Sunday, May 20, 2012

Here's the Place to Be Tomorrow: Cuban Economy Colloquium, Bildner Center

Bildner Center Colloquium: 

MONDAY, MAY 21, 2012 
8:45 AM – 6:00 p.m. 
The Graduate Center 365 Fifth Avenue (@ 34th Street) 

After 2008, the newly installed presidency of Raúl Castro launched several initiatives to revamp the highly centralized form of socialism for which Cuba had been known. Though Cuba's Actualización draws from other experiences of socialist reform, it appears to be a distinctive approach. The Cuba Project/Bildner Center colloquium puts the new approach in perspective and provides an update on the evolving policies and the structural and institutional changes in progress in 2012. The colloquium closes with a review of policy and research implications.

*Registration is required.
*This event has been designed for academics, Cuba specialists, and related professionals.

Preliminary Program (Subject to change)

Registration: 8:45 AM - 9:05 AM

Session #1: Cuban Updates on Actualización
9:05 AM to 11:35 AM, Room 9206/07
Cuentapropismo y ajuste estructural; Microfinanzas en Cuba; Non-state Enterprises in Cuba: Current Situation and Prospects; Impacto de los lineamientos de la política económica y social en la producción de alimentos

Session # 2: Strategic Initiatives: Agriculture
11:45 AM to 1:00 PM, Room 9206/07
Measuring Cuba's Agricultural Transformations: Preliminary Findings; U.S. Food and Agricultural Exports to Cuba - Uncertain times Ahead

Session # 3: Revamping Socialism: Perspectives and Prospects 
2:00 PM to 3:55 PM, Room 9206/07
Actualización in Perspective; Cuban Restructuring: The Economic Risks; Prospects in a Changing Geo-Economic Environment

Roundtable on Implications and Future Agenda
4:15 PM to 5:45 PM, Room 9206-07

Closing Remarks

Invited speakers from the University of Havana: Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva; Pavel Vidal; Armando Nova; Camila Piñeiro Harnecker.

Invited speakers from Europe, the United States and Puerto Rico: Emily Morris; Bill Messina; Archibald R. M. Ritter; Mario González Corzo; Mauricio Font.

While some of our panelists will present in Spanish, each panel/session will have Powerpoint outlines in English as well as one presentation in English (with the possible exception of the Panel 1).

Moreover, the Q&A will be in both English and Spanish. 

PLEASE RESERVE by sending an e-mail to

©2012 Bildner Center | The Graduate Center - CUNY | New York, NY

Thursday, May 17, 2012

UPDATE: Mariela Castro's academic paper for LASA: "Sexual Education as State Policy in Cuba, 1959-Present"

I for one am glad that the US State Department has taken the high road in granting a visa to Mariela Castro Espín (*see professional bio in Spanish below) so she can attend the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) conference.

If I fight for Yoani's (or anyone else's) right to leave Cuba (without having to pass some ideological test), I think I should also stand up for the ability of Mariela and other academics to come to the US (without their having to do the same).

To quote the Observatorio Critico quoting Rosa Luxemburg: "Freedom is not freedom at all unless it applies to those we disagree with."

I strongly support Mariela's advocacy for the LGBT community and for respect for sexual diversity in Cuba and just as strongly disagree with her intolerance of political and civil diversity.  But the best way forward is through honest, civil debate - not by refusing dialogue or engaging in character assassinations.

In an article published on Thursday at Fox News Latino, I was quoted (accurately) as saying that Mariela's "not just some Cuban academic, but also part of the Castro family dynasty." However, after reflection on that self-evident fact, I think that the real question going forward is not whether she is part of the dynasty, but what she does with the legacy.

Here is a link to the paper, "Sexual Education as State Policy in Cuba, 1959-Present," she submitted for presentation at the LASA conference.  It was published in the Cuban journal Sexología y Sociedad in April of 2011 (Vol. 17, No. 45).  It is in Spanish but an English translation of the abstract is below after the jump (you will also find a full description of the panel she is participating in *).

At the same time, I am saddened and surprised to hear that the US State Department has seemingly denied the visas for a number of other leading Cuban academics scheduled to attend the LASA conference next week (a slew of news reports are now out on this at WaPo, NYT, AP, Cuba Central, and Fox News Latino).  John McAuliff informs me that the following academics, among others, have been denied their visas:

*Soraya Castro, Center for the Study of International Migration, Havana University
*Milagros Martínez, University of Havana official responsible for educational exchange with US schools and co-chair of LASA Cuba Section
*Rafael Hernández, editor of the magazine Temas
*Oscar Zanetti, renown Cuban historian
*Carlos Alzugaray, Center for the Study of the Western Hemisphere and the US, University of Havana

Can anyone confirm this?  And if so, what are we going to do about it!

Again, as I say above:

If I fight for Yoani's right to leave Cuba (without having to pass some ideological test), I think I should also stand up for the ability of these academics to come to the US (without their having to do the same).

Facebook Raises $16 Billion in I.P.O. That Values It at $104 Billion

Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Thursday, May 17, 2012 -- 4:29 PM EDT

Facebook Raises $16 Billion in I.P.O. That Values It at $104 Billion

As investors raced to get shares, whose price Facebook set at $38 each, the sprawling social network raised $16 billion on Thursday in an initial public offering.

The I.P.O. signals a rapid evolution for the company. In just eight years, Facebook has gone from a scrappy college service founded in a Harvard dormitory to the third-largest public offering in the history of the United States, behind General Motors and Visa.

Read More:
Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company

Siro del Castillo: Apoyo el importante juego de ideas

Pull Quote: 
"It's a very bad and insecure country that fears the visit of a person to its shores, or that fears that one of its citizens visit another country." 


Mariela Castro hija del jefe de Cuba general Raul Castro ha recibido una visa de los Estados Unidos para participar en San Francisco en la reunión de LASA (Asociación de Estudios Latinoamericanos) y contrario a todos las criticas que están recibiendo los Estado Unidos de muchos cubanos por otorgar esa visa, el que suscribe aplaude esa aprobación porque es el mejor ejemplo de como se debe proceder. 

Lo incorrecto, lo cobarde, lo que no se puede aplaudir es lo que hacen -y han hecho en este mas de medio siglo- las autoridades de la Habana con el negado de visas a miles de cubanos a visitar su propio país. El ultimo caso es el del decente cubano Siro del Castillo. 

Gracias Cubanas doy a los Estados Unidos por saber estar por encima de las torpezas políticas de muchos de mis compatriotas que los ciega la pasión y se autoexcluyen del importante juego de ideas.  

La nación norteamerica sabe actuar. ¿Como pedir o esperar que Estados Unidos haga lo mismo que hace el gobierno de Cuba negandole el permiso de salida y regreso a Yoani Sanchez? . Felicito a los Estados Unidos por saber poner la ética y el buen ejemplo por encima de todo.

Mal, muy mal e inseguro esta el país que teme a la visita de una persona a su país o de uno de sus ciudadanos a otro.



Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cuba's Paradise Lost - Carlos Fuentes

Cuba's Paradise Lost
April 20, 2003
Carlos Fuentes 

Carlos Fuentes is the author of numerous books, including "The Death of Artemio Cruz" and "The Years With Laura Diaz."

(H/T Ariana Hernández & CafeFuerte)

LONDON — When I arrived in Havana on Jan. 2, 1959, Fidel Castro had not yet entered the Cuban capital. He was advancing slowly by jeep along a victory route from Santiago, accompanied by a dove trained to stay on his shoulder.

He would interrupt his speeches along the way with a rhetorical question: "Am I going the right way, Camilo?" The question was ostensibly addressed to Camilo Cienfuegos, his second in command during the revolution, but in a sense it was also addressed to all Cubans. He was met with jubilation.

But Cubans expected more than just the overthrow of a bloodthirsty and corrupt tyrant. They expected political democracy, freedom of expression, freedom to gather, a mixed economy, a parallel strengthening of private enterprise and the state, better education and health care.

They got some of these things. But they also got a repressive government that ignored basic human rights.

In his latest crackdown, Castro has incarcerated 75 dissidents, sentencing them to a total of 1,500 years in prison. His government has also executed three citizens who hijacked a boat to flee Cuba.

These acts have prompted some prominent supporters of Castro to denounce his government. In a published statement last week, Jose Saramago, a Portuguese writer and winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in literature, wrote that Cuba "has lost my confidence, damaged my hopes, robbed me of my dreams."

My own disillusionment with Cuba's revolution came much earlier, in 1966, when the Cuban literary bureaucracy, pressured by poet and essayist Roberto Fernandez Retamar, denounced Pablo Neruda and me for attending an International PEN gathering presided over by Arthur Miller. Thanks to Miller, Soviet and Central European writers had been allowed to enter the United States for the first time to meet their Western counterparts. Neruda and I declared that this was an example of how the literary world could overcome the Cold War. For this, we were accused by Fernandez Retamar of fraternizing with the enemy.

He had assembled a long list of Cuban writers who had purportedly signed onto a statement condemning our actions, in which it was asserted that the problem was not the Cold War but the struggle of the classes. We had been seduced by capitalism.

It wasn't the feeble reasoning that outraged Neruda and me, but that Fernandez Retamar had included on the list, without consulting them, our friends, including Alejo Carpentier and Jose Lezama Lima. In the years that followed, Cuba attempted many times to tell other Latin American authors what they could and could not say and write.

It shouldn't have been this way. Castro seemed, in the early days of postrevolutionary Cuba, poised to deliver the free land his people desired. He had the support of the world's artistic and intellectual communities. From Jean-Paul Sartre to C. Wright Mills, the world's intelligentsia saw a chance for Cuba to become a new kind of revolutionary state, freed of the dogmas and deformities imposed by the contorted Marxism of the Soviet Union.

Perhaps in Polynesia such a revolutionary state might have been possible. Not in Cuba, with its close proximity to the U.S. It was the height of the Cold War, and Washington was quick to declare, albeit with less Manichean brutality than President Bush has shown lately, that "those who are not with us are against us." Castro was not interested in subjugating his nation's interests to those of the United States. Rather than bowing submissively to Washington, he began initiating reforms bound to be seen as aggressively communist.

Like Mexico under Carranza and Cardenas, Castro nationalized and expropriated private businesses and resources; but unlike in Mexico, he did not negotiate. Escalating confrontations with Washington led to the breaking of relations in 1961. And it was not just the U.S. that Castro alienated. He butted heads with his own bourgeoisie, who left in droves. The loss of talent and resources was immense.

The press was suffocated. Political parties were barred. Power was consolidated, and relations with the United States continued to deteriorate. The more aggressive the Americans, the more rigid the Cuban dictatorship became. The tighter the Cuban dictatorship, the more American aggression.

Despite these tensions, Cuba made major advances in education and health. It even had a military victory of sorts when, in 1961, a force of expatriate Cubans with U.S. backing landed at the Bay of Pigs and, without promised American air support, were quickly overwhelmed by Castro's forces.

But something was "rotten in the state of Denmark." Increasingly, human rights and freedoms were restricted in the name of national security. Cuba also turned toward an option that the Cold War offered the Third World: Soviet power. Shunned by the United States yet fearful of its power, Cuba allied itself with the Soviet Union. The 1962 Cuban missile crisis came close to launching the third and last world war. Only President Kennedy's ability to confront both Nikita Khrushchev and his own military establishment saved us from catastrophe. But Castro had cast his lot with the Russians.

Castro's support for the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia sealed a pact. Cuba became, if not a colony, at least a satellite state of the Soviet Union. If Turkey was the easternmost reach of the United States, Cuba was the westernmost limit of the Soviets.

The rigidity, the persecution of dissidents, might have been tolerated as an outgrowth of the revolutionary rhetoric if only Castro had delivered on the economy. But his economic revolution was disastrous. Cuba's enormous strengths -- its vast and intelligent human capital, its unexploited natural resources and fertile lands -- were sacrificed to stupid and exotic dogmas. Agrarian reform, launched by a smart and patriotic man, Antonio Nunez Jimenez, ended in absurdity: In the name of a crazed egalitarianism, the nation's cities were denied products from the countryside. Without incentives, farmers stopped producing. Soviet-sponsored industrialization projects filled Cuba with antiquated machinery, inappropriate for the tropics. On the wings of dogma, small businesses died.

Now, nearly half a century after the revolution, Cuba continues to be a dependent nation. Castro blames his country's ills on the U.S.-imposed embargo. And it's true that the U.S. has passed absurdly arrogant measures penalizing Cubans. One, the Helms-Burton Act, goes far beyond mere sanctions, imposing penalties on foreign companies doing business in Cuba until property expropriated by the Cuban state during the revolution is returned. (It is fortunate for the United States that Britain didn't pass such a law after the U.S. war of independence.)

But Cuba's economic woes extend beyond U.S. sanctions: The country had come to rely heavily on multimillion-dollar subsidies from the Soviet Union. Since it no longer receives them, it has had to turn back toward the economic engines of the Batista years: tourism and prostitution.

One might suspect that Castro needs America as a convenient scapegoat to excuse his own failures. He needs the American ogre, and in George W. Bush he has his ideal foil -- someone who needs his own villains to justify his ambitious plans. The axis of evil that began with Iraq, North Korea and Iran is likely to be expanded to include Syria, Lebanon, Libya and, in the Americas, Cuba.

I established a position in 1966 that I retain today: I am against the abusive and imperial policy of the United States toward Cuba. And I am against the abusive and totalitarian politics of the Cuban government toward its own citizens.

I congratulate Jose Saramago for drawing his line. Here is mine: I am against Bush and against Castro.

Translated by Lorenza Munoz

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Un diálogo entre cubanos

Un diálogo entre cubanos

Catedrático de la UPR
Es hora de actualizar las leyes migratorias que limitan la circulación de personas entre Cuba y otros países, especialmente Estados Unidos. El gobierno cubano debe suprimir la categoría legal de la "salida definitiva", vigente desde 1961, para facilitar que los cubanos residentes en el exterior puedan regresar a la Isla y retener sus propiedades si así lo desean. Igualmente, deben eliminarse los permisos de entrada para los cubanos residentes en el exterior, así como los permisos de salida para los residentes en la Isla.
Estas fueron algunas de las conclusiones de "Un diálogo entre cubanos", auspiciado por el Arzobispado de La Habana del 19 al 21 de abril pasado. Convocado por el cardenal Jaime Ortega, el encuentro reunió a unos 50 académicos, religiosos y laicos cubanos, incluyendo a tres de los coautores del informe sobre "La diáspora cubana en el siglo XXI". En julio de 2011, el Instituto de Investigaciones Cubanas (CRI) de la Universidad Internacional de la Florida divulgó este documento electrónico e impreso.
Eusebio Leal, historiador de La Habana, dictó la conferencia inaugural. Orlando Márquez Hidalgo, director de la revista "Palabra Nueva" y organizador del evento, moderó el primer panel. Aquí me tocó resumir los planteamientos del mencionado informe. Uva de Aragón, exdirectora asociada del CRI, reseñó la última encuesta del Instituto sobre la opinión pública de los cubanoamericanos en Miami. Ileana Sorolla, directora del Centro de Estudios de Migraciones Internacionales de la Universidad de La Habana, disertó sobre la diáspora cubana vista desde Cuba. Aunque discreparon sobre si los cubanos en Estados Unidos son una diáspora, un exilio o una comunidad, las ponencias convergieron en sus argumentos centrales.
El economista Pavel Vidal Alejandro moderó el segundo panel. Omar Everleny Pérez, director del Centro de Estudios de la Economía Cubana, documentó las persistentes dificultades económicas del país. Carlos Saladrigas, empresario residente en Estados Unidos, aplicó la doctrina social de la Iglesia Católica al desarrollo de las pequeñas y medianas empresas. Uno de los puntos sobresalientes de la discusión fue cómo las remesas enviadas por los cubanos residentes en el exterior podían contribuir al emergente sector no estatal de la economía cubana, particularmente el trabajo por cuenta propia.
La historiadora María del Carmen Barcia moderó la tercera sesión. Tanto Uva de Aragón como Roberto Méndez, miembro del Consejo de Redacción de "Palabra Nueva", ampliaron el concepto de cubanía para incluir las aportaciones de la diáspora. La literatura, la música, las artes plásticas, el cine y otras expresiones culturales cubanas desbordan las fronteras geográficas y lingüísticas. Su comprensión requiere de un análisis cuidadoso de las semejanzas y diferencias entre la producción intelectual de la Isla y la diáspora.
Rolando Suárez Cobián, asesor jurídico de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Cuba, moderó el último panel. El abogado residente en Estados Unidos, Rolando Anillo, repasó las leyes estadounidenses y cubanas que dificultan el movimiento de personas entre los dos países. El vicedecano de Derecho de la Universidad de La Habana, Juan Mendoza Díaz, aludió a los cambios inminentes en la política migratoria cubana.
En su mensaje de clausura, el obispo de Santa Clara, Arturo González, celebró el ambiente sosegado del encuentro y sugirió que se extendiera a otras provincias de la Isla, además de La Habana.
La actividad demostró la posibilidad de "un diálogo entre cubanos" residentes en la Isla y en el exterior. Aunque existan múltiples fisuras ideológicas entre y dentro de las dos poblaciones, ambas coinciden en su patriotismo, fuertes lazos familiares y a menudo creencias religiosas. En este contexto, resulta indispensable el papel de la Iglesia Católica como mediadora entre el gobierno cubano y la diáspora. Esperamos que el diálogo se multiplique para bien de todas las familias cubanas a ambos lados del Estrecho de la Florida

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A new blogger polemic erupts in Cuba (UPDATE)

Back late February, I posted an entry where I described the "Bloggers Polemic" that took place in the Cuban blogosphere last summer after I did an interview with Encuentro where I attempted to map out the various positions and collective movements within the very polarized political context.

Later, after reading the reactions from Cuban bloggers from all across the political spectrum to my initial map, I wrote up a more formal essay (Spanish and English) where I tried to show - among other things - that, despite extreme pressure to turn the Cuban blogosphere into a campo de batalla, it is much more than a group of government apologists (or oficialistas) on one side and another group of U.S. lackeys (or mercenarios) on the other.

Over the past week, a new version of this on-going polemic has erupted in Cuba, this time pitting the organizers of "Blogazo por Cuba," a Bloggers Summit that took place in late April in Matanzas (intended for bloggers "en revolución") against a number of the bloggers who I have interviewed and who were deeply involved in the previous round of blogger discussion and debate, including Yasmín Portales Machado, Rogelio Díaz, and Elaine Díaz (all associated with the group Bloggers Cuba).

I will withhold my own "two cents" for now as I have not had a chance to read through many of the posts.  However, below I share a partial list of the posts in the polemic so far (with my quick translations).  The list was sent to me by a Cuban friend late last week.

(By now, many more posts are sure to have appeared - so stand by and I'll add new ones later.  NB: I have just updated this post to reflect the latest new entries in this debate as of 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 8, 2012.)

To start, I'm including this assessment from the Spanish BBC correspondent Fernando Ravsberg, who - it seems - was at the summit.  As is his habit, he gives a fair summary and a provocative interpretation of how things went down.

His title for the event is:

"Blogueros sí... pero organizados" or "Bloggers yes... but organized."

I also recommend this other write-up at the Cuban outlet of IPS.  Also, a new entry in this debate was just added today to the Voces Cubanas site.  It is by "La rosa descalza," aka, Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado.  It is available in Spanish as:

"Desconocer para descalificar."

And thanx to the intrepid translators at Translating Cuba, it is also available in English as:

"They Ignore Us So They Can Discredit Us."