the transition to digital payment gradually, so that the cash sale of fuel in all gas stations is eliminated.”

Some 99% of the gas stations have an IP connection, except for two in Matanzas where the rechargeable chip card can be used. For three years they have given seminars to workers, so that they can give their customers clear explanations about the various means of payment they can use.

And at this point it was announced what was feared by some spectators who survived the Roundtable at that late hour, which is that those customers who don’t have an online payment method but have the physical money will be able to purchase the rechargeable chip cards in an area adjacent to the service providers. No one escapes the hierarchical order of the regime. And cash is seriously running out in the gas stations.

So the message was very clear: “Beginning September 1 and until October 31 we will gradually eliminate the sale of fuel in cash in the gas stations. This process will be accompanied by our Cimex directors and officials, to resolve any eventuality.” The statement is not exempt from sarcasm: “in case of complaints or suggestions, the administrators of the services can be contacted, and, if the problem is not resolved, there is a unique number established for customers to address their concerns (80000724), the Cimex profiles on social networks or the email” No more paying for gasoline in cash.

Translator’s notes:

*”Bancarización” is a term used in Cuba and other Latin American countries that refers to government efforts to reduce the role of cash through a greater reliance on banks’ digital payment options. The term does not seem to have a counterpart in English so the Spanish term is used throughout this translation.

**Financiera Cimex S.A. (FINCIMEX) is a financial investment and remittance company owned by GAESA and incorporated in Panama. Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A. (GAESA) is a Cuban military-controlled umbrella enterprise with interests in the tourism, financial investment, import/export, and remittance sectors of Cuba’s economy. GAESA’s portfolio includes businesses incorporated in Panama to bypass CACR-related restrictions.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Castro Regime’s Fear of Private Land Ownership in Cuba

Tired of Cuban inefficiency, the Vietnamese abandoned their successful rice project in Sancti Spíritus. (Granma/Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 2 September 2023 — Communists don’t want a private sector in Cuba like the one that exists in the rest of the world. On numerous occasions, the Castro revolution has been interpreted as a process that extends the poverty of the population by depriving it of one of the main sources of vital income along with salary: property rights over economic assets. Since all productive capital is in the hands of the State, the possibility of civil society making a difference with respect to the political power of the regime becomes impossible. Cubans, immersed in an absurd poverty, depend on the State to develop their lives. There are hardly any spaces for independence from the crumbs of power.

A good example of this is the current study in the National Assembly of a Draft Land Law that, far from regulating private property rights, concerns inconsequential issues such as the ordering of the use and possession of the resource. Ordering, because it means greater power of intervention and coercion by the regime, and possession because in communist Cuba private property will never be recognized. It is worth noting the differences between the two concepts.

Using the dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish language, property is the right of someone to possess something and be able to dispose of it within the law. It has other meanings, but this is the one that interests us. On the contrary, possession means having something that is not owned, with the intention of preserving it for oneself or for another. Look at the differences, because they are substantial. “Property” means its owner can do whatever he wants with something within the law. “Possession” means he can only use it and conserve it. One has nothing to do with the other.

The Vietnamese communists understood this, and in the 90s they implemented the reforms known as Doi Moi, which simply recognized what was forbidden in Cuba: land property rights. And from then on, in just five years, the country’s frequent famines gave way to Vietnam’s becoming one of the world’s leading rice-producers.

By the way, Vietnam’s success has been so great that it occasionally gives a helping hand to its Cuban friends. They know the Vietnamese experience well and have been advised on what to do on numerous occasions, but the fear that Cuban communists have of private property is unhealthy, more burdened with ideological and Party issues, than with concepts of economic reasoning. continue reading

This is why the National Assembly of the People’s Power of Cuba, whose obedience to the single party is providential, will hardly open spaces for land ownership in the next Draft Land Law, currently in the process of being created. And this, despite the fact that this is the most appropriate time to address a debate that the Cuban communists simply despise, because they know that if they assumed certain postulates, their time in power would end.

In Vietnam the communists continue to rule, but the social and economic evolution in that country since the reforms of the Doi Moi have completely removed it from Castro’s poverty and misery, and today Vietnam is close to the advanced nations in the World Trade Organization. The Vietnamese people, although they lack political freedoms, have seen their income levels rise exponentially along with quality of life and prosperity, which are the bases for the development of democracy.

No one should imagine that this could happen in Cuba. The state press highlights, for example, that the Draft Land Law has as its background in the agrarian reform laws of 1959 and 1963, which constituted the first radical change in the agrarian structure and the redistribution of wealth in the country. So it is established that the redistribution of wealth and the contingency of land ownership, in pursuit of social interest, with principles and budgets that constitute premises for the transformations in terms of land use and possession in Cuba, will be maintained in the Preliminary Draft.

Not content with the failure of the change in land property rights produced more than 60 years ago, the communists return to their old ways and are inspired to draft a 2023 law like one of the most terrifying ideological failures of the so-called revolution: the agrarian reform.

As has already been indicated, the law only considers the planning of the countryside in terms of the use and possession of the land, which they say has direct impact on the control and legal guarantees for farmers. What is not indicated is what guarantees the rights of those who are deprived of property, and most likely we will find ourselves again with a relationship of “rights” that will be offered from the top of the regime down to the farmers, but without altering the hierarchy or operating structures.

An article by the Legal Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture, published on its website, addresses what little is known about this Preliminary Draft.

And here are some issues to highlight:

First of all, the communists continue to believe that the solution to the lack of food in Cuba depends on the reorganization of the use and possession of land in Cuba, without touching the issue of property rights. And once again they are wrong, because the solution to the agricultural problem is not about putting on makeup or making superficial transformation. It’s about putting the hoe in the ground and digging hard.

It requires structural reforms of land ownership that reward the work of the farmers. The land must be mostly privately owned and subject to commercial activity within a law that won’t interfere. It seems unbelievable that after six decades of failure and agricultural unproductivity, the communists believe that legislative changes involve reordering the use and possession of land.

This same old song will lead them to a much worse situation than the current one, which doesn’t take into account the true aspirations of the Cuban farmer. Most likely this Draft will not save the sovereignty and food security of the nation, nor will it help to improve agricultural yields.

Second, to establish the issue of the legal framework of land, the aforementioned Draft refers to the provisions of the communist constitution of 2019, where a series of “forms of property” were fixed about land. This left the “private” land with the marginal character that it has historically had since the confiscations and expropriations of the so-called agrarian reform of Fidel Castro.

The constitution also serves the Draft for references to the protection of the right to healthy and adequate food, access to justice and due process and procedure, all based on sustainable development for individual and collective prosperity. You can see that Castroism talks about guarantees and rights that end up being nonexistent and not exercised by those affected, out of fear.

Third, the Draft is justified by Cuba’s need to respect the international conventions to which it is a signatory. It is curious that the regime respects the outward appearance of possession, use and access to land and agricultural goods that are established in those agreements, but it forgets and despises everything related to private property.

There is no point in relying on those international conventions, “such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Farmers and Other People Working in Rural Areas; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as far as rural women are concerned, who advocate promoting and protecting the right to land with equality and equity,” if a basic right of the Charter of Human Rights, such as private property, is more than evidently violated.

Fourth, all this legislative effort is supposed to contribute to the implementation of Law 148 on Food Sovereignty and Food and Nutrition Security of May 14, 2022. And this objective, still unattained (and we fear that it will be another unsuccessful experience), is the one that requires modifying the policy of use and possession of the land and its legal framework.

The communists point out that the long-standing legal norms require an update corresponding to the existing problems for the transmission of land and its use and possession. But from the experience of other legal systems and reorderings, it has already been proven that not everything depends on legislative changes when they are only superficial. Food sovereignty and security in Cuba is a failure of the communist regime, no matter how you look at it.

Fifth, it seems that the results of the Temporary Working Group for the elaboration of the proposed land use and possession policy and its legal instrumentation have had some influence on the  Preliminary Draft. This Group has been behind the various measures that have been approved to boost agricultural production since October 2022, and which, as we know, have not yielded results, such as the famous 63 measures of the agricultural sector or the 93 measures for sugarcane.

Apparently, the work of this group has been accompanied by projects of international collaboration for strengthening policies for sustainable food security in Cuba and climate resilience in the agricultural ecosystems of Cuba, whose implementing agency is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which awarded Cuba 6 million dollars for the implementation of these projects. This has had little or no effect on the daily food situation for Cubans, as currently reported from the Island.

Last but not least, it is pointed out in the cited article that the regime allowed participation by representatives of agencies of the Central State Administration, the agricultural business system, associations, research institutes, academics, experts and agricultural producers in the creation of the Draft Law. These contributions were “weighted,” which means that the proposals coinciding with the official line were all approved, but those that were not were simply deleted.

We fear that this Draft will be yet another exercise of communist ideology, dominated by the fear of Castroism about private ownership of the land, and that it will end in failure without solving the problem of food. There have been too many experiments, and all have been unsuccessful. The people seem to be used to it. The question is, for how long?

Translated by Regina Anavy 

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Regime Brings Out the Heavy Artillery Against El Toque

Informal Market for Hard Currency in Cuba in Real Time (

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 29 August 2023 — It was just what was missing. Faced with the bewilderment caused by a fall in the value of the Cuban peso with respect to all currencies, which pushes the economy into an abyss, the regime takes out of the hat in the state press a theory that explains that the current exchange rate for the peso is dictated by the United States, as a result of what they call “a cooked-up strategy” to strangle the economy of the Cuban family. And they blame the online site el Toque* for this situation. Reading these things in a mandatory way is one thing; believing them and giving them a hand is quite another.

The communists’ obsession with the neighbor of the North, whom they blame for all present, past and future evils, is known. Now making fools of themselves in an unprecedented way, they also blame the “new manipulation tool,” specifically el Toque, for decreasing the value of the Cuban peso. The reality could not be more absurd, but they even justify it by saying that this action takes place “because of the short-term limited availability of Cuban pesos in the country’s banks.” As for assuming their own responsibility, nothing.

Cuban communists can rest assured, there is no war of the enemy in this matter of the peso’s weakness. It’s the result of a series of economic policy errors that, when committed, are widely sanctioned by market forces, even in Stalinist-based economies like the Cuban one.

What mistakes are we talking about that have led us to this situation?

First of all, the Ordering Task.** That jumble of measures was going to be the salvation of the economy, favoring the monetary unification of the CUP [Cuban peso] with the CUC [Cuban convertible peso]. Nobody remembers, but the commitment to a fixed exchange rate system, without a prior continue reading

analysis of the fundamentals, for the peso, with an exchange of 1 CUC for 24 CUP was a serious mistake, because the Central Bank did not have enough reserves to support the national money.

The exchange barely lasted a month. The government closed operations in the Cadecas [currency exchanges], the banks and even in the airport offices. To meet the demand for dollars, offers appeared timidly for exchange in some informal markets that worked in real time, not only with dollars, but with the rest of the hard currencies. Informal markets did not obey, at least at their birth and then with definitive consolidation, a strategy “cooked-up in the United States to strangle the economy of the Cuban family.”

Not at all. They arose precisely for the opposite reason, to meet the population’s need for currency exchange at a time when the communist state was unable to assume this function. The informal market is not about any “new manipulation tool.” Its appearance, consolidation and development was obeyed because of the regime’s political incompetence and the short-term limitations of the availability of cash in the national money in the country’s banks. It was not possible, as was proven from the outset, to bet on a fixed exchange rate system for the newly integrated peso.

Then the informal market traded the peso downwards because it showed an evident weakness in relation to the different currencies as a result of the accelerated deterioration of the economy and the growing demand for hard currency for numerous activities that were developing in the foreign sector. So, in the summer, Minister Gil made a new move and opened an intermediate exchange, with a price of $1 to 120 CUP, also rationed and highly controlled, with physical limits on transactions that were immediately seen by Cubans as unattractive.

As a result, the peso continued to plummet, reaching its lowest price in history. And of course in the face of this scenario of errors, faults and manipulations, the regime uses its spokespersons to affirm that  exchanging in the informal market “spreads like a dangerous virus among the people, many of whom succumb to the unpunished and opportunistic offers found on social networks.” Readers of this blog can only imagine what the communists mean by “unpunished and opportunistic offers.”

Well, nothing, something as simple as “If you transfer 30,000 pesos, you can receive 25,000 in cash.” Someone should explain to the communist leaders that if these operations are offered and they have willing customers, it’s because there’s an uncovered need that must be met and for which they have to pay. The communists, unable to understand the rules of accumulation, consider that this “business” creates the kind of unscrupulous speculators who rub their palms together and boast about “making money off the needs of the people.”

And if such a statement is unreal and ridiculous because it does not correspond to objective facts, it’s a leap into the void to blame the citizens who carry out these operations “knowing that they play the game of the economic war financed by our ’concerned’ neighbor of the North.”

Not content with making fools of themselves by denying reality, the communist press, paid for by money from Cubans, charges against the initiative of el Toque, which has been offering daily and high quality information about the exchange rates for the Cuban peso in the informal market. This public service should be offered by the Central Bank of Cuba, which absurdly maintains absolute ignorance of these exchange rates.

Then they talk about evidence of manipulation, when the question is, Who manipulates whom? In reality, el Toque has achieved a remarkable appeal for analysts and the general public, who know that in order to have truthful and accurate information on the price of the peso, the boring articles in Cubadebate are useless. El Toque is the source of information even for the international press, without any need to capitalize on anything, manipulate or defend the interests of the United States in an unreal war that the communists so long for.

For them, el Toque carries out an opportunistic manipulation of the exchange values of the MLC, the dollar and the euro, against the real purchasing power of the family, by offering the real data daily. The heavy artillery against el Toque is alarming and causes fear when they say that “this page of falsehoods, speaking for everything that serves the counterrevolution, is the result of the media articulation ’perfected’ by order of the former president of the United States, Donald Trump, in February 2017, to act in Cuban cyberspace, through the creation of a Special Task Force.”

In discrediting the good work done by el Toque and the service it offers to Cubans, it’s necessary to understand who is the manipulator and opportunist in the matter. Throwing accusations against el Toque, which they falsely compare with another project of Venezuela, The Dollar Today, which has nothing to do with the Cuban initiative, only shows how ridiculous the official communist line is. They’re unable to understand what a successful civil society initiative means, and why el Toque has been gaining followers in increasing number and quality.

As if that were not enough, the regime attributes the weakness of the Cuban peso to “this war of the enemy that does not act head-on, but through its think tanks, pressure groups and financial lobbies, with the support of a well-articulated, well-paid media network affiliated with large media conglomerates and special services, to generate processes of economic destabilization operating from the shadows.”

I can assure you that this blog receives no payments, no rewards, no fees or any emolument. And its objective is not to destabilize anything, operating from the shadows, but to describe in the light of day the aberrations that the communists commit in terms of economic policy and the disaster to which they have led the nation, while we express our concern about what may happen to el Toque.

Translator’s notes:

* El Toque is an independent digital newspaper that provides daily  exchange rates for the Cuban peso in all markets, including that of cryptocurrency.

** The Ordering Task is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso (CUP) as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency, which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy. 

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Keys to Cuban President Diaz-Canel’s Speech at the BRICS Summit

One of the sessions of the XV BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Cuba Presidency/Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 25 August 2023 — There was expectation about Díaz-Canel’s speech before the G77 and the BRICS gathered in Pretoria during the XV Summit of these countries. A missed opportunity to correct mistakes and and set things straight. Unfortunately, this is not present in the Cuban regime and, therefore, this speech can be classified as another missed opportunity. The Cuban state press has a long experience in reproducing these official speeches since the time of Fidel Castro. Then, a shorthand version could occupy five or six pages, given the annoying length of Castro’s speeches. Now, in the case of Díaz-Canel, his words are collected with the same professionalism, but the space needed is incredibly smaller. We have won something.

The Cuban communist began with reference to the fact that “to achieve a more just and sustainable future, the time for collective action is not tomorrow, it is now,” undoubtedly thinking about the situation of every man for himself for his failed experiments, the last one being the so-called bancarización* (banking reform).

According to Díaz-Canel, the BRICS summit “is an integration mechanism that, due to its novelty and diversity, opens expectations and hopes on the path of strengthening multilateralism, which today is as urgent as it is essential for the very destiny of humanity.”

And the truth is that by betting on this organization, the Cuban leader leaves the path of most of the West and democratic countries of the world, where freedoms and the rule of law open the way, and instead integrates countries of very diverse profile in which it is difficult to establish a level of comparison.

Then he made use of Castro’s populism to celebrate that the event is taking place in African lands, “the cradle of a part of our ancestors that fundamentally feeds the very essence of Cuban identity.” Demagoguery, because Díaz-Canel’s ancestors are in a different place, and even the reference to the satisfaction of being in South Africa has little to do with the history of Cuba in the region. continue reading

There was reference to the 400,000 Cubans who, according to Díaz-Canel, “contributed to the fight against apartheid in African lands and the 2,289 of our Cuban internationalist fighters who fell heroically, writing with their sacrifice one of the most beautiful pages in the history of solidarity between peoples.”

These references in which anything can fit led him to say, about the relations between South Africa and Cuba, that there are “solid and indelible imprints like the memory of the historic leaders of both nations. We can never forget the embrace of Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro when they met here and asked to meet again, as only happens between very loving brothers.” Fidel Castro always appears as a salesman’s business card to open a cold door to get a customer. We’ll see how long it lasts.

At the presentation, Díaz-Canel justified his presence there as president of the Group of 77 and China, the largest and most diverse group of developing nations, in case anyone didn’t know or have any doubt about it. And then he dedicated himself to selling the characteristics of the organization, and the 134 countries, two-thirds of the members of the United Nations, that make it up.

In a clear allusion to the absence of an embargo or blockade on the Island, Díaz-Canel reaffirmed that in the countries of the organization, “almost 80% of the planet’s population lives facing the colossal challenges of an increasingly unequal world, in which exclusion and poverty have multiplied after two years of pandemic followed by dramatic conflicts.” A diagnosis that seemed to have been taken from United Nations documents on these issues.

And that’s when he addressed the crucial issue of debt. With great skill he turned a specific problem of Cuba into a global phenomenon, pointing out that “in the last ten years the nations of the South have seen their external debt double, now largely repaid.” The truth is that, as was seen in the London trial, the Cuban debt is more than 40 years old, and despite the generous pardons, it has never been reduced. This speech seemed taken from previous ones, but it was far from the incendiary messages of Fidel Castro.

Combining the debt with the deterioration of ecosystems, when no one understands the relationship between the two, Díaz-Canel said that “if we do not act immediately, we will bequeath to our children and grandchildren a planet not only unrecognizable to those of us  from the previous century, but also sadly condemned to become uninhabitable.”

This was the link that led him to talk about the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda and denounce that “half of the 169 agreed goals are far from being met. More than 30% of them have not experienced any progress or, what is worse, show regression compared to 2015, according to the most recent United Nations report.”

The typical recount of measures and compliance with the Castro alphabet that, however, does not contemplate Cuba’s widespread non-compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals and the permanent famine in the country, issues on which Díaz-Canel was inexplicably silent. He went on to condemn “the developed countries of the West and the large transnational corporations for designing an international order that does not take into account the progress of the nations of the South and is only effective for small minorities.”

And saying this kind of thing in international forums, Díaz-Canel still believes that someone may be interested in investing in Cuba. Of course, not even the clumsiest would have screwed up in this way in a place where everyone is watching.

But let no one have the slightest fear. Díaz-Canel wants the Group of 77 and China and the BRICS to be responsible for creating a change in that unjust world order, and he does not consider that an option: it is the only alternative. The Cuban communist leader has rejected international companies from developed countries as transforming agents of the world economy and has turned his gaze, desperate, to the BRICS, which do not have the same concept of focusing on the field of international investments.

For all these reasons, Díaz-Canel’s demand that the BRICS and the Group of 77 undertake a real transformation of the deeply unjust, anachronistic and dysfunctional international financial architecture, will be left as just one more demand without content or meaning, in a global world in which the Castro regime, the last dictatorship of the cold war, does not feel comfortable or even safe.

Díaz-Canel took the opportunity to praise the New Development Bank created by the BRICS as an alternative to the current financial institutions, in an exercise of soliciting aid that says very little about someone who lacks international solvency. The policies of this new bank will not be very different from those adopted by other organizations, no matter how much someone like Dilma Rousseff and her knowledge of the functioning of the financial system is at the head of that entity. I hope they don’t have to regret even greater evils.

The Cuban communist leader also described as laudable the BRICS initiative to create a broad-based foreign currency reserve mechanism that guarantees certainty and stability to the South. To think, like Díaz-Canel, that the extension of that mechanism to other countries would contribute to alleviating the imbalances of the current monetary system is still a chimera, as well as establishing mutual lines of credit in local currencies by the banks of the BRICS countries and the possibility of creating a single currency for their operations.

Díaz-Canel seems very interested and willing to participate in all these organizational plans, because, as he said, “they are also initiatives that could be applied in relations with other developing countries, to reduce the abusive monopoly of the US currency that reinforces and guarantees a harmful hegemony for the rest of the world.” Incredible.

The rest of the speech was aimed at reclaiming the agricultural production of the BRICS countries. In terms of climate change, he highlighted the strategic value of effective coordination between the BRICS and the Group of 77, to safeguard the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in the implementation of the Framework Programme and the Paris Agreement. He also talked about strategic coordination between countries and scientific-technical development, among other things.

And, how could it be otherwise: he announced the next Summit to be held in Havana between September 15 and 16.

Fidel Castro would have made a different speech.

Translated by Regina Anavy

*Translator’s note: “Bancarización” is term used in Cuba and other Latin American countries that refers to government efforts to reduce the role of cash through a greater reliance on banks’ digital payment options. The term does not seem to have a counterpart in English so the Spanish term is used throughout this translation.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

According to Diaz-Canel, Relations Between China and Cuba Are Not Proceeding at the Rhythm Needed. Why?

Díaz-Canel on an earlier visit to Beijing. (Minrex)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 24 August 2023 — Pending the Cuban communist leader’s speech at the BRICS Summit on Thursday, as pro tempore president of the G-77 and China, not much was known about Díaz-Canel’s visit to Pretoria, where this meeting aroused enthusiasm in the weak Castro diplomacy. There was interest in knowing if Díaz-Canel would return to those incendiary and annoying speeches of revolutionary content that he has been pronouncing in recent times, or whether he would let himself be toyed with by the Chinese president, acting like a ventriloquist puppet, which seemed to be more likely.

The 134 countries that are attending this convention in South Africa are not there to hear communist nonsense or stupidity, and they confirm again that the Cuban communist regime is neither blocked nor embargoed and can trade, have relations and maintain investments with more than half the world. And the argument of the blockade doesn’t go very far either.

That is why, at least so far, what has aroused the most interest in this long journey of Díaz-Canel, who continues to spare no expense on his travels despite how the Cubans are experiencing their own situation, has been the meeting or encounter, or whatever you want to call it, with the Chinese Head of State, Xi Jinping, who also is attending the XV BRICS Summit.

The Cuban press is dedicated to giving information about this meeting, but they don’t ask for much. The topics discussed remained within that lack of transparency and cryptic language that characterizes the relations between communist partners. For Cuba, which persists as one of the last dictatorships of the cold war, having been invited to this international forum is an opportunity. Whether they know how to take advantage of it is another thing.

continue reading

The meeting of the two communist leaders took place at the Hilton hotel in Sandton in Pretoria, and according to the Castro press, the Chinese leader began by saying, “It’s a pleasure to meet with you again, my friend,” referring to the visit made by Díaz-Canel to China a few months ago.

Given the practical sense that the Chinese have for international relations, the assessment of the Cuban leader’s visit to China was surprising, which according to Xi Jinping, did not go beyond reaching a “broad consensus.” And of course, Cubans who are going hungry and seeing their economic system collapse couldn’t care less about “consensus” and want numbers, figures, cash and hard currency. But these things don’t fall from the sky and require work, and that’s why the Castro regime prodded the Chinese.

Far from satisfying Díaz-Canel, Xi limited himself to commenting on “the deepening of relations between China and Cuba in the new era.” In short, an empty and not very concrete message, which should have fallen on Castro diplomacy like a bucket of cold water. Undoubtedly, they expected more; they didn’t want messages in the style of “we agree to work together to build the community of a shared future.”

But the Chinese leader, who is very clear about his objectives, cannot and does not want to go further with Cuba, no matter how much the Castro press says otherwise. And for this reason, Xi measured his words carefully and is looking the other way in the cold snapshot that represents the moment of his meeting with Díaz-Canel. Then, going off on a tangent, Díaz-Canel ended up expressing “satisfaction that, thanks to the united efforts of both parties, these agreements are being happily implemented.”

And then came the typical communist promise from the times of the USSR that pleases Havana so much, but which is equally empty of content, when he said that “China will work together with Cuba to deepen mutual political trust, expand practical cooperation and strengthen strategic collaboration, with a view to promoting the development of special relations of friendship between both countries and parties.” This means nothing; it’s more or less the same thing that has been said for decades, and it doesn’t appear that specific objectives have been achieved.

So when Díaz-Canel took the floor next, he could not help but show his disappointment with what was said by Xi, although he restrained himself. A good example was the reference to Raúl Castro, as if the Chinese were interested in this character. But Díaz-Canel, faithful to his canned speech, conveyed to his counterpart “an affectionate greeting from Army General Raúl Castro Ruz.” It was the same message he gave in Beijing on his road trip; in short, the same one that Cuban leaders continue to use as a business card, believing that it’s useful in this second decade of the 21st century.

The meeting could have ended at that very moment, because what came next was dispensable, but Díaz-Canel, in the presence of the media, took the opportunity to point that “it is a satisfaction to have this meeting with you, and we thank you very much because we know that your agenda is intense in the face of all the expectation that exists in this Summit with your presence, for the leadership that you and China have on the international agenda.”

Then he said that he has “pleasant memories of the successful visit we made to China in November of last year” and took the opportunity to refer again to the consensus “that was reached between both parties,” pointing out that “they today mark the road map in our bilateral relations.”

And since he was following the script for the interview, Díaz-Canel highlighted the importance and significance of Xi’s upcoming visit to Cuba, and referred to “the admiration that the Cuban people, the Cuban leaders, have for your work and for what it could mean for bilateral relations.”  According to the Cuban communist leader, “we are making every effort to go forward at the rhythm we need.”

What gave a glimpse of the issues that concern the Chinese side is the fact that, since Díaz-Canel’s trip months ago, there have been no concrete agreements or investments of the Asian giant in Cuba, so the “rhythm we need” that Díaz-Canel talks about is not to Xi’s liking. The question is when he will come to visit the Island and if he will finally do it.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Banking and the Tax System under Cuban Communism: One More Twisted Path

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, August 21, 2023 – The government claims its new banking reform measure, referred to as bancarización,* will be a boon for the tax system. Really? Or is it the other way around? For days now, the state-run press has been on a demagogic propaganda campaign to promote the measure, which is intended to give the banking system a more prominent role in the economy. And every other day it publishes articles pointing out the positive impact it is supposed to have on society. One recent article focused on taxpayers, claiming it will make it easier for them to pay their taxes, make the process more transparent, and facilitate the flow of the money through the financial system.

It seems is the National Office of Tax Administration (ONAT) will be in charge of implementing the measure as it relates to tax collection. Claims are that it will take effect very gradually and will be applied equally to all businesses (whether public or private-sector). Cash supposedly will continue to play a role in the banking system but the details are still being worked out. Meanwhile, the regime is sparing no effort to push the measure through.

As a tool in service to the regime, ONAT is especially interested in bancarización. It has been integrating its operations with the banking system since 1995. One milestone in the process was the creation of the fiscal bank account in 2018. That year, the Ministry of Finance and Prices issued guidelines — Resolutions 197 and 904 —  that govern how such accounts are to be used for tax purposes.

In 2021 it issued Resolution 347, which affected all self-employed workers, requiring them to pay their taxes using the so-called fiscal bank account. In 2023, however, self-employed individuals were allowed to opt out of paying their taxes this way. Henceforth, these accounts will only be used for business operations and will have to be registered with ONAT, a sophisticated instrument of economic control that the regime goes to great lengths to publicize. As might be expected. continue reading

Realizing that bancarización was not proceeding at the desired pace, ONAT has been eliminating a whole series of obstacles that have discouraged bank customers from making cash deposits. In the process of finetuning the rules, it decided to make things easier for the self-employed, keeping in mind that some of them would already be opening bank accounts during the the measure’s approval process.

Apparently, ONAT recognized that it was difficult for customers to use a fiscal bank account because all the measures that would allow them to do so had not yet been put into place. Basically, a taxpayer had to deposit cash into the account, then withdraw the money to make other payments. Hence, no bancarización.

ONAT defends the new banking measures, claiming they will have a positive impact on taxpayers. As the agency’s management puts it, “The more money that goes into a taxpayer’s account electronically, the fewer times that person will have to go to the bank to deposit cash.”

The first thing to keep in mind about all this communist hullabaloo is that there is no guarantee the measures by the Central Bank of Cuba (BCC), as outlined in Resolution 111/2023, will result in a transparent or flexible tax collection system. As we will soon see, using a bank account to pay your taxes in Cuba is the same as paying them in cash, the difference being that many Cubans, almost 40% of the total, prefer to pay for things in cash. This is not going to change.

On the other hand, believing that cash will become more readily available to the public once businesses adopt the electronic payment options the BCC is proposing is a senseless, naive idea that just confirms that ONAT does not understand monetary demand and how it relates to economic indicators. If the public is allowed to choose its preferred method of payment, neither the BCC, nor ONAT, nor Díaz-Canel should question it. The public will choose cash, and not only for small tax payments. ONAT is in for a rude awakening.

As for making paying one’s taxes a more transparent operation, bancarización will do little to achieve that. If what officials want to do is to reduce frequent visits to the bank, then it will certainly do that since many accounts will essentially be frozen if the appropriate transfers cannot go through.

And if we are talking about tax audits or other forms of financial oversight, these are more likely to scare the few customers who want to pay their taxes using a bank card. Cubans do not want Treasury looking over their shoulders.

The claim that the new banking measure will finally make tax collection more efficient is another untested pipe dream that will likely lead to unpleasant surprises. At least now people are paying their taxes in cash. Nor is there evidence to support the idea that greater access to the banking system will enlarge the coffers of national, local and territorial governments. A benefit like that would only come from enlarging the tax base and not, it would seem, from bancarización. ONAT has other things to worry about, such as under-reporting of income and tax evasion. There is nothing to indicate that this measure would be effective at combatting those problems.

The numbers show there is a long way to go. According to official reports, only those who are self-employed have fiscal bank accounts. Out of a total of more than 273,000 open accounts, only a bit more than 410 are for the self-employed.

Given the circumstances, officials are opting for a more gradual approach, pointing out that regulations do not currently require tax payments be made from a fiscal bank account. There’s no rush. There are so many loose ends to tie up that the whole thing could fall apart at any moment. In fact, officials believe they have to do more to make it easier for people to open fiscal bank accounts by allowing them to use a mobile phone app from the comfort of their homes rather than requiring them to go into a branch bank. And this option, as you might imagine, is very eco-friendly.

To get a better sense of the situation, let’s look at some numbers. In 2020, first year Cubans were able to pay their taxes electronically, only 6.2% of payments were done this way. Currently, that figure stands at 55.8%. In the case of individuals, 53.2% pay their taxes electronically compared to 65.2% for businesses. In other words, 45% do not have the slightest interest in using electronic payment options to pay their taxes. The task ahead is immense.

*Translator’s note: A term used in Cuba and other Latin American countries that refers to government efforts to reduce the role of cash through a greater reliance on banks’ digital payment options. The term does not seem to have a counterpart in English so the Spanish term is used throughout this translation.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Sugar: No Present and No Future

The Uruguay sugar mill, in Jatibonico, Sancti Spíritus. (Escambray)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 22 August 2023 — The Castro state press has paid unusual attention to the sugar agro-industry that is currently starting the works for the repair and preparation necessary to face the next campaign, and among which are included, the pool of equipment that will guarantee the cutting, hauling and pressing of the cane, from the cane fields to the industry. Nothing new for those who have historically worked in the key sector of the Cuban economy, which has been left behind after the restructuring decisions undertaken in person by Fidel Castro at the beginning of this century.

Not many days ago, it was learned that this former world sugar power had had to buy a few thousand tons from its neighbor to the north, within the conditions established in the disputed trade between the two countries. Who was going to say it? The most absolute failure, just 23 years after Castro decided to close the mills and abandon the fields to the invasive marabou weed, displacing thousands of skilled workers from the fields, forced to work in other activities for which they had to be trained. All that display because the old dictator said that world prices were very low and the costs of the inefficient production to which he had led sugar, left hardly any margin.

Castro’s decision was lethal for Cuba, but it allowed other world producers to occupy the space left by the Island in sugar, and they saw their industries grow spectacularly. It only took five years for the prices of the commodity to rise again in the world markets, but of course, by then it was too late and the Cuban sector was licking its wounds. Actually, Fidel Castro always hated sugar, ever since he failed in the 10 Million Ton Harvest and as soon as he could, he dealt the fatal blow.

A blow that 23 years later leads the heirs of the Castro regime to try to raise a dead man, the Cuban sugar industry, without changing the model or assuming that the planned direction of the economy, without a market or business freedom, has also failed in sugar. That is why they proclaim that efficiency is the only key they have left. And the Castro state press does not stop talking about it. continue reading

But can anything really be done to improve efficiency and the sugar sector at the present time? Difficult. Those who are planning to rebuild the sector are the same ones who destroyed it: the communists, who continue to stick their noses into technical-productive tasks and convey ideological messages where what is most needed is investment and economic freedom. This is what can be concluded from the visit of the communist leader Félix Duarte and the vice prime minister, Jorge Luis Tapia to Guantanamo, where they “learned details of the preparations for the next harvest in the territory.”

And of course, the messages have not been flattering, quite the contrary. Once again, a complex and difficult harvest is expected, given the limitations that the country faces, hence the “efficiency” contraption launched by the leaders to the surprise of the workers and producers, who do not know how to be efficient, when production processes can no longer be carried out in the absence of the absolutely necessary means.

During the visit, the leaders were informed of the repair work that is being carried out, “until now without major setbacks” in the Argeo Martínez facility, the only active Guantanamo sugar mill that assumes, among other tasks, the production of sugar for the rationed ’family basket’ allocated in this province. In other words, there is no freedom for the producers to decide what to do with the processed cane and the sugar obtained, but once again, under the state order, they must move in conditions of little or no profitability that, as in previous harvests, compromise the industry’s future.

The state press does not offer data on the age and obsolescence of the equipment that will guarantee the cutting, hauling and pressing of the cane, from the cane fields to the industry, to which the repair and preparation works are currently being applied for the overall effort. In reality, what is verified is that they have been working for too many years with equipment that must updated and renewed, to facilitate the efficiency of the process.

The communist leaders do not see it that way, because the State’s investment priority is hotel rooms. The degradation of equipment and means of production in sugar is comparable to what happens in the national electrical system with aging power plants and blackouts.

Deputy Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca was also interested in the improvement works of more than a hundred kilometers of embankments and finally launched a plea aimed at deploying initiatives aimed at achieving other material and food productions that allow better care for workers and their families. The same old story.

It is not difficult to predict, based on realities like these, that the next sugar campaign will be very negative.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Twisted Path to ‘Bankification’, Propaganda and Demagoguery Open the Way

A cart vendor plies his trade in Havana. — cash only.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 19 August 2023 — Every other day the regime seems to spare no effort to try to convince Cubans that bankification — banking reform — is something good for them. An article in the oficial newspaper Granma entitled “Technology and bankification” is a historical review of facts intended to justify an expeditious path towards bankification in Cuba. Of course, at no time is it recognized that cash is preferred by Cubans for transactions, and the reasons for this are not taken into account. The important thing is to follow the hierarchical orders, whatever the price.

Now someone tells me that the Youth Club created by Fidel Castro in 1987 has something to do with the bankfication that is being pursued now. It doesn’t. The experience, 36 years later, has been a failure, nor has it served to computerize society or to advance digitization. Not so long ago these two concepts were confused by the leaders of the regime. Anyway, what are they talking about?

They even tell me now that bankfication has something to do with the allegations of Eduardo Galeano, cited repeatedly in the Cuban communist state press. He was the author of phrases such as “when it comes to Cuba, the big media apply an immense magnifying glass that distorts everything that happens there when it suits enemy interests, focusing on the Revolution while it doesn’t notice other important things.” Let’s not exaggerate, as the saying goes.

Or what do past experiences, like the 1992 Infomed network, conceived as a project of the National Information Center of Medical Sciences, have to do to with the need to facilitate the exchange of information among professionals, academics, researchers, students and managers of the Cuban National Health System? continue reading

With an alleged false allegation that was intended to exclude young people from access to information technologies, in September 2002, the University of Computer Sciences opened its doors to the first academic year, with 2,008 students from all the municipalities of the country. A university with more than 20 years of delay compared to similar ones in less developed countries.

The 2001 Battle of Ideas is even cited, with the foundation of the program for community television rooms, another collectivist initiative that they say allowed almost half a million Cubans to benefit from these facilities.

The count does not end there, and EcuRed is cited, in 2010, when the country had a bandwidth for the Internet connection of 393 Mbps inbound and 209 Mbps outbound, a cultural, educational and “decolonizing” platform, the most visited Cuban site on the Internet. Anyway, that’s what they said.

And of course, let’s not forget the scientific pole of western Havana, created by Fidel Castro in the early 90s of the last century.

Castro propaganda highlights that “all this and much more was done without having the ideal infrastructure and technological conditions essential for those processes.” The article says that the same happens today with the bankification process, confirming once again that the regime’s decisions have incorporated much more political will than technological conditions to move forward. If these conditions are not created, it will be difficult for projects and initiatives to prosper.

What good is it that 83% of the places where Cubans live have mobile phone coverage, 50% 4G coverage, and 75% 3G if, later, people prefer to carry out economic operations in cash? Is this the barrier that the regime faces or is there more?

A good example is offered in this article by Granma. It turns out that 13 kilometers of lead cable are still in service in the Santiago de Cuba telecommunications network that have more than 80 years of operation, which have not been replaced, because the necessary financing has not been available. And yet, Santiago de Cuba advances in the processes of computerization and digital transformation. How they will do this is totally unknown.

The article goes out of its way to offer a myriad of indicators and figures recognized by international organizations, facts and achievements that place Cuba as a country advancing in telecommunications and information technology in recent years. More or less the same thing that happens with the indicators of human development, which place Cuba in the top 50 positions in the world, when the reality is quite different.

These amazing data show that in the period 2021-2022, monthly Internet traffic increased by 3.2 times and 1.9 times for international connectivity. From January to November 2022, Internet traffic in Cuba was, on average, 113,045 Gigabits per second (GBPS) in reception and 16,914 GBPS in transmission. The need for Cubans to be connected to the world to know reality and maintain relationships with their families explains these results.

Another piece of information: Traffic on digital social networks in 2022, measured over a period of 48 hours, reached the figure of 377 Terabyte (TB) and 4.2 million subscribers. In 2021, at a similar time, the behavior was 4 TB with 3.6 million subscribers. Videos and photos in that same period registered 217 TB with 3.9 million users against 14 TB, and 3.6 million consumers at the same stage of the year 2021. In short, these were family communications to face the rupture of exile caused by the regime. But not much more.

In instant messaging, there was also an increase of 135 TB compared to the previous year. In the same way, there is a substantial increase in the number of people who access games and consume movies and other audiovisual materials. This growth is also motivated by that need to be connected.

And what about the data at the end of last year? Facebook had 4.1 million subscribers (+600 000); YouTube 3.9 million (+600 000); WhatsApp 3.9 million (+300 000), Telegram 3.7 million (+300 000) and Twitter 3.7 million (+1.4 million). It’s the same thing, the need to know and expand horizons, thus overcoming the chokehold that the Island has become.

The propaganda is recreated in the development by Cuba of two national electronic payment gateways: Transfermóvil and EnZona, and they emphasize that this result is achieved by very few countries. False. What happens is that in other countries these gateways do not have to be developed because there are large international operators that provide these services globally. In  Cuba, these are controlled by the regime and its state agencies and entities.

In the case of Transfermóvil, it has 4.3 million active customers. In the first half of this year, 444 million operations were carried out, and it is estimated that by the end of the year one billion operations will be reached; the user experience is 4.78. Payment of services has grown steadily for this gateway in recent years. The reality is that only 60% of Cubans perform operations with a magnetic card.

The propaganda emphasizes that 87.8% of telephony, 40.05% of electricity, 60% of taxes, 25.6% of gas and 8.35% of water are paid by electronic means, really very low percentages that offer an idea of the lack of confidence Cubans have in state banks, which will not rise quickly in the short and medium term.

It is pointed out that the achievements on the Island in recent years in Internet access have destroyed the stereotype. We would have to ask ourselves what stereotype they are talking about, because maybe there is some confusion. The communists will always justify their failures by the economic blockade, which in the last ten years caused damages of more than 500 million dollars to telecommunications alone. Increasingly absurd and irresponsible data.

The article ends by pointing out that since the beginning of the bankification process in Cuba was announced, there has been the opinion that the technological conditions do not exist to assume such a challenge. This opinion is based on an unquestionable fact: Cubans do not use magnetic cards for their operations; they reject bank control and prefer the use of cash. So far no one has explained why this happens, and they won’t, preferring to resort to disqualifications and insults. But the order has been given and must be followed. Another disaster is on the way.

Translated by Regina Anavy 


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Advertising To Attract Consumers to Online Shopping: Another Failure in Sight

ETECSA Telepoint in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, 16 August 2023 — The Cuban communist regime is committed to advancing banking reform — the so-called “bankification” — and now they have gotten into advertising, promoting a campaign in which state banks offer a bonus of up to 6% to customers who pay for goods and services with cards or payment gateways. We will have to wait to see if this clear incentive has the intended result and if the authorities are willing to assume costs for its implementation.

The truth is that these publicity campaigns logically have a cost, and no one will have to account for the impact on the operation, so experimenting can be an opportunity to see if Cubans will use plastic money, as the regime wants, and stop using cash.

The 6% bonus is small, considering the high inflation that currently exists in Cuba, but it has its quantitative scope and in some cases could act as a mechanism of attraction for the realization of electronic payments in shops.

The advertising campaign is aimed at the three options that exist on the Island: mobile transfer for the online payment option through the QR code, Enzona; the option to scan a QR and TPC code; and POS to use a magnetic card. In addition, the bonus of commercial banks (Bandec, BPA and Metropolitan) benefits natural persons who pay electronically without distinction of the type of ownership of the establishment or entity that makes the sale. continue reading

Will this campaign yield results? It’s not easy to predict, but it must be taken into account that success will depend not only on the discount or bonus, but on other things that in the current reality of Cuba are essential for this to work.

And what will happen if the electronic payment is made  and the dreaded daily blackout occurs?

The daily reports of the Cuban Electric Union [UNE] are still calamitous. On Monday the 14th, the service was again affected by a generation capacity deficit from 7:45 p.m., although it was reportedly restored at 1:39 a.m. on Tuesday the 15th.

The electrical system continues to be affected by all kinds of events daily, some predictable and others less so, such as the unforeseen exit in the morning schedule of unit 5 of the CTE Nuevitas electrical plant and the non-recovery of fuel levels in the engines of the mobile generation of Melones and Regla, as well as the breakdown of the CTE Felton, the CTE Mariel and the CTE Renté, the latter under eternal maintenance.

The UNE continues to strictly comply with President Diaz-Canel’s order to report on the availability of the National Electrical System (SEN) every day and anticipate a possible lack of service, and people begin to get fed up because the problem still isn’t resolved, even when the whole system is in service.

That said, what could happen if a blackout occurs when making the electronic payment? What happens to bankification then, and what happens to the 6% advertising campaign? You have to think about everything so that when the “affectation” arrives due to the difference between the availability and the demand on the SEN, the customer who is going to make the electronic payment is not stuck halfway. That happens and can continue to happen.

And if upon making the electronic payment the network goes down or begins to work with the usual slowness, that would exasperate anyone.

The complaint of Cubans about the terrible services of the state telecommunications company ETECSA is providential, and if the basic services are affected by the cuts and control systems of the regime, the electronic transactions, somewhat more sophisticated, can end up creating a martyrdom of waiting for the seller and the buyer. Seen from this perspective, it may seem that the 6% incentive is too small.

And if when going to the store to buy the product, it turns out that the last unit has been sold and there is no guarantee of when the next one will arrive, even in an establishment that sells in MLC [hard currency], this is where the deficiencies begin to be distressing.

The lack of replenishment of State stores is a feature of Cuban commerce that is magnified by the shortage of foreign currency. The really necessary products are scarce, and this objective reality can be a hard blow to the bankification that the regime intends.

So in these three cases and their multiple combinations, the electronic purchase, no matter how much the bonus, cannot be made, and the consumer, disappointed, will be forced to postpone his decision.

What do you think he will do the next time he needs that product?

What he always does. He will take money from any ATM that he finds stocked, and he will go to the informal market where it will be easier for him to carry out the transaction and return home with what he needs.

You don’t have to be a commercial and marketing strategist to understand these processes. Electronic payment can work as an incentive, but other simultaneous conditions must happen for the desired operation to take place.

And then there is the timing for the launch of this incentive. In principle, barely two weeks, from August 15 to 30. Totally insufficient. But what do the authorities intend? Perhaps Cubans will be aware of these actions immediately and will be ready to carry out the operations.

Those who fear electronic means of payment do not need to buy anything, and this campaign does not interest them. Those who don’t have a means of payment, given the deadline and the shortages (plastic money is scarce because it has to be imported) also won’t have time before the 30th.

Who are the communist leaders fooling with these distasteful improvisations that strike a blow to the morale of a people who just want to be able to eat every day? Everything is very simple and at the same time contradictory. Banks, as state agents that don’t have to answer for the operating account, increase the bonus to 6% for customers who pay for goods and services through cards or payment gateways, but they do not estimate the cost that this can entail for their accounts, and what is worse, whether they will gain customers willing to continue with electronic payments.

It is an attempt to comply with the orders of the communist hierarchy, so that the regime sees that what they order is done. And it’s an embarrassing exercise that will end in absolute failure.

Translated by Regina Anavy 


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 National Assembly Makes a Penalty Call on Agriculture Ministry

Harvesting. (Bohemia)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, August 12, 2023 — In these dog days of August, when the communist press typically goes into overdrive to burnish the image of Fidel Castro, one piece of news passed almost unnoticed. Its headline read, “Cuban Parliament demands systemic change to strengthen food production.” Yes, you read that right. This blog is not one that often reports fake news. In the midst of all the coverage of Fidel Castro, the National Assembly is asking that something be done about the food situation in Cuba, an indication of the seriousness of the problem and about which the legislative branch does not want to remain silent.

It seems it all started with an audit by the National Assembly of the Ministry of Agriculture, over which the legislative body has ultimate authority. Normally such exercises in accountability go unnoticed. No one can remember anything like this ever happening before. But things are different in 2023 and apparently everyone is taking a stand so that no one’s position appears fuzzy when the final photograph is developed.

Speaking for National Assembly members, Esteban Lazo said in writing that it will no longer remain silent or stay on the sidelines in light of what is happening, noting that this statement is being issued “on behalf of the people by the supreme body of state power.” So the Assembly’s representatives have told the Ministry of Agriculture to “get your act together” and to, once and for all, “contribute to the transformation and strengthening of agricultural production in the country through a political and participatory movement to unleash a productive revolution in this sector.” They really could have left off that last part, which is the same as saying nothing.

Cubans are fed up with all the political posturing and want solutions, which can only come by transforming agricultural production. And Lazo, who was alive in 1959 and can remember what a wealthy, export-driven Cuba was like, knows what he is talking about. continue reading

The National Assembly has told the minister of agriculture, Ydael Perez, to stop fooling around and do something productive and effective, like dealing with the sixty-three agricultural measures that have proved useless. Acting in unison, the legislators have exercised their oversight powers. Their action goes only halfway, however, because at no point do they call for accountability. Nevertheless, they have opened a pathway that the country’s senior leaders, Miguel Díaz Canel and Manuel Marrero, could not have have liked.

There are those who might think the delegates would not taken this action without first getting the go-ahead from the top. Anything is possible. The fact is, however, that the legislators have made their position known and have put the country’s most pressing problem, food security, squarely on the table. This is something that will continue to be a major issue during current parliamentary sessions, which run until December 2023.

The statement emphasizes the urgent need to increase food production to satisfy the needs of the population and to spur economic development by relying on the experience of seasoned professionals, good practices, science and innovation, farm worker recruitment and training, consultation with producers, and effective land use management.

Unfortunately, there is no mention of reform, the most important being the crafting of a legal framework to codify property rights. What is clear, however, is that ideology still carries more weight than effective economic decision making in the Cuban economy. The evidence for this lies one of the proposals mentioned in the text, which calls for doing the exact opposite — “strengthening planning and contracting processes” — of what needs to be done.  It is difficult for them to accept the fact that basing the nation’s economy on a model that no longer exists anywhere else in the world is a serious mistake. Even worse is their defense of “Fidel’s ideas on Cuban agriculture,” a ridiculous agglomeration of experiences that is responsible for the current mayhem. On this, the statement by the representatives is not correct.

Perhaps a conclusion like this could also lead one to question the usefulness of this type of parliamentary effort. Don’t believe it. It is good that this body, which has always been known for its silence, is now critically discussing the things that affect people lives. Though their statement ends by couching everything in communist messaging, the parliamentarians are there to conduct an audit and exercise control over executive-branch activity, and the Castro legacy has left much to be desired.

The door is only now opening and anything that comes out of it will have to be approved, but this is a welcome step to the extent that, by conveying the public’s concerns to the nation’s top leadership, those in charge may not feel quite so safe and secure about doing and undoing whatever they want.  We will see if this work by the Agriculture and Food Commission will serve as an example for the members of other commissions such as Economic Affairs; Industry, Construction and Energy; and Education, Culture, Science, Technology and the Environment, which have yet to begin to work. We will be closely monitoring their results.

The regime has never missed an opportunity to monitor the work of these commissions which, in any event, will have to be implemented in line with the Socio-Economic Strategy; the general directives for the prevention and mitigation of illegalities, crime, corruption and social unrest; science and innovation as it relates to organizational development; and input offered to representatives from voters involved in that sector. Whether such a brave and well-aimed critique can escape bureaucratic and partisan scrutiny is anyone’s guess.

After being rebuked for his management failures, Ydael Perez simply thanked the legislators and said his ministry views their exercise as “a valuable opportunity to identify potentialities as well challenges to the projections outlined in the provisions of the Food Sovereignty and Food and Nutrition Security Law.”

The lack of any concrete commitment puts him in a very bad light because, given the way the Assembly’s delegates have painted the picture, one would have expected something more. But as is widely known, taking responsibility is not something Cuba’s communist hierarchy knows anything about.

There was one consolation, though. The report did not mention the embargo or blockade as the cause for the food shortage. We are making progress.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Banking Reform Put on Hold and Another Experiment Bites the Dust

Cuba’s banking reform — so-called la bancarización — roughly ’bankification’ — has been put on hold once again.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, August 10, 2023 — Not surprisingly, recently announced government banking regulations have aroused a myriad of fears among the business community and Cuban society at large. And the regime, which has been sensitive to any sign of social unrest since the mass protest of July 11, 2021 has not come up with a solution other than a special broadcast of the TV discussion program Mesa Redonda (Roundtable) hoping to bury the experiment before it is too late.

With Randy Alonso serving as genial host, guests repeatedly emphasized that “banking reform [la bancarización — roughly ’bankification’] will be a gradual process and carried out as conditions allow.” This stood in contrast to the harsh expropriations and the potentially frozen accounts that would have occurred under Resolution 111. So banking reform has been sidelined. Another experiment gone bad.

So what exactly was said on Mesa Redonda?

The program took the form of a pep talk by the regime, one that was undoubtedly intended to neutralize widespread criticism among the public at large. That is why the interviewees insisted that “there is no possible turning back from the gradual process of banking reform and electronic payments in the country,” a position also held by the Central Bank of Cuba (BCC), the Bank of Credit and Commerce and the Ministry of Communications, but one that had not been openly discussed. Rather, it had all been hastily adopted, with no thought given to a more gradual approach or sector-specific considerations.

Speaking in dulcet tones on behalf of the BCC, Julio Antonio Perez, general director of Operations and Payment Systems, said banking reform was being carried out to “create facilities in banking services integrated with electronic payment options.” He reiterated that this was “a gradual process involving not only the bank but also all the central administrative bodies of the state. continue reading

In his opinion, the goal of new banking regulation is to facilitate the use of electronic payment options. “It is not about reversing the processes that have been in place until now,” Perez said. Likewise, he pointed out that the training process for bank personnel had been completed and that this would allow for better performance at local banks and better service for customers.

In what amounted to a mea culpa, he spoke of the need to come up with “a good communication strategy” and insisted that the process would not be implemented the same way everywhere, nor would the same criteria be applied universally. Banking reform would proceed only when conditions are right. What aroused viewers’ doubts was that he did not explain what those conditions might be.

In his remarks, Perez explained how the various elements of the country’s digital payment system — ATMs, point-of-sale terminals, telephone banking, remote banking, payment gateways such as Transfermóvil and Bolsa MiTransfer, as well as Enzona — work. He pointed out that Cubans with a bank account have been able to pay their telephone and electricity bills without having to wait in line since the early 2000s. This was an indication, he noted, that electronic banking has been very beneficial. “It provides security, greater efficiency, savings and more transparency. And the customer does not have to worry about finding a branch bank nearby,” he said.

Perez also provided another very interesting piece of information, pointing out that in 2019 most payments were made using cash, more than 88% of the total, while in 2022 the number of digital transactions rose to more than 63%. Additionally, that same year, 200 million transactions were done electronically, predominantly through Transfermovil. In 2023 so far, that number exceeds 130 million. Clearly, there is still room for growth.

“The use of cash is not being eliminated,” he explained in regards to Resolution 111. “This is our currency. Furthermore, nowhere in the world has it been possible to eliminate cash, though the trend has been to increase the use of electronic payment options. This is a gradual process. There are sectors such as fishing and farming that lack the infrastructure for it. Therefore, it would be irrational to undertake these actions.” One of many obvious about-faces that night.

Likewise, he clarified that the 5,000-peso-per-transaction limit applies only to businesses, noting that the amount is higher than the previous limit and does not apply to private individuals. He pointed out, “We are already seeing a closer relationship between business customers and bank branches. All these actions will be governed by contracts between the business entity and the bank.” A closer relationship? Where’s the data. This does not reflect reality.

He acknowledged that, though these steps represent a path towards greater security, the use of QR codes and other means of electronic payment between businesses is still in its infancy. For this reason, he pointed out, “Banking will empower the economy and encourage the growth of banking for the good of the country. It is not intended to limit businesses at all but to facilitate operations between the bank and its customers.”

Perez noted that, even though the level of service has not always been up to par, ATM use has increased. A bit of consolation. He is thankful that many banks have extended their hours to include non-business days, adding, “The intention was not to create problems for banks. We are making efforts to ensure that every banking entity receives the required level of speed and attention. This involves a process of office reorganization. We are not immune to organizational problems. We are designing offices to focus their efforts on business customers, as the banks used to do.” More confusion over what these changes mean, though, obviously, they are to be accompanied by personnel reductions. Get ready.

Next to be interviewed was Alexis Trujillo, president of the Bank of Credit and Commerce (BANDEC). “This week our branches became aware of public concerns over how the measures were being implemented and where the process of bank reform was headed,” he said. “Therefore, we have been working to respond to these concerns both in person and through the bank’s communication platforms.”

“The process of banking reform is a gradual one, whose aim is to promote the use of electronic payment options,” said Trujillo, echoing comments by the head of the BCC. He added that now is the time to identify ways in which the system has failed despite the extensive training process and on which work is already underway. In this regard, he said that BANDEC works with various economic entities, especially the agricultural and livestock sectors, which have specific ways of working, with daily payments, etc. He said that the doubts and concerns expressed by businesses in these sector will, little by little, be addressed.

Trujillo said he does not believe the work of rural farmers’ operations, or their ability to turn a profit will be negatively impacted by the program. He pointed out that the same applies to MSMEs and local development projects linked to the bank, noting that there are many specific considerations in the relationship between individual customers and banks, between self-employed workers and banks, and each case requires a different approach.

Trujillo noted that in 2019 BANDEC had issued 1.8 million cards. Today that number exceeds 5.5 million, an increase of 197%. He said that, for several years, the bank has been encouraging the use of its remote banking service, Virtual BANDEC, which allows individuals and companies to access the bank without having to go to a branch. He added that 79% of the MSMEs and local development projects that work with the bank have signed up for the Virtual BANDEC service and he believes they are already using it. The only thing left to do is to limit the number of cash transactions by transferring them to Virtual BANDEC.

Trujillo said the bank understands that it needs to reduce the use of cash, which will continue to play a role but will not have a large impact on economic activity. In addition, he expressed appreciation for the willingness and motivation of officials and employees at bank branches to implement these measures. Though the training process has been completed, the large number of customers at bank branches is still problematic. Whatever dissatisfaction with long lines there might be, he believes banking reform measures will help to alleviate it reasonably quickly.

Next to be interviewed on Mesa Redonda was Ernesto Rodriguez, vice-minister of Communications. Speaking in political and ideological code, he said, “The development and expanded use of electronic payments is a digital transformation priority, on which work has been done based on the same policy of societal computerization.”

It was as though he had not been listening to the two previous guests. Rodriguez began by saying that infrastructure capabilities have been expanded to support these processes and that their development must be allowed to continue to the extent that economic conditions permit. It was as though he had never tried to log on to the internet in Cuba in his life or had forgotten how often power outages occur.

Undaunted and relying on a previously written speech, Rodriguez said his job was to “make investments and work on networks and infrastructure. Nothing could be viewed in isolation. Everything is a system that encompasses communications and private data networks as well as access to terminal devices, where operations such as a telephone, a computer, a point-of-sale terminal are generated.” He closed by citing the need for digital platforms, adding that it is not just about having them but also about increasing the efficiency of the service.

He also provided some interesting data points, noting that 83% of locations where Cubans live have cell phone coverage, which allows banking operations to be carried out using Transfermovil, one of two Cuban electronic payment platforms. Transfermovil uses a cell phone signaling channel and is available wherever there is coverage. Another astonishing fact that he pulled out of his sleeve is that 50% of locations in Cuba have 4G coverage and 75% have 3G, noting that this allows transactions to be carried out not only by Transfermovil but also by Enzona, the other payment platform.

Rodriguez highlighted the two national payment platforms, which he described as a true strength and a national achievement. He expressed pride in their ability to provide technical support and to evolve, which is especially notable for a new generation of services.

As an example, Rodriguez cited Transfermovil’s mobile wallet which, in his opinion, is at the forefront of Cuba’s banking capabilities. The magnetic card allows customers to do their banking “from the comfort of the telephone.” He reiterated that both Transfermovil and Enzona have different access routes. Transfermovil uses a signaling code while Enzone uses the internet’s data network. Both are free to customers.

He said that Transfermovil processed 444 million transactions in 2022. There were also account balance inquiries, databases to maintain and service costs to pay, tasks that would typically put stress on telecommunication systems.

Similarly, Enzano reported roughly 45 million transactions last year. Meanwhile, Transfermovil  has completed more than 400 million service requests in 2023 so far and the forecast is that it will close out the year with a billion, more than double the number to date.

Transfermovil handles roughly twenty-nine transactions a second. Projecting forward, that comes out to almost three million transactions a month this year. Operations like this can only be handled with a high-volume infrastructure. “Electronic payments for things such as electricity, telecommunications, taxes, water and liquefied gas have been steadily growing in recent years,” he pointed out. [In 2023 so far] “more than 80% of payments for communication services have been made electronically, while 40% of electric bills and 60% of taxes were paid this way.”

According to Rodriguez, these numbers illustrate the level of trust and confidence users have in the system but also the sense of well-being they have when they can pay for services electronically. What is important now is these types of these payments become more common.

“It all depends on how willing we are to do it, to create a culture. We have the talents of more than 600 Youth Clubs, which are located in every municipality across the country. Likewise, we have the 8,000 members of the Cuban Union of Informaticians to help at every step along the way,” Rodriguez said.

He also highlighted the importance of higher levels of security on these payment platforms. To achieve this, tighter security controls are being introduced, including protection mechanisms for bank accounts, transactions and personal data.

Recent efforts to strengthen of the system’s structural underpinnings have provided more reliable data, thereby improving security. Tools to deal with inconveniences that crop up have also been improved, allowing managers to identify their causes swiftly and transparently. He also said training has been provided on the responsible use of these platforms and on how to carry out operations safely.

On how to encourage more electronic commerce in Cuba, Rodriguez repeated his opening remarks, stating that “it is up to everyone,” that those who have already adopted it must prioritize its use, starting with the service provider. “It is also vital that average citizens, who have already seen its advantages, exercise their right to pay digitally wherever the system has been set up, he added”

Near the end of the program, Rodriguez once again reiterated the central argument of the night and the reason for his appearance: banking reform is a gradual process.

My own take is that you can forget about repression, the iron fist, expropriations and so on. The regime has backtracked in a very obvious way. Trust me, the banking reform process, like many previous economic experiments, is being sidelined. This is not the currency unification, we already said that in another blog entry so you have to be careful.

Rodriguez closed by spouting nonsense. “All of us involved in the process are also working very rigorously in addressing citizens’ concerns and problems, and are pulling together,” he said at one point, adding “We can aspire to have an increasingly modern country, with a digital transformation that goes beyond conceptual issues, and citizens are seeing it in practice, enjoying the advantages and benefits.”

It was a long and interesting episode of Mesa Redonda that confirms that banking reform, just as we had feared, is being buried. Congratulations.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

‘Bankification’ is Economic Repression in Cuba

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, August 4, 2023 — Who benefits from the ’bankification’ of the Cuban economy? This question has been going around since the Regime, using an entity at its service, the Central Bank of Cuba, has announced measures that aim to reduce the circulation of cash and get economic actors to use electronic banking services more.

To do this, published in the Official Gazette No. 55 Extraordinary of August 2, 2023, is a resolution that establishes the banking rules relating to limits for collections and cash payments in national currency, their deposit, extraction and possession, and other issues that should not go unnoticed. One of them is the possible threat of confiscation to those who do not comply with the provisions of the rule. The other is the authorization to withdraw cash from ATMs, but only for certain very specific needs, such as salaries, savings accounts, pensions and other personal expenses.

The rest of the resolution is pure heavy artillery from the Central Bank of Cuba, it says, to favor the process of bankification in the country. And even though it is emphasized that the objective is, in principle, to “maintain equality for all the actors of the national economy,” the truth is that the measures adopted have clear asymmetric effects depending on the size or sector of specialization of the economic actors, among others. So it can be expected that problems will appear in applying the new rules, and that the eventual rearrangement of banking flows will not be achieved either.

The Regime points out in the preamble to the resolution that the increase in the use of cash in economic and financial transactions since 2021 has caused a decline in the levels of banking and financial inclusion in the country. Some reflection should lead to an initial conclusion: the entity responsible for that monetary expansion is the Regime itself, with its unbridled public spending, and not the economic actors to whom it is unfairly going to apply the adjustment. continue reading

Therefore, it should be the Regime that sets an example and acts to correct the high costs associated with the issuance, transport, processing and storage of money. In fact, the growing demand for money in a number of ATMs for cash extraction is the direct result of the rampant inflation that exists in the economy and that forces those multiple cash withdrawals in order to face spiraling prices.

The communist Regime creates the problems but applies the adjustment measures to others. Just like that. The increase in the bankification of financial operations, through electronic payment channels, is not intended to improve the service for economic actors nor to meet their growing cash needs. It only makes the adjustment of monetary control fall on the weakest part and conveys a message: here you obey, always, and at any price.

The resolution puts pressure on all economic actors, from State enterprises; senior business management organizations; budgeted units; non-agricultural cooperatives; agricultural cooperatives;  agricultural producers; individual small farmers; commercial fishermen; micro, small and medium-sized enterprises [MSMEs]; local development projects; self-employed workers; artists and creators; the modalities of foreign investment and the associative forms created under the protection of the Law of Associations. No one escapes.

Likewise, it is applicable to natural or legal persons not covered by the above, if they carry out legally authorized commercial and service activities. That is, MSMEs are also a target of the measures, in case anyone had any doubts about the coercive action.

The Regime has been in a rush to boost electronic banking operations. Despite the low or no degree of development of these, because Cubans use cash for most transactions in the formal and informal economy, the Central Bank wants this process to be based, as soon as possible, on the digitization of the operations of the banking system within its process of technological modernization.

The communist leaders are convinced that the provision published in the Gazette will accelerate the process of bankification of operations, among them, all the collection and payment relationships of the economic actors that are based on the bank’s payment methods and should be the basis of electronic transactions. They are wrong. It is the eternal obsessive mania of Castroism that an economy can function through the publication of rules in an official gazette. A misconception. The normal thing is to observe what happens in reality, and if it has to be regulated, do it by interfering in the least possible way in those processes. Just the opposite of Castroism, which has been believing for 64 years that an economy can be controlled and directed.

In the face of the disaster of the country’s ATM network, a service that the leaders recognize is not efficient, it is established that the teams will only dispense cash for the debit cards of natural persons associated with salary, savings accounts, pensions and other personal assets. That is, the same exceptional assumptions. The control will be maximum. They warn that if a card of another type is detected, it will be returned and the customer must go to a bank branch.

Shops that offer the sale of goods and services must incorporate the possibility of electronic payment channels, either through the Transfermóvil, EnZona gateways or the Sales Terminal Points. Let’s see how many warehouses in the standard basket incorporate these digital processes for payment. In the face of the growing alarm of the population, the authorities have been forced to declare that cash will not cease to exist, but that the use of electronic payment is promoted, and the “revolutionary principle” insists that no one will be left helpless in the knowledge that not everyone can access these mechanisms.

In the market economy, this type of initiative is usually accompanied by incentives or gifts to users to mobilize and reward their behavior change. Not in Castroism. It insists only that, since they are safer and faster operations, “they must also be a benefit for the population, so they are being studied to continue advancing in the levels of profits, which are issued by banks, a work that is also in conjunction with businesses.” Profits for whom and for what?

In fact, plastic money in Cuba is far behind other countries. The average is 1.4 cards per inhabitant, and in other countries, such as the Dominican Republic, the average is 4.5. This indicates that operations with electronic means do not exceed 200 million per year, a level that is considered low for the level of transactions of the economy as a whole. Behind this deficient result is the low confidence of Cubans in the banking system, where they have had terrible experiences, and its limited attractiveness for the promotion of savings and the sale of investment services, such as mortgages or pension plans, which are prohibited by the communist Regime.

And the truth is that, although the leaders declare that Cuba is governed in its banking practices by international standards and participates in all agreements and conventions, the reality is that there is a long way from saying it to the facts. For example, banking is all state-owned, and the banks are at the service of the Regime, in compliance with an alleged principle of legality, which tends to be blurred in certain contexts and operations. There is no competition between the banks, and they all follow similar procedures. Customer service leaves a lot to be desired. For example, the reading of the ruling of the London court denounced the strange Cuban banking operation. The judge’s ruling made it known that Cuba’s responsibility in the efforts made in the investment of international debt leaves much to be desired.

On the other hand, it is surprising that the deadlines for applying the rule are unnecessarily shortened. It is true that when the conditions are not created, the rule recognizes a period of up to 6 months for cash withdrawals to continue to be made in Cuban pesos to make payments to workers for salaries, premiums, gratuities and other remunerations, as long as you do not have a resident employee payroll. This very short period will lead some actors to prefer other informal channels. The same goes for the maximum limit of 5,000 Cuban pesos per operation for cash collections and payments, a figure that seems to be pulled out of a hat without too much analysis. In fact, it is pointed out that if these operations exceed the figure of 5,000 Cuban pesos, they must be carried out through payment instruments and credit securities other than cash, especially through electronic payment channels.

In addition, the cash income in Cuban pesos received by the subjects of the resolution, as a rule, is deposited in their current accounts no later than the next bank business day from the date of receipt. In the case of non-State forms of management, the deposit made in the account is recognized for tax purposes, while cash withdrawals for the payment of salaries, subsidies and other social security benefits and student loans are made, at the most, three working days before the date established for payment. These deadlines are not understood and do nothing but increase the logical distrust of Cubans in the banks.

Some economic actors have felt trapped in a crude financial “corral” at the wrong time. The financial situation of the Regime must be bad, very bad so that, overnight, under darkness and with treachery, the authorities gave an unexpected turn to their banking system, and the consequences can be dire for the economy.

And to make it clear that this issue is being taken seriously, the communist rule warns the presidents of banks, or the persons to whom they delegate authority in writing, not to suspend banking services or close customers’ accounts, “and to comply with the provisions of the Third and Fourth sections of this Resolution.” These exceptional measures go too far and create a logical alarm, concern and uncertainty among economic actors. Once again, arbitrariness is at the center of decisions in Castroism: the concept of “a repeated rule,” which is not adequately defined and raises many doubts about what it means, how many times and in what way.

Which means it’s not a joke. The resolution launches a full-blown threat. You must necessarily comply with what it establishes, no matter how irrational and inefficient it may be. Otherwise, be willing to lose all the money you have in the bank. It should be noted here that this is a case of confiscation of property outside the provisions of the 2019 communist constitution and the 2022 expropriations law. Where is the public utility or the social interest in these maneuvers of suspension or closure of banking services by the  authorities? Castroism is showing its worst face once again. Bankification ends up being economic repression.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.