Informacion economica sobre Cuba

As Cuba Eases Restraints, U.S. Is Urged To Follow

New York Times

Published 8:11 p.m., Tuesday, November 20, 2012

HAVANA — "If I could just get a lift," said Francisco Lopez, imagining

the addition of a hydraulic elevator as he stood by a rusted Russian

sedan in his mechanic's workshop here. All he needed was an investment

from his brother in Miami or from a Cuban friend there who already

sneaks in brake pads and other parts for him.

The problem: The United States' 50-year-old trade embargo, which

prohibits even the most basic business dealings across the 90 miles

separating Cuba from the U.S. Every time Lopez's friend in Florida

accepts payment for a car part destined for Cuba, he puts himself at

risk of a fine of up to $65,000.

With Cuba cautiously introducing free-market changes that have legalized

hundreds of thousands of small private businesses over the past two

years, new economic bonds between Cuba and the U.S. have formed,

creating new challenges, new possibilities — and a more complicated

debate over the embargo.

The longstanding logic has been that broad sanctions are necessary to

suffocate the totalitarian government of Fidel and Raul Castro. Now,

especially for many Cubans who had stayed on the sidelines in the battle

over Cuba policy, a new argument against the embargo is gaining

currency: that the tentative move toward capitalism by the Cuban

government could be sped up with more assistance from Americans.

Even as defenders of the embargo warn against providing the Cuban

government with "economic lifelines," some Cubans and exiles are

advocating a fresh approach. The Obama administration already showed an

openness to engagement with Cuba in 2009 by removing restrictions on

travel and remittances for Cuban Americans.

But with Fidel Castro, 86, retired and President Raul Castro, 81,

leading a bureaucracy that is divided on the pace and scope of change,

many have begun urging President Barack Obama to go further and update

U.S. policy by putting a priority on assistance for Cubans seeking more

economic independence from the government.

"Maintaining this embargo, maintaining this hostility, all it does is

strengthen and embolden the hard-liners," said Carlos Saladrigas, a

Cuban exile and co-chairman of the Cuba Study Group in Washington, which

advocates for engagement with Cuba. "What we should be doing is helping

the reformers."

Any easing would be a gamble. Free enterprise might not necessarily lead

to the embargo's goal of free elections, especially because Cuba has

said it wants to replicate the paths of Vietnam and China, where the

loosening of economic restrictions has not led to political change.

When asked about Cuban entrepreneurs who are seeking more U.S. support,

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who is chairwoman of the House Foreign

Relations Committee, proposed an even tighter embargo.

"The sanctions on the regime must remain in place and, in fact, should

be strengthened, and not be altered," she wrote in an email.

"Responsible nations must not buy into the facade the dictatorship is

trying to create by announcing 'reforms' while, in reality, it's

tightening its grip on its people."

Many Cubans agree that their government cares more about control than

economic growth. Business owners complain that inspectors pounce when

they see signs of success and demand receipts to prove that supplies

were not stolen from the government, a common practice here.

One restaurant owner in Havana said he received a large fine for failing

to produce a receipt for plastic wrap.

As for the embargo's restriction on investment, Cuban officials have

expressed feelings that are more mixed. At a meeting in New York in

September with a group called Cuban Americans for Engagement, Cuban

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla said business investment was

not a priority.

"Today, the economic development of Cuba does not demand investments of

$100,000, $200,000, $300,000," he said, according to the group's account

of the meeting.

Owners of Cuba's small businesses, mostly one-person operations at this

point, say they know that the government would most likely find ways to

profit from wider economic relations with the U.S. The response to

informal imports that come from Miami in the suitcases of relatives, for

instance, has been higher customs duties.

Still, in a country where Cubans "resolve" their way around government

restrictions every day — private deals with customs agents are common —

many Cubans expect real benefits, should the U.S. change course.

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