Vol. 19, No. 6
In the News Coming food crisis? University of Florida’s Bill Messina warns of chaos as food prices take off ...Page 3
Let the court decide Supreme Court may rule on Fla. law banning academic travel to Cuba .......Page 4
PCC to ‘evaluate’ reforms January 2012 conference to discuss next step in economic reform ...............Page 6
Brazil eyes sugar sector Brazilian giants take a look at Cuba’s neglected sugar industry ....................Page 7
Newsmakers Mark Entwistle, Canada’s ex-ambassador in Havana, has turned his passion for Cuba into a full-time career ....................Page 8
A veggie comeback Vegetables: a bright spot in Cuba’s otherwise bleak farming sector ..........Page 10
Key players to watch A blow-by-blow description of who’s who among Cuba’s leadership ...........Page 12
Business briefs China to expand Cienfuegos oil refinery; C&T to fly San Juan-Havana .......Page 14
Dissident ‘Antúnez’ Jorge Luís García Pérez: ‘We’re hostages of the dictatorship’ .......................Page 15 CubaNews (ISSN 1073-7715) is published monthly by CUBANEWS LLC. © 2011. All rights reserved. Subscriptions: $479 for one year, $800 for two years. For editorial inquires, please call (305) 393-8760 or send an e-mail to: email@example.com.
U.S. experts debate impact of economic reforms approved at VI Party Congress BY LARRY LUXNER
hile the Cuban government eases limits on private businesses, moves to cut taxes for mom-and-pop restaurants and gradually opens the door further to foreign investment in beachfront golf resorts, Cuba experts in Washington and elsewhere are equally busy debating what all of this really means. The current flurry of activity began in midApril, when delegates to the VI Party Congress meeting in Havana approved a long list of lineamientos or guidelines for economic reforms. Proposals to legalize the sale of real-estate and private cars got plenty of media coverage worldwide, though they haven’t been passed into law yet. Nor has a plan to grant small-business loans to individual entrepreneurs or create a wholesale market on the island. On the other hand, on May 27, the government announced it would allow private restaurants to serve up to 50 diners at a time, up from the previous limit of 20, though many paladares
had been ignoring the restriction. Some 310,000 Cubans are now licensed to work in the private sector, according to an article in the Communist Party daily Granma. That includes 50,000 people in food production and sales, 39,000 working for private businesses and 14,000 taxi drivers and other transport workers. At a recent Inter-American Dialogue breakfast in Washington, three Cuba experts offered their opinions on the island’s latest reforms. “One view is that this really amounts to very little, if anything at all. Cuba has embarked on reforms at different moments in time, and has always dismantled them when the economy improved. And this time is no different,” said American University scholar Robert Pastor. “The second view is that this represents a sea change and will lead to a very different Cuba. I tend to be both an optimist and a skeptic, especially of government promises and dictatorships.” Pastor, who accompanied former President See Reforms, page 2
Eager U.S. investors eye Cuba potential from oil to microloans, trade to telecom BY TRACEY EATON
he discovery of petroleum off the coast of Cuba would “probably impact U.S.-Cuba relations” more than any other single event of the past 10 or 15 years, says energy maven Jorge Piñón. “If oil is found, it will make Cuba energy-independent. It won’t depend on Venezuela,” Piñon said. “You’d be sitting at the table with someone you can’t push around economically anymore.” Piñon was one of eight industry experts who spoke at a May 10 conference co-sponsored by CubaNews and the law firm Gray Robinson. Fifty business executives attended the event, titled “Changes in the United States and Cuba: The Impact on Florida.” It was held at Gray Robinson’s Tampa office, with the participation of several attorneys from the firm. Experts discussed a range of topics including energy, agriculture, telecommunications, travel, trade, real estate and microlending.
The meeting was timely, coming just days after Cuba’s Communist Party released the final version of its guidelines for economic reform. The 313 “lineamientos” call for a larger private sector, fewer government subsidies and a push toward decentralized decision-making. Cuban officials make clear they are not abandoning socialism, but merely “updating” their economic model and don’t intend to unleash capitalism on the island. Those plans coincide with the Obama administration’s decision to step up “people-to-people” contacts in Cuba and loosen some travel restrictions. In fact, changes on both sides of the Florida Straits have heightened expectations among U.S. executives hoping to trade with Cuba. The Cuban economy has struggled since the breakup of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago — and the discovery of oil could help Cuba turns things around fast, Piñon said. See Tampa, page 3
Reforms — FROM PAGE 1 Jimmy Carter on his recent trip to Cuba, says such reforms would be relatively meaningless in any other country in Latin America, but that “for Cuba, it’s very significant.” Among other things, the Castro regime has leased one million hectares of land to 120,000 farmers, opened up 178 categories of jobs to the private sector and announced that it would lay off more than a million state workers and eliminate subsidies.” “More important than these reforms was the rationale for the reforms,” he said. “The
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Antonio Blanco, speaking of the Sixth Party Congress, said it represents a “milestone” in Cuban history — the last one to be presided over by the generation that has held power on the island for half a century. “But if the policies now adopted prove to be inadequate, the consequences will be very significant in the short, medium and long term for almost everyone involved,” Blanco warned his Washington audience. The FIU scholar cited a recent interview with Pavel Vidal Alejandro, a researcher at the University of Havana’s Centro de Estudios Sobre la Economía Cuba, whom he called “one of the best minds in Cuba.” “He says that he has a lot of doubts about the institutional capacity of Cuba to implement the lineamientos, if they are really going to be adopted,” Blanco noted. “Being able to stay in a hotel room in your own country and getting a cellphone are all positive things, but the big question is, where is the country going?” WHAT ABOUT THE EXILES?
“If we concentrate on short-term questions like how many more military officers are in the political Denver University’s Arturo López-Levy speaks at Inter-American Dialogue. bureau, or how many measures have been Cuban economy is inefficient and deficient. adopted, we lose perspective of what’s hapTherefore, what’s needed is an incentives sys- pening in the medium or long term,” he said. Furthermore, said Blanco, the Castro tem, a reduction of the security net to encourregime “has a long tradition of shelving and age people to produce.” Pastor suggests that the biggest obstacle to forgetting previous decisions.” “Vertical mobility in Cuban society has implementation of the reforms may come from the Cuban people themselves — not to been mostly granted on the basis of personal and ideological mention the United States. “They’ll be losing their jobs, without ration loyalties, while cards, without a safety net. There’ll be a lot of creativity and pushback at the popular level, and the gov- e x c e l l e n c e were secondernment will be worried about that,” he said. ary considerations,” he said. IMPLEMENTING THE GUIDELINES “Fifty years Regarding U.S. policy, Pastor says: “I per- after the revosonally don’t think the world plays a large role lution, it seems in Raúl’s mindset; he’s not as concerned no one below about the U.S. as Fidel is. The problem in the 60 can be U.S. is that we’re also facing a debate between trusted to take those who say nothing will change until the over key posiCastro brothers are gone, and we ought to tions of influuse everything we can to put pressure on ence. From a Cuba — and those who say America’s great- long-term perAU Professor Robert Pastor est strength is our openness. spective, the “Let’s take advantage of that, not by trying presence of military officers among the leadto manipulate through ‘democracy programs’ ership isn’t as disturbing as the complete abbut rather by opening up the United States to sence of scientists, artists and intellectuals.” Cuba. At this moment of transition in Cuba, Blanco said he’s also disturbed by the fact this could encourage the forces of economic that “while much time was spent discussing and political pluralism.” the breakdown of electrical appliances,” no Pastor added that “this so-called democra- officials are talking publicly about the role of cy program is absurd. It’s completely ineffec- the Cuban diaspora. tual except that it helps the hardliners in “Such an omission is particularly remarkCuba. It serves no other purpose.” able, if you consider that they inject about $2 Florida International University’s Juan billion a year in remittances, postal packages,
fees and money spent while visiting the island,” he said. “The exclusion of this group from economic discussions is quite odd.” Arturo López Levy, a former political analyst for the Cuban government who now teaches Latin American politics at Denver University, said there’s been a dramatic shift in Cuba from promoting a “battle of ideas” to a focus on making the economy work. ECONOMIC OPENING, YET POLITICAL CONTROL
“The Party Congress opened the door to substantial economic reform, but paradoxically elected a very conservative Politburo for its implementation,” he said. “If there’s a message to the United States, it’s that the U.S. needs to learn to live with this ambiguity. We will see a move towards important economic changes, but at the same time, an iron will to keep the one-party system in place.” Asked about the potential real-estate boom that could result from the end to prohibitions on the buying and selling of houses and apartments, López said that “most reformists in Cuba would like to open as much as they can, using houses and cars as collateral for loans to develop private business. But others want to go slower. They are trying to prevent direct sales of cars to people.” The bottom line, said the academic — who has often been criticized for defending the Cuban government — is that “no matter how much some of them want to liberalize the economy, the leadership is the result of a convergence of the military high command and party bureaucrats. “Both groups agreee on the convenience of preserving the one-party system and the monopoly on government bureaucracy. And it’s wrong to assume they’re improvising. They have a plan for at least the next 5 years: to go on the economic reform track as much as they can while keeping political control.” q Washington-based journalist and photographer Larry Luxner has edited CubaNews since 2002.
Cuba to revamp tax system Cuba plans to completely overhaul the isalnd’s tax system, announced Vladimir Requeiro, deputy chief of the island’s Oficina Nacional de Administración Tributaria (ONAT), speaking on Cuban state TV. Cuba Trade & Investment News, quoting from the 313-point list of guidelines recently approved at the Sixth Party Congress, said new businesses must pay 25% to 50% taxes on profits, 10% sales or service tax, 25% employment tax and 25% social security contribution. Requeiro said tax rates will be according to income brackets, and that agricultural producers will benefit from a special tax system to stimulate food production. Most Cubans have never had to pay taxes before, the newsletter points out. Even so, local economists expect the government to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue this year from newly established private businesseses.
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Venezuela supplies Cuba with more than half its petroleum needs. A $77 million oil rig is expected to start drilling seven wells off the coast of Cuba by September or October. Three foreign companies have a stake in the project: Norway’s Statoil, Spain’s Repsol YPF and India’s Videsh Ltd. They’ll pay $403,000 per day to operate the rig, capable of drilling 12,000 feet deep. “Companies wouldn’t spend this amount of money if they didn’t think oil was there. If they find oil — and I say ‘if’ with a capital ‘I’ – it could be a gamechanger,” said Piñon, a visiting research fellow at Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute. “When the Wall Street Journal says, ‘Cuba Finds Oil,’ that’s going to change the whole scene,” Piñón told his audience. “It will make the Cuban government much more confident about whatever political position it takes. It will have a major impact on the economy, and it will have political impact too.” U.S. oil giants, for instance, would step up pressure to lift trade sanctions because they will want the same opportunities to make money, he said.
basic necessities as food. What’s needed is a microlending program, he said, adding that Cuban authorities have issued 110,000 new licenses for Cubans to run their own businesses. These people “will need a lot of money.” If they received just $5,000 each, that would total more than half a billion dollars in a single
small businesses an important boost, Santandreu told his audience. John Parke Wright IV, a Florida businessman whose company has been shipping beef and dairy cattle to Cuba since 1999, said he expects Cuban exiles to funnel “hundreds of millions of dollars” into their relatives’ busiTRACEY EATON
Tampa — FROM PAGE 1
MICROLENDING AND REAL-ESTATE
Energy expert Jorge Piñón and microlending maven Emilio Santandreu at a May 10 seminar in Tampa.
Emilio Santandreu, manager of Our Micro Lending, said small-business loans to Cubans will likely soar over the next few years. Cuban-American families now send some $2 billion per year in remittances to their families, but that money is used mostly for such
year. Santandreu suggested that these loans could be issued to their Cuban-American relatives, who would then transfer the money to relatives on the island. Such an arrangement would be legal under Obama administration rules, and would give
UF’s Messina warns of rising food prices
AMPA — The Cuban government’s plans to end monthly food rations “could lead to a split in society” as lowwage workers struggle to feed their families, predicts University of Florida researcher William Messina. The socialist government began supplying subsidized food rations in March 1962. Messina, speaking at a May 10 event in Tampa co-sponsored by CubaNews and the law firm Gray Robinson, said food prices will naturally rise when the subsidies are eliminated. He warned that such price hikes could trigger shortages and civil unrest. Food shortages helped spark the Havana neighborhood riots of 1994, leading to the exodus of 30,000 Cubans, said Messina. “I’m wondering if they might be taking themselves down that road again. Food prices must rise. How will people pay?” Eliminating food subsidies without triggering social unrest “is going to be a real challenge for them,” said Messina, economic analysis coordinator at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Services. Cuba now imports 60% of its food supply, but Messina said “there is no reason for that” because the island is capable of producing a rich supply of crops and livestock.
Cuban officials know the agricultural sector is weak and are trying to transform it. Messina is convinced that Cuba’s leaders are committed to making “profound and unprecedented” changes, but believes some government bureaucrats and planners will resist because they fear losing their jobs. Messina doesn’t think a loosening of U.S. travel restrictions will have a direct impact on agriculture, but says a jump in tourism could boost the demand for food products. Increased remittances could also increase food sales and benefit familyowned restaurants. “There very clearly is a lot of pent-up demand for food in Cuba,” said Messina. “The issue is the ability to pay. And if they can pay, who benefits? The U.S. agricultural sector? The Cubans? Other players? That remains to be seen.” U.S. food sales rose to $710 million in 2008, but have dropped sharply since then. “Cuba is importing less food in general. They’re also shifting their purchases to other countries. The reason for that is that they’re getting credit terms from those countries. They’re in a cash-crunch situation. They need to do it. Their decisions are driven by cash.” – TRACEY EATON
ness in the next few years. Antonio Zamora, co-owner and publisher of CubaNews, said one golf and marina project is under construction in Cuba and four more are expected to break ground by year’s end. “The golf courses and the marinas are going to be very successful,” he said, noting that while Cuba’s economy may have shortcomings, state-run entites “have done very well in tourism in a short amount of time.” It is as if Cuba had two economies, said Zamora, a Miami attorney and founder of the U.S.-Cuba Legal Forum. “Everything about Cuba is complicated,” There are two Cubas: a socialist Cuba, which has nothing to do with what we’re talking about here, and a capitalist Cuba where there is foreign investment,” he explained. Zamora also spoke about new rules which will soon let Cubans buy and sell homes. The real-estate opening “is definitely real,” he said. “Not only will Cubans be able to buy and sell homes, they’ll be able to expand their homes and have beach and country homes.” Piñón said some major U.S. companies that had operations in Cuba before the 1959 revolution are eager to return. And Zamora said that while these big companies are likely to be compensated for property seized after the revolution, he doesn’t expect they’ll get much. “I don’t think [Cuba] will pay more than 10%, and they’re going to borrow the 10% from the United States,” he predicted. Piñon said some companies won’t be interested in fighting for even 10% because that’ll gobble up time they could be using to reestablish operations and make money. “Westinghouse, Coca-Cola, Firestone, they all tell us they’ll settle for $1. We’re not going to get bogged down in the courts while our European competitors are doing business.” q
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High court may rule on Fla. law banning academic travel BY ANA RADELAT
Howard Simon, executive director of the lorida academics who chafe at a contro- Florida ACLU, said he’s heartened the high versial state law that keeps them from court has asked the White House for its views conducting research in Cuba may soon on the case, and says that increases the chances it will be heard. have their day in court. The Solicitor General’s office didn’t respond The Supreme Court has asked acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal to file a brief out- to calls requesting comment. But it’s likely to lining his views on a 2006 Florida law that bars public schools and universities from academic travel to Cuba — and all other countries the federal government considers state sponsors of terrorism. For the moment, that list also includes Iran, Syria and Sudan. The travel ban is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents faculty members of Florida International University and other state institutions who Miami’s FIU, whose professors want to pursue academic research in Cuba. say lawmakers in Tallarespond to the Supreme Court’s request. Sihassee have overstepped their boundaries. The ACLU lawsuit argues that only the fed- mon thinks the brief will help his case. “I don’t eral government can establish foreign policy think the administration can allow every state — and that the Florida law is unconstitutional to make its own foreign policy,” he said. because it tramples on that federal authority. A Florida federal court also said the law is unconstitutional, even though it was upheld last year by the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta. onservative pundit and three-time presidential candidate Pat Buchanan said ACLU HOPES SUPREME COURT WILL SUPPORT IT it’s time for Washington to abolish its In March, shortly after President Obama 50-year-old trade embargo against Cuba. announced he would ease restrictions on U.S. Buchanan made his remarks during the travel to Cuba, including academic travel, the Apr. 22 edition of “The McLaughlin Group” ACLU went to the Supreme Court for help. — a weekly half-hour news program that Rep. David Rivera (R-FL), a Cuban-Ameriairs on PBS-TV. can hardliner who sponsored the travel ban, This particular show discussed Cuba in argues that his home state has a right to limit the larger context of the growing importhe way its public funds are used. tance of Hispanic voters, illegal immigration “In taking this action, the Florida legislaand U.S. relations with Latin America. ture was responding to the will of Floridians Asked by host John McLaughlin if he who simply do not want their tax dollars and thought Cuba should be taken off the U.S. public resources used for this type of activity,” State Department’s list of state sponsors of Rivera told CubaNews in an email. “A federal terrorism, Buchanan said “I tend to agree appeals court has already affirmed the state we ought to lift the embargo” before Mclegislature’s authority to make this determinaLaughlin asked him to clarify his remarks. tion over the use of taxpayer dollars and “Cuba has done a lot of spying here, but I resources. The Supreme Court should follow don’t know of any recent acts of terror suit and respect the will of the elected repreagainst the United States,” said Buchanan, sentatives of the people of Florida.” who campaigned for president as a RepubBut if the Supreme Court takes the case, lican in 1992 and 1996, and as a Reform the odds may be with the ACLU. Party candidate in 2000. The Supreme Court has already ruled that “I would start lifting the embargo,” Buchstates don’t have the right to conduct foreign anan said, deriding “Florida politics” as the policy. In 2000, for example, the high court reason this policy endures. “I would get invalidated a Massachusetts law that limited some prisoners released in exchange and state purchases from companies doing busisome benefits for us. But I would lift it, yes.” ness with Burma.
While the Florida law’s supporters insist universities would use state funds to travel to Cuba to conduct research, Simon said most of that money comes from private foundations. He also said Rivera and his supporters hope to target one specific university program — FIU’s Cuban Research Institute — saying “the bill was aimed at shutting it down.” Simon predicted Florida’s colleges would be hurt if the Supreme Court declines to take the case. “I think it is naïve to think this law would end the research of Florida academics on Cuba,” Simon said. “They would take the grants and go somewhere else outside the state. The bill will just weaken Florida universities and strengthen universities elsewhere.” Robert Muse, a Washington attorney who specializes in Cuba issues, said the Supreme Court’s request to the Solicitor General is a signal that it may take the case. The Supreme Court usually accepts only 60 to 70 cases each year, fewer than 2% of those it receives for consideration. Muse also said Simon and the professors fighting Florida’s law have a good chance of getting a favorable ruling in the high court, noting that “in the area of foreign affairs, the federal government pre-empts state law.” q Washington-based journalist Ana Radelat has been covering Cuba-related issues on Capitol Hill for CubaNews since the newsletter’s birth in 1993.
Pat Buchanan: Time to end the embargo
Commenting on the U.S. designation of Cuba as a terrorist-supporting country, McLaughlin said “It’s really quite ridiculous. It’s a slap in the face to us.” Other panelists on the program included CubaNews editor Larry Luxner, conservative talk-show host Monica Crowley and Newsweek contributing editor Eleanor Clift. “At this point, to have Cuba on the terrorism list is really irrelevant. And it’s probably inappropriate and should be changed,” said Crowley, who has a program on New York’s WABC-77 radio and is also a Fox News contributor and Washington Times columnist. “But in terms of the embargo, 17 years ago President Nixon, shortly before he died, was the highest-ranking American who called for rolling back the embargo.” Crowley, who worked for Nixon and wrote two books about the 37th president, said her former boss supported a change in U.S. policy “because he believed — and it’s the same philosophy as his approach to China — that if there’s economic liberalization, that will eventually lead to the desire for political liberalization.” To watch the entire McLaughlin episode, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=bizLtA9mrkE.
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POLITICAL BRIEFS CUBA SENTENCES 6 DISSIDENTS TO PRISON TERMS The conviction of six dissidents in summary trials for doing no more than exercising their fundamental rights “highlights the continuing abuse of the criminal justice system to repress dissent in Cuba,” according to Human Rights Watch. Four people — Luís Enrique Labrador, 33; David Piloto, 40; Walfrido Rodríguez, 42; and Yordani Martínez, 23 — were sentenced on May 31 in Havana for distributing pamphlets criticizing Raúl and Fidel Castro, and two human rights defenders in Holguín were sentenced on May 24, charged with “insulting national symbols” and “disorder” for public acts that they denied had taken place. They were given sentences ranging from two to five years in prison. “With this new round of prosecutions, the Castro government is sending a clear message to dissidents that the status quo has not changed in Cuba,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at HRW. “Publicly criticizing the government can still earn you a harsh prison sentence.” The four Havana men were detained Jan. 14, when they went to the city’s Plaza de la Revolución and threw leaflets into the air with slogans such as “Down with the Castros.” Said Vivanco: “The dissidents were prosecuted on the basis of their political beliefs, and because they dared to exercise rights that all Cubans should enjoy. They should never have even been tried, let alone convicted.” In early May, a Cuban dissident who died after an alleged police beating had complained shortly after the confrontation that the police agents had “killed” him, said a Baptist pastor who knew him. “His face showed an immense pain, and I recall him saying, ‘They killed me,’ ” said Pastor Mario Lleonart Barroso, who ran into Juan Wilfredo Soto García as the 46-year-old dissident was leaving a hospital in the central city of Santa Clara. Details: Daniel Wilkinson, Human Rights Watch, 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor, New York, NY 10118. Tel: (646) 552-8063. URL: www.hrw.org/en/press. RADIO, TV MARTÍ LURES TRAFFIC WITH NEW WEBSITE News transmitted by the U.S. government to Cuba via Radio and TV Martí is keeping pace with the times in its use of social networks and multimedia platforms, Fox News reported May 23. The update is being organized by Cuban-American attorney Carlos Garcia-Perez, who for the past eight months has directed the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which seeks to circumvent official Cuban censorship. “We’ve enlivened the web page with more news and better content. Added to that is our use of social networks, because we have to make use of all media in an integrated way. They all support each other,” said Garcia-Perez. “Our mission remains the same: trying to keep the Cuban people informed in the most truthful way possible about what is happening on the island, in the United States, Latin America and the world.” Nonetheless, the most visible, best-known medium is the renovated website, which in the few months since its makeover has boosted the number of hits from around 600 to 4,000 a day.
In their own words … “I would welcome real change from the Cuban government ... For us to have the kind of normal relations we have with other countries, we’ve got to see significant changes from the Cuban government, and we just have not seen that.” — President Obama, in a May 13 interview with Miami’s WLTV-Channel 23. “How do I look, ladies, how do I look at 80? How many old men of 60 are there who aren’t in my shape?” — Raúl Castro, talking to reporters on June 2, the day before his 80th birthday. “The Soviet Marxist-Leninist textbooks used in Cuban universities regarded anthropology and sociology as bourgeois science. The revolutionary myth collapsed with the crisis which has afflicted Cuba since the 1990s, opening the way for discussion of the country's real problems. The government no longer enjoys the same consensus as in the 1960s. Cubans have lost their motivation; society is fragmented, with no sense of direction.” — Mario Castillo, who works at the Cuban Institute of Anthropology in Old Havana, quoted Apr. 19 in The Guardian. Castillo, 36, is one of the coordinators of the Observatorio Crítico, a network of young activists that hopes to bring new life to politics. “Whatever the actions attributed to Bin Laden, the assassination of an unarmed human being surrounded by his family constitutes an abhorrent act.” — Fidel Castro, writing in a May 5 “reflection” in which he also criticized Bin Laden for“international terrorism” and reminded the world that Cuba had expressed solidarity with the United States after the “brutal” Sept. 11 attacks. “They still don’t want people going for an inclusive beach vacation. That goes against the spirit of the regulations because it props up the regime and doesn’t benefit regular people. But Cuba has so much more to offer than the beaches.” — Tom Popper, CEO of tour company Insight Cuba, quoted May 29 in a Detroit Free Press article about newly announced U.S. regulations governing travel to Cuba. “The Cuban government started off with a bomb by saying ‘we have to lay off 500,000 people.’ They should have begun by saying, ‘we are going to create 500,000 new private jobs,’ then, once successful, announce the layoffs. They put the solution before the problem.” — Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Cuba expert and professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “Raúl Castro has clearly gone to extraordinary lengths to make it clear that corruption — particularly at the higher levels — will not be tolerated, signaling he means business and higher-ups must sacrifice too.” — John Kirk, a Latin America expert at Canada’s Dalhousie University. Kirk was quoted May 20 in a Reuters story about Cuba’s crackdown on white-collar corruption. “The lack of confidence Raúl feels in young apparatchiks is based on the fact he doesn’t understand their impatience or the speed at which they want to accelerate the process [of economic and political change]. The founding generation is extremely closed, and this ethic has served to discredit young leaders.” — Eduardo Bueno, professor of international relations at Mexico’s Iberoamerican University, speaking Apr. 20 to ABC News about generational change in Cuba. “If the Spanish government did not have the conditions, because it faces an economic crisis, I don’t understand why it made a deal with the Cuban dictatorship to send 1,000 persons to a place where there are no jobs.” — Ex-Cuban political prisoner Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina, who lives in a Red Cross shelter near Málaga, Spain. He complained to a reporter that he’s run out of toothpaste and deodorant, and has been given no money for a haircut since his arrival.. “For us, the major goal is to prevent these major accidents from happening. The companies must show that they meet all international standards.” — Fidel Ilizastigui Pérez, of Cuba’s Office for Environment and Nuclear Safety Regulation, offering public assurances May 13 at an oil safety conference in Trinidad, following U.S. concerns about Cuba’s ability to handle an oil spill.
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January 2012 conference to ‘evaluate’ economic reforms BY DOMINGO AMUCHASTEGUI
ow that the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) is over, all eyes are on Jan. 28, 2012, when more changes will take place at the PCC’s upcoming national conference. That conference will “evaluate the Party’s work” and “detemine necessary transformations” to Party statues and structures, according to the newspaper Juventud Rebelde. Meanwhile, the implementation phase of Cuba’s economic reforms will require accelerated adoption of laws, norms, codes and regulations that provide a legal basis for the recently adopted lineamientos [guidelines]. Those guidelines were published May 9 as a pamphlet, along with a 48-page tabloid explaining them. The two publications together sell for 3 pesos — the equivalent of 12¢. The first draft contained 291 guidelines, of which only 32 were kept entirely; most of the others were completely modified or merged with others, and 36 new ones were incorporated, for a final total of 313. These guidelines establish a “new economic model” that has very little to do with Cuba’s economy up until now. Although some central planning will remain, the Cuban economy will now consist of five different sectors: n 1. The state sector based on a central budget [el sector presupuestado]. n 2. State companies, industries, businesses and services [el sector empresarial] which will now be completely managed — with absolute autonomy from other state and Party institutions and agencies — with an eye towards efficiency. Their success or failure will depend totally on economic performance. n 3. Foreign investment [sector de la inversión extranjera] through different forms of association with local partners, though no details were disclosed on the possibility of foreign direct investments. This implies a final renegotiation of Cuba’s foreign debt and an urgent quest for new investments. n 4. The cooperative sector, characterized as a form of socialist property. n 5. A vast network of non-state [no estatal] property activities such as small businesses, self-employed people, finqueros, etc. The golden rule connecting each sector will be market relations, clearly stated on numerous occasions throughout the guidelines. If fully implemented by 2015, Cuba’s economy and society will look very different than they do today. And subsequently — as even Marxists would have to admit — a new set of political arrangements will have to emerge in the not-too-distant future to accommodate Cuba’s increasingly diverse society. Repeated objections have been raised that key positions still remain in the hands of the “generación histórica” (those who led the Cuban Revolution for more than 50 years and are now in their 70s and 80s). Yet if these aging leaders show their will-
ingness to cross this new rubicon, they’ll gain wide recognition and support from within and outside of Cuba. It’s a rather human reaction to disqualify the elderly — but Winston Churchill, Konrad Adenauer, Charles de Gaulle, Dwight Eisenhower, David Ben-Gurion and Deng Xioping all proved to be able men well into their 80s. For these Cuban leaders (and especially Raúl), this is their final hurrah, and they will try — for practical and historical reasons, not to mention personal pride — to do their best. One angle that’s frequently overlooked is the other leadership already in place or right behind the “oldies” which already controls an enormous share of Cuba’s power structure. Who runs the Implementation and Development Commission entrusted with putting these guidelines into practice? Who commands the biggest army in Cuba? Who conducts Cuba’s foreign policy?
The answer to all three questions: men in their early 50s. Most members of the Central Committee — from where the next generation of top leaders will most certainly emerge — were born after 1959. Two-thirds of Cuba’s Council of Ministers are 60 years old or less, and more than two-thirds of Cuba’s provincial leaders are in their 40s and 50s. At the January 2012 conference, reported Juventud Rebelde, topics are to include “modifications in methods and style [of the PCC’s functions]; the promotion of women, blacks, mestizos and young people to leading positions … always based on merit and personal circumstances” and the establishment of fiveyear term limits for top party officials. Also on the agenda: “strengthening internal democracy, reaching out to the self-employed and workers in the private sector, and inclusion of the Union of Young Communists in important discussions.” q
Lineamientos: the crucial ones to follow
ere’s a selection of some of the most important guidelines (in addition to the “new economic model” described at left) and what they mean for Cuba. 1. The five sectors of this new model will be supplied by the market at wholesale prices, including the renting of goods and equipment. This implies a radically different modus operandi from before, when the state provided everything regardless of results. 2. Perfeccionamiento empresarial (PE) will be integrated into the new economic model to make the sector empresarial more efficient. The nearly 1,000 entities now abiding by PE’s financial and organizational premises will be the only ones to transition smoothly into the new model. 3. Industries, companies and businesses that fail to meet standards of productivity, efficiency and profitability will be closed for good or transformed into some form of cooperative property, if possible. This will affect more than 2,500 factories and other state entities that are nearly bankrupt or have not been profitable or productive for decades. 4. No subsidies will be made available to cover losses. 5. The sector empresarial will be free to make decisions regarding funds, salaries, and proceeds. 6. All economic entities will begin paying territorial taxes to local governments. 7. Cooperatives will be an option for every type of economic activity. 8. Cooperatives will enjoy full ownership and control their economic destiny, from income to the distribution of proceeds. 9. Banking services will be offered to cooperatives and the non-state sectors, both of which may open accounts for the pur-
chase of equipment and other purposes. 10. Fiscal incentives will be put in place seeking to promote the orderly development of different forms of non-state property and management. This is aimed at appeasing complaints about excessive taxation. 11. Similar incentives will be given to entities that contribute to import substitution and the diversification of exports. A special system of fiscal incentives to promote agricultural husbandry will be implemented. 12. Foreign investments will focus on high-tech, new management skills, import substitution, the expansion of markets, midand long-term funding and job creation. 13. The government will continue to promote foreign capital, though emphasis will be placed on its role as a source for employment, considering that only 2% of Cuba’s work force is employed in the foreign sector 14. The process of foreign investments will be accelerated. 15. Investment portfolios will be created. 16. Cuba will meet its financial obligations and regain credibility. That means the renegotiation and rescheduling of existing arrears followed by a strict policy of payments. 17. An “appropriate legal framework” will be created. This implies an update and revision of the current Investment Law. The new wording suggests much more dynamic initiatives vis-â-vis foreign capital markets. 18. Mechanisms will be designed to channel import-export demands and potential that will emerge from the non-state sector. 19. The government will establish and expand Special Development Zones and promote Cuban ventures and alliances overseas in order to better position Cuba globally. – DOMINGO AMUCHASTEGUI
June 2011 v CubaNews
Brazilians mull sugar sector projects BY VITO ECHEVARRÍA
s Cuba’s once-powerful sugar sector has fallen into neglect, sugar conglomerates from Brazil are taking a closer look at revamping the island’s sugar industry. Talks now under way could soon result in an agreement under which Brazilian companies operating in Cuba won’t be subject to future nationalization by the Castro regime. Cuba’s mighty sugar sector has seen production fall from a high of more than 8 million tons in 1989-90 to just 1.2 million tons during its latest harvest (see article at right). Reflecting the seriousness of Brazilian interest in Cuban sugar, Brazilian corporate lawyer Beno Suchodolski was hired by three major sugar and ethanol firms to study the feasibility of such investments. Although the lawyer declined to name those three companies, he did tell the São Paulo business newspaper Valor Econômico that liberalization measures by President Raúl Castro could stimulate Brazilian investment in Cuba’s sugar industry. Laws to promote investment in the sugar sector are expected to be in place by this August or September. Assuming the Brazilians actually invest in Cuba’s sugar sector, relatives of Cuban exiles
who owned sugar-growing lands before Fidel Castro’s expropriations are likely to threaten legal action against these companies. CubanAmerican attorney Nicolás J. Gutiérrez Jr., president of the Miami-based National Association of Sugar Mill Owners of Cuba, says his group is watching Brazil and will assert his members’ rights. “It is darkly ironic that the Brazilian wouldbe traffickers are seeking guarantees from their own government that the Cuban regime will not do to them exactly what it did to us,” said the lawyer, a founding partner of Miami’s Gutiérrez, Zarraluqui & Franco law firm. Gutiérrez’s personal stake in this issue stems from his own family and its loss of sugar properties in Cienfuegos province during the revolution. Over the years, Gutiérrez has represented the Sánchez-Hill family, former owners of the Santa Lucía sugar plantation and other lands near Holguín. Gutiérrez and his group aren’t the only ones fired up over the idea of Brazilians moving in on their confiscated lands. The powerful Fanjul brothers, whose fortune was built on pre-revolutionary Cuban sugar and who have since rebuilt their sugar empire in Florida and the Dominican Republic, are also keeping an eye on whatever the Brazilians end up doing. q
Cuba guards its dwindling cork palms BY ARMANDO H. PORTELA
ike many other islands around the world, Cuba is home to a large number of unique species of plants that thrive — or barely survive — thanks precisely to the prolonged isolation of their ecosystems. More than 60% of Cuba’s flora is endemic to the island, meaning that these plants can’t be found anywhere else on Earth but Cuba — sometimes confined to a few acres of land on
Cork palm at Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Miami.
a hill, a peak, an outcrop of rocks or a valley. Hidden in the dense, hilly barely accessible forest of western Cuba, the cork palm, known in the botanical world as Microcycas calocoma, is one of those unique jewels — maybe the best-known of all endemics of Cuba. For this reason, the palma de corcho, as it’s known in Spanish, is strictly protected by Cuban environmental laws. M. calocoma is considered a survivor of the Jurassic period which managed to escape extinction for 150 million years. It is currently listed as a “critically enangered” species as a result of habitat loss. Only 1,000 to 6,000 of these palms are believed to exist in the wild, and they are perennially threatened by forest fires, woodcutting, poaching and hurricanes. Experts say their numbers are shrinking at an alarming rate. An elusive bug that plays the role of pollinator for this plant has become scarce as a result of the widespread use of pesticides in agriculture. q
HIGHER PRICES LURE FARMERS BACK TO SUGAR More Cuban farmers are opting to grow sugar cane due to higher prices and other incentives being offered by the Sugar Ministry as part of plans to revive the depressed crop, industry sources told Reuters. Sugar may no longer be king in Cuba, where it once accounted for 90% of export earnings but today brings in only 5% of hard currency. With international prices expected to remain high, however, the cash-strapped Castro regime is showing a new interest in the sector. “The ministry is clearing and plowing land, providing seed and some other services to individuals who lease fallow state acreage under a government program begun in 2008,” said a local sugar expert who asked to remain anonymous. “Mills have more than doubled what they pay for cane to 100 pesos ($4) per ton.” The expert said prices remained too low, but free startup services put sugar at an advantage over other crops where new farmers were expected to clear and bring land into production with little, if any, government support. To date, the agriculture ministry has granted 128,000 leases covering 1.2 million hectares (2.9 million acres), with another 700,000 hectares (1.7 million acres) being offered. The government is expected to liberalize the program this month by expanding the acreage an individual can farm, significantly extending the 10-year lease, and allowing homes and other structures to be built on the land, among other measures. Output was around 1.2 million tons of raw sugar this year, a bit higher than the 1.1 million-ton 2010 season, but still miserably low. Cuba’s state-owned sugar industry hopes to boost production to 2.4 million tons by 2015. “The agriculture ministry is prioritizing cane and pointing out its advantages when people come in seeking land,” one insider said, adding that thousands of new farmers were opting to grow sugar and existing ones to switch over or add it, without being more specific. FARM GROUP URGES END TO ACOPIO MONOPOLY Orlando Lugo Fonte, president of Cuba’s National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) — a group affiliated with the Cuban Communist Party — is insisting on doing away with the much-hated state food distribution monopoly known as Acopio. “If in Cuba there is private and diversified production, you can’t have monopolized distribution,” Lugo told the daily Juventud Rebelde. “We have to look for many ways of buying and selling. If you ask me, it must be direct.” Farmers must sell their entire quota to Acopio. Excess crops may be sold directly at roadside stands; selling to private middlemen is forbidden, though the practice is widespread. “If a cooperative wants to sell products and wants a sales point, let them have it,” said Lugo, whose ANAP represents small farmers and member-owned cooperatives. “If a hotel wants to buy a product from a coop, why can’t it do so? Why do they have to do it forecedly through a company?”
CubaNews v June 2011
Canada’s Mark Entwistle offers expert advice on Cuba
ost career foreign-service officers rise up the ranks of the diplomatic service, serve as ambassadors in three or four countries and end their careers in their late 60s or early 70s, often retiring to write their memoirs or play golf in Florida. Mark Entwistle chose a different path. After representing Canada as ambassador in Havana from 1993 to 1997, he quit the foreign service at the age of 41 and made Cuba his career instead. “I retired from the foreign service after my Havana posting, largely because I saw the potential Cuba offered. So I built a consulting business for myself specifically focused on Cuba, and I now work with foreign companies, including U.S. companies preparing to go back there at some point in the future.” As president of Chibas Consulting Inc., Entwistle travels to his favorite island eight to 10 times a year. Before his Cuba posting, he served in the Soviet Union (from 1986 to 1989) and spent the three years before that as a Canadian diplomat in Israel. The Montreal-born consultant also served a couple of years as press secretary for former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. During his time in Havana, he said, “I had extremely good relations with my American colleagues, and the Cubans knew that. The fact is, we’re friends with both countries. Obviously, one is infinitely more important to us economically than the other one, but we have a long-standing relationship with Cuba based on respect, even where we don’t agree with them on everything.” Entwistle, 55, spoke with CubaNews in Toronto following a May 30 lunch organized by the Canadian Council for the Americas and titled “Cuba Libre: Is now the time to invest?” CUBA’S 3 TARGET SECTORS
Absolutely it is, he says, though some sectors are clearly more accessible than others. “Some people think Cuba is some kind of middle kingdom or isolated country. It’s not,” he told us. “It’s a market of largely untapped potential.” Despite the fact that Cuba has identified specific areas of the economy as its priorities, says Entwistle, potential foreign investors frequently take a kind of shotgun approach. “They think, ‘here’s a country with minimal access to global capital, therefore they’ll want to do everything under the sun.’ There’s an assumption that maybe the Cubans are vulnerable,” he told us. “But in reality, the Cubans have very explicit ideas of what their national priorities are. If you listen to them carefully, they’ll tell you what they’re interested in.” Entwistle focuses on three specific sectors of interest, reflecting realities on the ground: tourism, agriculture and mining. This is an obvious choice, given that tour-
ism contributes nearly $2.5 billion a year to the Cuban economy — and that since 1990, Canada has been the single most important source of tourism to Cuba, sending more visitors to the Caribbean island than all other countries combined. In fact, Canadians comprised 555,872 out of the 1,179,963 vacationers who visited Cuba during the first four months of this year,
Packages that include round-trip airfare from Montreal or Toronto, seven nights in a tourist-class hotel, and meals, tours and transfers are available for as little as $600 per person double occupancy. Yet the Canadians who go to Cuba rarely speak Spanish and have little interaction with ordinary Cubans outside designated tourist sectors. “They tend to stay in the beach areas and LARRY LUXNER
BY LARRY LUXNER
Former Canadian diplomat Mark Entwistle advises investors to focus on tourism, agriculture and mining.
according to Cuba’s Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas, making it likely that the final number for 2011 will top one million. “It seems almost rare to encounter a Canadian who has not visited Cuba,” notes Arch Ritter, a Cuba expert at Ottawa’s Carleton University, noting on his blog that foreignexchange earnings from Canadian tourism were likely around $882 million for 2008 (calculated as 37.6% of total tourism earnings of $2.347 billion). Ritter added that “if one takes both Canadian tourism plus Canadian merchandise imports, mainly nickel, from Cuba into consideration, Canada contributed about $1.6 billion in 2008, a substantial proportion of Cuba’s foreign-exchange availability.” Why are Canadians so drawn to Cuba? we asked Entwistle. “The winter,” he replied dryly. But it’s not just that, he insisted. “There’s an affinity between the two countries. Partly it’s history, dating from when ships from Nova Scotia would send down fish and bring back rum.” Entwistle explained: “Canadian banks helped finance the sugar industry, and the Royal Bank of Canada opened a Havana branch in 1898 even before it had any in Toronto. In its heyday, before 1959, RBC had about 60 branches in Cuba. And the Bank of Nova Scotia [now Scotiabank] had over 40 branches.” It also helps that Cuba is an incredible travel bargain for Canadians, whose dollar is currently trading at around US$1.03.
visit small towns around those areas. What they don’t tend to do is go to Havana, where you find Europeans and other Latins, but relatively few Canadians,” Entwistle said. Traditionally, most Canadian visitors to Cuba had come from French-speaking Quebec, though that’s changing — thanks to regular charter flights from places like Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver to tourist magnets such as Varadero and Holguín. “In the high season, you probably have 50 charters now from western Canada to Cuba every week. This is a very important market segment for the Cubans,” he explained. “What has been frustrating about Canadian tourism from a pure business model is its profile — sun and sand — so the margins for tour operators are minimual. There’s been a longstanding interest in Cuba to diversify the product and make it more valuable.” PLENTY OF TOURISTS, BUT NO INVESTMENT
Also frustrating, he said, is the fact that “there’s virtually no Canadian investment” in Cuba’s tourism sector since Delta pulled out in the late 1990s. “Canada supplies the bodies, but does not invest in the tourism sector, which has always been ironic from a Cuban point of view. The Cubans have long tried to encourage Canadian investment because it would be so logical.” One project getting lots of headlines lately is a $410 million joint venture between Cuba’s See Entwistle, page 9
June 2011 v CubaNews
Entwistle — FROM PAGE 8 state-run Grupo Palmares SA and Ottawabased Standing Feather International Inc. In April, the partners signed a memo of understanding to build a golf course community at Guardalavaca, in the province of Holguín. Estancias de Golf Loma Linda Golf, occupying a 520-acre site, is to include an 1,200 luxury villas, bungalows and apartments, as well as an 18-hole golf course, a commercial center and a 170-room boutique hotel. Rooms at that hotel will go for $200 a night, reported the
the frenetic activity of the mid-90s, but it’s come back on the radar screen.” It’s worth noting that the CCA luncheon at which Entwistle spoke was co-sponsored by Barrick Gold, one of Canada’s largest gold exploration firms (Barrick is investing more than $3 billion in the nearby Dominican Republic). Also worth noting was the complete absence of Sherritt at the event. The Torontobased company — whose main office is two and a half miles up Yonge Street from where the conference was held — keeps a very low profile with regard to its Cuba activities. That’s because Sherritt’s top executives
“The timelines and the processes will be careful and meticulous. I think the trend is toward greater economic liberalization of the domestic economy — but in a very step-by-step process where each step is assessed before they go to the next one.” — MARK ENTWISTLE, PRESIDENT OF OTTAWA-BASED CHIBAS CONSULTING INC.
New York Times, and the residences are likely to average $600,000 each. Standing Feather’s shareholders are members of a Canadian Indian tribe. Entwistle was a key participant in the venture but is no longer, for reasons he declined to discuss publicly. Entwistle is, however, involved with Old Havana’s boutique Hotel Saratoga — “the single best hotel in Cuba,” he calls it — because Entwistle advises the board of Coral Capital Group, which partly owns the hotel. MINING: BACK ON THE RADAR SCREEN
Mining is one sector of Cuba’s economy that hasn’t gotten much attention but is likely to as the island’s cash-strapped government increasingly turns to foreign investment. “In 1995-96, there was an invasion of Canadian juniors looking for kind of mineral, kicking the tires, drilling holes. They were all over the place. We probably had 20 joint ventures,” Entwistle told CubaNews. “I was going to the Ministry of Basic Industry once a month to joint-venture signing ceremonies. Then the Bre-X mining scandal happened, and that — combined with a global retraction — caused the capital market to dry up for mining.” By the late 1990s, all the Canadian junior mining companies had left, unable to finance their activities. The glaring exception was Sherritt International, the largest single foreign investor in Cuba (see box at right). “For a period of 14 years, the mining sector was barren — no activity at all. No Canadians came. They were involved in other parts of the world. Cuba fell off the radar screen.” But two years ago, commodity prices suddenly started to rise, and base metals became more attractive again. “Canadian companies have started to come back, looking for lead, zinc and copper. The Chinese have an insatiable demand for copper, so prices are being pushed up. We’re just now seeing gold exploration companies coming around. The mining sector is not close to
would be arrested if they ever stepped onto U.S. soil, due to that company’s violation of Title IV of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which punishes foreign companies from “trafficking in confiscated property” of U.S. entities. “The reason there’s a Title IV punitive action against Sherritt is because Sherritt’s nickel mine is operating on property subject to a U.S. certified claim. The claim holder, Freeport McMoRan, objected, but Sherritt has made a strategic decision that this is a part of doing business,” Entwistle explained. “I’m a Canadian citizen, so I’m not governed by the regulations. I’m not an agent for U.S. companies, but I do give advice, and I’m not involved in any business that is defined as trafficking in confiscated Cuban property.” Another key area for potential investment is agriculture, says Entwistle.
Sherritt issues Cuba forecast Sherritt International, Cuba’s largest foreign investor, said in its 4th-quarter report it expects moderate production declines in nickel (-2%) and cobalt (-2.9%), and sharper drops in oil (-7.1%) and electricity (-18.7%). Even so, the Toronto-based company is boosting capital investments on the island. Sherritt will pour $50 million into its Moa nickel joint venture in Cuba this year, up from $40 million in 2010. Also, Sherritt and joint-venture partner Cubaníquel are “reviewing options for completion of the Phase 2 expansion and the construction of the sulphuric acid plant at Moa,” it said, adding that these projects are not included in capital spending projections for 2011. Sherritt expects to invest $100 million in Cuban oil operations, up from $53 million in 2010. The rise is mainly due to eight new on-shore wells planned for this year. Investments in its power assets in Cuba will be $158 million this year, up from $20 million in 2010, the company reported.
“For the longest time, Cuban agriculture was closed to foreign direct investment as a strategic sector,” he told us. “There were enclaves like the Israelis working in citrus, but in general, the sector was not open. That changed roughly two years ago.” Entwistle said he’s now working with a Canadian distributor that has annual sales of $125 million and operates around the world. “They’ve seen the strategic potential for Cuba in the future to supply mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, specifically for export,” he said, declining to name the company. “The ultimate goal is to move beyond purchase of product to a dedicated joint production facility. The idea is to hedge production against things like freezes in Mexico or Florida.” The project specifically targets tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers using drip-irrigation technology. Exactly where in Cuba the project will be located and how much will be invested in the project is still undetermined. “This would be interesting,” said Entwistle, “because it hits agriculture across three segments: producing for export, supplying the next level down in quality — the tourism sector as import substitution, and that produces hard currency — and sending increased production into the domestic Cuban market.” ENTWISTLE: BE REALISTIC ABOUT CUBA
As ambassador, Entwistle said he met Fidel Castro 28 times and probably spent 100 hours with him. “Fidel used to stop by the residence. I used to get phone calls at midnight from the switchboard of the president’s office because he wanted to see me,” he recalled. “Regardless of what one might think of him, this guy’s a historic figure, a skilled orator. You feel you’re in the presence of history, a guy who took a ragtag bunch of guerrilla fighters and, helped by the collapse of the Batista army, took control of Cuba.” He added: “I don’t think even Fidel imagined that we’d be here in 2011 and that he wouldn’t be fully in control of the country. But his health prevented that, and he’s adapted.” Under the leadership of Fidel’s 80-year-old brother Raúl, economic changes are indeed transforming Cuba. But Entwistle warned that investors must have a realistic understanding of what’s happening on the island. “The Cuban political leadership has said pretty clear that the way they’ve been doing things is no longer sustainable. There will have to be changes; there have already been, and there will be more. The Cubans are making adjustments to make sure it works better. People should be wary of reading something into those decisions that isn’t there. These reforms are not intended to radically restructure the Cuban system.” “The timelines and the processes will be careful and meticulous,” he added. “I think the trend is toward greater economic liberalization of the domestic economy — but in a very step-by-step process where each step is assessed before they go to the next one.” q Washington-based journalist and photographer Larry Luxner has edited CubaNews since 2002.
CubaNews v June 2011
Vegetables: Reason for hope amid a bleak landscape
uban agriculture is rampant with examples of consistent failures, unsuccessful policies and wasteful management — but one bright spot over the past 15 years is edible vegetable cultivation. Over this same time span, other crops like citrus, rice, coffee, tobacco and cattle (all analyzed by CubaNews from December 2010 to now) have been devastated to the point where it’s hard to foresee any genuine recovery. After hitting rock-bottom in the early 1990s, the government rushed to introduce reforms to boost food production. By 1993, food intake dropped to 1,863 calories per day nationwide from 2,900 calories a few years earlier, as acknowledged by the Ministry of Public Health (see CubaNews, March 1998), while for a large part of the population it was below 1,500 calories a day. Things got so bad that an outbreak of optic neuropathy, a malnutrition disease affecting nearly 50,000 people, hit Cuba. The weight of newborn babies fell and nourishing mothers also lost weight. It was the worst part of the euphemistically called Special Period.
atively low cost and in small plots close to consumers. Such staples included roots, tubers, plantains, spices and garden vegetables, from cassava to cucumbers, garlic and eggplants. The results came fast. Between 1995 and 2000, per-capita output of veggies tripled from below 88 lb per year to 265 lb. By 2005, it had quadrupled to 352 lb, guaranteeing — at least
lb per year in 1994 to 147 lb in 2009; cassava from 22 lb to 59 lb in 2006. Total vegetable consumption went from 69 lb per year in 1994 to 383 lb in 2003, the highest in decades. For some strange reason, potatoes have traditionally been considered a sensitive product, and the government does not allow it to be sold or produced freely by farmers. State farms and cooperatives grow potatoes LARRY LUXNER
BY ARMANDO H. PORTELA
PER-CAPITA OUTPUT TRIPLES IN 5 YEARS
At that time, over 80% of Cuba’s croplands were leased to new cooperatives. The government created vast schemes including the organization of urban agriculture and trying to get soldiers involved on a massive scale. The tight grip over individual sale of food was eased, and private people could for the first time sell those forbidden avocados from their own backyard. The “Programa Alimentario,” as this effort was dubbed, focused on production of traditional staples that could be grown fast, at rel-
Shoppers inspect potatoes at a peso-only outdoor produce market in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.
in numbers — nearly one pound of veggies per day per person. Roots, tubers and plantains, all key staples in the Cuban diet, soared in production over that time, as did production of cassava, plantains and tomatoes. The average per-capita production of plantains, for instance, jumped from as low as 18 lb in 1989 to 149 lb in 2008; tomatoes from 17
within tight rules, mainly in the red soils of Havana and Matanzas provinces. Output is unstable, however. After averaging 48 lb per capita annually from 1980 to 1994, potato production rose to 65 lb from 1996 to 2005, only to drop to 43 lb in the 2006-09 period, with a fall to 27 lb in 2007, the lowest per-capita potato production since 1974. See Vegetables, page 11
June 2011 v CubaNews
Vegetables — FROM PAGE 10 Two kinds of price-controlled state markets coexisted in an effort to restrain farmers’ profits. State-run markets ruled and supplied by Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces became increasingly popular thanks to their much lower prices, though with less quality and diversity than the farmers’ markets. State-run stores also sold some products — mainly potatoes — through the old ration system at controlled prices. Costs and sustainability of those efforts were never on the table, but it might be assumed that a system resting on underpaid draftees to grow food on a permanent, massive scale might temporarily work for a warlike besieged economy but would not be enough to create wealth on a lasting basis. REFORMS COULD JUMP-START PRODUCTION
By the early 2000s it became obvious that the new production models were losing steam only a decade since their inception. A deadly mix of hurricanes, droughts, international market price hikes, decreasing exports from the island, the persistence of the initiative-devouring centralized apparatus and poor management by authorities had a devastating effect on Cuba’s agriculture. When the food import bill jumped to $2.26 billion (or 15.9% of all purchases abroad) in 2008, authorities finally raised the red flag and demanded immediate solutions. That response may have come with the guidelines issued after last April’s Sixth Communist Party Congress in Havana. In general terms, authorities agreed to let cooperatives grow, help vacant lands produce and increase agricultural yields. These vaguely exposed intentions plus occasional speeches or stories on the official media make hard to figure out how fast — if ever — agriculture will be freed from the heavy state burden in
decision-making, production quantities and variety, distribution chains, domestic trade, income, investment and competence. Insofar reforms in agriculture have been more cautious than audacious, given that the government has been more worried about preventing private people from making money than lifting all obstacles to farming. Anecdotal references abound proving the positive impact the short-lived period of open farmers’ markets in the early 1980s had on consumption. Those familiar with the standards of living in the countryside at that time remember well how good houses and improved roads popped up all throughout central Cuba, thanks to farmers who freely traded in garlic, black beans and dairy products.
The success of the Manicaragua-Cabaiguán belt — just to mention one example repeated all over Cuba — was brief, however, as the government’s egalitarian priorities put an end to individual prosperity and the markets were closed. This time, it remains to be seen if Cuba’s agriculture authorities will adapt new, creative initiatives, unafraid of boosting the fortunes of prosperous farmers amidst widespread poverty — or if orthodox views will keep Cuba on the same failed path. q This is the 7th and last in a series of articles on various aspects of Cuba’s agriculture industry by Havana-born Armando H. Portela, a contributor to CubaNews since the newsletter’s birth in 1993. Portela has a Ph.D. in geography from the Soviet Academy of Sciences and resides in Miami, Fla.
CubaNews v June 2011
Key players in Cuba’s leadership: Rising stars to watch BY DOMINGO AMUCHASTEGUI
aúl Castro, 80, is running Cuba now, and José Ramón Machado Ventura, also 80, is next in command. On Apr. 19, Machado — who had been first vice president of Cuba since February 2008 — was named second secretary of the Cuban Communist Party. Here’s a look at the other members of Cuba’s Politburo, in no particular order:
RAMIRO VALDÉS MENÉNDEZ, 79, a “historico” whose guerrilla credentials date back to the 1953 Moncada Barracks attack in Santiago de Cuba, Valdés was a founding member of the 26th of July Movement, and has been a Politburo member since 1965. But in recent years, he’s reinvented himself. In August 2006, he was named minister of informatics and communications. Now a technocrat in the fields of IT and business, many younger Cubans see him as a “godfather” and sponsor, surrounded by a first-class team of experts. Valdés has been exposed to, and influenced by, the reforms in China, having traveled there many times over the last 30 years. He’s said to be in excellent physical shape. ABELARDO COLOMÉ IBARRA, 71, is among Raúl Castro’s best and closest friends. Smart, efficient and sharp, he has top leadership experience in both the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and the Ministry of Interior (MININT). As minister of interior for the last 20 years, he has modernized MININT’s structure and direction. Colomé Ibarra has traveled repeatedly to China, and is in excellent physical shape. He’s a “historico” who took part in the Santiago de Cuba uprising in November 1956 as a teenager and was close to Ramiro Valdés in the ‘60s. LEOPOLDO CINTRA FRÍAS, 69, is a “histórico” from the days of the Sierra Maestra; he joined the revolution when he was only 16. He’s a veteran of many overseas missions including Angola (1976 and 1988), and a university graduate who achieved the highest scores at the best Soviet military academies. Highly experienced in capitalist economies and perfeccionamiento empresarial, Cintra Frías is one of the most respected military leaders in Cuba. He is extremely dedicated, discreet and low-profile. He’s also visited China several times, and is the most likely candidate to replace Gen. Julio Casas Regueiro as minister of the FAR. ALVARO LÓPEZ MIERA, 66, was only 14 years when he joined the guerrillas as a teacher in Raúl Castro’s Second Front. In 1961, he joined the military and became one of the most successful students in Cuban military history, rising from lieutenant to colonel. He fought in missions in Ethiopia, Angola and Vietnam. López Miera is considered extremely knowledgeable, influenced by European culture and familiar with the ideas of Eurocom-
munism. His parents were very close to Raúl’s wife, Vilma Espín; some say Raúl has been like a father to him. In the 1990s, Raúl named him head of the General Staff, replacing Ulises Rosales del Toro and bypassing many other top generals. Highly professional and in excellent physical shape, López Miera could also be a strong candidate to replace Regueiro. RICARDO ALARCÓN DE QUESADA, 74. A “histórico” in a special way, Alarcón is the only one without guerrilla credentials (he was a Catholic student leader in the underground struggle). Very much supported by Raúl from the beginning, he joined the Ministry of Foreign
Ricardo Alarcón talks to CubaNews in May 2004.
Affairs in 1962, becoming close to Raúl Roa, Carlos R. Rodríguez and others. Cuba’s ambassador to the United Nations for more than 20 years, Alarcón also served as deputy minister and later minister of foreign affairs until his 1993 appointment to head the National Assembly. Alarcón is Cuba’s top troubleshooter on U.S. affairs, and an intellectual and excellent debater. When Alarcón talks, people listen. During the 4th Party Congress, he was the CC candidate who got the most votes — even more than Fidel and Raúl. Alarcón now has a huge task ahead of him: to prepare all the legislation, and reforms to the constitution derived from the lineamientos, as well as overseeing Cuba’s decentralization process. ESTEBAN LAZO HERNÁNDEZ, 67, not a “histórico” but active in the PCC since the late 1960s in his native Matanzas. Although lacking in educational background, Lazo has distinguished himself for being a highly efficient grass-roots organizer. In the early 1970s, he started working closely with Machado Ventura. The latter promoted him to first secretary of the PCC in Santiago de Cuba and to the Politburo. In 1994, he became first secretary of the party in the city of Havana. Currently, Lazo supervises two important departments at the CC, Ideology and Culture.
He’s been a member of the Politburo Commission for many years now. MIGUEL DÍAZ-CANEL BERMÚDEZ. In the eyes of the “históricos” he was always considered “a brilliant kid.” A leader in the UJC (Young Communists) and an electrical engineering graduate, DíazCanel was soon promoted to party cadre in his native Villa Clara and by the late 1980s became first secretary of the provincial party; later on, he reached that same position in the much larger province of Holguín. In both positions, Raúl Castro showered public recognition on him. A few years ago, he was appointed minister of higher education — a surprise because everyone thought he’d take over a party position rather than an administrative one. Díaz-Canel is the only survivor of the group of young leaders from the early 1990s; this select group also included Lage, Pérez Roque, Robinson, Valenciaga and others. MARINO MURILLO JORGE, 50. Considering he’s not a “histórico” at all or a young UJC or party leader from the ‘80s or ‘90s — and that he doesn’t have a university degree — Murillo’s rise to power has been spectacular. He excelled as a civilian worker at the Armed Forces’ Perfeccionamiento Empresarial team, then was suddenly named minister of economy and planning. He wasn’t even a member of the CC at the time. Murillo is entrusted with leading the commision in charge of drafting the major changes and reforms to be included in the lineamientos. During this last congress, Murillo was appointed to the Politburo and given the rank of vice-president. He is indeed the most notable “rising star” coming out of this congress. AMONG MEMBERS OF THE SECRETARIAT
Víctor Fidel Gaute López and Olga Lidia Tapia Iglesias have very similar backgrounds. Both are in their 40s, and both were provincial UJC and party leaders (Guate López in Matanzas and Tapia Iglesias in Pinar del Río). Both were chosen for their excellent performance to be members of the new party secretariat. Misael Enamorado Dáger, 58, is an engineer by profession. After a successful career as head of two important industries in Las Tunas and as a UJC leader and party cadre, he was promoted to first secretary of the party in Las Tunas and then to Santiago de Cuba, where his performance was publicly praised. Appointed in 1991 as one of the youngest members of the Central Committee, he was named to the Politburo in 1997 but expelled for undisclosed reasons. Yet the fact he remains in the Secretariat indicates that he’s still a crucial player. See Leadership, page 16
June 2011 v CubaNews
ORGANIZATIONAL CHART OF CUBA’S LEADERSHIP: THE COMMUNIST PARTY AND ITS TOP OFFICIALS
BUSINESS BRIEFS HEALTH-CARE SECTOR SEES 14% FALL IN JOBS Tens of thousands of Cubans are no longer employed in the island’s widely praised health care system, says AP, quoting a study released by Cuba’s Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas. Overall employment in the sector fell 14% in 2010 to about 282,000, compared with 330,000 the previous year, when the government warned of the need to slash redundant jobs among less-skilled medical workers. The biggest change was a 34% reduction in technicians and auxiliary workers, from 134,000 to 88,000, it said. The report did not explain the drop, but said the category included employees such as pharmaceutical, X-ray and dental assistants. There were only slight changes in numbers for highly skilled medical workers such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists, AP said. Cuba prides itself on providing free, universal health care despite its economic problems. But state-run media said last year that the government needed to cut “inflated payrolls” in health care. Among examples cited then were ambulance bases with many drivers for a single vehicle, clinics with more workers than patients per shift, and X-ray technicians who performed only a few scans each month. CHINA TO EXPAND CIENFUEGOS OIL REFINERY Cuba, which has begun to enact Chineselike economic reforms, is moving closer to Beijing with the signing of 13 agreements that include a massive refinery expansion, new loans and a five-year cooperation plan, reports China’s Xinhua news agency. “The Chinese government supports competent Chinese enterprises in seeking new opportunities for cooperation and investment in Cuba,” said Vice President Xi Jinping during a recent meeting with Raúl Castro. Xi, slated to become China’s president in 2013, praised the Sixth Party Congress in April as a key event that “determined the direction of the future development” of Cuba. On Jun. 5, the two countries signed a letter of intent that calls for a doubling of the Cienfuegos refinery’s capacity from 65,000 to 150,000 barrels a day. Reuters — which puts the cost of the expansion at $6 billion — reported that it’ll be a three-way agreement among Cuvenpetrol (the Cuban-Venezuelan joint venture that owns the refinery); China Huanqiu Contracting & Engineering Corp., a unit of state oil entity CNPC, and the Italian subsidiary of Technip, a French oil engineering company. Not much else is known about the deal, though Huanqui and Cuvenpetrol have also agreed to build a regasification plant near the Cienfuegos refinery; the idea is to process liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Venezuela for use in Cuban power plants. CNPC has also signed an accord to expand cooperation with Cubapetroleo. Other agreements signed in Havana include a new line of credit from China, a restructuring of two
CubaNews v June 2011
existing lines and a loan for the modernization of Cuba’s health care system. Reuters reported that the projects would likely be financed by China’s Export-Import Bank, using Venezuelan oil as collateral. Other Chinese officials meeting with Raúl included Zhu Zhixin, vice-president of the National Commission on Development and Reform; Zhong Shan, China’s deputy trade minister, and Chen Yuan, vice-president of the China Development Bank. After Venezuela, China is Cuba’s top trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching $1.8 billion last year, up from $1.5 billion in 2009. COURT SENDS 14 CUBANA OFFICIALS TO PRISON A Havana court handed down sentences of three to ten years to 14 officials and employees of Cubana de Aviación airline and a tourism agency jointly owned by Chilean investors and the Cuban government, in a corruption case that was veiled in a shroud of secrecy, Inter Press Service reported. In addition, Chilean businessman Marcel Marambio, president of the Sol y Son tourism agency, was found guilty in absentia. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for fraud, bribery and falsification of documents. According to the government communiqué
published by the official Communist Party newspaper Granma on June 7, Marambio “took advantage” of his position “to defraud the Cuban government for his own benefit, forging and deliberately concealing information and bribing Cuban officials to go along with his shady business dealings.” Cubana de Aviación, Cuba’s flagship airline, was the focus of speculation of all kinds after the country’s top aviation official, Gen. Rogelio Acevedo, was sacked as president of the Cuban Institute of Civil Aeronautics in March 2010. The government report on the trial — whose date is not mentioned — provides the names of each of the people found guilty, and the sentences they were given. However, the list does not include Acevedo, who was to be assigned to “other tasks” after he was found to be allegedly running a side business chartering Cubana jets for personal profit, the state reported in March 2010. Acevedo is a veteran revolutionary in the guerrilla struggle led by Fidel Castro in the 1950s and later played a prominent role in Angola’s 1975-2002 civil war. State media said the defendants were convicted because they received “cash bribes and personal perks” but did not provide details about what they provided in exchange.
C&T to offer Puerto Rico-Cuba flights
iami-based C&T Charters plans to offer flights between Puerto Rico and Cuba as early as next month. Gary Gonzalez, the company’s vice-president, told CubaNews that C&T — in business for the last 19 years — will fly once a week from San Juan to Havana and back. Later on, as traffic ramps up, C&T will add flights to and from Santiago de Cuba in order to accommodate the large numbers of Cuban exiles in Puerto Rico whose families are originally from Oriente. “We wanted to start service from Puerto Rico in June, but that won’t be possible,” he told us. “There’s a lot of red tape for a new airline and it’s taken a little more time than we thought. We will begin maybe at the end of July, and at the latest, August.” Direct air service between the two Caribbean islands hasn’t existed for decades. What makes it possible now is the Obama administration’s decision in March to authorize 10 U.S. airports — including San Juan — to offer charter flights to Cuba, in addition to the three “gateways” already authorized to do so: Miami, New York JFK and Los Angeles. González says C&T flew around 60,000 passengers to Cuba last year and has 22% of the U.S.-Cuba charter market — making it the largest of eight charter companies flying from Miami. C&T currently offers daily flights between Miami and Havana, and twice-aweek flights to and from Camagüey, as well as a weekly New York-Havana run.
In addition to San Juan, it also plans to add Cuba service from Chicago and Atlanta in coming months. For its Puerto Rico service, González says C&T will utilize Boeing 737-400 and Boeing 737-800 jets capable of accommodating 140 to 160 passengers, depending on configuration. Airfare for the San Juan-Havana flight — which is around three hours and 20 minutes — will cost in the neighborhood of $700 round-trip, though that’s subject to change. Since Santiago de Cuba is much closer than Havana, flying time will probably be an hour less. “We’ll be flying directly from five cities. When you add up that amount of hours, the airline we use will obviously give us better prices than if we fly only from Puer-to Rico,” said González. C&T is still discussing which airline it will contract. The charter official said his company has already received all the permissions it needs from local Puerto Rican authorities as well as the Cuban government, and that C&T will open a San Juan office 10 to 15 days before it actually starts flying. “Even though we haven’t started our advertising campaign, we have had so many phone calls from people wanting to go,” he said. “A lot of Cubans living in Puerto Rico want to visit their families.” Details: Gary González, C&T Charters, 932-B Ponce de León Blvd., Coral Gables, FL 33134. Tel: (305) 445-3337. Fax: (305) 445-3355. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 2011 v CubaNews
Dissident Antúnez: ‘We’re hostages of the dictatorship’ BY TRACEY EATON
emocracy aid from abroad helps Cuban dissidents endure police harassment, hostility and 24-hour surveillance, said activist Jorge Luís García Pérez. Life for dissidents and political prisoners is “as hard as you can imagine,” García said in an interview in Havana. “There is a repressive atmosphere up and down the country.” García, nicknamed “Antúnez,” stands out among Cuban dissidents for his fierce resistance to the government and the high price he has paid for it. He’s spent 17 years and 38 days in prison, prompting some fellow dissidents to call him “Cuba’s Nelson Mandela.” García, 46, said he didn’t set out to become an anti-government activist. On Mar. 15, 1990, he spontaneously grabbed the microphone during a public event and yelled, “Communism is an error!” He wound up in prison for that and for sabotage after allegedly setting a sugarcane field on fire. García escaped prison in 1992 but was caught within a day. That and other offenses added time to his original six-year sentence — and he wasn’t freed until 2007. “It’s a difficult life,” he said, but the cause is “just.” And assistance from Cuban “brothers in exile” is vital, he said. “Thanks to that help, we’ve been able to survive.”
Cuban authorities say money from the U.S. has created a “fabricated” dissident movement. García and other activists deny that. Anti-government activists often lose their
Anti-government activist Jorge Luís García Pérez.
jobs and have no way to support themselves, García said. Dissidents struggle to cover their expenses, including the cost of traveling to visit other activists. García believes U.S. financial support for Cuban dissidents dropped off after Barack Obama was voted into office in 2008. He said Obama is a “good president,” but but that his predecessor, George W. Bush, was more direct about aiding the democracy movement. García lives in the town of Placetas in Villa
Clara province. He said Cuban police keep him and other dissidents under constant surveillance to try to isolate them and make them appear to be common criminals. Dissidents’ homes resemble outposts for the political police, he said, because government agents take up residence around the homes and keep the democracy activists under watch. García said the surveillance makes getting around “an odyssey.” Lately, he said, police in a red Russianmade Lada sedan have been following him around. Police have told him he is forbidden from traveling to other cities, including Holguin, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba. “We’re hostages of the dictatorship. We need to ask permission to enter or leave our own country,” complained García, who pointed out that he has no intentions of leaving. He said while dissidents need aid from abroad, Cubans must be left to determine their future. “The freedom of Cubans must be decided among Cubans.” And to be successful, he said, activists must occupy and gain control of the streets. “That’s the place for the fight,” which he described as non-violent. “We promote civil disobedience [and] civil resistance as a method of struggle.” q
‘Cincuenta años de la economía cubana’ worth reading BY ARMANDO H. PORTELA
frank analysis of the Cuban economy over the past half-century, written from inside the island, would have been hard to imagine just a few years ago. However, hardships and the timid winds of reform coming from above have opened the way for a study that finally unveils some of the incongruences of Cuba’s planned economy — which sank after the collapse of the Soviet bloc two decades ago. Even so, the authors don’t scorn the Castro regime, but rather give an unusually honest, careful view of developments, pointing to the inevitable necessity of adapting to the prevailing trends of the modern world. To the authors’ credit, the book’s prologue makes a candid statement: “Mean-spirited people and renegades may come and go, but they will always be isolated cases within the
large mass of intellectuals, scientists and professionals faithful to the socialist principles forming the pillars of our society. “To trust their criticism, accept the discrepant reasoning as another of many possible points of view and do not diminish the work of the revolutionary social and economic sciences, but all of the contrary.” For those who still remember what preceded Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika in the mid 80s, those words sound strikingly familiar. “Cincuenta años de la economía cubana” (ISBN 978-959-06-1239-8, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, La Habana, 2010) is a 405-page journey guided by 11 authors through Cuba’s economic strategies and management, economic structure by sector, transformations and prospective routes, monetary policies, agriculture over the past 50 years, the relationship between social and economic development, food consumption and theration system, and finally demographics and geography. On this journey through the Cuban economy, the authors — including well-known economists and geographers — generously support their studies with statistics from past decades not always available for general use. Personal styles apart, the essays in this book may be more or less clear in the often cryptic language of Cuban criticism from within; they generally observe the unwritten
rule of condemn the pre-Castro economy while lavishing praise on post-1959 changes. But in the end a patient reader will find here and there interesting and surprisingly frank points of view that not so long ago were perhaps heard only around the kitchen table, or at best, in classified, official documents. Details: Instituto Cubano del Libro, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Calle 14, #4104, e/ 41 y 43, Habana. Email: email@example.com.
C-CAA, Otto Reich move offices Caribbean Central American Action — a D.C.-based advocacy group for private-sector economic development in the Caribbean Basin — has moved its headquarters to the Ronald Reagan Building. CCAA’s new address is 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite #700, Washington, DC 20004. Tel: (202) 204-3050. URL: www.c-caa.org. Otto Reich Associates LLC also has new digs at 1350 I Street NW, Suite #275, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: (202) 333-1360. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Reich will share his new office with Cardenas Partners LLC, a lobby shop headed by attorney Al Cárdenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union and former chairman of the Florida Republican Party.
Leadership — FROM PAGE 12 Other politicians to keep an eye on include: JAIME CROMBET HERNÁNDEZ-BAQUERO. An engineer and leader in the FEU, UJC and Communist Party from the ‘60s through the ‘80s, he has served as party first secretary in Camagüey, Pinar del Río and the city of Havana. Hernández-Baquero headed Cuba’s civil mission in Angola in the mid-1970s. He is said to be honest and efficient, and is supported by Raúl. One of his daughters — a microbiologist by profession — is married to former foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque. At some point, he could replace Alarcón. ERNESTO MEDINA VILLAVEIRÁN, a key technocrat, very close to Francisco Soberón, former president of Cuba’s Central Bank. In June 2009, he was named as Soberón’s replacement, and more recently, he was appointed to the Central Committee. CARIDAD DIEGO BELLO, a philosophy gradu-
ate in college, had some experience as a professor, but more so as an expert on religious affairs, since she was a cadre at the UJC and at the Department of Religious Affairs, which she has headed since the early 1990s. In those days, many people perceived her to be very narrow-minded and dogmatic. But 20 years later, she’s proven herself to be efficient enough to remain at this sensitive job — especially since the 1998 visit of Pope John Paul II and the recent negotiations between the Cuban government and the Catholic Church over political prisoners. ROLANDO ALFONSO BORGES, a FAR colonel until the early 1990s, is a political officer in charge of the Central Political Directorate at the General Staff. Named to the Central Committee in 1991, he later took over its Ideological Department, where under Raúl’s guidance, he led some serious ideological battles against researchers and intellectuals — in particular those at the Centro de Estudios de America. These battles led to extensive criticism and widespread discontent.
CubaNews v June 2011
EUSEBIO LEAL SPENGLER, official historian of the City of Havana, is a respected intellectual, cultural promoter and top-notch entrepreneur. His most successful achievement: the restoration of Old Havana — a project much admired by foreign visitors. A man of independent and constructive ideas who fights against dogmatic and outdated approaches, Leal could be a strong future candidate for key positions like minister of culture. GLADYS BEJERANO PORTELA has spent more than 40 years as a party cadre, dealing mostly with economic affairs and the former province of La Habana. Dedicated, honest and very straightforward, she’s been praised publicly by Raúl for her audits — which have kept many a bureaucrat awake at night. Her recent appointment as general comptroller, member of the new Central Committee and vice president of the Council of State makes her a crucial player to watch. COL LUÍS ALBERTO RODRÍGUEZ LÓPEZ-CALLEJAS
in his late 40s, is considered a brilliant economist and organizer. He’s been the right-hand man of Gen. Julio Casas Regueiro for more than 20 years and one of the chief architects of perfeccionamiento empresarial. He’s the son of DG Rodríguez del Pozo, head of FAR’s medical services division. As such, his family is quite close to Raúl Castro, though Luís Alberto’s current position is widely perceived as based on his own merits. Due to FAR’s prominent role in the economy, he’s a very influential player. BRUNO RODRÍGUEZ PARRILLA, a 1983 law school graduate, went on to be come a professional leader in the UJC and editor of Juventud Rebelde newspaper in the early 1990s; after a stint at the United Nations, he was appointed to replace Roberto Robaina as Cuba’s foreign minister. Now 53, he became one of the youngest members of the Central Committee when he was appointed in 1991. q Former Cuban intelligence officer Domingo Amuchastegui has lived in Miami since 1994. He writes regularly for CubaNews on the Communist Party and South Florida’s Cuban exile community.
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