Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Economic news

  • On Thursday October 1, the Cuban government will close workers’ cafeterias in four ministries and pay workers 15 pesos daily to buy their lunch. Granma explains that it costs $350 million per year to provide free lunches at 24,700 workplace cafeterias and the measure is being taken to achieve “economic rationality,” but it doesn’t estimate how much money will be saved. It notes that some ministries have large food inventories, and food from these stocks often ends up in the black market. The article explains that this initial action is “experimental,” and will later be extended throughout the country. The article, titled “Giving, more than taking away,” takes pains to assure readers that the action will be taken gradually and that ministries and enterprises cannot close cafeterias on their own; this can only be done when the Ministry of Economy says so. In the case of these four closings, it notes that various nearby state enterprises will be able to provide lunch and is silent on whether private entrepreneurs will play any role. AFP says this is likely to be “the biggest rollback of an entitlement since Cuba’s 1959 revolution.”

  • Comandante de la Revolucion and government minister Ramiro Valdes says Cubans need “to participate in the solution of their own problems and not wait for the daddy-state [papรก Estado] to come solve them…Here everyone needs to work, everyone needs to contribute, everyone also needs to bring solutions, ideas.” Ok, but will the state allow people solve their own problems? Valdes made the remarks on a tour of Santiago. El Nuevo Herald story here.

  • Reuters: A Chinese company is entering a joint venture in Cuba to build the “Hemingway Hotel” at the marina in western Havana.

  • Granma airs some dirty laundry: Some state enterprises are not paying farmers for the produce they have delivered, even though they have the budget to do so. At the end of August, 2 million pesos were owed to farmers. “It is an immorality to make the producer think that the state does not have the will to pay him,” the article says. It goes on to list the municipalities where the problem exists, and suggests pretty clearly that heads will roll. Raul Castro’s first move in agriculture was to settle the state’s debts to farmers. AP story here.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ramiro Valdez' appearance on TV was underwhelming (He was shown overseeing some workers that were digging a trench and then filling it.) His oratorical skills were disappointing. At one point he mentioned that one of the reasons the Cuban people should work hard is because there has been a lot of bloodshed up to this point. It is not clear whether he was thinking about the people that has died for the Revolution or because of the repression that he implemented. His remark about delinking people from the State as over-all provider appears disingeneous considering that the State owns all the means of production. Over all a disappointing appearance by the apparently healthiest member of the Top Schelon.

It should also be noted that he controls Cuban TV as minister of Communications and Computers.

Vecino de NF

leftside said...

I think the message was pretty clear - and pretty consistent from what we have been hearing of late. Things are changing but only if everyone makes it so and does their part. There are no magic bullets but there are many little rocks. All the barriers are surmountable with ideas, work and yes, willingness to thoughtfully change the relationship between the State and the people. It is all up for discussion - workplace issues, what the State can cut back on, etc.

But abandoning the Revolution or socialism - no. Some filmmaker friends were just in Havana and told me they could hardly find anyone to say they wanted a true counter-Revolution (they were just doing man on the street interviews about their aspirations for Cuba).

As Fidel has often-times said, there is no guidebook for socialism - for what the correct socialist policy on lunch cafeterias is, for example. There is only a determination to not allow the mandates of capital to dictate to the workers what will be allowed.

The Government has a lot riding on this particular reform. They need to show they can do it - make a change that positively impacts all Cubans - and achieves some efficiencies and rationality at the same time.

Anonymous said...

On Planet Leftside, capitalism dicatates what is allowed.

Anonymous said...

"Some filmmaker friends were just in Havana and told me they could hardly find anyone to say they wanted a true counter-Revolution..."

Gee, Lefty, do you think the answers of the "man in the street" had anything to do with the fact that your filmmaker pals were wearing "I Love Stalin" t-shirts?

leftside said...

Vecino, what "bloodshed" has Valdes "implemented?"

And ownership of the main means of production does not mean the State needs to provide every function in society. That Valdes (and Raul) made this point so directly tells me this cafeteria thing is not the last "entitlement" that Cubans may have to live without.

leftside said...

On Planet Leftside, capitalism dicatates what is allowed.

I just happened to be watching a documentary on (socialist) PBS right now called "Leyendas... the Legends of Cuban Music" where someone is talking about making the decision to sign and record Cachao. He said "One has to make decisions that may not be popular, or that may not be commercial but that you have to make for the sake of your culture." That is what I meant. Socialism is Not allowing the profit motive to decide what ideas, services, what culture can progress and move forward.

Anonymous said...

Leftside,

This is taken from www.thefreelibrary.com. Although I can not confirm its veracity, it sounds accurate.

"Valdes was founder and chief of the Departamento de Investigaciones del Ejercito Rebelde (DIER) becoming interior minister in June 1960, when Cuba's civil war was spreading across the island.

Ramirito became a key player in crushing Cuba's counterrevolution. Ramiro Valdes was responsible for planting distrust and implementing methods of surveillance and hostility, while unfairly abusing his authority against revolutionaries who criticized and questioned things.

He was intolerant During his reign at DIER, he also allowed serious political conflicts to simmer within the counterintelligence His professional and personal relations with Raul Castro got worse by the day.

MINISTER OF INTERIOR--AGAIN

By 1969, the Politburo decided to remove Ramirito from the Interior Ministry; he was replaced by Sergio del Valle Jimenez, a comandante and MINFAR's first deputy minister.

In 1978, Fidel removed Valle and brought Valdes back as minister of interior. Expectations for an improvement failed, and personal rivalries and tensions only increased.

By the time of the III Party Congress in 1986, Valdes was again gone as interior minister and as a member of the Politburo. It seemed as if his political career was over."

The Cuban Ministry of Interior is not in charge of natural parks and mineral rights. It concerns itself with all aspects of national security other than those concerning the Armed Forces. Until the General Ochoa's affair, it was an independent political force in constant confrontation with the Ministry of the Revolutionay Armed Forces headed by Raul Castro. Fidel Castro liked it that way. After the Ochoa affair, the Minister of Interior Abrahantes was arrested and died in prison. The current Minister of Interior is a trusted Army general who is a loyal to Raul Castro.

Ramiro Valdez did a tearful apology in the III Party Congress after boasting earlier that he was number three in the government hierarchy. He was fired as Minister of Interior and all high ranking party posts, and given the chance to run Cuba's computer company, Copextel. He was brought back to power after Raul Castro took interim control of the government.

As Minister of Interior he oversaw all counterinsurgency efforts and the crushing of political dissenters. The infamous "Paredon" (the shooting wall), the establishment of political prisons, the long prison sentences for dissent and opposition, the persecution of homosexuals, and religious personnel in the UMAPs, and the criminalization of emigration were instituted under his able command. At least 10,000 people were killed/executed in Cuban prisons for political reasons while he was in charge of them. At the time he was Cuba's Beria to Fidel's Stalin.

That's what I mean by the "bloodshed " and "the repression that he implemented."

I have expected more from him in his public appearances but he makes Raul Castro look like a matinee idol. He is the youngest and healthiest of the historical Comandantes.

Vecino de NF

Anonymous said...

"It is all up for discussion - workplace issues, what the State can cut back on, etc."

Yeah right. That's call buying time in Castro's language.

leftside said...

Vecino, you should know darn well there were no "10,000 people killed/executed in Cuban prisons for political reasons." The figure is closer to a few hundred - and these were essentially war crime tribunals, not political prisoners. Everyone had innocent blood on their hands. These were murder charges that led to the death penalty.

And the article you cite from was written by an ex-Cuban Intelligence officer now living in Miami. It was an attempt to smear Valdes' "comeback" by noting all the terrible things he's done. Except it does not make any direct accusation of blood on his hands.

And if you want to compare the morality of the Batista counter-insurgency versus the one Che and Valdes led, I welcome that.

Anonymous said...

Leftside,

Most of the executions during Ramiro Valdez' tenure as Minister of the Interior were after the so called "war crime tribunals" for Cuba's military figures. They were connected with the counter-revolutionary insurgency. The 10,000 figure is consistent with Lago/Werlau's research. Whether Ramiro Valdez personally carried out individual executions is besides the point. He oversaw the political repression during the 1960s. Please point any individual items where Amuchastegui was wrong. His tone may not sound very objective but his facts are historical.

A true revolutionary should not be ashamed of the extraordinary measures that need to be taken agains the counter-revolutionary forces. Ramiro Valdez would admit to his role without blushing. No need to defend someone who is not ashamed of his actions. Are you?

Vecino de NF

Anonymous said...

Anyone with a scintilla of knowledge about the history of the Cuban Revolution knows about Valdes' blood-soaked past. I guess that excludes leftside.

chingon

leftside said...

I know perfectly well the history of post-Revolution violence and supposed "repression." I was just looking for specific evidence that some war crime was committed - or some bloodshed attributed to Valdes.

I did not say Amuchastegui was wrong. I noted that he did not make any concrete accusations against Valdes relating to any bloodshed.

Lago & Werlau's "cuba archive" project condemns the Revolution for every death and suicide that occurred in its prisons, for every death penalty case, for the death of people who died fighting the State, for deaths of murderers and torturers, for the health of people who chose to leave the island by boat, etc. etc. Under his and your logic, the US Attorney General should be considered a responsible for the hundreds of deaths in US prisons, the President responsible for every death combating terrorism abroad, the Surgeon General for the 45,000 deaths each year related to our capitalist health care system, etc. etc. It just can not be taken seriously...

Now if there is a specific case of injustice you want to blame Valdes for, I am all ears.

Anonymous said...

Leftside,

You are correct holding Ramiro Valdez responsible for every death during his tenure as Minister of Interior is the same as saying that the "US Attorney General should be considered a responsible for the hundreds of deaths in US prisons, the President responsible for every death combating terrorism abroad," although the Surgeon General remark is way off the mark. That is because all these people are responsible for actions taken in institutions that they control. The big difference is that Ramiro Valdez' actions were taken under the dubious legitimacy of a government that came to power by force of arms and refused to legitimize itself in any open and democratic way. Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, Ramiro Valdez chose to impose their political vision through armed repression. That in itself can be considered a war crime. They had an alternative at a time they were universally popular but they did not trust the Cuban people. I suspect that they still do not trust the Cuban people that's why any sign of dissent must be repressed.

The fact remains that Ramiro Valdez is not an inspirational figure and it appears that there are no redeeming human qualities as a leader other than being an effective repressor. That is unfortunate for a country that appears to be headed to be under his leadership once Raul Castro passes from the scene. Your ringing endorsement of his person appears to validate this projection.

Vecino de NF

leftside said...

Where is my "ringing endorsement" of Valdes? I think he was elevated again, like some other "historicos" because this is a sensitive time in Cuban history and they want to make sure there are people who can be relied upon.

Anonymous said...

Leftside,

"I think he [Ramiro Valdez] was elevated again, like some other "historicos" because this is a sensitive time in Cuban history and they want to make sure there are people who can be relied upon."

To repress perhaps? His current job is to be Censor in Chief (TV, Radio, Internet, etc).

Vecino de NF