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CUBA STANDARD — Portugal’s minister of foreign affairs visited is beginning a two-day visit to Cuba today, Cuba’s foreign ministry reported. Luis Campos Ferreira will meet with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez and Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca, as well as the ministers of industry and energy. Portugal is seeking to “create space for a deepening [...] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Havana April 20 to prepare with Cuban officials for a visit by President Xi Jinping, as part of a planned Latin America tour by the Chinese president. Cuba was Wang’s first stop of a Latin America tour that takes him to Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina. The last visit [...] Continue reading
APRIL 23, 2014 10:43AM

Liberalizing Investment in Cuba
By SIMON LESTER SHARE

I'm no Cuba expert, but I have followed the events of recent years with
interest. It seems that there have been tentative steps towards
liberalizing the Cuban economy, as well as slightly better economic
relations between the United States and Cuba. I'm hopeful the long-term
trend is towards Cuba becoming a free market democracy, with normal
relations with the United States.

In the short-term, though, I'm frustrated by how the "liberalization" of
foreign investment is being carried out there. Here's the Economist:

But on March 29th Cuba's parliament approved a new foreign-investment
law that for the first time allows Cubans living abroad to invest in
some enterprises (provided, according to Rodrigo Malmierca, the
foreign-trade minister, they are not part of the "Miami terrorist
mafia"). The aim is to raise foreign investment in Cuba to about $2.5
billion a year; currently Cuban economists say the stock is $5 billion
at most.

The law, which updates a faulty 1995 one, is still patchy, says Pavel
Vidal, a Cuban economist living in Colombia. It offers generous tax
breaks of eight years for new investments. However, it requires
employers to hire workers via state employment agencies that charge (and
keep) hard currency, vastly inflating the cost of labour.
Welcoming new foreign investment is great. Here's the problem, though:
In order to liberalize investment, a government really doesn't need to
do anything fancy. It can just say, "foreign investment is permitted,
and will be treated like domestic investment." Very simple. Furthermore,
lower tax rates and reduced regulatory burdens can help encourage such
investment. Again, very simple.

In practice, though, governments make this process difficult and less
liberalizing. Here, what Cuba seems to have done is offered special tax
breaks for new foreign investments, and then subjected receipt of these
tax advantages to certain hiring conditions. In effect, it introduces
two distortions as part of the liberalization process: favoring new
foreign investors over other investors through the tax code and then
subjecting the favored investors to additional regulation.

To be clear, Cuba is not the only country who does this; this is what
many countries do. But there's just no reason to approach it this way.
The simpler way, with low tax rates for all investors, is the more
economically beneficial way. Unfortunately, it seems as though
"liberalization" is often just a catchword, and governments insist on
using their power to intervene in private economic transactions, even
when ostensibly moving away from interventionist policies.

Source: Liberalizing Investment in Cuba | Cato @ Liberty -
http://www.cato.org/blog/liberalizing-cuban-economy Continue reading
By Domingo Amuchastegui What is the role and potential of foreign investment for the Cuban economy? Let us look at the views of some of the most influential Cuban academics. These economists come from different backgrounds. Several are associated with the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy (CEEC) at the University of Havana, one is [...] Continue reading
Tehran, Apr 23 (Prensa Latina) The president of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (legislative body) of Iran, Ali Larijani, called for increasing parliamentary, economic, trade, political, and ... Continue reading
More International Trade reports by The Economist Intelligence Unit Country Forecast Netherlands April 2014 Updater by The Economist Intelligence Unit Country Forecasts focus on the key factors affecting Continue reading
Prensa Latina Wednesday 23rd April, 2014 Havana, Apr 22 (Prensa Latina) Experts from Cuba and the European Union (EU) exchanged experiences on economic issues and trade, according to a program opened Continue reading
Contributed by NAMPA / Xinhua. HAVANA, April 22 (Xinhua) -- Cuba and the European Union (EU) Tuesday initiated a forum in a bid to exchange economic and trade experience, Cuban news agency Prensa Latina Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) will grant close to $50 million in loans for water rehabilitation projects in Cuba over the next two years, official daily Granma reported. The announcement came after a meeting in Havana by OFID General Director Suleiman J. Al-Herbish with First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel. Al-Herbish also met [...] Continue reading
The tale of a runaway Cuban baseball player illustrates a human smuggling route from the Communist island to the US, and how Mexico ' s brutal Zetas may profit from the trade. According to the expose Continue reading
During more than three centuries of transatlantic trade, just short of a million slaves were shipped to Cuba. Today many of their descendants know little or nothing of their origins. But one community Continue reading
A Law with Dark Corners / Fernando Damaso
Posted on April 19, 2014

The Foreign Investment Law, debated and approved by the National
Assembly in extraordinary session, has some worrisome aspects, both for
foreign investors as well as for Cuban citizens.

It seems that Cubans living in other countries are not covered under the
law since the definition of a domestic investor applies only to current
legal residents of Cuba and to cooperatives. The latter are legally
recognized non-state administrative entities which may participate as
domestic investors in projects financed with foreign capital but which
remain completely under state control to prevent the accumulation of
excess wealth.

Elsewhere, investment priority is usually given to a country's own
residents, then to its overseas residents and lastly to foreigners. In
Cuba it is the opposite: foreigners get top priority. Afterwards, we
have to listen to authorities tirelessly proclaiming themselves to be
the defenders of national dignity, independence and sovereignty.

The claim that investments "may not be expropriated except for reasons
of public utility or social interest, as previously defined by the
Council of Ministers" should give one pause. This is a well-established
procedure in most countries. Before such actions can be taken, they must
be discussed and approved by legislative bodies (a house of
representatives, senate, parliament or national assembly).

It is a process in which those concerned — governmental authorities as
well as those in the opposition who may hold with differing views —
participate fully. Final implementation is subject to review by the
judicial branch, which makes sure any such actions do not violate the
constitution.

This is not the case in Cuba where the National Assembly is made up
exclusively of deputies from one party. It is a legislative body without
an opposition in which anything the government proposes is approved
unanimously. The Cuban judiciary, which is nothing more than an appendix
of the government, also has no independence.

In spite of anything that has been stipulated in writing, investors lack
any real protection or legal recourse. They remain subject to decisions
by a centralized authority in the person of the president, who for
political, ideological or circumstantial reasons can act as he pleases
without having to consult anyone, as has happened repeatedly over the
last fifty-six years.

Regarding employment of Cuban citizens, the law stipulates that an
investor must hire workers through an employment agency selected by the
Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment and authorized by the
Ministry of Labor and Social Security. Payment to workers would be by
mutual agreement between the investor and the employer. Neither exchange
occurs between the investor and the worker directly but through a state
intermediary.

Though the purported purpose is not to generate revenue, it stipulates
that a portion of the wages paid by the investor will be retained to
cover costs and expenses for services provided.

As one might expect, there is a big difference between what the investor
pays and what the employee receives. The salary paid to the employee
will correspond to a minimum wage set by the employment agency, which it
claims will be higher than that for the country's other workers. Also
factored in will be a coefficient which will allow the agency to adjust
salaries based on a worker's performance.

The unfortunate history of low pay for doctors, teachers, athletes and
other professionals working overseas to fulfill the Cuban government's
contracts with other countries speaks volumes.

It would perhaps have been advantageous to draft an investment law that
also regulated state investments (considering the many examples of bad
investments made over the years). It might also have covered private
investment, differentiating between foreign and domestic investment.

In regards to domestic investment, it might have included both
investment by Cubans living on the island as well as those living
overseas, especially since the latter currently must also possess a
Cuban passport to enter and exit the country, thus confirming their
legal status as Cuban citizens.

This law is not free from the burden of obsolete concepts of failed
socialism, with the objective in ensuring a leading role for the state.
It lacks sufficient transparency to really stimulate foreign investment
and includes some traps into which those who bet on it, without giving
it enough thought, might fall.

7 April 2014

Source: A Law with Dark Corners / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/a-law-with-dark-corners-fernando-damaso/ Continue reading
Cuba, US are warily, slowly improving relations
By Bryan Bender | GLOBE STAFF APRIL 20, 2014

HAVANA — The imposing, seven-story structure with darkened windows sits
just across from the Malecon, or sea wall, central Havana's communal
hangout. It is unadorned, flying no flags, offering few signs that
germinating inside are seeds of a better relationship between official
enemies.

The United States cut off relations and imposed a trade embargo with
communist Cuba more than half a century ago. But at the so-called US
Interests Section in Havana, 50 US diplomats and 300 locally hired
Cubans are quietly working on a range of common challenges.


The two governments are cooperating to combat human trafficking, improve
airline security, and conduct search and rescue operations. They are
working on joint efforts to improve public health and guard against
environmental degradation. And "working-level" discussions are under way
to do more, officials say.

Related
Ideas: Cuba, you owe us $7 billion
The Drug Enforcement Agency could soon be sending agents to work with
Cuban counterparts to track South American cartels, and the United
States has proposed reestablishing direct mail delivery between the
countries.

The behind-the-scenes work continues despite the recent controversy over
a covert US effort to provide Cubans access to a Twitter-like social
network.

Another thorny disagreement is over the fate of Alan Gross, a US State
Department contractor who has been jailed in Cuba for four years,
accused of being a spy. Cuban officials insist they want something in
return; namely, three Cubans convicted in the United States on charges
that they were intelligence agents.

"There is a big over-arching political cleft. But we are doing a number
of things that have been politically blessed by both sides," said a
senior US diplomat who works at the diplomatic post.

The diplomat — who requested anonymity to speak, in compliance with
State Department rules — expressed frustration that interaction between
the two governments at higher levels is still officially prohibited.

The Obama administration, under pressure from politically powerful
Cuban-Americans in South Florida and their supporters in Congress,
insists that relations can be restored only when Cubans win "fundamental
human rights and the ability to freely determine their own political
future."

Cuba's leaders, meanwhile, decry continuing US efforts to destabilize
their one-party system.

But a recent visit to this island just 90 miles from Florida, and
interviews with Cuban and American officials, revealed a slow but
unmistakable thaw on both sides of the Florida Straits. They are
realistic about the snail's pace of change, while describing pent-up
demand for better economic opportunities.

Nowhere is that more evident than at the US Interests Section, housed in
the former US Embassy that was completed just before the Cuban
Revolution in 1959, when Fidel Castro, along with his brother Raul, took
power.

Each day, up to 800 Cubans line up seeking various services such as
licenses for cultural exchanges, passport services, and other travel
documents. That compares with about 100 per day last year, according to
US diplomats.

US residents are now the second largest group of foreign travelers to
Cuba each year, behind Canada, including at least half a million
Cuban-Americans last year, who are now allowed to freely travel here
under relaxed rules instituted in 2009. Another 100,000 Americans
visited as part of educational and cultural exchanges approved by the US
State Department.

According to a new report by the Havana Consulting Group, more than
173,000 US residents visited the island just between January and March
of this year.

Meanwhile, studies find that money and goods pumped directly into the
Cuban economy by Cuban-Americans — as much as $5 billion in 2012 — now
outstrip the country's four major sectors, including tourism as well as
nickel, pharmaceutical, and sugar exports. That is having a major impact
on a population of just 11 million people, most of whom barely eke out
an existence in the island's centrally controlled economy.

Cuban officials, who agreed to speak to a reporter only if they were not
named, denied the common view among Cubans that the government is
fearful of renewed ties with its neighbor to the north.

"We can defend what we have. We are not afraid," said a senior official
at Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "We have spent 50 years preparing
the people for anything."

The gradual thaw in relations provides some hope for many average
Cubans. The country's economic anemia — the average Cuban earns roughly
$17 a month — is evident in daily life, from a crumbling infrastructure
that has seen little investment since the 1950s, to shortages of staples
such as eggs and meat, which for many Cubans are still rationed.

Darien Garcia Arco, 26, an electrical engineer who works for the
government, earns the equivalent of about $70 a month. That is more than
most Cubans, he points out, allowing him to have his own apartment, a
rarity for someone his age.

"There have been changes. Now you can buy and sell in a way that you
couldn't before," Arco said at a small social gathering in a dilapidated
high-rise (which, like most buildings, still has a Committee for the
Defense of the Revolution post on its ground floor, a mainstay of Cuba's
surviving police state apparatus).

"Things are changing but they should have changed years ago,'' Arco
said. "They are still not being felt widely."

The older generation, which appears most committed to the socialist
model spearheaded by the Castro brothers, also openly expresses a desire
for greater opportunity. Maria Cirules, who fought with some of the
leading Marxists who took power in 1959 and is now in her 70s, recounted
some of the hard-won achievements of Cuba's socialist political system:
Health care for all. Near-total literacy. No starvation.

"That is a conquest for us," she proudly declared.

Yet when asked what her late comrade, socialist visionary Ernesto Che
Guevara, might think of modern Cuba's economic situation, she was just
as adamant.

"He wouldn't like it," she said. "He was very exacting."

There have been a series of reforms instituted since Raul Castro took
over as president in 2009 from his ailing brother, who ruled for nearly
50 years.

Dozens of private restaurants, known as casa particulares, have appeared
in the past few years, usually located in private homes or apartments,
an easily visible sign that the government is allowing more of a
free-market economy to emerge. A few state enterprises have also been
turned into cooperatives.

The Cuban government has recently welcomed some foreign investment,
including a port project and industrial zone underway on the western
part of the island that is financed by Brazilian investors. Also, the
parliament is considering a broader foreign investment law.

Most striking to longtime observers was the announcement last year that
Cubans, who have largely been prisoners in their own country, can apply
to travel out of the country. There is also a small but vibrant
blogosphere emerging on the government-controlled Internet, including
some commentators who are openly critical of the government.

One US official who has had a unique viewpoint into the changes is
Representative James P. McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat who has long
advocated for normalizing relations.

"It is difficult but it is not oppressive," McGovern, visiting Cuba at
the same time as a Globe reporter, said of the political atmosphere
here. "It is not to minimize the human rights challenges, but there have
been changes here that have resulted in more political space."

McGovern, who has traveled here more than a dozen times since his first
trip in 1979, nevertheless believes the Obama administration, acting
independently, can do far more to encourage change here, and he has
taken his case directly to Secretary of State John F. Kerry, his former
Bay State congressional colleague.

"I firmly believe that now is the time to take more significant steps
that address our relationship with Cuba," he said.

Among the steps McGovern and his allies in Congress are advocating is
permitting US firms to offer goods and services to the privately run
businesses and cooperatives and increasing the number of Americans who
can apply for a license to travel to Cuba for educational and cultural
exchanges.

Another plea falls directly under Kerry's purview: removing Cuba from
the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, which would
clear some of the legal impediments to greater diplomatic engagement.
("Nobody can explain to me why they are on the terrorist list," McGovern
says.)

The State Department says it has no plans to remove Cuba from the list.
But a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs said that
such sanctions against Cuba are "only one aspect of US policy."

"The administration has taken steps to improve conditions for Cuban
citizens through initiatives aimed at increasing the flow of
information, resources, and humanitarian relief," said Angela M.
Cervetti. "We will continue to think creatively about appropriate policy
changes that will enhance the Cuban people's access to human rights and
fundamental freedoms, and their ability to freely determine their own
future."

She also said that Gross's continued detention "impedes our ability to
establish a more constructive relationship with Cuba on matters
affecting both countries."

For longtime Cuban officials like Gladys Rodriquez, there remains a deep
sense that the road to normalization will require more struggle.

"I will admit that I still believe the day the United States will lift
the blockade or embargo is far away," said Rodriquez, an official at
Cuba's National Council of Heritage.

She has worked for more than a decade with Boston-based Finca Vagia
Foundation to restore the Cuban legacy of American novelist Ernest
Hemingway, a project McGovern helped launch and that, like the broader
relationship, has suffered from some fits and start.

"But I do have the conviction that sooner or later, the process we are
all waiting for shall take place and our two countries will have normal
relations," she said.

Bryan Bender can be reached at bender@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter
@GlobeBender.

Source: Cuba and United States are warily, slowly thawing relations -
Nation - The Boston Globe -
http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2014/04/20/cuba-and-united-states-are-warily-slowly-thawing-relations/LDEqbKk2hkk4cVn22PuYDO/story.html Continue reading
Photo: Rebeca The Foreign Investment Law, debated and approved by the National Assembly in extraordinary session, has some worrisome aspects, both for foreign investors as well as for Cuban citizens. It seems that Cubans living in other countries are not … Continue reading Continue reading
Another Sweeping Law / Rosa Maria Rodriguez
Posted on April 18, 2014

The National Assembly or Cuban parliament approved with no problems —
not a rare thing for this organ where although it's not divine it "comes
from above" — the new foreign investment law. You don't need a crystal
ball to know that new legislation, like the new broom of the refrain,
sweeps fundamentally well for them and their orbit.

The suffocating financiers of the nineteenth-century Cuban political
model shows that for the nomenklatura the urgency of their bank balances
or updating — aerating — their state capitalism is more important than
truly reviving the battered "socialist economy."

Like every law "that is disrespected" in Cuba after 1959, it was
approved unanimously, meaning that everyone agreed, or at least raised
their hands, in a caricature of a senate composed almost entirely of
members of the only party legalized in Cuba which has been in government
for 55 years and although it calls itself communist, it is not.

One might then suggest to the Cuban authorities, to be consistent with
their own laws, to carry out an aggiornamento also of the philosophical
basis of their ideology and the name of the historical party of government.

The Cuban state has had its eyes on foreign investment for a long time.
Rodrigo Malmierca, Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, said
earlier this year in Brazil, which in Cuba there would continue to be
only one party. Emphasizing, of course, the interest in Brazilian
entrepreneurs and the message of confidence and stability he wants to
convey to them from the Cuban ruling class, to encourage them to do
business in Cuba.

This norm becomes another discriminatory law "with the bait" of fiscal
and tax benefits for foreigners, in contrast to the thunderous taxes
payable by nationals who venture into the private sector. They did away
with all the Cuban and foreign businesses when this model came to power
and now stimulate and encourage only foreign capitalists to invest in
our country.

They say they aren't giving it away, but any citizen from other climes
is placed above nationals, who once again are excluded from the
opportunity to invest in medium and large companies in their own country.

Just like our Spanish ancestors committed shameless abuses and
marginalized native Cubans and restricted them in their economic role in
their own national home.

The state still owns "the master key" of labor contracting–the employing
company– to calm their followers and to urge them to continue giving
their unconditional support to the established and visible promise that
they will be rewarded and privileged, if only with a tiny,
revolutionary, symbolic and coveted "mini-slice" of the state pie.

On the other hand, the impunity in the management of public officials,
on part with the lack of respect for society implicit in secrecy,
exposes the heart of corruption. One of the many examples that get under
the skin of Cubans of various geographic coordinates is, what is the
state of the country's accounts. What are the periodic incomes and
expenses in different parts of the economy. Why isn't Cuban society
informed about the annual amount of the income from remittances from
Cubans who have emigrated, and how these resources are used?

A lot could be said and written about the new law and the old
discrimination and practices contained in previous legislation, which
for me is a horse of a changeable–not another–color.

But it would give a lot of relevance to the segregationist, sloppy and
desperate search for money by power elite in Cuba, which requires
increasingly huge sums of "evil capital" to sustain its inefficient
bureaucracy and unsustainable model.

In short, the new law, like the proverbial broom, will always sweep well
for them and that seems to be all that, according to their dynastic
mentalities, fiftieth anniversaries and blue-blooded lifestyles, they
care about.

15 April 2014

Source: Another Sweeping Law / Rosa Maria Rodriguez | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/another-sweeping-law-rosa-maria-rodriguez/ Continue reading
Cuba, you owe us $7 billion - Top 50 claims The top 50 The largest American property claims against Cuba certified by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, according to a 2007 report by Creighton University scholars. Rank Name of claimant ... Continue reading
Cuba, you owe us $7 billion
Behind the trade embargo lies a huge and nearly forgotten obstacle: the
still-active property claims by American companies. Inside the effort to
settle a 50-year-old debt
By Leon Neyfakh | GLOBE STAFF APRIL 18, 2014

IF SYMBOLS COULD GATHER RUST, the American trade embargo against Cuba
would be covered with it. Enacted in 1960, shortly after Fidel Castro
came to power, and expanded in 1962, at the height of the Cold War, the
embargo has frozen the United States and its tiny neighbor off the
Florida coast in a standoff that seems as dated as the classic American
cars on Havana streets.

Leaders from around the world have been calling on the United States to
dismantle the embargo for more than 20 years, and recent polls show that
a majority of Americans are in favor of lifting it. With the repressive
Castro regime seemingly nearing its end, a "normalization" of relations
between the countries seems increasingly within reach. That would appear
to spell an end sometime soon for the embargo, which in the popular
imagination stands as a sort of political weapon that was designed to
cripple Castro and stem the tide of communism.


What's often forgotten, though, is that the embargo was actually
triggered by something concrete: an enormous pile of American assets
that Castro seized in the process of nationalizing the Cuban economy.
Some of these assets were the vacation homes and bank accounts of
wealthy individuals. But the lion's share of the confiscated
property—originally valued at $1.8 billion, which at 6 percent simple
interest translates to nearly $7 billion today—was sugar factories,
mines, oil refineries, and other business operations belonging to
American corporations, among them the Coca-Cola Co., Exxon, and the
First National Bank of Boston. A 2009 article in the Inter-American Law
Review described Castro's nationalization of US assets as the "largest
uncompensated taking of American property by a foreign government in
history."

Today, the nearly 6,000 property claims filed in the wake of the Cuban
revolution almost never come up as a significant sticking point in
discussions of a prospective Cuban-American thaw. But they remain
active—and more to the point, the federal law that lays out the
conditions of a possible reconciliation with Cuba, the 1996 Helms-Burton
Act, says they have to be resolved. According to that statute, said
Michael Kelly, a professor of international law at Creighton University
in Nebraska, settling the certified property claims "is one of the first
dominos that has to fall in a whole series of dominos for the embargo to
be lifted."

While the other dominos are clearly much more daunting—the overall point
of the Helms-Burton Act is that Cuba has to have a democratic,
America-friendly government in place before there can be any talk of
lifting the embargo—experts say the property claims will be an intensely
difficult problem to settle when it comes time to do so. For one thing,
Cuba is unlikely to ever have enough cash on hand to fully compensate
the claimants, especially while the embargo is still in place; to make
matters even more complicated, many of the individual claimants have
died, and some of the companies no longer exist.

With Cuba inching toward reform on a number of fronts over the past
several years, giving hope to those who believe our two countries might
reconcile in the near future, a number of Cuba experts have begun to
study the question of how to resolve the property claims in a way that
is both realistic and fair. The proposals that have come out of their
efforts provide a unique window onto the potential future of the
American relationship with Cuba—and point to the level of imagination
that can be required in the present to turn the page on what happened in
the past.

***

THE CUBA THAT CASTRO took over in 1959 was a nation overrun with
American business. Tourists could stay in American-owned Hiltons, shop
at Woolworth's, and withdraw money at American-owned banks.
American-owned petroleum refineries sat amid American cattle ranches,
sugar factories, and nickel mines, and an American-owned
telecommunications firm controlled the country's phone lines. According
to a 2008 report from the US Department of Agriculture, Americans
controlled three-quarters of Cuba's arable land.

Cuba's revolutionary leader swiftly signed several laws nationalizing
what was previously private property. Though the laws required the
government to compensate the owners, the payment was to be made in Cuban
bonds—an idea that was not taken seriously by the United States. In
1960, the administration of President Eisenhower punished Castro's
expropriation of American assets by sharply cutting the amount of sugar
the United States was buying from Cuba. "We kind of went ballistic at
the thought that anyone would take our property," said John Hansen, a
faculty associate at Harvard University's Center for Latin American
Studies. Tempers ran hot in both directions: in a speech, Castro vowed
to separate Americans in Cuba from all of their possessions, "down to
the nails in their shoes." The standoff culminated in a near-total
embargo on American exports to Cuba and a reduction of sugar imports to
zero.

Other countries that had holdings in Cuba—including Switzerland, Canada,
Spain, and France—were more amenable to Castro's terms, apparently
convinced that there was no chance they'd ever get a better deal. But
the Americans who had lost property wanted cash, and submitted official
descriptions of what had been taken from them to the Foreign Claims
Settlement Commission at the Department of Justice. Meanwhile, US
relations with Cuba deteriorated. Diplomatic ties were cut. An attempt
by President Kennedy to overthrow Castro failed, and a standoff over
Soviet missiles in 1962 brought the world as close to nuclear war as it
has ever come. The invisible economic wall—which by then had been
expanded to ban virtually all imports from Cuba—had become part of
something much larger.

Half a century later, the cash claims that started it all still sit on
the books. And while a full list of claimants is maintained by the US
Department of Justice, they have largely receded from view—in part
because most of the claimants have become quiet about their hopes for
compensation. According to Mauricio Tamargo, a lawyer who served as
chairman of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission for almost a decade
before going into private practice and taking on a number of claimants
as clients, complaining about monetary losses associated with the Cuban
revolution has become increasingly risky from a public relations
standpoint. The embargo has taken on more and more political meaning,
and Cuba has become more destitute. "The corporations that have these
claims are very sensitive to bad press," Tamargo said, "so they decide
to keep a low profile and work quietly behind the scenes where
possible." (Of several corporate claimholders contacted for this story,
the only one that provided a statement by deadline was Chevron Corp.,
which now owns the claims originally filed by Texaco, and considers "the
claim to be valid and enforceable if and when there is a change in the
Cuban government.")

But regardless of how morally or politically sensitive it might be for
America's corporations and the wealthy executives who run them to claim
money from Cuba, their claims will still need to be untangled in order
for the embargo to be lifted, experts say. "The US government is
obligated by law to defend the claims of US citizens and enterprises
whose properties were expropriated by the Cuban government," wrote
Harvard professor Jorge Dominguez, a top Cuba scholar, in an e-mail. As
for how that might be done, he added, "one can imagine a range of
possibilities."

One possibility has been put forth by Tamargo, who advocates for an
approach that would compensate claimants—his clients among them—by
imposing a 10 percent user fee on all remittances sent to Cubans by
their American relatives, as well as all other transactions that are
allowed to take place under the current embargo rules. (While this
proposal can be seen as a tax on US residents, it is designed to come
only out of money that is entering the Cuban economy.) Another proposal
was presented several years ago by Timothy Ashby, a Miami lawyer, who
started a company designed to buy claims at a discount from their
original owners and then use them to broker a private settlement with
the Cuban government. Ashby's plan was thwarted when the Bush
administration declared it illegal, but the prospect of a negotiated
group settlement remains on the table—as long as it's carried out by the
US government, in accordance with existing law.

Perhaps the most ambitious and pragmatic solution that's been laid out
so far appeared in a lengthy report published by scholars at Creighton
University, who were given a grant in 2006 by the US Agency for
International Development to investigate the claims issue. "There was a
hope that, if through God's grace things improved and we were able to
enter into a mutually beneficial relationship with Cuba, we would be
able to pull something off the shelf and say, 'Here's how we're going to
start dealing with it,'" said Patrick Borchers, the law professor who
led the Creighton team.

Borchers and his colleagues found that untangling all the claims would
be extremely complicated: "A lot of the original corporate claimants,
through the process of 50 years worth of mergers and acquisitions, don't
even exist anymore," said Creighton's Michael Kelly, who also worked on
the report. "But the claims don't go away—they go with the mergers." One
of the largest claimants today, for example, is Starwood Resorts, a
company that didn't even exist in 1959, but received a claim on the ITT
Telegraph Tower when it acquired another company. "Starwood Resorts
doesn't want an old radio tower," Kelly said. "What they [might] want is
beachfront property."

This insight led to the proposal that the Creighton team ultimately
submitted to the government. Under the team's plan, some of those who
had lost property during Castro's nationalization campaign could be
compensated in ways that didn't involve the transfer of cash or bonds:
Instead, they could be given tax-free zones, development rights, and
other incentives to invest in the new Cuba. This, according to Borchers,
would be a win for both sides, compensating the claimants while
stimulating the Cuban economy.

***

NO ONE IS ARGUING that settling the property claims of Americans is
anything like the first or most important step to normalizing the US
relationship with Cuba: There are other, more formidable obstacles in
the way, as well as significant wiggle room for increasing economic
activity between the two countries without formally lifting the embargo.

"There's a scenario that I see, which is bit by bit the fundamentals of
the embargo are chiseled away by executive order, by the economic and
family ties linking Cuba and the United States, and by non-enforcement,"
said Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. In
that scenario, the claims might someday be resolved, but wouldn't hold
the process of reintegrating the United States and Cuba hostage.

There's another big complication, too: the thousands of Cuban families
who fled to America after the revolution and had everything they owned
confiscated by the Communist regime. These Cuban exiles and their
descendants form the backbone of the most intransigent anti-Castro lobby
in the United States. If and when Cuba does open up, they're going to
want their property back as well, which will likely result in extensive
litigation in Cuba. (To address their interests, the Creighton report
proposed setting up a special tribunal in Cuba that could try to
compensate Cuban-Americans for their losses once the country had found
its feet economically.)

What will end up happening—both for the American claimants and the
Cubans who moved here after the revolution—will undoubtedly provoke
debate about what is fair when it comes to setting right the wrongs of
the past. How much debt is worth forgiving to help a country back on its
feet? And how much should private citizens expect to give up to help a
diplomatic resolution? But the provisional plans and proposals that have
been made in the meantime—whether preferential development deals or a
tax on cash flow between our two countries—reflect something else:
visions of a new Cuba, in which American economic interests and Cuban
ones are once again closely intertwined.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. E-mail leon.neyfakh@globe.com.

Source: Cuba, you owe us $7 billion - Ideas - The Boston Globe -
http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/04/18/cuba-you-owe-billion/jHAufRfQJ9Bx24TuzQyBNO/story.html Continue reading
The dictator Raul Castro continues stubbornly to make the world believe that he’s bringing to Cuba an opening that in reality doesn’t exist. He continues being the same dictator as always, violating the rights of all Cubans, submitting them to … Continue reading Continue reading
Foreign Investment Law Project. Taken from Cubadebate The National Assembly or Cuban parliament approved with no problems — not a rare thing for this organ where although it’s not divine it “comes from above” — the new foreign investment law. … Continue reading Continue reading
Salon Tropical 'Paladar' in Santiago de Cuba Is Still Afloat
April 17, 2014
By Norges C. Rodríguez Almiñan (Progreso Weekly)


SANTIAGO DE CUBA — In 1996, the Cuban government decided to allow some
economic activities theretofore exclusively handled by the State to be
developed by private workers or self-employed entrepreneurs.

Among the activities allowed, one of the most popular was the
preparation and commercialization of food. The places where this
activity was carried out became known as "paladares," thanks to a
Brazilian soap opera broadcast on Cuban TV at the time.

During that period, the opening was very timid. The State restricted the
number of customers (only 12 at a time) and the hiring of the labor
force, stating that only relatives living on the premises could work in
the restaurant.

In the early 2000s, the government took several measures that adversely
affected the private workers and many of them gave up their work
licenses. In 2011, the regulations on private workers were relaxed and
self-employed entrepreneurs again became actors of importance in the
country's economy.

One of the private restaurants that survived all these waves, one of the
oldest in Santiago de Cuba, is the Salón Tropical in the November 30
neighborhood, known to everyone as "the paladar in the 30th." Its owner,
Nilda Gil, has managed the place from the start, as best as the rules of
the game allowed her.

Norges Carlos Rodríguez: When did you found the restaurant and why did
you choose that activity and no other, like lodging for instance?

Nilda Gil: In March 1996. I began with this because, although I never
studied food preparation, I always liked it. Lodging did not attract me.
At first, I worked and my sister took care of the kitchen. When I
returned from work, I'd remove my uniform and helped her in the kitchen.
We began with a small seating capacity. I used the first room in the
house and began with four tables and six chairs.

NCR: How did you handle the hiring of workers, the preparation of the
menu, and how did the customers behave?

NG: At that time we couldn't hire workers, only members of the family
who had to live in the same house, and were members of the same CDR
[Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, a neighborhood watch
network]. The menu consisted of spaghetti, pork chops, smoked loin, and
lamb, which were the only things we could sell. Seafood could not be
sold; it was banned. I had to reinvent and lay out different menus for
three days with the same ingredients: pork, lamb, rabbit and chicken.
One day we'd make Italian food, the next day Chinese. At the time, many
customers came, both Cuban and foreign. There were a lot more customers
than today.

NCR: The Cuban government has acknowledged that the 1996 opening was
done as a palliative. It assumed that self-employed work was a necessary
evil. This made many people look at self-employed workers with
suspicion, and many prejudices were formed regarding you. What
experiences did you have with this?

NG: All kinds. I was inspected three times over the sale of lobster and
shrimp, which were forbidden. I was detained by the police. If anything
was missing at some state-run place, they'd come here, looking for it.
The inspectors came day in, day out. We could barely work.

NCR: When did the taxes go up and by how much?

NG: That was in 2000. At first, we all paid the same: 500 national pesos
[CUP]. Then someone did a study and said that some paladares should have
their taxes raised because of their location. Those that were in midtown
should pay in CUC [convertible pesos]; those that weren't, would
continue to pay in domestic currency.

I had to pay in domestic currency but that problem was that I was
situated in a neighborhood with many boarding houses. So I asked the
ONAT [internal revenue office] to do a study and give me a license for
hard-currency trade, so I could serve foreign tourists, because I
couldn't do business in hard currency if I didn't pay taxes in hard
currency. At the end, I had to pay 700 CUC [about $700]; restaurants in
midtown had to pay 860 CUC.

When the taxes went up, many paladares in Santiago de Cuba disappeared.
From the existing 120 paladares, only eight remained, then only two,
Las Gallegas and the Salón Tropical. The customers either came here or
went there.

NCR: Why do you think the taxes went up?

NG: Well, remember that this was a necessary evil and people knew that
self-employed workers worked here.

NR: In 2011, new activities were approved. In the case of restaurants,
the state allowed an increase in the number of chairs and allowed you to
hire workers from outside the family. What benefit did those changes bring?

NG: Those measures were very favorable because in the past only the
relatives could work in the business, and that entailed problems with
discipline. Now we have the possibility to hire specialized personnel
who know the trade.

Now we notice a slight change. In the past, we self-employed workers
were almost accused of being counter-revolutionaries; now, we're
described as the rescuers of the nation. I don't know what we'll be
tomorrow, but I do notice a tendency to help us. We'll see.

NR: In comparison with 1996, how's the attendance and the access to
supplies and foodstuff?

NG: The clientele has shrunk a lot. In the past, we started work at noon
and worked till night. Today, we have very few customers at noon, and
only at night can we do something. The subject of supplies and
foodstuffs is tough on us. It was as difficult in '96 as it is today. We
don't have a market that can supply us, so we have to buy the food at
the hard-currency stores — that's expensive.

NR: One of the changes forecast for the country is the opening of
wholesale markets. What do you think?

NG: I won't believe it until I see it. I've been waiting 17 years for that.

NR: One of the options in this new opening is a link between private
businesses and state-run enterprises. What do you think of that?

NG: Well, I've already gone through that and didn't fare well at all. I
had a contract with Oriente University that was not favorable to me. I
always abided by the contract but they didn't, so there were past-due
bills that they never paid.

NR: Many private businesses in Cuba are taking seriously the role of
advertising and marketing, especially on the Internet. What do you think
of this? Is it important to you? Have you delved into it?

NG: That's extremely important and, yes, I have delved into it. I've
appeared in the magazine Excelencias Gourmet, in the issue published for
the Caribbean Festival, and that helped a lot because many tourists and
participants in the festival came to dine here.

The Gourmet television network, which broadcasts to Latin America and
the United States, did a documentary on us, too. They filmed an ordinary
day in the paladar: how we go to the store, how we shop in the market,
our day's work until the closing at night. It was a very pleasant
experience.

As a result, I received customers from Uruguay and Argentina. We also
have a presence on the Internet. The restaurant's Web page is updated
regularly. We have a profile in Tripadvisor, a page in Facebook and one
in Twitter.

NR: What personalities have you hosted?

NG: Actor Jim Carrey came here, also many Cuban actors and many
diplomats. We've had SINA officials [U.S. Interests Section], and the
French ambassador. The musicians in the Charanga Habanera came and I had
to roast a ham for them. We also had [Cuban actress] Luisa María Jiménez
and others who I don't remember.

NR: Today, American tourists cannot come to Cuba because of the
restrictions imposed by Washington. What benefits do you expect for your
business if the laws that prohibit the travel of U.S. tourists to Cuba
are lifted?

NG: It would be very beneficial, because I know that many would come.
This city would fill with them, and that's beneficial not only for
self-employed entrepreneurs but also for the country at large.

The author is an engineer living in Santiago de Cuba. He hosts the blog
'Salir a la manigua,' where this interview first appeared. Progreso
Weekly has published an abridged version.

Source: Salon Tropical 'Paladar' in Santiago de Cuba Is Still Afloat -
Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=103069 Continue reading
Photo from: http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=3555659 My former colleague Jose Alejandro Rodriguez who aptly handles the Letters to the Editor section in the newspaper Juventud Rebelede (Rebel Youth), last Wednesday published the comments of a reader annoyed by the absence of beer in … Continue reading Continue reading
HAVANA - Panama and Cuba signed a trade pact here Monday that will allow an increase in the trade of goods and services between the two countries. Official Cuban sources told Efe that the accord was Continue reading
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​Cuba's economic reforms: Socialism with neoliberal characteristics?
Nile Bowie is a political analyst and photographer currently residing in
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached on Twitter or at
nilebowie@gmail.com
April 16, 2014 11:26
Reuters/Enrique de la Osa

Havana has prioritized foreign investment and private enterprise,
slashed state-sector jobs, while seeking closer cooperation with the
European Union. Will Cuba's latest market-based reforms undermine the
social gains of the 1959 Revolution?

Times are complicated in revolutionary Cuba. President Raúl Castro is
well into his second term and plans to officially step down in 2018; he
is now laying the groundwork for a new generation of leaders to take the
reins of the island nation.

In an effort to address the stagnating economic conditions that have
burdened the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union, President
Raúl unveiled reforms in 2010 aimed at moving the island's outdated
command economy toward a mixed economy with greater emphasis on market
mechanisms and self-employment.

Cuban authorities have acknowledged the difficulties posed by
maintaining massive subsidies across various sectors, and plan to
transfer up to 40 percent of the workforce into the private sector by
2015, where workers will be expected to pay taxes on their income for
the first time.

The state has laid off some 500,000 workers, in addition to eliminating
more than 100,000 non-essential jobs in the nation's national health
service to cut costs. Havana has simultaneously relaxed prohibitions on
small business activity and the individual hiring of labor. Former
state-employees are now encouraged to start small businesses by driving
taxis, opening barbershops, clothing shops and restaurants.

The state employs around 79 percent of the 5 million-strong labor force,
while around 436,000 Cubans currently work in the private sector,
according to government figures. Reforms are becoming bolder and Cuban
politicians have recently approved a new law to draw in greater amounts
of foreign investment, while tax-free special development zones have
also been introduced. In these zones, foreign companies will be able to
transfer their tariff-free profits abroad, receive contract extensions
for up to 50 years, and retain full ownership entitlements, a drastic
departure from decades of Soviet-style central planning.

Public health indicators suggest that Cuba has some of the highest
quality health services in the developing world, which is provided to
citizens free of charge. Despite a severe lack of resources due in part
to decades of being under an economic embargo imposed by the United
States, the country has one of the highest literacy rates in the world
and free universal education for its citizens; it has also become one of
the world's leading exporters of teachers and doctors.

Cuban leaders have acknowledged how the country's traditional state-run
economic model can no longer support the across-the-board subsidies that
fuel socialist programs and welfare services, giving rise to new
legislation that would make the country much more reliant on market
mechanisms and foreign capital.

Reagan's ghost in Havana?
It may be seen as ironic that Cuba, with its history of sweeping
nationalizations of corporations that dominated the economy before the
revolution, is now sacking masses of state-sector workers and adopting a
capital-friendly growth model intent on cutting down the public sector
in favor of private enterprise and profit.

Cuba's decision to break from its traditionally closed economy and
toward a free market system with neoliberal characteristics is not a
signal that the country plans to yield toward unhinged capitalism. In
the view of pragmatic thinkers in the Communist Party, these reforms
represent an attempt to update the economic model, allowing Cuba to
define its own distinct system appropriate to modern developments and
external circumstances.

In essence, the Cuban leadership is attempting to develop a different
model of market-socialism better suited to advancing the ideals of the
revolution: egalitarianism, social justice, and resistance to
imperialism and US dominance. Cuban leaders have acknowledged the
negative features of market reforms, which can often exacerbate income
disparities and entrench cronyism, and have pledged to maintain its
public health services, universal education systems, and other features
that do not adhere to the ideology of free market capitalism.

Cuban workers will have three main avenues of employment to choose from.
While the largest portion of workers will run small businesses and
shops, the government has prioritized the agricultural sector to promote
food self-sufficiency. The state subsidizes land, seeds, and
chemical-free fertilizer for farmers and vegetable growers, and
agricultural collectives are also seen as a viable career path.

Other workers will find employment in sectors that rely on foreign
investment. Cuba's newly-passed foreign investment law, which comes into
effect in June, offers attractive incentives to foreign companies. Taxes
on profits have been reduced from 30 to 15 percent, and companies will
be exempt from paying taxes for the first eight years of operation;
foreigners doing business on the island would be exempt from paying any
personal income tax.

An exception remains for companies that exploit the country's natural
resources, such as nickel or fossil fuels, which will pay taxation rates
as high as 50 percent. Foreign investment will reportedly be allowed in
all sectors, however investment and marketization will be barred in all
fields related to medical services, education and national defense to
safeguard the country's socialist system.

Ending the embargo
The US unilaterally imposed a near-total embargo on Cuba in 1962
following the nationalization of properties belonging to US citizens and
corporations, which remains in place to this day. Washington has kept
Cuba on a list of 'state sponsors of terrorism' since 1982, while the
embargo has been consistently strengthened under several US
administrations despite the United Nations calling for its end for 22
consecutive years.

Cuban authorities claim that the economic damages accumulated after half
a century as a result of the implementation of the blockade amount to
$1.126 trillion, and President Raúl knows he needs erode the foundations
of the embargo before significant economic growth can take place. Havana
believes that getting the European Union into its corner is the best way
to move forward, and negotiations with representatives from Brussels are
set to begin in late April. Havana will try to overturn the EU's 'common
position' on Cuba enacted in December 1996, which calls for greater
human rights and democratic conditions in exchange for improved economic
relations.

The recent visit by French FM Laurent Fabius, the highest-ranking French
official to visit the island in 31 years, should be seen in this
context. According to diplomatic sources, Fabius was testing the waters
prior to the negotiations with EU members.

France has interests in winning contracts in markets where French firms
are traditionally weak, and understands the regional importance of Cuba
as investment pours in from both Brazil and Mexico, who are increasing
their presence in the country.

Normalizing trade relations with the EU would qualify as a major step
forward toward bolstering foreign investment, but the alignment of
business interests is not expected to have major reverberations on
Havana's positions on global political issues, where it is aligned
closely to Russia and China.

On the eve of Fabius' visit, state-owned media in Cuba published
critical commentary of the French municipal elections, criticizing
President François Hollande for doing "exactly the opposite" of what was
promised during his election campaign, and for conciliating "the
neoliberal demands of Berlin and Brussels." The editorial could be seen
as subtle way of the Communist Party reinforcing its political
nonalignment, or as a way of deflecting criticism from hardliners who
would prefer that Cuba maintains its distance from Western powers.

As more emphasis is placed on making Cuba an attractive destination for
foreign investment, Europe is expected to become more vocal in
supporting a change in US policy toward the island nation.

Cuba's diversification of trade relations also comes at a time when the
leftist government of Venezuela faces protests and serious economic
difficulties. The leadership in Caracas supplies cheap oil to Cuba and
also pays for Cuban doctors and other medical specialists sent to
Venezuela, while some economists claim that Cuba receives over $6
billion per year from this arrangement, representing a more significant
subsidy than that which the island received from the Soviet Union, which
paid above-market prices for sugar and other goods.

If attempts to enact regime change in Venezuela are realized, it will
have detrimental short-term effects on Cuba, which the leadership in
Havana seems to be well aware of. Much like other socialist governments
that survived the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba is now reforming its
economy to conform to global capitalism, but unlike other countries that
have empowered their oligarchical elite through marketization, leaders
in Havana claim that the primary objective of attracting foreign capital
is to support social programs, the socio-economic development of the
country, and the distribution of wealth among all Cuban citizens.

Marketization may likely exacerbate income inequality and spur elite
corruption in the early stages, and these negatives features of
capitalism should be kept in check. If state-linked cronies are
perceived as being the most advantaged by foreign investment without
earnings being adequately channeled to social welfare programs and
development, it will have negative political ramifications.

If the new economic system can be leveraged to maintain socialist
benefits and bolster Cuba's biotechnology, pharmaceutical and renewable
energy sectors, the country may be in a position to assert its
independence more effectively through a mixed-development model that can
be replicated elsewhere.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely
those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Source: ​Cuba's economic reforms: Socialism with neoliberal
characteristics? — RT Op-Edge -
http://rt.com/op-edge/cuba-economic-reforms-market-852/ Continue reading
Iranian Firms Invited to Cuba Industrial Fair
April 15, 2014 - 19:21

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The Cuba Chamber of Commerce invited the Iranian
companies to participate in a major industrial exhibition, due to be
held in the Latin American country in the near future.

Cuba's Ambassador to Tehran Vladimir Andres Gonzalez Quesada on Monday
delivered a letter from the Latin American country's Chamber of
Commerce, according to which, companies from the Islamic Republic have
been invited to take part in the 32nd industrial exhibition in Cuba.
The upcoming exhibition is accounted Cuba's most significant fair,
Quesada said in a meeting with Gholam Hossein Shafiei, head of Iran's
parliament of private sectors, in Tehran.
The Iranian official, for his part, pointed to the commonalities between
Iran and Cuba, but noted that Tehran-Havana trade ties are not at a
desirable level now.
He stressed that the obstacles in the way of trade between the two
nations should be removed with a new attitude.
In a similar development in January, Cuban deputy minister for foreign
trade and investment said Tehran is Havana's strategic partner in every
field, and called for the further expansion of Iran-Cuba cooperation in
economic fields.
Antonio Caria Carte Corona had made the remark in a meeting with Iranian
Deputy Foreign Minister for American and European Affairs Majid Takht
Ravanchi in Cuba.
The Cuban diplomat had also praised Iran's progress in various
scientific, technological, and economic fields, and voiced his country's
readiness for evermore expansion of economic and trade ties in bilateral
and multilateral fields.

Source: Tasnim News Agency - Iranian Firms Invited to Cuba Industrial
Fair - http://www.tasnimnews.com/English/Home/Single/339334 Continue reading
Mariel workers to keep most of what employers pay

CUBA STANDARD — Although foreign investors at the Mariel Special
Development Zone (ZEDM) will still have to hire employees through a
state agency, they will be able to negotiate salaries, contract
self-employed Cubans, and hire as many foreign workers as they want, and
workers will pocket most of what their employers pay the agency.

Speaking at the FECONS construction fair in Havana, Mariel Zone chief
executive Ana Teresa Igarza said that workers at Mariel will receive 80%
of what employers pay the agency, and employers will freely negotiate
salaries with the agency, without having to adhere to any fixed tariffs.

Previously, foreign joint ventures paid salaries under to a fixed scale
in convertible pesos (CUC) to state agency ACOREC, which passed on only
a fraction to workers, in non-convertible Cuban pesos (CUP). Under that
arrangement, foreign companies had few means to provide incentives to
Cuban employees; in a legal gray zone, "many employers" have been paying
hard-currency "gratifications" to good workers, Igarza recognized.

Igarza didn't say whether under new regulations the state agency will
offer employers a choice of workers. However, the new rules do not put
any limits on hiring foreign workers, and the new foreign investment law
also allows contracting self-employed Cubans through the state agency,
according to reports in official media.

The state agency is designed to help foreign investors, because "many
don't know the country, and they will be offered suitable workers,"
Foreign Trade and Investment Ministry official Deborah Rivas defended
its continued existence in a press conference with local media last week.

Igarza said the new employment agencies' main aim, according to the new
foreign investment law passed in March, is not to collect, but to "offer
a service" — "to supply and facilitate the personnel best qualified for
the activity."

"This will make investors feel motivated because they have to pay less,
and workers as well because they receive larger salaries than those
before, and therefore productivity is incentivized," Igarza said,
according to official news reports.

In negotiating salaries, employers must consider the high level of
education among Cuban workers, Igarza said during her speech. The
Foreign Investment Ministry's Rivas said that negotiations will be based
on comparable salaries in Latin America and average salaries in Cuba. If
an example cited by Igarza is an indication, Mariel jobs could pay more
than 10 times as much as the median salary in Cuba. The 20% fee will go
towards the cost of providing services, such as maintaining offices,
Igarza said.

In a hint of how the government is planning for a currency merger,
Igarza said that during the transition the workers will be paid in
soft-currency CUP, at a rate of 10:1 for each hard-currency CUC the
employer pays the agency. Observers have predicted a CUC devaluation in
that range as part of the ongoing currency reform; the current exchange
rate is 25 CUP per CUC. The CUC will eventually be pulled out of
circulation.

Regulations about contracting and paying personnel will soon be
published in the Gaceta Oficial, Igarza said. The new foreign investment
law, passed by the National Assembly March 29, has yet to be published.

During the same speech, Igarza said the Mariel Zone administration is
working closely with foreign investors on 15 projects, which could
materialize as early as this year.

Source: Mariel workers to keep most of what employers pay « Cuba
Standard, your best source for Cuban business news -
http://www.cubastandard.com/2014/04/15/mariel-workers-to-keep-most-of-what-employers-pay/ Continue reading
April 15, 2014 5:49 pm

Cuba fed a president's fears and took over Venezuela
By Moisés Naím

Caracas is paying the price for Chávez's misplaced trust, writes Moisés Naím

The enormous influence that Cuba has gained in Venezuela is one of the
most underreported geopolitical developments of recent times. It is also
one of the most improbable. Venezuela is nine times bigger than Cuba,
three times more populous, and its economy four times larger. The
country boasts the world's largest oil reserves. Yet critical functions
of the Venezuelan state are either overseen or directly controlled by
Cuban officials.
Venezuela receives Cuban health workers, sports trainers, bureaucrats,
security personnel, militias and paramilitary groups. "We have over
30,000 members of Cuba's Committees for the Defence of the Revolution in
Venezuela," boasted Juan José Rabilero, then head of the CDR, in 2007.
The number is likely to have increased further since then.
A growing proportion of Venezuela's imports are channelled through Cuban
companies. Recently, Maria Corina Machado, an opposition leader,
revealed the existence of a large warehouse of recently expired
medicines imported through a Cuban intermediary – drugs allegedly
purchased on the international market at a deep discount and resold at
full price to the government.
The relationship goes beyond subsidies and advantageous business
opportunities for Cuban agencies. Cuban officers control Venezuela's
public notaries and civil registries. Cubans oversee the computer
systems of the presidency, ministries, social programmes, police and
security services as well as the national oil company, according to
Cristina Marcano, a journalist who has reported extensively on Cuba's
influence in Venezuela.
Then there is military co-operation. The minister of defence of a Latin
American country told me: "During a meeting with high-ranking Venezuelan
officers we reached several agreements on co-operation and other
matters. Then three advisers with a distinctive Cuban accent joined the
meeting and proceeded to change all we had agreed. The Venezuelan
generals were clearly embarrassed but didn't say a word . . . Clearly,
the Cubans run the show."
Why did the Venezuelan government allow this lopsided foreign
intervention? The answer is Hugo Chávez. During his 14-year presidency
he enjoyed absolute power thanks to his complete control of every
institution that could have constrained him, from the judiciary to the
legislature. He could also use Venezuela's oil revenues at will.
One of the most transformational ways in which Chávez used the complete
power he wielded was to let the Cubans in. He had many reasons to throw
himself into the arms of Fidel Castro. He felt a deep affection,
admiration and trust for the Cuban leader, who became a personal
adviser, political mentor and geopolitical guide. Mr Castro also fed
Chávez's conviction that his many enemies – especially the US and the
local elites – were out to get him and that his military and security
services could not be trusted to provide the protection he needed. But
the Cubans could reliably offer these services. Cuba also provided a
ready-to-use international network of activists, non-government
organisations and propagandists who boosted Chávez's reputation abroad.
In return, Chávez instituted a programme of financial largesse that
keeps Cuba's economy afloat to this day. Caracas ships about 130,000
barrels of oil a day to the island on preferential terms – a small part
of an aid programme that remains one of the world's largest.
The extent to which Chávez was beholden to the Cuban regime was
dramatically illustrated by the way in which he dealt with the cancer
that would eventually kill him last year: he trusted only the doctors
whom Mr Castro recommended, and his treatment mostly took place in
Havana under a veil of secrecy.
Chávez's successor, Nicolás Maduro, has deepened Caracas's dependency on
Havana even further. As students have taken to the streets in protest
against an increasingly authoritarian regime the government has
responded with a brutal repression that relies on many of the tools and
tactics perfected by the police state that has run Cuba for too long.

The writer, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment, is a former Venezuelan
minister of industry and trade

Source: Cuba fed a president's fears and took over Venezuela - FT.com -
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b7141b78-c497-11e3-b2fb-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2z2qp2P2O Continue reading
THE CUBAN government is currently pursuing bold new initiatives to combat the destructive effects of the unprecedented 50-year-old trade and economic blockade against it by the United States of America. Continue reading
GENEVA Tobacco -producing nations Cuba and the Dominican Republic have stepped up their fight at the World Trade Organisation to sink Australia's landmark plain packaging laws for cigarettes and cigars. Continue reading
Driving in Reverse / Miriam Celaya
Posted on April 13, 2014

(Originally published in Cubanet the April 11, 2014 , titled " Raul
Castro Goes in Reverse")

Clearly, the new Foreign Investment Law "approved" by the usual
parliamentary unanimity last March 29, 2014, has been the talk of the
town on the topic of "Cuba", for the Island's official as well as for
the independent and foreign press.

With the relaxation of the existing law–enacted in 1995–the new
regulation is aiming to throw the ball to the opposite field: if Cuban
residents of the US cannot invest in Cuba currently, it would no longer
be because the regime bans it, but because of the shackles imposed by
the embargo, a trick of the elderly olive green crocodile that continues
with its wiles and snares despite the collapse of the system.

Amid the expectations of the government's and of aspiring investors,
there stretches a wide tuning fork of the ever-excluded: the common
Cubans, or the "walking Cubans" as we say, whose opinions are not
reflected in the media, magnifying their exclusion.

This time, however, the cancellation of the innate rights of Cubans is
causing social unrest to multiply, in a scenario in which there are
accelerated shortages in the commercial networks and persistent and
increasing higher prices and a higher cost of living.

Rejection of the Investment Law

Shortages, as well as inflation, indexation and bans for certain items
of the private trade, have caused many family businesses to close since
January 2014 due to the uncertainty surrounding the heralded–and never
properly explained–monetary unification.

In addition to the lack of positive expectations, these are the factors
that thin out the social environment and lead to generally unfavorable
reviews of the new law and its impact within Cuba.

An informal survey I conducted in recent days in Central Havana after
the March 29th extraordinary session of parliament shows rejection of
the new Law on Foreign Investment, almost as unanimous as the "approval"
that occurred in the plenary: of a total of 50 individuals polled, 49
were critical of the law and only one was indifferent.

In fact, the issue has been present with relative frequency in many
cliques not directly surveyed–uncommon in a population usually apathetic
about laws–in which the dominant tendency was to criticize various
aspects of the law.

The main reasons for the people's discontent are summarized in several
main points: the new law excludes, arbitrarily and despotically, Cuban
nationals, which implies that the lack of opportunities for the Island's
Cubans is being maintained.

Foreign investors will not only have great advantages and tax
considerations which have never been granted to the self-employed,
tariff concessions with respect to imports (which is just what traders
in imported items asked for and was not granted); the State will remain
the employer of those who will labor in foreign-funded enterprises,
implying consequent hiring based on Party loyalty–be it real or fake,
and taxed wages; widening social gaps between sectors with higher levels
of access to consumption and the more disadvantaged sectors (the latter
constantly growing).

At the same time, many Cubans question the vagaries of government policy
which, without any embarrassment, favors the capital of the expats-–the
former "siquitrillados*, the bourgeoisie, gypsies, worms, traitors,
scum, etc."–over those who stayed behind in Cuba.

The logical conclusion, even for those who stayed relatively associated
with the revolutionary process, or at least those who have not openly
opposed the regime, is that leaving the country would have been a more
sensible and timely option to have any chance of investing in the
current situation. There are those who perceive this law as the regime's
betrayal to the "loyalty" of those who chose to stay, usually Cubans of
lesser means.

Another topic that challenges the already diminished credibility of the
government is the very fact of appealing to foreign capital as the
saving grace of the system, when, the process of nationalization of
1959, it was deemed as one of the "fairer measures" and of greater
significance undertaken, to "place in the hands of the people" what the
filthy bourgeois capital had swiped from them.

Cubans wonder what sense it made to expel foreign capital and 55 years
later to plead for its return. It's like going backwards, but over a
more unstable and damaged road. Wouldn't we have saved ourselves over a
half a century of material shortages and spiritual deprivation if we had
kept companies that were already established in our country? How many
benefits did we give up since the State, that unproductive, inefficient
and lousy administrator, appropriated them?

What revolution are you taking about?

At any rate, the majority has a clear conscience that the revolution and
its displays of social justice and equality are behind us, in some
corner of the twisted road. "Do you think this new law will save the
revolution?"

I provocatively ask an old man who sells newspapers in my neighborhood.
"Girl! Which revolution are you referring to, the one that made Batista
flee or the one that is making all Cubans escape? The 1959 revolution
was over the moment 'this one' handed over the country to the Russians,
now the only thing the brother wants is to give it back to the Americans
and to keep himself a nice slice."

I probably never before heard such an accurate synthesis of what the
history of the Revolution means today to many a Cuban.

*Translator's note: Those who lost investment and personal property when
companies were nationalized in 1959 and early 1960's. From one of
Fidel's speeches, "we broke their wish bone and we will continue to
break their wish bone".

Translated by Norma Whiting

11 April 2014

Source: Driving in Reverse / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/driving-in-reverse-miriam-celaya/ Continue reading
(Originally published in Cubanet the April 11, 2014 , titled ” Raul Castro Goes in Reverse”) Clearly, the new Foreign Investment Law “approved” by the usual parliamentary unanimity last March 29, 2014, has been the talk of the town on … Continue reading Continue reading
Why Congress must rethink sanctions on Cuba
By Reihan Salam APRIL 11, 2014

Alan Gross, the 64-year-old American who has been imprisoned by Cuban
authorities since 2009, is an unremarkable man on the surface. He could
be a friend or colleague, or an uncle you've been meaning to call.

Yet what distinguishes Gross from most of the rest of us, myself
included, is his courage. As a sub-contractor for the U.S. Agency for
International Development, Gross traveled to Cuba to help private
citizens gain access to the Internet, and thus to news and information
not managed or manufactured by the Cuban government. Gross likely knew
that his work was dangerous, but he may have underestimated the risk he
was taking. In a heartbreaking letter to President Obama, Gross
recounted the many ways his wife and daughters have suffered in his
absence. He beseeched the president to intervene in his case.

And so Gross, a husband and father from Maryland who seems to want
nothing more than to be reunited with his family, has reignited the
decades-long debate over how the United States should deal with Cuba, a
rogue state that continues to adhere to Marxist-Leninist one-party rule
long after the collapse of its Soviet patron.

While some lawmakers, including Cuban-American Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), have urged the Obama administration not to
negotiate — but instead to demand Gross's unconditional release — Sen.
Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has led the chorus of those calling for the
president to play ball with Cuba's rulers, or rather to "not shrink from
the obligation to negotiate for his freedom."

What the Cuban government wants most is a relaxation of the economic
sanctions the U.S. government first imposed on the island nation in
1963, when it became clear that Fidel Castro intended to align his new
regime with the Soviet Union and to have Cuba serve as a staging ground
for armed insurgencies throughout Latin America.

In the decades since then, the sanctions regime has evolved in various
ways. There are now a number of licensed exemptions that allow Americans
to provide humanitarian assistance in Cuba, or that allow academic
researchers to travel there. Cuban households receive $2.6 billion in
remittances from Cuban immigrants and people of Cuban origin living
abroad, most of which comes from the United States. And as Emily Parker
observed earlier this week, for example, the Obama administration made
it somewhat easier for U.S. telecom providers to do business with Cuba
in 2009, in an effort to encourage the free flow of information in and
out of the country.

So should the U.S. government ease economic sanctions even further? The
plight of Alan Gross represents an opportunity to rethink the sanctions
regime. One widely held view is that U.S. sanctions actually serve to
entrench the current Cuban government, as they allow Cuba's rulers to
tightly control the flow of resources in and out of the island, and also
to blame the United States for the poverty and deprivation that plagues
Cuban society. The problem with this line of thinking, as Mauricio
Claver-Carone, director of Cuba Democracy Advocates and a proponent of
sanctions, notes, is that foreign trade and investment in Cuba is the
exclusive domain of the state.

Whereas the Chinese government offers wide latitude to private
enterprises, both domestic and foreign-owned, to operate on Chinese
soil, the Cuban government severely limits the scope for private
economic activity. This is one reason why China "feels" like a freer
society than Cuba, despite the fact that the Chinese government
maintains a large and expensive repressive apparatus. To grow the
Chinese economy, China's rulers have had little choice but to relax
their grip on investment and entrepreneurship.

In recent years, the Cuban government has allowed for the emergence of a
small-scale "self-employment" sector. Yet this sector shouldn't be
mistaken for private enterprise, as self-employed individuals are barred
from building their own independent businesses. If sanctions are lifted
without conditions, it seems more likely than not that the Cuban
government would insist that all U.S. trade and investment be channeled
through state-owned entities. Given Cuba's parlous fiscal state, this
would be an enormous boon.

Rather than lift sanctions unilaterally, the U.S. ought to consider
modifying the approach it has taken since passage of the Helms-Burton
Act of 1996. Under Helms-Burton, the U.S. is prepared to lift sanctions
if and when Cuba releases political prisoners and allows for the
inspection of its prison facilities, legalizes political activity and
opposition parties, and abolishes its secret police. Essentially, the
law insists on immediate regime change, and it is easy to see why Cuba's
rulers find its conditions unacceptable.

Congress ought to consider a new approach: the U.S. will relax sanctions
if Cuba allows its citizens greater scope to build their own private
businesses, which will have the right to engage in foreign trade,
receive foreign investment, and employ workers. The Cuban government
will, of course, be allowed to tax and regulate these private
businesses, but it will have to offer its citizens at least some
economic liberty, so that an influx of U.S. trade and investment won't
simply bolster the Cuban state and Cuba's repressive apparatus.

Yes, Cuba's propagandists will characterize this deal as yet another
example of Yankee meddling. It is also true, however, that this approach
would offer Cuba's rulers a meaningful alternative to Regime Change Now
while also allaying the concerns of Americans who fear that easing
sanctions might strengthen the current regime. And by loosening the
economic stranglehold of Cuba's state-owned monopolies, we can give
Cubans the breathing room they need to start building a free society.

Source: Why Congress must rethink sanctions on Cuba | Reihan Salam -
http://blogs.reuters.com/reihan-salam/2014/04/11/congress-sanctions/ Continue reading
PriceSmart and Cuba in 'shopping' dispute
By rickey singh
Story Created: Apr 12, 2014 at 8:40 PM ECT

International ware­house shopping company PriceSmart, which operates
in vari­ous Caribbean Com­mu­nity (Caricom) states, is under sharp
criticisms for now involving Cuba's diplomatic mis­sions in the region
in the more than half-cen­tury of America's trade, economic and
financial blockade of that Caribbean nation.
Immediately affected Cuban missions include Barbados, Jamaica, and
Trinidad and Tobago where accredited diplo­mats, their families and
staff have been in­formed by PriceSmart management of the sus­pension of
busi­ness ac­counts after being ad­vised by the parent company of
possible vio­lations of the US embargo in trans­acting business with
Cu­bans without "per­manent residency" in countries of their opera­tions.
In a mixture of hila­ri­ty and strong warning, current Caricom chairman
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Gre­na­dines Dr Ralph Gon­salves
said in a telephone interview yesterday that the US government should be
"mindful of the implications of Price­Smart's action".
He pointed out while at first, he could not resist "laughing at this
infantile political move", he was never­theless mindful that PriceSmart
is in­corporated into the laws of sovereign Carib­be­an states, and now
enga­ging in "unnecessary, unprovoked acts" against Cuba's diplomatic
per­sonnel and other Cuban nationals who are wor­king in various
regional sectors, including doctors and nurses.
The Vincentian prime minister said neither the US government nor owners
and operators of corporate enterprises like PriceSmart could be
unmindful of the historic role initially played by Caricom countries to
bring Cuba out of the "dip­lo­matic isolation" to which the US economic
embargo had assigned it, following its Fidel Cas­tro-led 1959 revolution.
Further, of the com­mu­­nity's continuing involve­ment with the rest of
the international commu­nity, minus the mi­nis­­cule exception of three,
in passage year after year, resolutions denouncing the "archaic law"
gover­ning the embargo which has "miserably failed to destabilise" the
govern­ment in Havana or to "quench the revolution­ary spirit of the
Cuban peo­ple...".

'Criminal act'

Criticisms of Price­Smart's suspension of bus­iness accounts for
Cu­­bans have come from
Cuba's embassies in Ja­mai­ca, Barbados, and Trini­dad and Tobago,
headed respectively by ambassadors Bernardo Guanche Hernandez, Lis­ette
Perez Perez and Guit­termo Vazquez Moreno.
For ambassador Her­nan­dez, the decision by PriceSmart constituted "a
criminal act, based on an anachronistic law" which violates the Vienna
convention.
In Barbados, ambas­sa­dor Perez disclosed a representative of the local
PriceSmart turned up to inform the embassy about the suspension of
business transactions while, he explained, they invest "effort, time
and resources" in pursuing lawful channels in the US which "may enable
us to reactivate those accounts…".
The resident Cuban diplo­matic missions in Barba­dos, Jamaica, and
Trini­dad and Tobago have pointed to "unne­ces­sary inconveniences" to
non-embassy staff like Cuban doctors and teachers.
According to ambassador Pe­­rez, there seems to be an "un­derlying
intention to en­courage defec­tions" by Cubans, in favour of having
per­manent resident status that would enable them to do "membership
busi­ness" with PriceSmart.
"This is the sort of con­tempt by those", she said, "who do not really
understand what the Cu­ban revolution and Cuban patriotism mean for us...".
Ironically, the move by Price­Smart to suspend busi­ness tran­sactions
with Cu­ban di­plo­matic missions and Cubans who do not have permanent
work­­ing status in Caricom states came against the backdrop of approval
last month by the Cuban National Assem­bly of a ground-breaking
for­eign-investment law to en­cou­rage a new "development partner­ship"
that would be exten­ded also to overseas-based Cubans.

Source: PriceSmart and Cuba in 'shopping' dispute | Trinidad Express
Newspaper | News -
http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/PriceSmart-and-Cuba--in-shopping-dispute--255047631.html Continue reading
Family, friends of US contractor held in Cuba plead for US to do more to
secure release
By Barnini Chakraborty Published April 13, 2014FoxNews.com

WASHINGTON – For Alan Gross, the American contractor locked up in a
Cuban prison on spying charges, the road to freedom seems increasingly
out of reach.

The Maryland resident, who repeatedly has denied working for any
intelligence agency, was arrested by Cuban authorities in 2009, stripped
of his rights and thrown into a foreign prison.

Since then, his family has worked tireless – and unsuccessfully -- to
bring him home.

Gross currently is being held at the Carlos Finlay Military Hospital in
the Havana Providence in Cuba where he spends 23 hours a day in a small
cell with two other men. He is let out of his cramped quarters for an
hour each day, led to a small courtyard with high walls and if he is
lucky, he gets to catch a glimpse of the sun.

After his 60 minutes are up, the 64-year-old man who is facing another
long decade behind bars heads back to his cell.

The details of Gross' daily routine were relayed to FoxNews.com by his
legal team. With Gross starting, and recently ending, a one-week hunger
strike, he and his supporters are trying to draw more attention to his
case and urge the U.S. government to do more to help.

In December -- the four-year anniversary of his imprisonment – Gross
wrote President Obama a letter pleading for the White House to get
involved and negotiate his release.

So far, Gross hasn't heard back, his camp tells FoxNews.com. But that's
where the stories start to blur.

The White House is on record multiple times calling on the Cuban
government to let Gross go. Gross was working at the time of his arrest
as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development on
expanding Internet access.

In December, around the same time Gross sent the letter to the
president, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Gross
was a "dedicated professional with a long history of providing aid to
underserved communities in more than 50 countries" and called for his
release.

In the past, the Obama administration has called Gross' case a sticking
point in improving ties with Cuba but has rejected any prisoner trade
for Gross.

In March 2011, following Gross's sentencing, Philip Crowley, the
assistant secretary in the bureau of public affairs at the State
Department, issued a statement: "We deplore this ruling."

"Alan Gross is a dedicated international development worker who has
devoted his life to helping people in more than 50 countries," Crowley
said. "He was in Cuba to help the Cuban people connect with the rest of
the world."

Still, while U.S. officials say they're pressing his case, it's unclear
to what lengths they have gone to pursue his release. Attorney Scott
Gilbert said: "We really hope that the two governments can work
something out and do what it takes. He wants to come home ... the only
way that will happen is if Obama gets involved, and that hasn't happened."

Gross, a native New Yorker, moved south where attended school at the
University of Maryland and at Virginia Commonwealth University in
Richmond, Va., where he studied social work.

In 2001, Gross formed the Joint Business Development Center -- a Chevy
Chase, Md.-based company that works to increase Internet connections abroad.

As the boss, his career took him around the world. His passport has been
stamped in Africa, Europe, Afghanistan and Iraq.

His friends and family describe the 64-year-old, white-haired contractor
as a gentle humanitarian, a loving husband and father of two girls, now
grown up and living in Oregon and Israel. His wife, Judy, a social
worker, is still by his side and lobbying for his release.

"I've been begging our government for more than four years to bring Alan
home," she said in a written statement. "I'm worried sick about Alan's
health, and I don't think he can survive much more of this."

Gross has lost 110 pounds in prison. He has a growing list of health
problems and is considerably weaker, his camp says.

It's been hard on Judy, too. In the four years her husband has been in a
Cuban prison, she has been forced to sell their Maryland home, unable to
afford the mortgage in the upscale Potomac, Md., neighborhood.

Last week, Gross announced through his attorney Gilbert that we was
going on a hunger strike, "enraged" over recent reports about the
controversial "Cuban Twitter" project, first reported by The Associated
Press.

The project, a communication network called ZunZuneo, was reportedly
built to stir unrest on the island. USAID, the same agency Gross was
working for when he was arrested in 2009, was behind the now-defunct
project. Gross and his supporters voiced concern that the project could
have put him at additional risk.

"I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions and inaction by both
governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my
arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any responsible or
valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal," Gross said via a
telephone conversation he had with Gilbert.

By Friday, Gross had called off the strike.

Disheartened, his friends, family and legal team say they'll push even
harder for his release, especially in light of the ZunZuneo report. They
argue the government has put his safety at risk and continues to do so
every day he is in Cuba. They also blame his employer – USAID. "Once
Alan was arrested, it is shocking that USAID would imperil his safety
even further by running a covert operation in Cuba," Gilbert said in a
statement.

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said earlier this week he's gotten
emails from USAID employees "all over the world" asking "how could they
do this, to put us in such danger?"

At issue are a range of secretive USAID programs the agency claims are
not "covert" – but aren't widely publicized either. Having them outed,
some argue, leaves contractors like Gross in danger.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said the responsibility for Gross'
imprisonment lies with Cuba.

"The State Department has led an aggressive effort to help Alan secure
his release," Shah said at the same Senate subcommittee.

Source: Family, friends of US contractor held in Cuba plead for US to do
more to secure release | Fox News -
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/04/12/family-friends-us-contractor-held-in-cuba-pleads-to-obama-for-his-release/ Continue reading
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius talks to Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade and Commerce Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz. Photo: Reuters The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, has met his Cuban counterpart, Continue reading
Cuba protests PriceSmart’s suspension of memberships in Jamaica By Aileen Torres-Bennett KINGSTON, April 11 (Reuters) – Cuba is protesting the decision by PriceSmart Inc, a major U.S.-based bulk-shopping warehouse, to suspend memberships of shoppers from the communist country at its Jamaica subsidiary, Cuban officials said on Friday. PriceSmart took the action this week, citing the […] Continue reading
Cuban authorities invited foreign entrepreneurs in the construction field to invest at the Mariel Harbor Special Development Zone. Argentina: Cuban Trade Mission Meets with FM and Officials During Continue reading
A Cuban trade mission, headed by Antonio Carricarte, first deputy minister of Foreign Investment and Trade, is in Argentina to boost bilateral economic and commercial relations and to meet with government Continue reading
Cuba Opens the Gates to Foreign Capital / Ivan Garcia
Posted on April 10, 2014

When a government's financial figures are in the red, everything takes
on new urgency. By now the formulas to address the problem are
well-known. Often new tax measures are imposed while bloated public
spending is slashed.

But if the goal is to attract American dollars, euros or other forms of
hard currency, then any reforms must tempt likely foreign investors and
Cuban exiles alike.

The situation is pressing. Venezuela, the spigot from which Cuba's oil
flows, is in a firestorm of criminal and political violence and economic
chaos. China is an ideological partner but only makes loans if it can
reap some benefit.

The Cuban government does not have a lot of room to maneuver. Its
solution has been to open things up a little but not completely. Except
in the areas of health, education and defense, Cuba is for sale.

The communist party's propaganda experts have been trying to sugarcoat
the message to its audience. In recent months government officials have
been working to attract foreign capital by offering investors a more
important role in the Cuban economy.

"Foreign financial resources would do more than provide a complementary
role to domestic investment initiatives and would play an important
role, even in areas such as agriculture, where foreign investment has
been rare," said Pedro San Jorge, Director of Economic Policy at the
Ministry for Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, in January.

In an interview with the newspaper Granma on March 17, José Luis Toledo
Santander, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly
of People's Power for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, said the new law
"will also provide for a range of investments so that those who wish may
know the areas of interest in the country."

"This action will also be a breakthrough in terms of the paperwork
required to make an investment by creating a more streamlined process,"
the official added in response to a common complaint by business people
that the Cuban bureaucracy is too slow.

Toledo Santander said the new law "also includes incentives and tax
exemptions in certain circumstances, as well as an easing of customs
duties to encourage investment."

He stressed that "the process of foreign investment will be introduced
without the country relinquishing its sovereignty or its chosen social
and political system: socialism. This new law will allow foreign
investment to be better targeted so that it serves the best interests of
national development without concessions or setbacks."

On Saturday March 29 the national television news broadcast reported
sometime after 1 PM that the single-voice Cuban parliament had
unanimously passed a new foreign investment law without providing more
details

The new law provides for an exception to one passed in 1995 which
assigned foreign capital a "complimentary" role in Cuban state
investments. This meant that foreign investors could hold no more than a
50% stake in any joint venture.

The proportion was higher when it came to technology and retail
businesses but only because of a strong interest in these sectors on the
part of military autocrats. Between 1996 and 2003 roughly 400 firms in
the mining, hospitality, food, automotive and real estate sectors were
created in Cuba with foreign capital.

All were small-scale and supervised closely by authorities. Now it's a
choice of life or death. Fidel Castro's revolution generated many
promises and speeches, but these did nothing to foster the economic
development that the country needed.

Cuba imports everything from toothbrushes to ball-point pens. Large
areas of arable land are overrun with the invasive Marabou weed, and
produce little or nothing. In 2013 the government imported almost two
billion dollars worth of food.

Since 1959 government leaders have continuously promised ample harvests
of malanga, potatoes and oranges coffee as well as a glass of milk per
person per day, but the inefficient economic system hampers any such
nationial initiatives.

Finally the last trump card was played. It involved opening the gates by
luring foreign investors with generous tax exemptions. They included
Cubans living in the United States and Europe but not virulent
anti-Castro Cuban-Americans from Florida.

If they toned down their strident anti-Castro rhetoric, then perhaps
Alfonso Fanjul, Carlos Saladrigas and company might come under
consideration also.

Of course, it is not all clear sailing. The U.S. embargo presents a
powerful obstacle to any business venture on the island. And the Castro
brothers are not serious business partners.

On the contrary. They have changed or corrected course at whim in
response to shifting political dynamics. Of the roughly 400 foreign
firms that existed in 1998, only about 200 remained in operation as of
spring 2014.

Several foreign businessmen, including Canadians, have been threatened
with imprisonment while others, like Chilean Max Marambio*, have had
arrest warrants issued against them by Cuban prosecutors.

Raul Castro, who inherited power by decree from his brother Fidel in
2006, has tried to clean up government institutions and establish more
legal coherence, abolishing absurd laws that prevented the Cubans
renting hotel rooms, having mobile phones and selling their own homes
and cars.

In January 2013 a new emigration law was adopted that made it easier for
Cubans, including dissidents, to travel abroad. Internet access became
available, though at jaw-dropping prices, and Peugeot cars went on sale,
though priced as if they were Lamborghinis.

For many European and American politicians, Cuba is in the process of
becoming a modern nation whose past sins as well, as it's the lack of
democracy and freedom of expression, must be forgiven. Others say it's
just a ploy to buy time.

The average Cuba, whose morning coffee does not include milk, who has
only one hot meal a day and who wastes two hours a day commuting to and
from work on the inefficient public transport system, is not likely to
be impressed with the much hyped opportunities.

Those who open private restaurants or receive remittances from overseas
can weather the storm. Those who work for the state — in other words,
most people — are the ones having it the worst.

Although the regime may try to camouflage its new policies by resorting
to various ideological stunts, the person on the street realizes that
the new Cuban reality is nothing more than state capitalism painted over
in red.

For a wide segment of the Cuban population, the new investment law is a
distant echo. It is yet to be see if it bring them any benefits.

Ivan Garcia

*Translator's note: In 2010 Cuban prosecutors accused Marambio and his
firm, Río Zaza, of corruption. Marambio claimed the actions were
retribution on the part of Fidel and Raul Castro for his support for
Marco Enríquez-Ominami, a candidate in Chile's 2009 presidential
election. Marambio filed suit with the International Court of
Arbitration in Paris against his Cuban business partner, Coralsa, a
state-owned juice and dairy company. On July 17 the court found in favor
of Marambio and ordered Coralsa to pay over $17.5 million dollars in
damages "for refusing to cooperate in good faith" in the process of
liquidating Rio Zaza.

30 March 2014

Source: Cuba Opens the Gates to Foreign Capital / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-opens-the-gates-to-foreign-capital-ivan-garcia/ Continue reading
BUENOS AIRES, April 10 (NNN-Prensa Latina) -- Argentina and Cuba wants long term strategic relations based on complementary and mutually beneficial economic and trade opportunities, says Antonio Carricarte, Continue reading
Prensa Latina Thursday 10th April, 2014 Buenos Aires, Apr 10 (Prensa Latina) Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman meets today Cuban First Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Continue reading
When a government’s financial figures are in the red, everything takes on new urgency. By now the formulas to address the problem are well-known. Often new tax measures are imposed while bloated public spending is slashed. But if the goal … Continue reading Continue reading
APRIL 10, 2014 4:00 AM

Sending Ideas to Cuba
The Castro regime appreciates that Communism cannot survive the free
flow of communication.
By Mike Gonzalez

Cubans have lived on an information desert island for more than 50
years. Ten million people, once a vibrant part of the world — in tune
with it and contributing to it, receiving information and even
immigrants — were cut off soon after Fidel Castro took over in 1959.
That the world has done nothing to help them after five decades of
oppression is an outrage.

What is not an outrage is that the United States Agency for
International Development tried four years ago to circumvent Communist
censorship in Cuba by setting up a text-messaging network that Cubans
could access. This "Cuban Twitter" was a ray of hope that should be
celebrated.

Not apparently by the Associated Press and others who have cried foul.
The news agency exposed the program last week under the headline "US
secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' to stir unrest." This week the U.S.
Senate got in on the act with a hearing at which Democrats took the
agency to task. It is passing strange that journalists and legislators
whose trade depends on a free flow of information should get a bad case
of the vapors when Cubans are given access to each other and the outside
world. Let's concentrate, however, on why USAID's action should be
applauded, not denigrated.
Cubans have no independent press. The three national newspapers and
eight television stations are under the control of the Communist party.
Only 5 percent of Cubans have access to the Internet, according to the
watchdog group Freedom House. This 5 percent is presumably the
percentage the regime thinks it can count on.

What Cubans have, in other words, is 24/7 Castro propaganda. The reason
is very simple. As with all totalitarian regimes, Communism cannot
survive the free flow of ideas. If people under Communism were exposed
to alternative viewpoints, not even the most ruthless police state could
hold them back.

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) put it succinctly at an event, on the
Internet and Cuba, that the Heritage Foundation hosted with Google two
years ago: "The regime is so afraid of sharing information because they
can't survive it."

Communist governments must rely on a mixture of state terror,
information blackout, and constant propaganda. It's no coincidence that
Cubans share their fate with North Koreans and the Chinese, whose
countries also ban an independent press, or that the Communist party in
Beijing is busily squelching the last few remnants of the free press in
Hong Kong and putting pressure on bankers to stop advertising in the
last truly free newspaper, Apple Daily.

I know whereof I speak. Today I take for granted my information-rich
environment, my drives to work in the morning as I toggle between NPR,
talk radio, and C-SPAN Radio, and my office decked out with two screens,
one on which I typed this article, the other devoted to Tweet Deck,
which I think of as my personal wire-service newsroom.

As a child I wasn't as fortunate, and neither was my father. As a young
Cuban in the 1960s, I saw him huddle in the evenings around the
pre-Castro shortwave radio he used to receive information from abroad,
his ear pegged to it because he had to keep the volume low lest he be
overheard by neighborhood snitches and instantly arrested. Owning such a
device was illegal, so we hid it during the day.

Even my father's father was luckier. He could use his radio show to
fulminate against the dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1940s. Sure, my
grandfather had to avoid Batista's thugs from time to time, and once
they tried to force him to drink a bottle of airplane fuel to intimidate
him.

But my father under Castro had no recourse to his father's "luxury." He
had no independent media he could use to communicate with thousands or
even millions of other Cubans. Had father taken to our porch to give his
thoughts an airing, he would have been heard by only a handful of people
before being arrested and probably later shot.

The difference between the three generations of my family is the
difference between authoritarian regimes, totalitarian ones, and
freedom. Venezuela has demonstrators in the streets because there is
still some vestige of independent media there. If its goonish
authoritarian regime succeeds at quashing that rebellion, it will try to
turn Venezuela into a version of Cuba and North Korea.

It was precisely that totalitarian control on the flow of ideas that
USAID was trying to sidestep. It was trying to give Cubans access to
ideas from outside and, more important, let them communicate with one
another.

Was that subversive? Yes, I suppose it was. But was it noble? Yes, very
much so. That 10 million Cubans today should suffer the same fate as my
father 50 years ago is a tragedy.

— Mike Gonzalez is vice president of communications at the Heritage
Foundation. His book on Hispanics will be out in September.

Source: Sending Ideas to Cuba | National Review Online -
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Cuba promises to offer internet to all citizens — with restrictions
More and more Cubans have access to cellphones and email accounts
JUAN JESÚS AZNAREZ Havana 8 ABR 2014 - 19:19 CET

The Cuban government has promised that it will allow its citizens to
access the internet from their homes – something that can currently only
be done at state-run internet cafés – but it said it would not permit
them to access "counter-revolutionary" sites financed by Washington.

Cuba has recently made inroads into opening up its society and allowing
people to connect with the outside world. But according to dissidents,
new technologies are still restricted in many ways because Cuban
Communist Party (PCC) leaders fear that more openness will lead to them
losing their hold on absolute power.

At the same time, Havana angrily lodged a protest with Washington last
week over its promotion of an ambitious cellphone texting service
designed to bombard users with anti-Castro messages.

On a recent day when Cuban authorities denied to EL PAÍS that they were
restricting access to global networks, dozens of young people interested
in purchasing a cellphone, opening an email account and surfing the
internet could be seen crowding in front of the state-run ETECSA
communications office in Havana's El Vedado district.

An estimated two million Cubans, out of a total population of 11
million, own a cellphone – a growing number, but still miniscule
compared with other Latin American nations. Around 330,000 islanders are
also permitted to surf the internet through government-approved
accounts. Cubans can check their emails at cybercafés and by cellphone
through a new state domain: name@nauta.cu.

They don't want everyone using Facebook or Twitter"
Another undetermined number use pirated internet signals or email
accounts opened by friends abroad.

"There is no censorship but we lack the technical capability to offer
more than what we can offer with the budget we have," explains Tania
Velázquez, an ETECSA official. The state communications agency runs 118
internet centers for the public across the island, containing a total of
520 computers running on slow 2G networks. Government officials have
their own internet service.

"We need to invest more, in the manner in which we can, to obtain more
technical capacity but there are no regulatory or commercial barriers.
Our objective is to reach all households," says Luis Manuel Díaz,
another ETECSA official.

But sources say the government has no intention of allowing this to
happen. The connectivity is there: an underwater fiber optic cable
linking Cuba with Venezuela has been in operation for about a year now.

"They don't want everyone using Facebook or Twitter, and allowing people
to always be connected, which could lead to an eventual mobilization,"
says one businessman, who describes himself as "interested" in President
Raúl Castro's economic reforms.

An estimated two million Cubans, out of a total population of 11
million, own a cellphone
But the Cuban government also has other reasons. On Thursday, the Cuban
Foreign Ministry lodged an official complaint over a plan by agencies
and private companies with links to the Obama administration "to promote
subversion" on the island.

The complaint came after the Associated Press reported earlier this
month that the United States tried to initiate a "Twitter-like" Cuban
messaging service called Zunzuneo to offer news, sports and
entertainment to thousands of subscribers on the island. According to
the plan – supported by documents and interviews obtained by AP – once
the service reached a certain number of subscribers, political messages
would be transmitted in the hope of mobilizing the people to push for
change.

According to AP, the system was developed in Barcelona. The Obama
administration defended the program and said it complied with US
anti-espionage and trade laws but there are critics who believe otherwise.

Two years ago, the US Treasury Department imposed a $1.75 billion fine
on Ericsson, the world's biggest cellphone company, for doing business
with Cuba and violating the 1962 US embargo with the island.

And there have been ways to circumvent US laws. In 2007, Cuba and
Venezuela signed an agreement for a fiber optic cable that connected the
island with the South American nation, which went into operation last
year and has given the island better connectivity.

Source: Cuba promises to offer internet to all citizens — with
restrictions | In English | EL PAÍS -
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