Monday, September 13, 2010

The Return of Self Employment in Cuba?

It is not in devising a system,
That the fearful dangers lurk;
It is not in devising a system,
But in making the system work.

For the working out of the system
Is not in the hands of the great;
But rests on the shoulders of poor little clerks
Like Mary and Jane and Kate.

— Fred Marquis, 1920 (cited in Ritter 1974: 224)
* * *
Last week Fidel told the reporter Jeffrey Goldberg that the "Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."  Then he denied that he really meant all that.  Today's announcent from Raul's Havana, the actual government that makes and implements political and economic policies, indicates that the right hand does indeed seem to know what the left hand is doing. 

Back from a month-long break from his blog, Phil Peters reminds us of why The Cuban Triangle is the go-to place for news and no-spin analysis about U.S.-Cuban relations and economic/political goings on in the island.  Phil's latest posts, Now it gets serious and Cuba's soon to expand private sector, share the big news that the Cuban government seems to have pulled the trigger on a major reduction in state sector employment with an anticipated doubling or more of the non-state, private, cooperative, and self-employed sectors.

The news as announced in Grandma is here.  MSNBC's take on it all is here in a Reuters story written by the Havana-based financial reporter Marc Frank.

Some of the more academically minded of you out there might like to peruse the following documents written by El Yuma as part of his dissertation research.  They all relate to Cuba's experiments with self-employment during the special period, which incidentally was the title of the dissertation.

Kind of catchy, don't you think?

Ted Henken, pp. 166-176 in A Contemporary Cuba Reader: Reinventing the Revolution. Edited by Phillip Brenner, John M. Kirk, William M. LeoGrande, and Marguerite Rose Jiménez, 2008.

Ted Henken, Cuba in Transition, Vol. 14, 2004, pp. 212-223.

"Condemned to Informality: The Case of the Bed and Breakfasts"
Ted Henken, Cuban Studies 33, 2002, pp. 1-29.

And this one available in Spanish at the portal:

Escrito por Ted Henken, Ph.D. y Elena Sacchetti.
Martes, 19 de agosto de 2008.


  1. Right, now that I've read your rules, here's my argument. As usual, the Castro brothers are trying to catch up with what's been going on forever. In the 90s they 'legalised' dollars (let me clarify my quotation marks. Possession of dollars was always legal, something that most Cubans were unaware of. Trading in dollars was banned. However, many innocent people ended up in jail for having as little as 10 cents of a dollar in their pocket. True story, by the way), then they allowed people to open up paladares. I remember dining in one with an ex of mine a couple of years before the bill was passed. Then they told people they could start renting their spare rooms. Again, my bredrin and sisters were already on the money before the junta caught up with the whole house malarkey.

    Man, what can I tell you? The first person who knows the system never worked is Fidel Castro Ruz. But 'El Caballo' can't say he was wrong all along. What do you think that would do for his virile power? :-)

    Great post. I found through Beatriz's network. I'm glad I'm in good company in the forthcoming book about the Cuban blogsphere... even if you're a Yuma. :-)

    Greetings from London.

  2. Self-employment is the best form of sustainable, eco-friendly, and exploitation-free economy.Cuba must pursue this form of economic alternative. This economy is certainly an eternal economic system. An economic theory based on self-employment has been for the first time in the world history of economics developed by a disenchanted former Marxist in 1993. The theroy is flawless. Main features of this new economic development model are: Self-employment, free market system, interest-free financial loans to all needy people, omnipotent state. The results are unbelievable. Free of inflation, zero-interest, full employment, low or zero taxation, decentralized economic activities, free of all monopoly legislation. Cuban economists should study this book: Hindu-economics. Second edition of this is available from

  3. I disagreed with Cuban in London.
    Possesion of dollars, or any other western currency WAS illegal under "tenencia ilegal de divisas" and punished with a heavy fine or 2 years in jail, and also they throw in an "acta de advertencia" as a first step to another 4 years for "social dangerousness".
    The few nationals authorized (before 7/26/93) to buy (even enter) in the hard currency stores (Diplotiendas were called) has to use "certificados de divisas" and even those "certificados" or money orders were stricly controlled: Certificado A, B, etc. depending on your profession and position within the privileged upper-caste: diplomat, nomenklatura member, a famous musician, a hight perfomance athlete, etc.
    Even the "certificados" only land on common people when "Las casas del Oro" opened.
    So, Yes!!! before 7/26th/1993 possesion of dollars was a crime punished by cuban law.