September 2014
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Cuba's Telephone Co. Cons its Users
September 23, 2014
Luis Rondon Paz

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba's telephone company monopoly has admitted it is
experiencing problems with its systems and that it is stealing money
from users.

Some time ago, I wrote an article for Havana Times that revealed that
Cuba's telecommunications company (ETECSA-CUBACEL) was unable to respond
to the concerns of unsatisfied users and that I was hoping to get some
good news regarding an improvement of its services. Since September 3,
the date in which changes to the company's platform began, these
services, rather than improve, have actually gotten worse.

I was able to confirm this when Igori Moya, a CUBACEL user, alerted me
to the fact that the voice-box service was using up people's credit
without them even using the service. When we did a test using my phone,
it turned out to be true. For every call from a landline in which a user
leaves a message in one's voice-box, the system automatically deducts
sixteen CUC cents from one's balance. This is somewhat contradictory, as
the system is allegedly programmed to deduct credit only when one
listens to one's messages and the connection costs twenty cents the minute.

Faced with this situation, I asked Igori to give me more information
about this. He gave me a detailed description of everything he had done
so far.

He told me that, some days before, he had gone to CUBACEL's customer
services office, located at the intersection of Obispo and Habana, Old
Havana, to register a complaint. On that occasion, they were unable to
see him in the office because he arrived after working hours. While he
waited outside, however, one of the employees did confirm that his cell
phone balance showed irregularities and she suggested he return on
Thursday, September 11, so that their supervisor could see to the matter
directly and process his complaint through the proper channels.

When he returned to the office, the supervisor sent his complaint, with
a detailed description of the problem, to three email accounts set up to
address any incidents arising as a result of the changes that began to
made on September 3.

Two days after presenting his complaint at ETECSA's customer services
office, Igori was getting restless: his balance continued to decrease.
On Saturday, September 13, he called the office again to find out
whether the complaint he had made had received any response. They
informed him that none of the three email addresses had yet replied.

Igori then asked if there was any other office that could process his
complaint. They suggested he approach the multi-services center located
in the Focsa building, in Vedado, and to contact the head of
communications for the locality.

When he went there, he was informed that the manager in question was not
at his office. He was seen by the supervisor on duty at the time, who
had no knowledge as to how the voice-box system worked. This was clear
to me when Igori told me that she and the "experts" there claimed that
the system automatically deducts from one's credit when a voice message
is left. Igori then explained to them the service didn't work that way
and used solid arguments to describe what the service was all about. The
reply was that he should address his concerns to the customer services
office located on the intersection of 7th and 28th Streets, Miramar.

A supervisor at the company Vice-President's office heard Igori's story.
She told him he had been given the runaround and informed him that the
customer services office located in Vedado's Focsa building offers the
same services in terms of customer complaints. When she finished
explaining this, she proceeded to do the same thing the employees in the
Obispo office had done. When Igori saw that he had hit the same wall, he
again asked to see a superior. The supervisor replied that their
superiors didn't work on weekends.

On Sunday, September 14, I called Igori again and suggested the two of
us approach the customer services office on 7 and 28, Miramar, to
register a complaint anew, as we (and who knows how many more people)
continued to have problems with the voice-box service. I told him that
higher-ups were almost always at work Monday mornings. He agreed, as his
balance had almost run out because of the problems with the voice-box.

On Monday, September 15, Igori again went to the office in Miramar. I
went with him this time, because the problem affected us both.

At the reception, we were told that customer complaints and suggestions
were received a different day of the week. We replied by demanding to
see an employee who would address our complaints, explaining to them
that our balance continued to be depleted as time passed.

Shortly after this, an employee showed up and took Igori to his office,
in the company of the employee who had received him on Saturday. Once
inside, the employee explained to her superior everything that had
happened and what had been done with the complaint so far – that they
had proceeded as is established for these cases. They tried to calm
Igori down using nonsensical arguments that made him feel even more
mistreated and unsatisfied.

He then asked them to check his call history, so that they too would
become convinced that his cell phone balance showed irregularities.

At that moment, the only registered call was one made on the 13th. He
asked them to look for a more up-to-date balance so they could see the
charges for calls received and the fact they did not match his cell
phone balance. He told them again that the service had been disconnected
without him having made a single call as a result of the malfunctioning
voice-box service.

In response, the employee told him that, to receive a call history
report, he had to put 3 CUC (3.30 USD) into his phone balance, something
he felt was a strategy to wriggle out of the situation and a show of
indifference towards the unjust treatment he had received on behalf of
the company.

Igori was not willing to budge and the higher-up noticed this. She then
opted to lay the blame on the employees who had seen him at the customer
services office in Old Havana, saying they should have introduced his
complaint into the computer's complaint registry. The employee who had
seen Igori there the previous day said that she hadn't done that either
because that slows down the process. Her superior then instructed her to
introduce the complaint into the system immediately. Then, she asked my
friend when credit had been deducted from his balance the last time in
order to consult with other experts over the phone.

When she was done consulting, she had no choice but to concede that the
system wasn't working properly and she assured my friend that the credit
that had incorrectly been charged him would be reimbursed within 24 hours.

Regrettably, nothing happened within that time.

Two days went by and Igori had not gotten his credit back. Mine also
continued to go down. We decided to take our complaint to an even higher
level. This time around, we presented our complaint at the customer
protection office located on the third floor of the Miramar Trade Center.

There, we were received by David Ramirez, who works for the Customer
Protection Office. We submitted a formal letter of complaint explaining
the seriousness of the matter. At first, Mr. Ramirez questioned us for
having taking the matter to that level. After reading the letter and
finding out what had happened, however, he placed himself entirely at
our disposal.

Immediately, he picked up the phone and called Vivian Falcon Perez, the
supervisor who had received Igor on Monday, September 15. Ramirez
informed us of the problems they'd been having since September 3 and
again acknowledged that the voice-box service was not working properly.

In a little over two hours, our complaint was finally introduced into
the nationwide system that registers customer complaints (something
which hadn't yet been done) and we were assured we would be contacted
over the phone as soon as the voice-box service was working properly and
that all of the balance deducted would be reimbursed.

They committed to reimbursing us the money they had charged us by
mistake as soon as the problems were fixed. They took Igori's letter of
complaint and again asked us to be patient, telling us that the service
would be back to normal within 15 days.

On Monday, September 22, we were reimbursed the balance deduced, but the
voice mail system continues to have problems. During a telephone
conversation with company executive Rubidalia Perez, we were told that
all people affected had received their balance back. We were again told
to be patient; that they were working to fix the problem.

Source: Cuba's Telephone Co. Cons its Users - Havana - Continue reading
Cuba's New Private Sector Employees Reveal Where the Reform Process is
September 22, 2014
Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government's reforms continue to make slow,
somewhat erratic progress and to evince a series of unique
characteristics and tendencies that are food for thought.

Let us recall, first, that Cuban politicians like to refer to this
process as the "updating of Cuba's economic system." This past Friday,
Cuba's official newspaper, Granma, proudly informed readers about one of
the sectors now at the forefront of the process, the food industry.

Reading the article, one immediately senses that its author, journalist
Lorena Sanchez, suffers from the deeply-rooted shyness that
characterizes government propagandists, those who refuse to call the
private sector by its name and use the euphemism "non-State" in its
place. Perhaps she merely transcribed the message from the Vice-Minister
for Domestic Trade Ada Chavez Oviedo: in short, that private or
"non-State" forms of ownership will prevail in the sector once it has
been fully "modernized."

In her report, we find out that 68 % of the country's better known food
establishments are still under State management. Over a thousand have
been passed on to the self-employed and cooperatives (mostly the
former). Here, we run into a fact that is alarming for left-wing forces.
If the process of de-nationalization was planned by an allegedly
socialist government, why weren't cooperatives prioritized? Will the
same tendency characterize the de-nationalization of the establishments
that have yet to be "updated"?

Agriculture and the food industry have experienced the most visible
changes, perhaps because they were facing the most severe crises. Farms,
cafes and restaurants have been the paradigms of bad and inefficient
State management. In both cases, the main solution has been to place the
means of production in private hands.

In effect, we are now witnessing substantial changes in the activities
conducted in these sectors, prosperous fields and quality services where
before there was nothing but marabou brush and flies. One cannot help
but wonder, however, about the actual potential of these reforms, which
are more liberal than anything else, and about who is reaping the actual
profits of this.

Another article published by Granma a few days before reported that the
largest number of self-employed workers aren't exactly "self-employed",
but rather the employees of someone else – small or mid-scale private
entrepreneurs. In fact, the number of such employees in the country
isn't larger because of how small most businesses are. This data can
prove useful for a study of the changes our society is experiencing.

Champions of capitalism say that the market economy and privatizations
are good because they increase the number of property owners, of
prosperous individuals. Our government's spokespeople praise the
"updating" process, based on liberal and market reforms, because it will
lead to prosperity, or so they claim.

I invite readers to go out for a stroll around Cuba's cities and talk
with the people who stand behind the counters of private restaurants and
food stands owned by others, to ask these employees whether their
working hours abide by the limits established in the recently-approved
Labor Code, how many vacation days the owners grant them, and, if they
are women of reproductive age, whether they believe that they can have a
child and keep their jobs.

If you do, don't ask them whether they can ask for a raise – you
wouldn't want to get them fired on the spot. The owner, see, is
sacrosanct, and Cuba's blessed Labor Code gives them the authority to do
just that. We are simply to accept that they're being generous enough by
paying more than the State. Afterwards, take a trip to the countryside
and ask the farmhands employed on the ranches of the more fortunate
farmers – those with both land and connections – the same questions.

The liberalization of the food industry and other sectors, given the
"successes" the government boasts of, is probably representative of what
is to come. Both the facts and history suggest that the Cuban State will
continue to fail at most of its economic endeavors. Unable to solve
these itself, it will have two alternatives: dismantle such production
and service centers, or hand them over to the self-employed or cooperatives.

The more liberal option has been the most common implemented to date.
With every step taken in this direction, with the expansion of the means
of production involved, the exploitation of workers by private
entrepreneurs, owners or managers of such means of production, will
invariably increase. It is also true that, till now, State exploitation
had been the norm.

Will we improve as a society following the privatizations that are
presumably to come? It is not an easy question to answer, for we aren't
doing well at all right now. What's certain is that the path ahead of us
is a 180 degree turn from the road towards legitimate socialism, and
that, in other parts of the world, this road has led to severe and
irreparable damage to the so-called middle classes, to the concentration
of property in a handful of individuals and to the extreme polarization
of society between wealth and power and poverty and despair.

In short, the path traced by the "updating of Cuba's economic model" is
strewn with contradictions. One day, the authorities create more
possibilities for private initiative. A short while later, they restrict
these same spaces. They want for the private sector to absorb all who
have been laid off or will be by the State sector, but they curtail the
basic conditions needed for the development of the sector, such as the
opening of wholesale markets and imports through different channels.
They want to open the entire country to foreign investment, but they do
not allow foreign investors to deal directly with the work force,
setting up an onerous and profitable State mechanism that acts as

The government also has its ways of dealing with the ideologically
restless. One day, the papers expound on philosophical hesitations with
pronouncements such as "no one knows for certain how socialism is
built." The next day, they reveal that the Council of Ministers has
traced a development plan for the economy, society and politics for 2030
and beyond. The only problem is that they don't tell you what those
plans are. Some time later, they tell us they are going to save
socialism through a battle in the field of ideas and culture, ignoring
the vital space of society's material reproduction.

What one discerns from below following a simple class-conscious analysis
is a tendency towards the kind of capitalism that the opposition wants –
but with the current governing class, the one that speaks of "updating
socialism", at the top, and without opposition. The government and
opposition, thus, will continue to quarrel, and each will thwart the
concrete progress of the reforms with the same objective that unites
them and rifts them apart.

Source: Cuba's New Private Sector Employees Reveal Where the Reform
Process is Heading - Havana - Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Natural disasters and politics are, of course, unpredictable, but other aspects that shape an economy can be measured, trends can be laid out, and forecasts can be made — even in an economy notorious for its information deficit and the lack of clear signals. Welcome to the Cuba Standard Economic Trend Index, the first […] Continue reading
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How to Break the Chains on Cuba's Economy
September 19, 2014
Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — The extremely low growth of Cuba's GDP during the first
half of the year (0.6 %), acknowledged by the government, has revealed
that the reform measures aimed at stimulating the economy are inadequate
and prompted more and more criticisms among the country's economists.

In addition, the number of Cubans entering the United States through the
Mexican border or risking their lives in the Strait of Florida to reach
this country is harrowing. According to data from the US Immigration
Service, 14 thousand Cubans have crossed the Mexican border and 2
thousand have been captured in the high seas by the US Coast Guard over
the past 12 months – record figures for this last five-year period.

These facts, coupled with the island's aging and dwindling population,
should be enough to invite those interested in pushing the Cuban economy
forward, particularly those currently responsible for "steering" it, to
think about the need for implementing other types of measures. One
cannot expect to get different results by doing the same things over and
over again.

President Raul Castro, the top figures of the "reform process" and many
Cuban economists have acknowledged the need to unleash the country's
productive forces. If a survey were conducted, the vast majority of
Cuban citizens would probably also be in favor of this. The question,
then, is what is the leadership waiting for.

Freeing up the country's productive forces, however, implies free trade
in the broad sense of the term, and that is something the bureaucracy
does not approve of, because it would undermine its control over the
market. The recent Customs regulations that came into effect, aimed at
preserving the State-military monopoly in the clothing, footwear and
appliances market, made this clear.

The proposals below are a contribution to the current debate surrounding
the poor economic results achieved this year. Were they implemented in
their entirety, they would work to bolster production, increase the
availability of high-demand products in the domestic market, free up
exchange among the country's different forms of production, stimulate
monetary circulation, increase the purchasing power of Cuban pesos and
citizens, lower prices and place the economy under the control of the
general citizenry.

These are fourteen keys needed to open the locks that currently keep
Cuba's productive forces in chains and depress the country's economy.

1. Free the domestic market of all current restrictions, controls and
prices set by ACOPIO (the state farm products purchasers) and other
bureaucratic entities. Let cheese produced in the province of Camaguey
be sold freely in Havana and all types of establishments for the sale of
farm, industrial and craft products, or offering different services, be
set up, applying a basic tax on these. Prices ought to be decided on the
basis of an agreement between sellers and buyers.

2. Lift all restrictions on access to the foreign market, such that any
Cuban wishing to import or export a given product, be it for personal or
commercial reasons, may do so without being subjected to too many
control mechanisms or steep taxes.

3. Modify the current tax policy, which restricts the growth of the
self-employed sector, and limit its application to profits (not to
incomes pure and simple, as is the current practice).

4. Allow all professionals, including medical doctors, architects,
engineers and others, to become self-employed.

5. Lift restrictions on the creation of autonomous cooperatives of every
kind and eliminate bureaucratic hurdles and taxes for these for the
first three years of operations. Those wishing to set up a cooperative
should only be required to submit a letter of incorporation with the
basic information about the company's capital, members and acceptance of
the internationally accepted cooperative principles.

6. Make it possible for international organizations to make loans and
provide machinery and equipment directly to cooperatives, taking as a
starting poing the principle that cooperativism is the soul of socialism.

7. Allow State companies to be managed by workers, with full autonomy to
buy, sell and receive credits, such that worker collectives become
empowered to choose the management, organize and control administrative
mechanisms and distribute part of the profits among members, after
setting aside the sums needed to reproduce the means of production and
pay taxes.

8. Transfer ownership, or offer credit to purchase through installments,
the lands made available to small farmers, such that these feel a degree
of security to make long-term investments in housing, warehouses,
irrigation systems, land improvements, machine purchases and others.
Remove the obligatory requirement of having to join a credit and service
cooperative, which in actuality is a State mechanism for controlling
harvests and the sale of products.

9. Establish regulations for private companies that exploit salaried
labor, with a view to guaranteeing that workers enjoy rights, part of
the company's profits (in addition to their monthly salaries),
collective employment contracts, the right to create free trade unions
that will defend their interests, social security payments, paid
holydays, 40-hour work weeks, overtime payments, transportation and
worker cafeterias offering products at low prices and other facilities
workers may require.

10. Freedom to advertise products, actively search for customers and
sources of raw materials, both in Cuba and abroad (through high-speed
Internet and freedom of a commercial press).

11. Eliminate the two-currency system once and for all and establish
exchange rates that make for a more favorable relationship between the
Cuban pesos and international hard currencies.

12. The State should cease to manage companies, except basic service
providers (such as water and electricity), and these should pay their
employees a part of the profits, in addition to monthly stipends. The
incomes of the State, province and municipality should come from taxes,
to be applied in a transparent fashion at all levels and controlled by
base-level mechanisms and through regular reports to citizens.

13. Health and education should continue to be subsidized by the State,
which is to guarantee health and education for all. Health
professionals, however, should be allowed to create individual or
collective clinics, to be administered by medical collectives, and to
set up practices and even minor surgical hospitals. Groups of teachers
should also be permitted to create schools, to be administered by the
staff that, in addition to teaching the syllabus established by the
Ministry of Education, may incorporate complementary or specialized
programs. Such clinics and schools would charge for their services on
the basis of an agreement with their clients and would pay taxes on
their profits.

14. The decentralization of power, currently concentrated in the State,
from the control of taxes, through the creation and administration of
budgets, to the control of local police forces, justice and others,
strictly necessary for the autonomous functioning of communities.

These and other measures aimed at freeing the economy, socializing it
and bringing it under the control of citizens, with a view to
democratizing society, as freedom of expression and association, the
separation of powers and the direct and democratic election of all
public officials also aim to do, should be implemented without much
delay to avoid a greater catastrophe. A broad, nationwide democratic
debate that can open the way to a new and dearly needed constitution is
also something we no longer postpone.

What of the US blockade/embargo? The direct and indirect contribution of
this policy to Cuba's stagnation have already been expounded on
elsewhere, but, as its lifting does not depend on us Cubans, it is best
to concentrate on those things we can tear down here: the internal
blockade that hinders the development of a people's economy. Perhaps
without this internal blockade, the other will collapse of its own weight.

Source: How to Break the Chains on Cuba's Economy - Havana - Continue reading
(CNN) -- Thousands of now-state-run restaurants in Cuba will move into the private sector and be run by citizen owners, the island nation's government announced Friday. The Cuban Domestic Trade department Continue reading
Chinese Military-Linked Telecom Firm Shipped U.S. Equipment to Cuba
BY: Bill Gertz      
September 19, 2014 5:00 am

A Chinese telecommunications company linked to the People's Liberation Army provided U.S.-origin equipment to Cuba in apparent violation of U.S. economic sanctions on the communist-ruled island.

U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports said the equipment included U.S.-made modems, routers, and switches for telecommunications networks.

The transfer took place within the past two months and was reported by the U.S. Southern Command, the military command with responsibility for Latin and South America in internal channels, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One official said the transfer violated U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Cuba and that the transfer is under investigation by the Commerce Department.

No other details could be learned on the U.S. companies or company involved. However, administration officials said it is illegal to export any U.S.-origin telecommunications equipment to Cuba without an export license.

President Obama in 2009 loosened controls on Internet and telecommunications services for Cuba in an effort to promote greater openness. But telecommunications equipment remains banned under the 1964 embargo.

Huawei, a global network equipment manufacturer based in Shenzhen, China, has been identified by the Pentagon in reports to Congress as one of several companies that maintain close ties to the PLA.

Along with two other firms, Huawei, "with their ties to the [Chinese] government and PLA entities, pose potential challenges in the blurring lines between commercial and government/military-associated entities," the 2012 report said.

Huawei also was identified by the U.S. government as posing a cyber espionage risk. A House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report in 2012 warned U.S. businesses not to use equipment made by Huawei and another firm, ZTE, over concerns the gear can be used by China's government to conduct cyber espionage.

China's Ministry of Commerce announced Aug. 7 that it is increasing trade and investment in Cuba following a visit to the island by trade officials in late July.

A U.S. official said the telecommunications transfer is suspected of being part of the Chinese government's effort to bolster ties with Cuba.

Huawei and ZTE took part in a trade fair in Cuba in March 2013.

A Southern Command spokesman referred questions to the Department of Commerce, which is in charge of enforcing U.S. export controls.

An official at Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security declined to comment and would not confirm that an investigation of the company for the equipment transfer is underway.

If the transfer is confirmed by the Commerce probe, Huawei could face U.S. sanctions for violating the embargo.

The transfer of equipment to Cuba appears similar to another deal involving Huawei and Iran in 2012. Documents obtained by Reuters revealed that Huawei offered to sell Iran's state-run telecommunications firm $1.7 worth of computer and network equipment made by Hewlett Packard. Huawei denied that it sought to evade U.S. sanctions in the proposed 2010 deal.

The company has offices in 11 U.S. cities and a headquarters in Plano, Texas.

In the early 2000s, the company sought to gain access to the lucrative U.S. telecommunications market. But the company was blocked from concluding several mergers with U.S. firms by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States on national security grounds.

The company has denied it is linked to the military and claims it is employee-owned. However, the Chinese government has identified Huawei as one of its most important national businesses.

Huawei spokesman Bill Plummer said he was unaware of the transaction.

"Huawei has not seen nor otherwise heard of any government or other report on such matters and would expect that if such information were truly believed that the company would be notified by the appropriate authorities," Plummer said in a statement.

"Huawei has very strict trade compliance programs and disciplines in place throughout our company to ensure that we are and remain in full compliance with export control and sanctions laws and regulations, such as those of the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States," he added.

R. Evan Ellis, an Army War College professor specializing in Latin affairs, warned in a paper published last year that Chinese telecommunications deals in the region pose a potential strategic threat to the United States.

Huawei began focusing on selling equipment to Caribbean nations, including in Cuba, starting in 2007, he wrote when Chinese companies began modernizing Cuban telecommunications infrastructure. By 2009, Huawei was setting up broadband service on the island, Ellis stated. Huawei also has a large presence in Venezuela—a close Cuban ally—Mexico, and Brazil, as well as most states in the region.

"There is nothing inherently wrong, of course, with the PRC making advances in the telecommunications sector," Ellis wrote. "It is simply a reality that must be acknowledged that the good that such advances generate for the Chinese people and economy also benefits PRC strategic military capabilities that the United States, one day, may have to face."

Other potential threats posed by Chinese telecommunications systems in Latin American include commercial and military spying and denial and disruption of communications in times of war, he said.

"For the Chinese, building telecommunications architectures gives the Chinese designers unique knowledge of the systems, as well as to design in capabilities in[to] either the hardware or software that could be used to collect data traveling over those systems, introduce false information, or degrade or destroy them at the moment of the perpetrator's choosing," Ellis said. "The vulnerability created is far larger than is generally understood in an era in which everything from cables and switches to servers and routers to modems and the computers they connect to, to the software that runs on them are, to some extent, made by Chinese companies."

The risk applies to military and government users as well as commercial and private networks.

Jennifer Hernandez, a researcher at the Institute for Cuban & Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, said Chinese telecommunications transfers to Cuba likely will boost government surveillance on the island.

"China's transfer of technology to Cuba does not necessarily benefit Cubans," Hernandez wrote in a recent report. "Instead, China seems to be equipping the island's information technology infrastructure with systems that can potentially spy on Cubans."

Another potential threat is that the Chinese are "also equipping an anti-American leadership with sophisticated communication and network technology capable of cyber espionage 90 miles from our shores," Hernandez said.

Huawei was targeted by National Security Agency electronic cyber espionage technicians, according to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Top-secret briefing slides revealed by Britain's Guardian show that NSA uses its access to Huawei telecom gear to spy on hard-target countries, such as China, Pakistan, Iran and others, through cyber penetrations of Huawei equipment used in those countries.

"Many of our targets communicate over Huawei produced products. We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products—we also want to ensure that we retain access to these communication lines, etc.," one NSA slide states.

"There is also concern that Huawei's widespread infrastructure will provide the PRC with [signals intelligence] capabilities and enable them to perform denial of service type attacks."

The slide quoted a National Intelligence Estimate that said, "the increasing role of international companies and foreign individuals in U.S. information technology supply chains and services will increase the potential for persistent, stealthy subversions."

Source: Chinese Military-Linked Telecom Firm Shipped U.S. Equipment to Cuba | Washington Free Beacon - Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Natural disasters and politics are, of course, unpredictable, but other aspects that shape an economy can be measured, trends can be laid out, and forecasts can be made — even in an economy notorious for its information deficit and the lack of clear signals. Welcome to the Cuba Standard Economic Trend Index, the […] Continue reading
Cuba will hold the 32nd season of the International Trade Fair of Havana (FIHAV 2014), from November 2nd through the 8th, to attract foreign investment in its top priority economic sectors, an official Continue reading
Havana, September 17 (Xinhua-RHC) -- Cuba will hold the 32nd International Trade Fair of Havana (FIHAV 2014) from November 2nd through the 8th to attract foreign investment in its priority economic sectors, Continue reading
Cuba’s economic development, demonstrable today at an international event in Havana … sector. Savigne pointed out that Havana’s upcoming International Fair (FIHAV … that at FIHAV, the main Cuban market for trade, more than … possible; as examples, he mentioned Havana Club, Bravo and Portales, either … Continue reading
Posted on Wednesday, 09.17.14

Brazil election may change diplomatic direction

SAO PAULO -- More than a decade of Workers Party rule has seen Brazil
prioritize ties with its leftist regional neighbors, from helping muscle
socialist Venezuela into the Mercosur trade bloc to financing a
billion-dollar transformation of an industrial port in Cuba.

But if President Dilma Rousseff fails to fight off the surging candidacy
of reform-minded Marina Silva before presidential voting in October,
South America's largest economy could reset its focus.

Silva was thrust into the Socialist Party's presidential nomination when
its candidate of choice, Eduardo Campos, died in a plane crash last
month. Since then, her anti-establishment profile has propelled her to a
neck-and-neck race with Rousseff.

Silva says she would re-emphasize ties to the United States and Europe,
mostly by working to land trade deals with each. Such moves could cause
tension with Mercosur, which prohibits members from making bilateral
deals without the group's approval.

Under Silva, "there will be a change of direction in foreign policy,"
her top adviser Mauricio Rands told supporters at an event unveiling her
proposals. "Brazil should be the promoter of bilateral and regional
(trade) agreements."

It would be a sharp change in direction for the proverbial slumbering giant.

Under Rousseff and her two-term predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva,
Brazil has given strong backing to leftist regional allies, such as
Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Rousseff beamed in January as she stood beside Cuban President Raul
Castro at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the first phase of an
overhaul of the Port of Mariel, which the Communist nation expects will
become the largest industrial port in the Caribbean.

It was the clout of her government that persuaded Mercosur to set aside
fears about possible violation of its democracy rules and welcome
Venezuela into membership.

At the same time, Rousseff was not afraid to ruffle Washington's
feathers by rejecting an invitation to make a formal state visit to the
U.S. capital, the first extended to a Brazilian leader in two decades.
Her rebuff of the White House, made in protest of revelations the
National Security Agency had spied on her communications, was the first
in memory.

Rousseff had been sailing toward an expected victory before Silva's
candidacy. Now the two women are expected to claim the first two spots
in the Oct. 5 vote, without either one winning an outright majority.
That would trigger a run-off vote three weeks later.

Silva has said her foreign policy would aim "to promote national
interests and values." A 242-page plan she released declares, "foreign
policy cannot be held hostage by factions or political groupings."

Most of her proposed changes would aim to lower tariffs, expand trade
and revive Brazil's sputtering economy, which fell into recession this
year after years of only feeble expansion.

Critics blame the stagnation on Rousseff's heavy state hand on the
economy, replete with trade barriers and an unfriendly business
environment. The Mercosur bloc, which also includes Argentina, Paraguay
and Uruguay as full members, has yet to sign any significant trade deals
and infighting routinely hampers trade even within the group.

Rousseff said earlier this month that Brazil turning its back on
Mercosur would be "shooting ourselves in the foot," emphasizing that "we
have to realize the size of that market."

While Silva agrees a strong South America is still essential, her plan
makes clear she would seek to pivot Brazil toward stronger ties with the
broader global market and not be hobbled by its neighbors.

If Silva is elected, "Brazil, as a hemispheric power, will continue to
maintain good relations with all the countries in the hemisphere," said
Riordan Roett, director of Latin American Studies at Johns Hopkins
University. "But it's not going to be the same ideological fervor ...
for regimes like Venezuela and Cuba."

Many expect Silva, a renowned environmentalist and human rights champion
in the Amazon, to change Brazil's policies of largely ignoring alleged
abuses in allies like Venezuela and Cuba. But others argue her hands may
be tied by heavy, ongoing investments with those countries.

"The Brazilians have been very reluctant to criticize Venezuela
publicly," said Patrick Duddy, a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela and
former consul-general in Sao Paulo. "There are still broad commercial
interests there that are not going to disappear if Silva wins."

In a column headlined "Marina scares the neighbors," Clovis Rossi, a
foreign affairs columnist for the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, wrote
that Brazil under the Workers Party has been the most powerful defender
of Venezuela's former leader Hugo Chavez and current President Nicolas
Maduro, backing both amid crises as they pushed ahead with their
Bolivarian movement.

"With Marina," Rossi wrote, "everything suggests that Bolivarianism
won't be able to count on this powerful crutch."

Associated Press writers Joshua Goodman in Bogota, Colombia, and Brad
Brooks in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

Source: SAO PAULO: Brazil election may change diplomatic direction -
Americas Wires - - Continue reading
… and other trade sanctions against Cuba’s Communist government. A resolution … in responding to Cuba’s repressive human rights policies. Cuba’s communist … common. The U.N. condemns Havana’s human rights violations each … power in1959. Normalizing relations with Cuba would provide several benefits to … Continue reading
Cuba will hold the 32nd International Trade Fair of Havana (FIHAV 2014) on Nov. 2-8 to attract foreign investment in its priority economic sectors, an official said here Tuesday. The FIHAV 2014, the Continue reading
Viet Nam and Cuba should focus on raising co-operation on economic, trade, scientific, cultural and education matters to a new level, Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong said yesterday. Continue reading
… and other trade sanctions against Cuba’s Communist government. A resolution … in responding to Cuba’s repressive human rights policies. Cuba’s communist … common. The U.N. condemns Havana’s human rights violations each … power in1959. Normalizing relations with Cuba would provide several benefits to … Continue reading
GROS ISLET, St Lucia, CMC - Leon Johnson celebrated his debut with a half-century and in-form Kraigg Brathwaite cashed in again, but West Indies made heavy weather of an ordinary timid Bangladesh attack Continue reading
Shortages to Continue in Cuban Stores
September 12, 2014

HAVANA TIMES – When a Cuban goes shopping they never know what they will
find on store shelves. There may be plenty of some unaffordable luxury
products and acute shortages of basic necessities.

In the centralized system, government buyers purchase for millions of
Cubans. Consumer satisfaction is a factor rarely taken into account,
since the monopoly on the import and marketing protects the state companies.

Today we publish a report from Café Fuerte on the current shortages of
many basic products in the country. We recognize that if the situation
is distressing in the capital in the provinces and municipalities it is
even worse.

Cuban Government Explains Shortages of 25 Basic Products
By Cafe Fuerte

Havana's Puentes Grandes Commercial Center, located at the busy
interesection of 51 and 56 streets.
HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government has acknowledged that the shortage
and unstable supply of products sold through its retail network is
chiefly owed to a lack of the financial resources needed to guarantee
the production or import of these articles, adding that sanctions were
recently applied in cases in which such deficient market offers "had no

The Ministry for Domestic Trade (MINCIN) issued an open letter
recognizing that the shortage of some twenty food and personal hygiene
products at retail stores had been caused by a number of factors,
ranging from "the lack of financial resources needed to guarantee the
production or import of products during the first months of the year" to
"failure to comply with discipline and the established norms."

It pointed out that "administrative and disciplinary measures" have been
taken in certain cases evaluated, where there was no justification for
the product shortage, as "the production conditions were present and the
country had made the needed financial resources available."

MINCIN issued this missive in response to a report published on August
27 by Cuba's main official newspaper, Granma, following increasingly
frequent complaints by the population over the shortage of basic
products at hard currency stores and State industrial product markets.
The article stated that product shortages have become a "chronic
phenomenon" in the country, despite attempts by industry to meet
production plans and efforts by retail chains to compensate for
unbalances through imports.

Potatoes, Juice and Toilet Paper

The list of under stocked products includes potatoes, fruit juices,
salt, domestically produced beers, toilet paper, toothbrushes, matches
and plastic bags.

Though MINCIN insists efforts to stabilize the supply of numerous
products for the remainder of the year are being made, the panorama
described does not appear to point to an immediate solution to the under
stocking of Cuban markets.

"With the import of some raw materials and supplies, it has been
possible to resume some production processes in the country and ensure a
more stable supply of high-demand products. That said, it is both
crucial and fair to point out that it will not be possible to meet the
population's growing demands in all areas," MINCIN stated, pointing to
the demands of the self-employed and new forms of employment established
in the country as one aggravating circumstance.

A letter issued by Cuba's CIMEX Corporation followed MINCIN' communiqué
last week. Published in Granma, it leaves a number of "pending
questions" regarding the shortage of products distributed by its stores
across the country unanswered. The document was signed by Barbara Rosa
Soto Sanchez, commercial vice-president of the company.

Product Shortages

On the basis of these two letters, a list of 25 products in short or
unstable supply in Cuba's domestic market, and the official prognosis
regarding a possible solution to this, can be drawn up.

• Potatoes: Production during this year's harvest, aimed at 65,700 tons,
fell by 48,000 tons in comparison to 2013. These figures make it
impossible to satisfy the demand for this product.

• Natural juices and nectars: CIMEX has imported products to meet
demands and hopes to be able to stabilize the supply of its products by
year's end. The increase in the number of self-employed workers and the
establishment of new food service cooperatives are the main causes of
the unstable supply.

• Soft drinks: Consumer demands aren't being met and production plans go
unfulfilled. This has led to under stocking. These products are not
being imported.

• Powdered Chocolate: The dairy industry has recovered production
indices, but these still do not meet customer demand.

• Domestic beer: Cristal and Bucanero-brand beers were fulfilling their
production plan at 94%, which is below the market demand. Shortages are
also being caused at markets due to the demand of the self-employed and
food service cooperatives. Other beers have been imported to meet demand
at stores.

• Salt: No explanation as to its absence at markets is offered.
Production and delivery goals continue to go unfulfilled and contractual
clauses governing its sale are still being violated.

• Toilet paper: Domestic manufacturers are meeting production plans but
consumer demand is not being met. CIMEX imported toilet paper to reduce
shortages by 10 % during July.

• Toothbrushes: There have been delays in domestic production and
deliveries since May. CIMEX has begun to import this product to
stabilize its stocks. Demand is still not being satisfied, however.

• Toothpaste: A drop in market offer was registered in the first months
of the year. Supplies should become stable in the second half of the year.

• Deodorant: The industry experienced difficulties during the first
months of the year owing to a lack of financing, but production and
distribution have become stable.

• Laundry soap: With a production commitment of 17,000 tons for the
year, its offer is guaranteed in the market.

• Toilet soap: The production goal of 18,876 tons has been met to meet
demand. Product shortages are the result of distribution problems. The
soap deficit has been evident in the Cuban peso retail market, where a
sustained offer of the product has not yet been achieved.

• Razors: Stocks have run out. The product should be made available at
stores this month.

• Colognes and perfumes: A steady supply cannot be guaranteed through
domestic production or imports. Of the total of 5,938,600 units put on
the market last year by Suchel Regalo and Suchel Camacho, only 37%
(2,218,649 units) was available for sale this year. The industry is not
expected to recover until 2015.

• Talcum powder: The demand continues to go unmet. Of the 362,000 units
of talcum powder produced in 2013, a mere 16% will be produced this year.

• Batteries for electric motorcycles: Cuba's Minerva factory has not
been able to guarantee a steady supply at retail stores operated by
CIMEX' Automobile Transportation Division. Supplies for electric
bicycles, including the batteries, are expected to become stable by
mid-September with the help of imports.

• 18 and 32-Watt fluorescent lights: Though high numbers of affordable
fluorescent lights were imported from January to June for distribution
throughout the country, stocks have not become stable in the market.
MINCIN reports that under stocking is owed to a failure to import the
product on a timely basis.

• Energy-saving bulbs: There has been a shortage of this product since
the beginning of the year owing to lack of timely imports. The number of
bulbs needed to stabilize supplies in the market will be imported from
Vietnam and China. CIMEX claims that the market will recover slightly
between May and June.

• Portable radios: No contract with domestic manufactures exists because
a steady supply of this product cannot be guaranteed.

• Matches: the product shortages and unstable supply are owed to
negligence on behalf of the companies that sell the product. There are
no production problems or shortages.

• Grease removing and descaling substances: Lack of inventory and
unstable supplies in the market are expected throughout the year.

• Bleach: It will be impossible to meet customer demands owing to
technical problems faced by domestic manufacturers. Of the 8,720,879
liters of bleach needed to meet the demand this year, only 29% of that
volume will be produced.

• Hydrochloric acid: It will be impossible to meet demands. Of the
4,556,473 liters needed, a mere 7% will be produced for sale.

• Plastic bags: The product is available and instructions to sell it at
Cuban peso retail stores have been issued.

Source: Shortages to Continue in Cuban Stores - Havana - Continue reading
Born in Havana in 1945, Marco Motroni emigrated with his family at age 11. In 1963 he graduated from George Washington High School in Manhattan. He started playing in la Típica Novel, one of the most successful Latin orchestras in … Continue reading Continue reading
By Katie Halper Thursday, September 11, 2014 14:27 EDT Today is September 11th. As almost everyone in the world knows, on this day, thirteen years ago, two plains crashed into the World Trade Center, Continue reading
Cuba's bishops say Raul Castro's reforms not enough
POSTED: 11 Sep 2014 06:36

In a country with a centrally planned economy where opposition political
parties remain outlawed, the Church is the only sizeable non-state actor
that has an ongoing dialogue with President Raul Castro's government.

And in its Pastoral Plan for 2014-2020, the first such document since
Argentine-born Pope Francis's papacy began last year, the bishops were

The government's limited "economic reforms have not jump-started the
economy in such a way that all Cuba's people can feel," the document
reads in part.

During the more than five decades that the Communist government has been
in power, health care, education and sports "experienced major progress"
but are now "stagnant and in some cases in decline," the document said,
referring to what the government sees as its key achievements.

Castro - who replaced his brother, longtime president Fidel Castro who
stepped aside in 2006 for health reasons - has ruled out the idea of any
political opening.

And on the economic front, he has refused to embrace market economics as
China or Vietnam have. Instead, the former military chief has cut the
government payroll and allowed more categories of self-employment.

But the cash-strapped economy depends heavily on Venezuela's economic
aid, and has no access to international loans. Most Cubans earn the
equivalent of US$20 a month.

"Despite the changes there have been," the bishops said, "we sense that
many citizens urgently want deeper and more appropriate reforms
implemented to solve pressing problems generated by their being
overwhelmed, plagued by uncertainly and worn out."

While not aggressive, the document is more frank than some in the past
which came as bishops were planning visits to Cuba by former and more
conservative popes John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict XVI in 2012.

The new document broached the issue of political opening saying that
many Cubans want their state to be "less bureaucratic and more

Some "others who do not accept that way of thinking ... are confusing
the meaning of nationhood with an ideology, or with a party," the
document said.

"Dialogue among the various groups that make up our society is the only
path toward achieving and maintaining social transformations that happen
in Cuba," the bishops said.

While Cubans' everyday concerns have begun to emerge in the island's
state-run media and many political prisoners have been freed, new
dissident arrests and violent attacks against them "continue to be
worrisome and not constructive," they added.

The bishops also reiterated longstanding opposition to the US trade
embargo against Cuba in place for more than four decades.

- AFP/de

Source: Cuba's bishops say Raul Castro's reforms not enough - Channel
NewsAsia - Continue reading
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U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba have cost the island nation $3.9 billion in foreign trade over the past year, helping to raise the overall estimate of economic damage to $116.8 billion over the past Continue reading
Sep 9, 2014 - 19:40 GMT US economic sanctions against Cuba have cost the island nation $3.9bn in foreign trade over the past year, helping to raise the overall estimate of economic damage to $116.8bn Continue reading
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Cocoa Beach chamber planning trip to Cuba
By Ilana Kowarski, FLORIDA TODAY 10:51 p.m. EDT September 5, 2014

Given the trade embargo between the United States and Cuba, you may be
surprised to learn that the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce is
organizing a February trip to Cuba.

The public is invited to go along.

The seven-day "Discover Cuba" tour costs $3,599 per person.

Tour guides from Chamber Explorations will lead the trip. Chamber
Explorations is licensed to provide educational trips to Cuba.

The company specializes in offering first-class travel accommodations to
Chambers of Commerce members throughout the United States.

The U.S. Department of Treasury has authorized the group to lead trips
to Cuba on the condition that the trip is primarily focused on cultural

Such trips were legalized in early 2011, when President Obama revived a
Clinton-era exemption to the Cuba embargo.

Anyone who is interested in participating in the Cocoa Beach Chamber's
trip to Cuba should contact Linda Webster, the Chamber's CEO, by calling

Webster described the trip as a learning opportunity. "It's really an
opportunity to learn about the Cuban people and how Cuba is now," she
said. "It's an exciting trip, because it's not something you can do on
your own. You need a special visa."

Source: Cocoa Beach chamber planning trip to Cuba - Continue reading
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Hanoi, September 4 (PL-RHC) -- Cuban Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca displayed in Hanoi the legal, economic and working conditions and advantages for investors in his country in Continue reading
Hanoi, Sep 4 (Prensa Latina) Cuban Minister for Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, presented today here the conditions and legal, economic and labor advantages for businesses to Continue reading
More Cuban Rafters Escaping Communist Failure But Needing Capitalist Help

José asked that I not use his last name to protect his family back home
in Cuba. He arrived in Florida two weeks ago on a homemade raft, the
kind of illegal exit that makes you a counter-revolutionary – a gusano,
or worm – in the eyes of the communist dictatorship there.

Economic despair in Cuba was the main thing that compelled José to float
away. "Every day you feel like a needy person," he told me.

But José also said things could have been different if he'd had family
in the United States and the financial means for self-employment. So
could a different U.S. approach to Cuba have been a help in that regard?

It's an important question – and not only because this summer marks the
20th anniversary of the most massive exodus ever of Cuban rafters, or
balseros, when 35,000 bolted the island.

This summer itself is a reminder that those journeys across the
treacherous Florida Straits are hardly a thing of the past. The U.S.
Coast Guard has picked up more than 3,000 balseros this year, twice the
number last year, while many more have either made it here or perished
en route.

"We're seeing the highest rates we've seen in five years," says Capt.
Mark Fedor, Coast Guard chief of response in Miami. "It's a challenge
for our crews just to keep up with the pace."

Cubans like José, a fit and bright 35-year-old who hails from Santiago
in eastern Cuba, hope to find work that pays more than the meager
$10-a-month he made as a government security guard there.

"Your kids never have enough to eat or clothes to wear," he says.
"Leaving was the only thing I could do for them."

So José and 20 other Cubans spent eight months collecting wood, plastic
foam and engine parts to build a motorized raft. At 3 a.m. on August 17
they put it to sea off Havana.

During the 36-hour journey José says they ran into a fierce storm and
seven-foot-high waves. He was sure they'd be thrown into the ocean – and
to the sharks.

But what he feared most, he says, was being plucked by the U.S. Coast
Guard. Under the controversial "wet foot-dry foot" policy for Cuban
immigrants, if rafters make it to dry land in the U.S. they can stay
here. If they're intercepted at sea, they're sent back to communist Cuba
– and often put in jail there for leaving the island illegally.

"Facing the Cuban justice system," says José, "is worse than facing sharks."

José escaped both – and the raft made it to the Dry Tortugas off Key West.

It's common for Cuban rafters – known as balseros – to head for Florida
every summer when the sea is warm enough to survive the voyage. But why
such a spike in their numbers now? After all, since last year Cuba has
allowed people to freely travel abroad.

Oscar Rivera, who heads the Miami office of the non-profit Church World
Service, where José is getting aid, says balseros most often tell his
staff they're leaving because of dashed expectations. Cuba's economic
reforms were supposed to produce a budding private sector; but so far
they've left many Cubans feeling poorer.

"They got some false hopes when the changes were introduced a few years
ago," says Rivera. "But as time goes by they see there's no difference
in the way they're still being controlled."


But Rivera notes that another key factor is whether Cubans have family
in the U.S. – folks who last year sent almost $3 billion in remittances
to relatives in Cuba. Those who do have an easier time starting private
businesses – and buying a plane ticket to Miami. Those who don't, like
José and most other Cubans, particularly Afro-Cubans, continue to get
the short end of the socialist stick – and a raft as one of their only
modes of transport.

What's more, when it comes to issuing U.S. visas, Washington favors
family reunification, once again leaving a majority of Cubans in the cold.

So while the communist regime's economic incompetence (not to mention
its political repression) is mostly to blame for pushing so many Cubans
out to sea, immigration advocates and balseros alike say U.S. policy
plays a role as well.

Washington needs to be more clued in to the stark and growing social
division in Cuba between those with dollarized kin abroad and those
without, and adjust the visa process accordingly. Just as important, it
needs to relax the trade embargo against Cuba and let Americans funnel
business seed money to those without.

"If you don't have relatives in the U.S.," says José, "you feel pretty
abandoned in terms of visa applications and resources."

To help tamp down the number of rafts, capitalism needs to step up.

Tim Padgett is WLRN's Americas editor. You can read more of his coverage

Source: More Cuban Rafters Escaping Communist Failure But Needing
Capitalist Help | WLRN - Continue reading
Summer Vacations in Cuba / Ivan Garcia
Posted on September 3, 2014

Raudel and his family have already packed their bags for a six-night
stay at a campsite in Mayabeque province near Havana.

They saved some of the money their relatives in Miami send them every
month and rented an air-conditioned cabin in Los Cocos along the north
shore of Havana.

"It costs us 106 CUC with breakfast. We bring our own food to save
money. It's the best option we could find given our budget," says Raudel.

Depending on the currency and how much of it you have, there are a
variety of vacation options available in Cuba this summer. Having
convertible pesos (CUC) — popularly known as chavitos and used by the
state to pay monthly bonuses of 10 to 35 CUC to employees in key
economic sectors such as tourism, telecommunications and civil aviation
— certainly makes a difference.

Others ways of obtaining chavitos include operating a small private
business or receiving dollars, euros or other forms of hard currency
from relatives overseas.

There is also a faction of corrupt bureaucrats and white-collar
swindlers on the island who are experts at looting the public coffers.
They carry red Communist Party membership cards in their wallets and
parrot the harangues of the regime but use financial strategies to
embezzle money, food and commodities.

Hugo (a pseudonym) is one of them. He works in a state grocery store and
over the course of eighteen years has been careful to cover his tracks.
He does not blow thousands of dollars on a quinceniera party or dine at
fancy restaurants.

"I fly under the radar," says Hugo. "There are three types of criminals
in Cuba: the thieves who steal from people, the administrators who steal
from the state and the consumer, and the high-level officials who
through business dealings and illegal activity get hold of anywhere from
hundreds of thousands of dollars to a couple of million. The closer they
are to the seat of power, the faster the banknotes and the perks pile
up. A government minister might spend two weeks at a Varadero resort
without paying one cent. His position gives him access to food baskets,
a cell phone and a free internet account. These people are the upper
class. We — the directors, administrators and business managers — are
the middle class," he says with a straight face.

If you establish good relationships with people in power and are adept
at not getting caught, it's smooth sailing.

"It never pays to show off. But if you know how to walk a tightrope, you
can buy a car, a house or a holiday in Cayo Coco or Varadero," says Hugo.

This summer the wily storekeeper booked a week in a five star hotel. But
in Cuba the heads of the "mafia cartels" which control the restaurant
industry, foreign trade and tourism are the exceptions.

Much more common are families like Ruben's, who works eight hours in an
office and whose vacations are always more of the same. "A lot of
television, a little beach time, dominoes and cheap rum with
neighborhood friends," he says as he cools off in front of a Chinese
electric fan.

The military is probably the most privileged caste in Cuba. Joel (a
pseudonym) is an official at the Ministry of the Interior. Every year he
rents a cabin at a military villa. "I never spend more than a thousand
pesos (40 dollars)."

In addition to having their Suzuki motorcycles and mobile phones
provided by the state, the security agents who harass dissidents are
able to buy clothes and food at modest prices and summer in
military-owned villas scattered throughout the island.

While officials like Joel enjoy nice vacations, primary school teacher
Elisa looks forward to payday so she can afford the 60 pesos it costs
for two seats on the bus to take her eight-year-old daughter to the
beach east of the capital.

"Every year a guy who works at a state-owned enterprise gets a bus so
those of us from the neighborhood can go to the beach or the aquarium.
It costs 30 pesos a person," notes Elisa. "Teachers are essential to any
society but in Cuba educators earn poverty-level wages and we cannot
afford to rent a house on the beach or stay in a hotel."

The problem with summer vacations in Cuba is not a lack of options. It
is an issue of hierarchy, influence and hard currency.

Ivan Garcia

16 August 2014

Source: Summer Vacations in Cuba / Ivan Garcia | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Raudel and his family have already packed their bags for a six-night stay at a campsite in Mayabeque province near Havana. They saved some of the money their relatives in Miami send them every month and rented an air-conditioned cabin … Continue reading Continue reading
Cuba Banks on Exporting Services
September 2, 2014
By Eileen Sosin (Progreso Weekly)

HAVANA TIMES — In the past 25 years, the profile of Cuban exports has
gone from a strong specialization in goods (nickel, sugar, citrus fruit)
to a marked increase in services, especially tourism and health related

In 2012, services accounted for 12.6 billion CUC (just over 13 billion
USD); today, it represents approximately two-thirds of the country's
foreign sales.

This year, the projected revenue provided by the export of assistance
services exceeds 8.2 billion CUCs, or 64 percent of all export sales, as
reported in March by Marino Murillo, vice president of the Council of

A new group of 200 doctors left in August for Ecuador. The More Doctors
program in Brazil is in its first year and involves 11,000 Cuban doctors.

The signing of the Integral Agreement of Cooperation with Venezuela
(2000) launched this line of paid services, which between 2004-2005
replaced tourism as Cuba's main source of revenue. More than 50,000
professionals work abroad at present and a considerable share of them
are doctors.

However, several experts point out that, since the late 2000s, the model
of growth based on the provision of hiring out personnel begins to show
signs of exhaustion.

Although this phenomenon does not rule out the export of services as a
valid strategy, it does imply reappraising the manner in which it has
been developed so far.

Wide variety of services

There is a consensus about the educational level of the Cuban labor
force. To many, professional services are the country's basic asset,
beyond its natural resources and geographic location. And that
competitive advantage has been key towards the advancement of this field.

Taking into account the wide stock of professionals in Cuba, the
Integral Strategy of Exportation of Services (EIES), approved by the
government in 2011, points to four potential groups: health, tourism,
information electronics, and telecommunications. The category "Others"
includes sports, charters, education and insurance.

The document also identifies experiences and demand in industrial, farm
and environmental projects, the control of vectors, epidemiology,
disaster response and civil defense, and urban and suburban agriculture.

Although the possibilities are diverse and the foreign sales involve
more than 135 countries, the results show a high concentration on health
services, specifically in the Venezuelan market. This situation,
sustained over a long period, introduces a high-risk system factor, says
Ricardo Torres, professor and researcher at the Center of Studies of the
Cuban Economy (CEEC).

"Perhaps at some point there was not enough foresight to aggressively
seek new markets, to explore other ways to contribute, to see how we
could link together more health sectors to incorporate equipment and
medicine," Torres says.

The EIES proposes to sell packages of integral solutions that could
include goods, thus giving a greater added value to the sales. While
some action has been taken in that regard, especially with
biotechnological products, we are still taking timid steps. South
Africa, Angola, Namibia and Algeria are emerging as relevant markets and
talks are ongoing with Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian program More Medics employs more than 11,000
Cuban doctors. The Ecuadoran government has asked for 1,000 doctors.

Because of the place that services occupy in the formation of the GNP
and exports, it is often said that Cuba has "a service economy." Though
not altogether wrong, that statement omits the fact that the growth of
this sector appears more pronounced because of the abrupt reduction in
other sectors, such as industry and agriculture.

Torres stresses that the change in the structure of national exports is
related not only to the significant increase in the services themselves
but also to the slowdown in the sale of goods.

"In many cases, there have been outright losses," he says. "The example
of the sugar industry is a paradigm. If one part is restricted, the
other occupies a greater space, even if it grows very little."

Another weak side of this pattern of growth is the limited connection it
makes with the domestic economy, because the predominant modality has
been to send professionals abroad.

"When you talk of development, one hopes that the dynamic sectors will
couple with the others," he says. "That's why they're called 'engines.'
They advance and pull the others along. When it comes to Cuba's
professional-service exports, this has been very poor, so far."

In turn, tourism does show a greater impact in terms of infrastructure,
jobs and stimulus to national products. However, tourism has remained on
a plateau for years.

To catalyze the development of tourism, plans are under way for the
construction of marinas, golf courses and associated facilities, with
which Cuba can attract visitors with higher purchasing power.

The EIES is trying to promote the means of supply so the client may come
to the island to receive a service and gain access to other services,
thus multiplying the total revenues.

Lázaro Peña, director of the Research Center for International Economy,
believes it can be said that the strategies implemented in Cuba's key
sectors (sugar, tourism, biotechnology and specialized services) have
prioritized the quest for foreign currency.

"But it would seem that all of them have pushed back — or at least have
not sufficiently grasped — another objective that's also essential to
the economic activity of any country: the balanced fostering of domestic
savings and investment," he wrote. (1)

Haste and pause

"The job is hard, because there is no structured health system; you have
to create everything from the start," says pediatrician María Antonia
Campos, who worked in Venezuela for four years. She would go back if
asked, but not everyone feels the way she does.

Sending professionals to other countries takes a physical toll, due to
the need for a specific number of professionals to remain in Cuba and
because of the human exhaustion caused by extended and/or repeated
missions abroad. We're talking about people who often leave their
families and their lifetime projects behind.

"There is a real barrier, which Cuba may already be encountering,"
Torres says. "We have to make a greater effort to bring patients to Cuba
and foster health tourism on the island. It has a more important effect
on growth and development, because it allows more spillovers to the rest
of the economy."

This opinion coincides with a statement made two years ago by Antonio
Luis Carricarte, vice minister of Foreign Trade and Investment (MINCEX).

"An exportation of that type does not necessarily mean sending Cubans to
other countries," he said. "It can be done on the island, taking care of
foreigners who need different treatments."

On the other hand, several domestic issues hold back the potential drive
of the service sector. On an international level, countries that are
strong in the exportation of services — generally, First World countries
— enjoy a very advanced technological structure, especially in terms of
information technology and telecommunications. Connectivity and online
work become basic conditions.

Torres, the CEEC researcher, points to Cuba's limited participation in
the global circuits of commerce, investment and finances. Also, related
services such as Customs, transportation, financial, legal and technical
services are not at the right level for worldwide requirements.

"Another factor that impacts our model strongly is the philosophy behind
the productive activity in Cuba," he says. "Unfortunately, what
predominates is a top-to-bottom vertical vision of the economic
processes, in bureaucratic and administrative terms. And that extends to

Therefore, a more proactive relation vis-à-vis the market remains an
unfinished task.

"There are many fields whose services we could export," says Osvaldo
López, chief of the Exploration Department of the Petroleum Research
Center (CEINPET). "However, the promotion and the marketing are not what
they should be."

"We have certain disciplines where we are competent on a global level
but we don't have a service-exportation facility, an entity devoted
entirely to that end."

Recently, Vivian Herrera, director of Exports for the MINCEX, graded the
EIES' progress as "discreet." In this case, a functional institutional
and regulatory structure could be part of the answer.

"There must be a radical change in the regulatory framework that
establishes incentives, penalties, and compensations for production,
specifically for exporters," Torres says. "There will be no economic
future for Cuba if the country doesn't become a successful exporter."


(1) "The model of global accumulation and external insertion:
Experiences for Cuba," by Lázaro Peña Castellanos. "About the
International Economy," Vol. 2, by various authors. Published by the
Demographic Studies Center. University of Havana, 2012.

Source: Cuba Banks on Exporting Services - Havana - Continue reading
Cuba tightens bra limits, but serious threat to trade comes from US
AUTHOR: Emily Morris
Research Associate, Institute of the Americas, UCL at University College
Emily Morris does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive
funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this
article, and has no relevant affiliations.
Provides funding as a Founding Partner of The Conversation.

Cuba has imposed new limits on the amount of goods that travellers can
bring into the country. The new measures will be unpopular with many
involved in the trade from suppliers to customers, and at first sight
they appear futile and counter-productive.

The informal trade in consumer goods and domestic equipment involves
huge bundles and packages being brought to the island by visiting
Cuban-Americans. The strong growth of these imports in recent years has
been the result of reforms in both the US and Cuba.

In 2009 Barack Obama lifted travel restrictions to Cuba for
Cuban-Americans that had been imposed by his predecessor, George W Bush,
allowing them to travel back and forth to visit relatives on the island
without any limit to the number of journeys. Meanwhile, Raúl Castro,
Cuba's president, has removed the requirement for Cubans planning
foreign trips to obtain an exit visas and fostered the growth of new
private businesses in Cuba. This has increased the purchasing power of
successful entrepreneurs and created new demand for business equipment
and consumer goods to sell.

The trade has allowed Cubans to acquire goods that are otherwise scarce
or very expensive. Families on both sides of the Florida Straits have
been using the trade to circumvent restrictions created by both US
sanctions, which prohibit the export of US consumer goods to Cuba, and
Cuba's centrally controlled economy, in which the state has a
near-monopoly on imports. The result of the restrictions has been a lack
of access to US goods, poor quality substitutes purchased from distant
markets, and persistent shortages in Cuban shops.

The informal trade has been welcomed by Cubans on the island with hard
currency to spend. But it's a problem for the broader economy as the
demand for these imports draws precious hard currency out of the
country. It also exacerbates growing income inequality within Cuba by
increasing the relative economic advantage enjoyed by Cubans with family
in the US.

The Cuban government, by restricting rather than banning this trade,
seems to recognise that it is neither possible nor desirable to end it.
The measures that have now taken effect represent a partial and
temporary fix, which is designed to placate those Cubans who are unable
to benefit from the trade but will aggravate frustrations among the
traders and their customers.

The apparent arbitrariness of the rules invites ridicule: as the foreign
press has noted, the new rules are 41 pages long, and state:

Travelers will now be allowed to bring in 22 pounds (10 kilos) of
detergent instead of 44; one set of hand tools instead of two; and 24
bras instead of 48.
And at a time when Castro has called for restrictions on non-state
economic activity to be removed, the restrictions seem anachronistic as
well as ridiculous.

But, with a dual currency system in which a severely undervalued Cuban
peso gives those with access to hard currency – or the "Convertible
peso" — enormous relative economic privilege, the socialist government
feels obliged to "do something", while it attempts to grapple with the
deeper causes of inequality and shortages.

In preparation for a reform of the currency system, the authorities have
been trying to build international reserves. And, although the planned
currency unification will not solve the problem overnight, it is
necessary to eventually narrow the gap between Cuban peso earners and
the privileged minority with ready access to hard currency.

Beyond this reform, the state importers, distributors and retailers need
to become more responsive to consumer preferences, and Cuban productive
capacity needs to grow. These challenges are on the agenda of a process
of profound, albeit gradual and cautious, transformation of the economic
system that is currently underway in Cuba.

But even if the Cuban government were to successfully deal with all
these shortcomings, the urge among Cuban-American visitors and returning
Cubans to heave enormous bundles of goods from the US would not
disappear, so long as the US government maintains its trade sanctions.
In effect, US policy forces its exports to Cuba to be channelled through
this route.

The route also provides images that fit the US anti-Castro narrative –
of US plentitude and Cuban shortages – while at the same time ensuring
that the money flows only one way: from Cuba to the US. Meanwhile,
paradoxically, US restrictions on Cuban informal imports into the
American "free market" are very much tighter than Cuban restrictions on
US imports, as anyone arriving in the US from Cuba with Cuban cigars or
rum in their luggage can testify.

Although these latest restrictions by the Cuban government are clearly
cumbersome, discriminatory and inefficient, the biggest obstacle to the
normalisation of trade between the US and Cuba remains US sanctions.

Source: Cuba tightens bra limits, but serious threat to trade comes from
US sanctions - Continue reading
Panama, Aug 29 (Prensa Latina) The National Confederation of Workers of Panama (CNTP) has established a Trade Union Committee of Solidarity with Cuba, a charter union from the movement existing in ... Continue reading