Center for Support of the Transition Created in Havana / Rinaldo Emilio Cosano Alen

Photo taken during the presention by CAT. From left to right: Frank Ernesto Carranza, Héctor Maseda and Roberto Díaz Vázquez.

HAVANA, Cuba, October, — On October 5 a press conference took place in Havana announcing the formation of the Center for Support of the Transition (CAT). During a break we talked to its coordinator, attorney Roberto Díaz Vázquez.

Cubanet: What is CAT trying to achieve?

Díaz: Citizens should not only recognize they have rights but should also put them into practice. They should value those rights so they can advance economically, socially and politically. They should be in charge of the changes we so need.

Cubanet: What is its relationship with the government, assuming there is one?

Díaz: CAT has no ambition to have a dialog with the government because we are a parallel organization to the State. CAT would like the population to recognize that it has the opportunity to decide upon and put into practice the economic, social and political order that the institutional changes taking place in Cuba entail. This is especially true in the case of the private micro-businesses that could develop into medium-sized businesses in the not to too distant future and into large-scale businesses in five to ten years. This would have undeniable consequences for the decentralization of power brought on by the international and domestic financial crisis and the lack of visible support from Latin America and Europe.

The temporary solution on which the regime has settled is to develop micro-businesses, which today account for more than 40,000 so-called self-employed workers, those we prefer to call micro-entrepreneurs. Small-scale businesses could grow into large-scale business and become the economic engine of the country.

Cubanet: Does CAT have a support program for micro-businesses?

Díaz: There are various programs to help micro-businesses. One is the Guillermo Cabrera Infante Center, which sponsors courses, workshops and post-graduate conferences on economics, accounting, business management and feasibility studies. There is also the José Agustín Caballero Institute for the Education of Free Thought, which I head. It is involved in short, medium and long-term projections on the creation of micro-businesses. There is also the Independent National Workers’ Confederation of Cuba (CONIC), which brings together a sizable number of workers interested in encouraging an independent labor union movement, which is at last responding to the growing tide of change in our lives.

Cubanet: What are  the functions of the institute over which you preside?

Díaz: It is having a profound impact on society. We work in close cooperation with CAT to make sure that the social gains which have been achieved are maintained through analysis, research, courses on economics and financial planning. We have a multi-disciplinary team made up of seven instructors from different branches of higher education and with different areas of expertise who can impart useful knowledge.

 Cubanet: What support might the government give to micro-businesses? 

Díaz: Where possible, it should be allowing investment in small-scale businesses. We can see what might be allowed if we look at production cooperatives and non-state services.

Cubanet: Officials at the Cuban Interest Section in the United States made statements in Florida several months ago that Cuba might allow investment by Cubans living overseas, including the United States. What is your opinion about this?

Díaz: It is interesting but it is not enough to overcome the restrictions of the American embargo. And the Cuban government, at least for now, will not provide this opportunity because it can’t. It knows what would happen if it were to allow foreign investment on a small scale. Politically it would mean losing control of the gold mine that state control of micro-businesses represents. Metaphorically speaking, Cuba would have a million investors in a very short period of time. It is a figure worth considering. According to the official trade union, the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba (CTC), in the event we reach a point where there are between half a million and a million independent workers, the State would have to sit down and fully analyze the situation with regard to medium-sized businesses. It would have to begin the process of political decentralization starting with economic management.

Cubanet: Are the regime’s current reforms having any influence on the official ideology?

Díaz: For years socialist philosophy has been characterized by a clear awareness of material assets. It remains bound up with the greatest corruption scandals ever uncovered in Cuba. These include the scandals involving Habanaguarex S.A., a company assigned to the Office of the Historian of Havana, and Cimex, S.A., which is under the control of the military. None of the higher-ups want to miss out on a piece of the pie. The juicy businesses are those funded with mixed capital or capital from overseas. This is what CAT is fighting for. Economic development in the United States and the advanced countries of Europe was essentially an outgrowth of small and medium-sized industry. We must adapt this experience to circumstances in today’s Cuba because our people want to find their own way forward.

 Cubanet: Many thanks.

Reinaldo Emilio Cosano Alén,

From Cubanet, Octuber 11, 2013