Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Viewer's Guide to Cuba's Economic Reform

Trying to figure what’s behind Cuba’s economic reforms, how they fit together, and how they are proceeding?  

Here’s a paper (pdf, 36 pages) that might help.  Comments are welcome.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cuba's reforms: a chronology

Here’s a chronology of Cuba’s economic reforms that I will update from time to time.  It will appear as an appendix to a paper on the economic reform process that will be published next week.  Comments welcome.

Repsol comes up short in Cuba (Corrected)

Late to this one, but for the record...Repsol found no oil in Cuba, but the rig it built will be passed to other companies, starting with Malaysia’s Petronas to continue searching for a deep-water reservoir in Cuba’s part of the Gulf.  Reuters story here.

(Correction: I was wrong to say in an earlier version of this post that Repsol would be leaving Cuba.  Press reports have the company deciding what to do.  See BBC and Argus.)

Visas for Cuban academics (Updated)

After granting a visa to gay rights advocate Mariela Castro, Havana historian Eusebio Leal, and others, the Administration has taken some heat from Capitol Hill and seems to have put the brakes on the granting of a number of visas for Cubans seeking to attend an exciting convention of academics who concentrate on Latin American studies. 

The Washington Post covered the story here and weighs in with an editorial that strangely calls the Cubans “refuseniks,” which makes you wonder how much the writer really looked into the views of the Cubans who are being denied visas. 

Still, I agree with the thrust of the editorial that the U.S. conveys “weakness, not strength” in refusing the visas.  Regardless of their views, they should be welcomed at the conference to state their views and debate them.

Update: As Republicans bash the Administration for “rolling out the red carpet for the Castro family” by granting a visa to Mariela Castro, the State Department confirms that she visited the United States three times during the George W. Bush Administration (Herald).

How to help Alan Gross?

Friends of jailed USAID contractor Alan Gross who are pulling for his release want the Obama Administration to consider negotiating for his release, perhaps with some concessions regarding the Cuban Five that would fall short of a five-for-one swap. 

That message emerged after Gross used his weekly phone call to speak with Washington-area Jewish leaders.  See stories from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the Baltimore Sun.

The Administration continues to assert that Gross’ arrest and conviction were unfounded, the Cuban legal system is a sham, he should be released unconditionally, and there will be no negotiation because his activities in Cuba and those of the Cuban agents here are not comparable. 

Ronald Halber of Washington’s Jewish Community Relations Council says the Administration should act in our “national interest.”   He is starting a good debate; even if one buys all the Administration’s arguments, it’s hard to see how its position helps get Mr. Gross out of jail.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Exponent reports on the visit to the United States of Mayra Levy, head of Havana’s Sephardic synagogue, who encourages American Jews to visit.  From the story: “Levy said the community received Gross warmly. ‘But he broke the Cuban laws,’ she said, adding that members of the community visit Gross from time to time.”

Everybody get to work

Odds and ends

  • Dow Jones:  The “Section 211” case, named after a 1998 law that invalidated Pernod-Ricard’s registration of the Havana Club rum trademark in the United States, came to an end in the U.S. Supreme Court.  Pernod lost and, cutting its losses, announced the “Havanista” trademark for a Cuban rum that will enter the U.S. market when the embargo ends.  Cuba’s foreign ministry, citing a WTO decision in Pernod’s favor, continues to call on the U.S. government to register the trademark.

  • Politico on the voting propensities of younger-generation Cuban Americans.

  • EFE: University admissions in Cuba are down 26 percent, the national statistics office reports.  In today’s Granma, a story on the priority being given to technical education.

  • Trabajadores: In large numbers, Cubans are updating and registering the titles to their homes, and in spite of the streamlined process government workers are straining at the workload.  A clean title is prerequisite to any sale or transfer of a property.

  • AP on the “mystery” of the undersea fiber optic cable that connected Cuba and Venezuela last year and seems not to be working.

  • AP: A Cuban official tallies the distribution of idle state lands since 2008: 1.5 million hectares to 163,000 producers, with 79 percent of that land now in use and 59 percent being used for livestock.

  • Governor Romney issued a Cuban independence day statement charging that the late Damas de Blanco leader Laura Pollan died “at the hands of the dictatorship.”

  • At Huffington Post, coverage of CafĂ© Laurent, a great new Vedado paladar.

  • The New Yorker rounds up some of its Cuba coverage over the years, including dispatches from the island in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Foreign investment, in a holding pattern

Raul Castro declared as early as 2007 that Cuba needs more foreign investment, and the Communist Party’s economic reform blueprint reiterated the point: more foreign investment, from more countries, with projects evaluated more promptly and according to broader criteria. 

But not a great deal has happened, as Reuters reports.  One long-time investor, Unilever, is pulling out, and the golf course projects remain in the “any minute now” status where they have been for years. 

The current reforms are being rolled out on a timetable that extends to 2015, so maybe everything is right on schedule.  One wonders if the iffy health of Hugo Chavez is causing a re-assessment of the timetable. 

Meanwhile, the Economist reports on the arrest of a British subject some weeks ago, and El Universal reports on foreign capital flowing in to invest in houses and businesses.