Wednesday, May 27, 2015



Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful.

As in the beginning of Albert Camus's novel The Stranger, Mother Revolution may have died today. Or yesterday. The tweets from the Homeland —the last disconnected spot in the hemisphere— are misleading. No funerals for Fidel, despite the successive unsuccessful farewells on-line. Abroad, deep sympathy for socialism all over the US academy and surprisingly also from its supposed archenemy, the State Department. Within, reforms emerge as the new style of repression: the Realpolitik of Raúlpolitik. Soldiers turned into salesmen. Spies into diplomats. Which leaves doubtful the matter of Marxism after the handshake of markets, with the US Chamber of Commerce approaching our Central Committee, for the sake of avoiding chaos in Cuba and converting another Communism into Consumerism.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Talks To Re-establish Diplomatic Relations Between the US and Cuba

Talks To Re-establish Diplomatic Relations Between the United States and Cuba

Roberta S. Jacobson
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs

Washington, DC
May 22, 2015

12:30 P.M. EDT


ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBSON: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you very much for coming. As you know, the governments of the United States and Cuba have been holding discussions on the normalization of relations since December 17th, president – when President Obama changed directions in U.S. policy towards Cuba. President Obama and Castro agreed on the historic occasion to restore a relationship severed some 54 years ago, and to work towards the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and reopening of embassies in each other's countries. Since then, our governments have met regularly and have been in constant contact to define the conditions under which these embassies would operate. This has not been an easy task given our complicated history.

In the past two days, we met with Cuban officials to discuss the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. This round of talks was highly productive. We will persist, inspired by the conviction that engagement and not isolation are the keys to moving forward. We have made significant progress in the last five months and are much closer to reestablishing relations and reopening embassies. These are the first steps in the long process of normalization that will allow us to better represent U.S. interests and increase engagement with the Cuban people.

I am very thankful for our negotiating teams, including Director General Josefina Vidal and Jose Ramon Cabanas, Chief of Mission of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, who continue to work tirelessly to help move us forward.

Let me stop there and ask for some assistance. (In Spanish.)

Okay, thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We have time for a couple of questions. Daniel Trotta, Reuters. The microphone is right here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Senior State Department Official On Ongoing Discussions with the Cuban Government

Senior State Department Official On the Ongoing Discussions with Cuba to Re-Establish Diplomatic Relations And Reopen Embassies


Yesterday, a Senior State Department Official participated in a background briefing on the upcoming meeting with our Cuban counterparts to continue the discussions on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations being held at the Department of State on Thursday, May 21.

Below is the transcript:

Special Briefing
Office of the Spokesperson
Senior State Department Official
Via teleconference
May 19, 2015

Short URL:

MODERATOR: Thanks very much, Operator, and thanks to everyone for calling in today. And we're grateful to have with us a senior State Department official who can talk about the talks with Cuba that are coming up later this week.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Rethinking #Cuba: New opportunities for development - #CubaGrowth

Rethinking Cuba: New opportunities for development 
Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 9:00 AM – 2:30 PM

The Brookings Institution
Saul/Zilkha Rooms, 1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20036

RSVP to Attend

On December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama and President Raúl Castro announced that the United States and Cuba would seek to reestablish diplomatic relations. Since then, the two countries have engaged in bilateral negotiations in Havana and Washington, the United States has made several unilateral policy changes to facilitate greater trade and travel between the two countries, and bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress to lift the travel ban. Meanwhile, conversations are ongoing about ending the 50-plus-year embargo and Cuba has continued the process of updating its economic system, including establishing new rules for foreign investment and the emerging private sector.

In light of the significant shifts underway in the U.S.-Cuba relationship, new questions arise about Cuba's development model, and its economic relations with the region and the world. On Tuesday, June 2, the Latin America Initiative at Brookings will host a series of panel discussions with various experts including economists, lawyers, academics, and practitioners to examine opportunities and challenges facing Cuba in this new context. Panels will examine macroeconomic changes underway in Cuba, how to finance Cuba's growth, the emerging private sector, and themes related to much-needed foreign investment. Throughout the program, the panelists will take questions from the audience.

Join the conversation on Twitter using #CubaGrowth.

9:00 am -- Panel 1: Trends in the Cuban economy in light of the new U.S.-Cuba context
Moderator: Ted Piccone, Senior Fellow, Latin America Initiative, The Brookings Institution
Featured Speaker: Stefan Selig, Undersecretary for International Trade, U.S. Department of Commerce
Juan Triana Cordovi, Professor of Economics, University of Havana
Archibald Ritter, Distinguished Research Professor, Carleton University

10:00 am -- Panel 2: Financing Cuba's growth, development, and trade
Moderator: Barbara Kotschwar, Research Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics
Yaima Doimeadios, Professor, University of Havana
Richard Feinberg, Professor, University of California, San Diego; Nonresident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
Saira Pons, Professor, Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, University of Havana
Germán Ríos, Director, Strategic Affairs, CAF Development Bank

11:15 am -- Panel 3: Next steps for Cuba's emerging private sector–Cuentapropistas and cooperatives
Moderator: Richard Feinberg, Professor, University of California, San Diego; Nonresident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
Rafael Betancourt, Consultant, Havanada Consulting
Omar Everleny, Professor, Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, University of Havana
Ted Henken, Professor, Baruch College
John McIntire, Chairman, Cuba Emprende Foundation

1:00 pm -- Panel 4: A new stage in foreign direct investment
Moderator: Harold Trinkunas, Senior Fellow and Director, Latin America Initiative, The Brookings Institution
Mark Entwistle, Founding Partner, Acasta Capital
José María Vinals Camallonga, Partner and Director, International Operations, Lupicinio International Law Firm
Augusto Maxwell, Partner, Akerman, LLP

2:00 pm -- Closing Remarks
Ted Piccone, Senior Fellow, Latin America Initiative, The Brookings Institution

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cuentapropistas, sí; Emprendadoras, no

por Jorge Duany
Catedrático de Antropología
El Nuevo Día
Miércoles, 13 de mayo de 2015
En febrero pasado, el gobierno cubano reportó 489,929 trabajadores por cuenta propia, el 9.6% de la fuerza laboral. Dicha cifra representa más del triple de la cantidad registrada inicialmente cuando el gobierno autorizó el autoempleo en 1993, en plena crisis económica bautizada como "Período Especial en Tiempos de Paz". Conocidos popularmente como "cuentapropistas", miles de cubanos emprendedores han establecido pequeños negocios privados, especialmente en la elaboración y venta de alimentos, el transporte de pasajeros y el arrendamiento de viviendas.
Este es el tema central del valioso libro del economista canadiense Archibald R. M. Ritter y el sociólogo estadounidense Ted A. Henken, "Entrepreneurial Cuba: The Changing Policy Landscape" (Boulder: FirstForumPress, 2014). Los autores se proponen explicar las causas y consecuencias socioeconómicas del auge del trabajo por cuenta propia durante la era de Raúl Castro (2006–2014).
El estudio se basa en entrevistas a profundidad con 60 microempresarios cubanos, completadas entre 1999 y 2009, así como en extensas observaciones sobre el terreno de varios negocios independientes. Su análisis se concentra en tres sectores económicos vinculados a la industria turística: los paladares (pequeños restaurantes familiares), las casas particulares (alquiladas a extranjeros) y los taxis privados, incluyendo los "bicitaxis", "cocotaxis" y "almendrones", como llaman los cubanos a los antiguos carros americanos.
En el 2010, el gobierno cubano anunció el despido de 500,000 empleados estatales "redundantes" como parte de la "actualización" del modelo económico en la Isla. Al mismo tiempo, fomentó la expansión de empleos en el sector no estatal, muchos de los cuales ya se realizaban clandestinamente.
El número de oficios autorizados para el trabajo por cuenta propia incrementó de 55 en 1993 a 201 en el 2013. El grueso son ocupaciones de servicios poco calificados, como aguador, amolador, barbero, jardinero, limpiabotas, mago, masajista, mensajero, payaso, peluquera y productor de piñatas. A la vez, se sigue prohibiendo el autoempleo en los servicios profesionales y técnicos, excepto profesores de idiomas, música y arte, programadores de computadoras y reparadores de equipos electrónicos y de oficina.
Según Ritter y Henken, aún persisten numerosas restricciones burocráticas, desincentivos económicos y obstáculos ideológicos al trabajo por cuenta propia en Cuba. Para empezar, las tasas impositivas -mucho más onerosas que para la inversión extranjera- mantienen artificialmente el tamaño pequeño de las empresas. Más aún, la estigmatización de los cuentapropistas como "macetas" (adinerados, en el argot cubano) niega la legitimidad del motivo de lucro individual. El discurso oficial ni siquiera utiliza los términos "mercado" o "sector privado" al referirse a las pequeñas empresas independientes, sino al "sector no estatal".
El crecimiento del cuentapropismo tiene implicaciones políticas en Cuba, en tanto permite ensanchar un segmento de la población que no depende del gobierno para su sustento. Asimismo, subvierte algunas premisas claves del gobierno, como el monopolio estatal de los medios de producción, la planificación central, la distribución equitativa de los ingresos y la política de pleno empleo.
Los autores de "Entrepreneurial Cuba" recuerdan que la confiscación estatal de todos los establecimientos comerciales privados a fines de la década de 1960 agravó la escasez de productos básicos, infló los precios de bienes y servicios y deprimió los niveles de vida de la población cubana. La intensa antipatía oficial contra cualquier "timbiriche" (pequeña tienda al aire libre) estuvo vigente hasta principios de la década de 1990.
Según los autores, las reformas económicas iniciadas por el gobierno de Raúl Castro han impulsado la recaudación de impuestos, ayudando a subsidiar servicios sociales y estimulando nuevas fuentes de ingresos. Sin embargo, Ritter y Henken recomiendan legalizar el autoempleo en todas las actividades económicas -incluyendo los servicios profesionales-, reducir los impuestos y aumentar la cantidad de trabajadores empleados en cada empresa. Solo entonces podrá el cuentapropismo desempeñar un papel protagónico en la revitalización de la precaria economía cubana.

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