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”mañana is always better in cuba”
presently cuba is walking on the edge of an economic abyss.
by gonzalo fernández
12.20.10
general

Raúl Castro, President of the Council of State and Ministers, was confirmed as the First Secretary of the Central Committee during the 6th Cuban Communist Party Congress on April 2011. These are Cuba’s two top positions that were held by his brother Fidel for over fifty years, until being relinquished as a result of the elder leader’s illness.

Raúl Castro made this pronouncement, among others, in a two-hour speech during this reunion:

“We are convinced that the mission ahead of us in this and other issues related to the updating of the Economic Model (to improve the living conditions of the Cuban people) is full of complexities and interrelations that, one way or another, touch on every aspect of society as a whole. For that reason, we are aware that it is not something that can be solved overnight, or even in 12 months, and that it will take at least five years to implement with the necessary comprehensiveness and harmony.”1

This means that better economic conditions for the Cuban people are intended to take place at the end of the next five-year period (quinquenio in Spanish,) or “tomorrow... mañana.”

“On the eve of the Cuban Revolution about 80 % of Cuba’s arable land was under cultivation (or used for grazing) and domestic production supplied 70 % of the country’s food consumption. The comparable figures today are 60 % and 20% respectively.” 2

The top government officials and the top nomenclature layers are not in a rush. Government officials, part of the inner circle, live and will continue living in luxury; the top nomenclature layers live and will continue living as upper middle class. The majority of the Cuban people live and will continue living in misery, knowing that the new promised “tomorrow” will not likely happen, as many other promised “tomorrows” have not happened in the last ten “quinquenios.”

In another pronouncement Raúl Castro said: “… we have reached the conclusion that it is advisable to recommend limiting tenure in fundamental political and state positions to a maximum of two five-year terms.”1

It seems that this guideline is for others in the future. The Castros have been in power for fifty two years. Applying the two five-year terms, Raúl Castro’s intention is to extend their tenure to more than sixty years, when Raúl will be approaching the age of ninety.

Prior to this congress, practically all the political prisoners had been granted conditional freedom, with the majority of them accepting deportation to Spain, accompanied by their families. This effort was the direct result of negotiations facilitated by the Catholic Church hierarchy, in collaboration with the Spanish government.

Freedom of speech, freedom of association and many other human rights are still denied to the majority of the Cuban people. Those that dare to speak out their minds or try to gather with other dissenters are called “mercenaries” (in service to the United States.) Some are attacked by government sponsored mobs, as in the past, while being subjected to verbal insults, bullying and physical beatings in many cases. Recently, dissenters have been detained by Castro’s police for two to three days. So far, they have not been brought into the courts by authorities, where they would be charged with imaginary offenses, as oftentimes has happened in the past.

A few days ago a dissident, Juan Wilfredo Soto García, died in a hospital in Santa Clara city, his hometown. The official line from the Castro dictatorship is that Soto died from pancreatitis.

Friends and dissidents close to Soto García have denounced that his death came after he was beaten by Castro’s policemen.

“Santa Clara dissident Guillermo Fariñas said he had spoken with about 15 people who claimed to have seen at least one policeman beat a handcuffed Soto with a rubber truncheon Thursday morning at the downtown Vidal Park.

Soto was talking with friends during a regular morning gathering at the park, not protesting, when a policeman approached only him, asked for his ID documents and ordered him to leave. Soto argued, the policeman cuffed him and then beat him, according to Fariñas.

A police officer passing by in a patrol car then told the others that he knew Soto suffered from various ailments and ordered that he be driven to the Arnaldo Milian Castro Hospital, where he was treated and released.

Fariñas added, Lleonart, a pastor in the town of Taguayabon, 20 miles from the central Cuba city of Santa Clara, told El Nuevo Herald that he was in Santa Clara Thursday morning when he spotted Soto, a friend and fellow Baptist who lived in Santa Clara. The dissident was going home from the hospital aboard a “bicitaxi” – a pedal-powered three-wheeler – and stopped to ask the pastor to notify his friends that police had beaten him at the Vidal Park, the pastor noted.

“They beat me savagely in the park,’’ the pastor quoted Soto as saying. “They handcuffed me and beat me with truncheons on the back.” 3

An article in Foreign Policy magazine has ranked Cuba’s Raúl Castro as the world’s 4th worst dictator, and argued that after 52 years of Castro brothers rule “Cubans are stirring.”

Castro is being forced by a listless economy to slash subsidies that kept people in line for decades and will now rely “entirely on state repression...” 4

This is a message loud and clear for Fidel and Raúl Castro:

Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics, told CNN…(regarding Moammar Gadhafi.)

"If you oppress your people, if you don't engage your civil society, if you stay in power for so many years, this will be your end."

1 Source: Granma International, electronic news media controlled by the Cuban government. granma.cuba/English
2 Source: Cuba: A Tragedy of the Commons, José Azel, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami, October 11, 2011
3 Source: Uncommon Sense blog by Marc Masferrer.
4 Source: JTAMAYO@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM September 12, 2011.

Raúl Castro, in a speech to the Cuban parliament, warned of the danger of Cuba walking on the edge of an economic abyss. He promised reforms to avoid it.

.. he was highly critical of errors in half a century of socialism in Cuba.
Raúl Castro: “O rectificamos o nos hundimos.” (We either rectify or sink)
Mauricio Vicent, 12/18/2010, ELPAIS.com, translation.

The reforms will start with laying off half a million of government and government business employees that account for almost all the Cuban national product. Another half a million lay off of persons in these payrolls will take place in the near future. Cuba's work force totals 5.1 million, in a population of 11.2 million. Source: Cuba's labor strife, by Anne-Marie García, The Associated Press, July 18, 2010.

The expectation is that almost all the laid off people will find jobs in the private sector, currently insignificant, but changing, through promised government’s support, into an important contribution to the Cuban economy in a long list of sectors that have been approved for private operations. Raúl Castro emphasized in his speech that working in the private sector will not be seen as a stigma in the future.

The improvements in the Cuban economy are expected to take place in a five year period starting in 2011, or “mañana.”

(Raúl Castro) also said progress had been made in renegotiating debt, while orders had gone out to take on no more debt unless it can be paid on time. Castro's words will be welcomed by foreign account holders who have not been able to get money from their Cuban banks for two years because the communist-led country lacked cash. The account freeze, believed to have at one time totaled about $1 billion, has strained relations between Cuba and the international business community.

Last year, Castro said 30 percent of the accounts had been unblocked, and on Saturday he said the number of affected accounts "continued diminishing." The restrictions "will be totally abolished next year," (“mañana) he said.
Cuba sees 3.1% growth in 2011, end to foreign business bank account freeze.
The Daily Herald, December 18, 2010.

The payroll bloating in Cuba is a consequence of the confiscations of all private businesses, including shoe-shining booth, in the 1960s. Most of these businesses, including the sugar industry, were mismanaged through what Castro called “errors in half a century of socialism.”

Full employment objectives prevailed; as productive activities dwindled, unnecessary personnel were kept in the payrolls. Additionally, a centralized socialist economy required numerous bureaucratic jobs in micromanagement.

Raúl Castro is addressing the major problems in Cuba. These were identified in my book “Cuba’s Primer – Castro’s Earring Economy” as shown in these two paragraphs:

In my opinion, the major internal problem that Cuba faces is that Communism has destroyed within the populace the will to work meaningfully, with ramifications among all segments of the Cuban workforce.

The major external problem for Castro is that Cuba has been purchasing, but no paying, to many of the nations that have not adopted embargo policies against Cuba, choosing instead to provide all kind of goods on credit.

The Castros have promised all kind of improvements to the Cuban economy through grandiose programs in the past, with very little accomplishments. Will these “mañanas” happen this time?


ABOUT GONZALO FERNÁNDEZ

Gonzalo is a business consultant. He is one of the coauthors of The Handbook of Financing Growth, Wiley, Second Edition, 2009, Marks, Robbins, Fernández, Funkhouser and Williams. In Cuba's Primer, Lulu, 2009, he writes with the conviction and knowledge of a personal witness.

more about gonzalo fernández

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COMMENTS

russ carr
12.21.10 @ 11:41a

Avoiding economic collapse by kicking 1 million people off the state's paybook is about as practical as "building a new democracy" by establishing rule by decree. My sympathy to Cubans and Venezuelans; 2011 will not be pleasant. ¡Viva la revolucion!

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