Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Daily Archives: March 7, 2013

Can Cuba survive the loss of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez?

Many in and out of Cuba wonder if the loss of Chávez is the death knell
of the Castros' Revolution, or if it could inject urgent momentum into
Raul Castro's reform agenda, just in the nick of time.
By Anya Landau French, Guest blogger / March 7, 2013

As Venezuelans and foreign observers examine the legacy – both the
accomplishments and failures – of the charismatic and bombastic Hugo
Chávez, discussion inevitably turns to the implications for allies on
which he lavished generous aid and trade benefits. Perhaps none is quite
so vulnerable in the wake of Chávez's death as Cuba, an island nation of
some 12 million people whose Socialist Revolution, with Chávez's mentor
Fidel Castro at the helm for more than 45 years, managed to hang on and
hang on in spite of US disapproval and interference. Indeed, Socialist
Cuba hung on in spite of itself, achieving inspirational heights in
public health and education, and enjoying international influence far
beyond its means, but never achieving the most crucial change of all:
economic sustainability. In the past twenty years, Cuba has experienced
one crisis after another.

After one such crisis is where Hugo Chávez came in, following the worst,
broadest felt economic crisis Cubans have known, when Cuba's ally and
patron, the Soviet Union, collapsed, and the island's economy shrank by
more than one-third, and imports dropped by 85 percent. In those dark
years, the Cuban people suffered crippling food shortages (and many were
malnourished), extended blackouts, and all the other indignities that
come from a sudden withdrawal of creature comforts and basic necessities
they'd become so accustomed to. Reluctantly, Fidel Castro adopted a few
limited measures – most importantly, embracing tourism – to stop the
free fall, but it was his mentee, Hugo Chávez, whose increasingly
generous trade and aid, who helped re-stabilize the Cuban economy at the
turn of the 21st century. Cubans were no longer starving, but the vast
majority would never recover the living standards they'd enjoyed before.
As the cracks in the Cuban economy widened (and the gains of the Cuban
Revolution slowly degenerated) Hugo Chávez filled them in with cut rate
Venezuelan oil.

At the same time, it became clear to any honest observer inside or
outside Cuba that the nation was headed for serious trouble; relying so
singularly on the largesse of Hugo Chávez could have perilous
consequences. When Raul Castro took the reins from his ailing older
brother provisionally in 2006 and then formally in 2008, he focused, for
the first time publicly, on the need for deep changes. The economic
downturn of 2008, coming as it did with soaring world food prices and a
punishing hurricane season (in which Cuba was walloped by four major
storms that wiped out food stores and hundreds of thousands of homes),
brought the reality starkly home.

The younger Castro's rhetoric has been consistent and tough on economic
mismanagement and corruption, but his apparent desire for consensus
building (and avoiding destabilizing shocks that could jeopardize power)
coupled with his inability to rein in a reluctant bureaucracy meant that
Cuba's economic restructuring has been slow and largely ineffectual – so
far. Key reforms in real estate and migration, which offer many Cubans
unprecedented potential economic empowerment and mobility, and also
leverage an increasingly reconnected diaspora, offer hope of more and
deeper reform, but other reforms, such as in expanding the non-state
sector and reforming the tax code, have been too piecemeal or
conservative so far.

Not unsurprisingly, many in and out of Cuba now wonder if the loss of
Chávez is the death knell of the Castros' Revolution, or, perhaps could
it inject urgent momentum into Raul Castro's reform agenda, just in the
nick of time? In some ways, the loss of Hugo Chávez, on its face so
devastating for Cuba, might actually be a good thing for the island.
With Nicolas Maduro a favorite to win the special presidential election
a month from now, Cuba will likely retain significant influence. But
Maduro is no Chávez. He'll have to focus on building up his own
political capital, without the benefit of Chávez's charisma. While he
surely won't cut Cuba off, to maintain power he will almost certainly
need to respond to increasing economic pressures at home with more
pragmatic and domestically focused economic policies. And that
likelihood, as well as the possibility that the Venezuelan opposition
could win back power either now or in the medium term, should drive
Cuban leaders to speed up and bravely deepen their tenuous economic
reforms on the island. And if there was any hesitancy among Cuba's
leaders to open more space between the island and Chávez, they now have
the opportunity to do so. Under Raul Castro, Cuba has mended and
expanded foreign relations the world over. Particularly if it shows
greater pragmatism in its economic policies, countries such as China
will no doubt increase economic engagement of the island.

Raul Castro, who has at most five years – this second and final term as
president - to save the fruits of the Cuban Revolution and chart a more
sustainable course for the island, now has more incentive than ever to
take the bull by the horns. Time will tell, perhaps sooner rather than
later, whether he can.

– Anya Landau French is the editor of and a frequent contributor to the
blog The Havana Note. Continue reading
Death of Chavez could force Cuba to speed reform
By Francisco Jara | AFP – 23 hours ago

Cuba could be forced to speed its economic reforms following the death
of its main benefactor, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, whose oil-backed
largesse has kept the country afloat for years.

Venezuela's leftist leader, who died on Tuesday, gave generously to Cuba
over the years, supplying Havana with billions of dollars' worth of
low-cost oil from its vast reserves and paying royally for medical services.

Chavez came to Cuba's rescue at a point when the communist-run island
was in deep crisis after economic support that Havana had received as a
client state of the now-defunct Soviet Union dried up a
decade-and-a-half ago.

Moscow had been the financial mainstay of the island since Fidel Castro
came to power in 1959.

Now, after a decade-and-a-half of support from Caracas, Havana once
again finds itself economically vulnerable, political observers said.

"The death of Chavez highlights the shortcomings of the Castros'
policies -- not diversifying the Cuban economy, not allowing more Cubans
themselves to generate wealth and make the country genuinely
independent," Paul Webster Hare, Britain's former ambassador to Havana
told AFP.

Webster Hare, who now teaches in the United States at Boston University,
said Cuba seemed to believe the cozy arrangement could go on indefinitely.

"No other country in the world has bet as extravagantly on the fortunes
of another leader as have the Castros on Chavez," he said.

Havana imports 100,000 barrels of oil a day from Venezuela, which
supplies oil to Cuba on very favorable terms. Cuba for its part, sends
some 40,000 trained medical personnel to Venezuela.

The sale of medical and other services, mostly to Venezuela, was the
main source of foreign exchange for Cuba, reaping some $6 billion
dollars a year.

Other major sources of hard currency are remittances from relatives
living overseas, which brings in about $2.5 billion; tourism, ($2.0
billion) and nickel exports, ($1.1 billion).

Cuba has been mum about how it could be hurt if its favorable trade
arrangement with Caracas were suddenly to disappear, although not every
analyst believes that it will.

"I don't think that if there is a change of government in Caracas, that
it will abruptly sever the economic relations that Cuba has with
Venezuela," said Omar Everleny Perez, director of the Center for the
Study of the Cuban Economy at the University of Havana.

He added that Venezuela has come to rely on the doctors sent by Cuba to
help sustain its social welfare system and therefore has a strong
interest in continuing the arrangement.

But a dissident opposition economist, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, said the
fallout would be "terrible" on the island if Venezuela's oil shipments
were to end.

That is the case today even more than when aid from the Soviet Union
stopped, he said, because "Cuba's infrastructure now is in worse shape
than it was back then."

During that crisis two decades ago, Cuba abruptly lost 85 percent of its
foreign trade. Industrial production lurched to a standstill because of
a shortage of fuel and raw materials.

To address the crisis, then-president Fidel Castro imposed austerity in
the form of a so-called "special period" during which he sharply
restricted consumption of many goods and drastically rationed energy.

Although the "special period" has not officially ended, the economy
began to recover gradually from 1997 as the country bolstered its
tourism industry.

The real shot in the arm to Cuba's economy, however, came after Chavez
ascended to power in 1999, and began to financially prop up its ally.

It is far from certain that Caracas will continue to provide the aid,
which is enormously expensive to a nation which has its own economic
problems, including one of Latin America's highest rates of inflation.

"Without Chavez, the possibility of expanding the trade of Cuban
services in exchange for oil is reduced," political analyst Arturo
Lopez-Levy, of the University of Denver in Colorado, told AFP.

In recent years President Raul Castro has undertaken a series of reforms
that has nudged Cuba a bit closer towards a free market system, but the
government still controls more than 90 percent of the economy.

Espinosa Chepe said Havana will have to go a lot further -- and faster
-- in its reform program, including by welcoming greater outside investment.

"Havana will have to speed up the reforms," he said. "It will have
exercise maximum flexibility in its rules and provide security to
outside investors, because the country has no capital resources to invest." Continue reading
Posted on Wednesday, 03.06.13

Venezuela petro-allies nervous over Chavez's death
Associated Press

HAVANA -- Cubans remember the so-called Special Period of the 1990s,
when the Soviet Union's sudden collapse plunged the island into years of
economic depression, with cars and buses disappearing from the streets
for lack of fuel and rolling blackouts leaving the capital in darkness.

Now Cubans fear a return of hard times following the death of Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez, whose billions of dollars of oil largesse helps
the island's economy function. Some Havana residents were even talking
about hoarding candles on Wednesday.

Francis Gomez, a 22-year-old tourism student from the city of Pinar del
Rio, said she was "scared and worried."

"Ever since Chavez became ill, my parents have been saying, 'Please,
God, don't let there be another Special Period," she said.

While Chavez's party remains in power in Venezuela, and his political
allies have said they won't change the program, at least not in the
short term, a victory by the opposition in a presidential election
expected in the coming weeks could change the game entirely. Opposition
leader Henrique Capriles has said he would reevaluate the program if

Cubans are not alone in having worries following Tuesday's death of
Chavez, who used Venezuela's oil wealth to aid allies through a
part-ideological, part-humanitarian program that gives out petroleum at
preferential terms.

More than a dozen other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean,
many of them economic minnows, have benefited to the tune of billions of
dollars from the Petrocaribe pact that was created in 2005 with the goal
of unifying the regional oil industry under Venezuelan leadership and
countering U.S. influence.

Cuba alone receives about 92,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil a day to meet
half its consumption needs, worth around $3.2 billion a year, according
to an estimate by University of Texas energy analyst Jorge Pinon.

Havana pays about half the bill through a barter exchange in which tens
of thousands of doctors, teachers and other advisers provide services in
Venezuela. The rest goes into 25-year credits with 1 percent interest.

"There's no cash exchange. They don't have to write a check. That's the
importance of this agreement," Pinon said. "It represents $3.2 billion
of free cash flow to the Cuban economy."

"If a new Venezuelan government turns that into a true commercial
agreement where in 30 days you pay 100 percent in cash for what you owe,
it would be a substantial economic impact to both Cuba and to
Petrocaribe countries, no question about that," Pinon said.

Nicaragua, perhaps the second-most dependent on Venezuelan oil after
Cuba, gets nearly all its 12 million barrels a year from Caracas, worth
about $1.2 billion, said Nestor Avendano, an economist and president of
the consulting firm Consultores Para el Desarrollo.

President Daniel Ortega, a staunch Chavez ally, pays about half up-front
and finances the rest over 23 years at 2 percent annual interest.

La Prensa, Nicaragua's leading newspaper, noted in an editorial that
Ortega has been trying to shore up economic reserves in recent months
and raised taxes in January, apparently in anticipation of a reduction
in Venezuelan aid.

The Dominican Republic gets just over 40 percent of its oil through
Petrocaribe, and saves roughly $400 million a year from the arrangement.
Struggling Jamaica, where debt is a whopping 140 percent of gross
domestic product, gets roughly two-thirds of its crude through Petrocaribe.

Across the Caribbean, it's the same story one island nation after another.

"Petrocaribe saved several Caribbean economies from certain collapse,"
said Anthony Bryan, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies in Washington and an expert on U.S.-Caribbean

Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's handpicked successor and a firm ideological
ally of Cuba, is seen by analysts as more likely to win the election to
replace Chavez. But in the absence of Chavez, who kept his political
base in line through pure politics of personality, Maduro might come
under pressure as he tries to control factions that don't always agree.

"I think that there's going to be a potential drop in Venezuelan
willingness to sell oil (at preferential terms) because Maduro is going
to be facing his own internal schisms," said Gregory Weeks, a political
scientist specializing in Latin America at the University of North
Carolina at Charlotte. "I think he's going to have to be paying more
attention to directing resources to his own constituencies at home,
rather than abroad."

Weeks added that Maduro would likely try to maintain the Cuba subsidy as
much as possible for symbolic reasons, and many analysts say the island
is less dependent on Venezuela than it was on the Soviets.

But Venezuela's economy has problems that Chavez's successor will have
to deal with. Inflation is 22 percent, dollars for imports are scarce
amid currency control and residents complain about sporadic shortages of
basic goods.

"Once Venezuela's budget deficit really begins to bite in a way that can
no longer be ignored, then the government will have to make some tough
decisions in term of spending," said Eric Farnsworth, an energy
specialist with the Council of the Americas. "And one of the quickest
ways to cut in any country is foreign aid."

For some Petrocaribe beneficiaries that might simply mean tightening
belts. For others it could mean rising discontent or even potential
unrest as popular social programs wither.

Nicaragua's Ortega, for example, has used the extra cash to put roofs on
homes and finance health care and education in a country where 80
percent of the people live on less than $2 a day. Economist Rene
Vallecillo said the country could see a 1 percentage-point drop in GDP
growth if Venezuelan aid disappeared.

Haiti has used millions in Venezuelan aid to pay for fuel, renovate
power stations and build low-income housing in the earthquake-torn nation.

Jamaica has used the 22,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil it got every day
in 2011 to produce 95 percent of its electricity.

"If it's 95 percent of your power generation, that has broader
implications in terms of your social well-being," Farnsworth said.
"They're really going to hurt. ... This has been a lifeline."


Associated Press writers Anne-Marie Garcia in Havana; Luis Andres Henao
in Santiago, Chile; David McFadden in Kingston, Jamaica; Luis Manuel
Galeano in Managua, Nicaragua; Ezequiel Abiu Lopez in Santo Domingo, the
Dominican Republic; and Trenton Daniel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
contributed to this report. Continue reading
Reformas económicas

El Gobierno autoriza la apertura de un 'mercado mayorista'
Agencias | La Habana | 7 Mar 2013 - 7:02 pm.

Crea una empresa estatal para comercializar 'productos alimenticios y
otros bienes de consumo e intermedios'.

El Gobierno autorizó este jueves la venta mayorista de bienes y
servicios, una medida que responde a una vieja demanda de emprendedores
privados, informó Reuters.

El sitio publicó una resolución que crea la Empresa
Comercializadora Mayorista de Productos Alimenticios y Otros Bienes de

Unos 400.000 cubanos trabajan por su cuenta, muchos de los cuales han
sufrido las limitaciones de no contar con ventas mayoristas que
garanticen las materias primas e insumos para sus labores, que van desde
bares, restaurantes, hasta taxistas o vendedores ambulantes de vegetales.

Según la resolución, la empresa se dedicará a "comercializar de forma
mayorista productos alimenticios y otros bienes de consumo e intermedios
no alimenticios (...) a personas jurídicas y otras formas de gestión no

Las ventas se harán tanto en moneda nacional como en divisas o CUC.

La nueva norma también establece que serán comercializados de forma
mayorista productos ociosos y de lento movimiento, equipos de cómputo y
mobiliarios, así como servicios de almacenamiento de mercancías,
alquiler de almacenes, cámaras de frío y servicios de transporte de
productos que se venden tanto a la red estatal como a particulares.

"Esta es la última señal de que el Gobierno quiere que el sector privado
crezca", dijo sobre la medida Philip Peters, un experto en temas cubanos
del Lexington Institute en Virgina, Estados Unidos.

"Ojalá", dijo Ofelia, una vendedora de dulces en un barrio residencial
en La Habana. "Eso lo estamos esperando hace tiempo y buena falta que
nos hace. Yo te garantizo que si los precios son razonables, podría
bajar algo los que tuve que ponerle a mi mercancía", agregó con alivio
la mujer, de 45 años.

Roberto Hernández, vendedor de pizas de 35 años, dijo que la medida
traería "tranquilidad" al sector privado.

"De esa forma no tendremos que seguir inventando y pagando lo que
quieran pedirnos por lo que necesitamos. Esa sería nuestra tranquilidad
para poder trabajar sin sobresaltos", agregó. Continue reading
Chávez, Raúl Castro

El gobierno cubano ante la muerte de Hugo Chávez
Ni carnaval ni terremoto: simplemente "realpolitik"
Eugenio Yáñez, Miami | 07/03/2013 9:41 am

Con la muerte de Hugo Chávez se comenzaron a repetir en Miami y en mucha
prensa internacional una serie de lugares comunes que no conducen a más
nada que a la depresión y el fracaso: uno de los más recurridos, que en
La Habana están muy nerviosos.

Una de las escenas más lamentables en la noche del martes mostraba en la
televisión en español en Miami a venezolanos bebiendo, con arepas,
música y cantos, repitiendo continuamente ante las cámaras que no se
alegraban por la muerte de un ser humano sino por la oportunidad que se
abría para Venezuela. Esa última expresión la repitieron también algunos
políticos del sur de La Florida. Con lo cual unos y otros mostraban,
simultáneamente, hipocresía en las declaraciones y despiste político.

Innumerables veces se ha repetido, refiriéndose a Hugo Chávez y sus
sucesores, que el liderazgo y el carisma no se heredan, lo cual es
absolutamente cierto. Sin embargo, derivar de esa premisa el fracaso
garantizado de los sucesores es la perfección del sofisma: ¿quién dice
que sin liderazgo y carisma no se puede gobernar un país controlando los
principales mecanismos del poder? ¿Por qué no le preguntan a Raúl Castro?

Lo más grave para los sucesores de Chávez no será carecer de liderazgo o
carisma, sino carecer de dinero en las arcas del gobierno para continuar
financiando el clientelismo político y las medidas populistas. Y si bien
la situación económica venezolana no es la misma de algunos años atrás,
y puede empeorar mucho más, hay que preguntarse si realmente las arcas
del chavismo están tan vacías como se dice. Pretender analizar la
Venezuela chavista como un país normal y abierto, como se ha querido
hacer con Cuba, solamente lleva a confusión y enredo.

La misma cantinela sobre carisma y liderazgo se repetía acerca de Cuba
en 2006, cuando era evidente que la salud de Fidel Castro se deterioraba
y Raúl Castro, aceleradamente, resucitaba el secretariado del partido
comunista cubano y afinaba un conjunto de medidas para garantizar la
sucesión. A partir del 31 de julio de ese año, cuando se anunció la
enfermedad del Comandante y su alejamiento del poder "con carácter
provisional", se repitió hasta el aburrimiento lo que ya se venía
diciendo, y se especuló con la imposibilidad de que el general pudiera
mantener el timón de la nave sin grandes cataclismos.

Sin embargo, en estos momentos, Raúl Castro, sin el liderazgo ni el
carisma de su hermano mayor, llevaba ya seis años, siete meses y siete
días en el poder absoluto (entre la etapa provisional y la oficial), sin
dar muestras de que el control se le esté escapando de las manos, sino
todo lo contrario.

Ahora hay muchos que se preguntan qué estará pasando por la mente de los
dirigentes cubanos en ocasión de la muerte de Chávez. Lo que esté
pasando exactamente es imposible saberlo, pero lo que es seguro es que
eso no los sorprendió, porque muchas variantes posibles ya estaban
analizadas desde mucho antes.

Nos pasamos el tiempo diciendo que los militares gobiernan en Cuba y
controlan la economía cubana, lo cual es completamente cierto, pero
después de decirlo consideramos que esos militares piensan y razonan
como civiles tomando café en Hialeah o parejas de enamorados bebiendo
cerveza en Varadero.

Lo que menos gusta a los militares de cualquier país del mundo son las
sorpresas: un militar sorprendido es un militar derrotado. Por eso viven
continuamente "apreciando la situación" y analizando los escenarios
posibles para cada contexto, así como las variantes de decisiones para
cada caso.

Con la salud de Hugo Chávez ha sido exactamente así: nadie conocía mejor
que los gobernantes cubanos la naturaleza exacta de la salud del aliado
bolivariano y los pronósticos sobre su enfermedad. Sin embargo, el
eventual candidato opositor en unas elecciones que podrían celebrarse
muy pronto, andaba por New York en viaje privado, visitando a su
hermana: como ciudadano privado está en todo su derecho, pero como líder
político podría pensarse si estaba en el lugar equivocado. Y mientras él
viajaba, los militares cubanos y sus aliados en Caracas estaban listos
para enfrentar y anunciar la muerte de Chávez en el momento que se
produjera, y para ganar las próximas elecciones.

Dije, e insisto, "en el momento en que se produjera" la muerte, porque
han comenzado a circular rumores en el imaginario popular que señalan
que Chávez habría muerto mucho antes, o que nunca habría llegado al
Hospital Militar en Caracas porque seguía en La Habana, o que lo
volvieron a llevar para Cuba, y muchas cosas más. Aun si eso pudiera
probarse, ¿cómo cambiaría la situación para las elecciones? Demostrar
que el gobierno venezolano no fue transparente o mintió no hará que los
chavistas de a pie dejen de votar por el candidato del oficialismo,
quienquiera que sea.

Lo interesante es que mientras muchos se desgastan queriendo investigar
sobre esos temas, haciendo declaraciones altisonantes, o razonando
escolásticamente sobre las disposiciones sucesorias en la constitución
venezolana, sin entender cómo funciona el poder, que no es exactamente
como dicen las leyes, los herederos del chavismo ya habían comenzado
desde mucho antes, asesorados por La Habana, a afianzar el proceso de
endiosamiento del enfermo para aprovechar ampliamente la enorme ventaja
emocional que tales situaciones generan. Y a engrasar y mover los
mecanismos para aplastar a la oposición en las elecciones que deberán
realizarse dentro de muy poco, donde todas las ventajas y las
herramientas ocultas están a favor del chavismo, y donde no tiene
sentido dudar que se producirá una aplastante "victoria popular". Para
lograr esa victoria, los siete días de duelo, que ya están corriendo,
son decisivos. Y el resultado electoral tendrá, además, el aplauso de
América Latina y el Caribe y la legitimación de los organismos

Sin embargo, con estas realidades por delante, hay quienes en Venezuela
y en el exterior, Miami incluido, siguen hablando de las desavenencias
entre "el autobusero" Nicolás Maduro y "el tenientico" Diosdado Cabello,
dando por seguro el descalabro del bloque bolivariano en muy poco
tiempo, debido a las discrepancias entre chavistas.

Una vez más, dulce e inútil historia. ¿Serán las discrepancias
Maduro-Cabello más fuertes, antiguas o profundas, que las de Raúl Castro
y Ramiro Valdés en Cuba? Y ya hemos visto como se resolvieron esos
problemas cuando, tras la enfermedad de Fidel Castro, se podía poner en
peligro el poder si ellos se desgastaban en luchas intestinas, por lo
que se lograron rápidamente los acomodos necesarios para que no se
produjeran fracturas comprometedoras.

Además, en el caso de Venezuela, son militares chavistas los que están
ubicados en las principales posiciones de mando y control de tropas y en
los servicios de seguridad, que es donde resulta fundamental estar para
controlar los aparatos armados y el poder.

Finalmente, el tema del petróleo se menciona continuamente para hablar
del futuro de las relaciones con el Gobierno cubano. Digámoslo
claramente: aun en el muy poco probable escenario de que la oposición
ganara las elecciones presidenciales, no le sería posible cortar de
golpe los suministros petroleros hacia Cuba. Un gobierno opositor que
surgiera de esas elecciones tendría que lidiar con la realidad de
alrededor de cuarenta mil "cooperantes" cubanos en todo el país, muchos
de los cuales han pasado el servicio militar, saben manejar las armas, y
como es costumbre en las misiones de colaboración cubana en el exterior,
tienen su organización militar para situaciones de emergencia. Un
eventual gobierno opositor en Venezuela no puede arriesgarse a choques
de ese tipo.

Maduro responde a La Habana, tanto como Cabello y todo el grupo duro de
los chavistas, no por solidaridad abstracta, sino por necesidad: el
principal mecanismo de sostén de los chavistas es el régimen cubano, con
sus efectivas combinaciones de misiones sociales de gran arraigo popular
en el país (salud, educación, deportes, cultura), sus eficientes
servicios de inteligencia y contrainteligencia, sus mecanismos de
propaganda, educación y "orientación revolucionaria", su know-how
dictatorial, sus asesores militares, y sus colaboradores-asesores en las
más altas esferas del gobierno.

Mientras haya recursos y condiciones políticas, el flujo petrolero de
Venezuela hacia Cuba no amainará. Y si la crisis económica forzara a
reducir los suministros subsidiados de hidrocarburos, hay muchos
receptores de Petrocaribe a quienes comenzar a limitar antes de propinar
recortes demoledores a La Habana. Si de todas formas hubiera que cortar,
sería con tiempo suficiente para que Raúl Castro recomponga sus esquemas
petroleros, lo que, por otra parte, viene haciendo desde que se conoció
de la enfermedad de Hugo Chávez, e incluso antes, para no depender de un
único suministrador.

Los sucesores de Chávez no podrán mantener el mismo ritmo vertiginoso de
la chequera bolivariana en el ALBA y tantos otros proyectos alocados
creados por el ahora difunto líder, muchos de los cuales beneficiaban al
Gobierno cubano. Se podrán ver recortes y limitaciones en los convenios
y la ayuda hacia Cuba, pero eso no significa que se hagan de manera
traumática ni que sucederá como cuando el desmerengamiento de la Unión
Soviética: no tiene sentido para los chavistas debilitar a quienes les
aseguran el poder.

De manera que para el Gobierno cubano, la muerte de Hugo Chávez supone
determinados ajustes, maniobras y selección de prioridades y opciones,
pero no representa ni un carnaval ni un terremoto: simplemente, algo
previsto en las alternativas de la realpolitik.

Naturalmente, todos los proyectos sucesores anteriormente mencionados
podrían fallar si en Venezuela surgiera una situación de
ingobernabilidad que pusiera en peligro los mismos cimientos del poder
chavista y sus protectores cubanos. Pero eso, sin un liderazgo opositor
efectivo —que en estos momentos no parece capaz ni siquiera de
organizarse y ponerse de acuerdo para definir una estrategia— queda en
el campo de las quimeras.

Así que algunos seguirán bailando, cantando y bebiendo, celebrando una
supuesta oportunidad, y diciendo que lo hacen sin alegrarse de la muerte
de un ser humano.

Por su parte, quienes controlan el poder en Cuba y Venezuela seguirán
ocupados en cosas mucho más importantes para ellos. Continue reading
Agricultura cubana continúa cuesta abajo

En números concretos la producción de papa, yuca y otros tubérculos fue
15,300 toneladas menos. La producción de hortalizas cayó un 4,0%, que
representa 59,900 toneladas menos que en 2011.
Pablo Alfonso/
marzo 04, 2013

Este año los cienfuegueros no podrán comer toda la papa que necesitan.
La producción del tubérculo en la provincia no alcanzará la meta de
6,000 toneladas, prevista para satisfacer las necesidades del consumo en
esa región.

La mala nueva la publicó el diario Cinco de Septiembre de la provincia
de Cienfuegos. Gladys Fajardo Bolaño, subdelegada de Cultivos Varios en
el territorio atribuyó el incumpliento a "las dificultades con la
obtención de semillas".

"Ahora toca al mecanismo de comercialización evitar el acaparamiento de
la vianda, pues es poca, pero debe alcanzar para todos", subrayó el
diario, órgano oficial del Partido Comunista en Cienfuegos.

Por su parte el periódico Invasor, de Ciego de Avila, da cuenta de
serios incumplimientos en la siembra de caña que suman hasta un 13 por
ciento de las 15,000 hectáreas planificadas.

Como de costumbre las explicaciones oficiales para justificar los
atrasos tienen un tinte críptico.

"Varias son las causas, entre estas, dificultades con el alistamiento de
las tierras y con el completamiento del balance de recursos para esta
actividad, que atentan contra los ritmos de plantación que se habían
programado, amén de otras de carácter subjetivo", dijo El Invasor.

Los problemas agropecuarios no se limitan a la falta de papas en
Cienfuegos o de caña de azúcar en Ciego de Avila. La producción de
huevos ha disminuido en todo el país, afectando su distribución y
consumo entre la población, reconoció el domingo el diario Granma.

"La producción de huevos el pasado año, no obstante los esfuerzos,
registró el 94 % de lo planificado, El 6 % faltante significa 125,7
millones de huevos menos en relación con lo previsto".dijo Moraima
Céspedes Morales, viceministra de Economía del Ministerio de la
Agricultura (MINAG).

Los resultados en la producción agrícola que se informan desde
diferentes provincias del país, muestran que hasta ahora las cosas no
parecen ser mejores que en 2012.

Las cifras definitivas divulgadas por la Oficina Nacional de
Estadistica, muestran que el pasado año la producción agropecuaria
disminuyó el 1,3 %. y la ganadería un 4,3%.

En números concretos la producción de papa, yuca y otros tubérculos fue
15,300 toneladas menos. La producción de hortalizas cayó un 4,0%, que
representa 59,900
toneladas menos que en 2011.

Hasta ahora los resultados no son muy alentadores para la economía
cubana que importa el 80 por ciento de los alimentos que consume. Una
cifra que aspira a disminuir con una producción nacional, que no logra
recuperarse. Continue reading
Negocios van mal para firma canadiense que opera en Cuba

La compañía Sherritt International produce carbón, nickel y es el mayor
proveedor privado de energía eléctrica a la isla.
febrero 28, 2013

La compañía canadiense Sherritt International Corp., una de las firmas
extranjeras con mayor inversión en Cuba, informó que tuvo pérdidas de
$17,2 millones de dólares en el último trimestre del año pasado, según
reportó el diario The Globe and Mail.

La firma, que es la mayor productora de carbón en Canadá y además del
níquel y el cobalto tiene inversiones en la industria de hidrocarburos
en Cuba, ya había dado a conocer una reducción de sus ganancias de 34
por ciento en el último trimestre del 2011.

En adición a la producción de níquel en Canadá, Indonesia, Madagascar y
Cuba, la empresa está involucrada en operaciones petroleras y es además
el mayor proveedor privado de energía eléctrica a la isla.

La firma minera reportó que la producción de crudo para este año en Cuba
será de sólo unos 18 mil barriles por día, alrededor de 11 por ciento
menos que en 2012, debido a la reducción de las reservas naturales.

Los ingresos de Sherritt disminuyeron en comparación con el año anterior
en virtud de una caída en los precios de las materias primas que produce.

Según el reporte, sus ingresos se redujeron de casi $537 millones de
dólares en el último trimestre de 2011 a $467,9 millones en igual
período del año pasado. Continue reading
jueves, marzo 07, 2013, 2:41 pm

Economista: Corte del subsidio venezolano sería hoy peor que crisis de
los 90

Por 15 años, Oscar Espinosa Chepe ha advertido del desastre económico
que significaría para Cuba una pérdida o reducción del patrocinio
venezolano. Hoy sus advertencias han entrado en el bombo de lo probable.
Rolando Cartaya
marzo 07, 2013

El economista independiente cubano Oscar Espinosa Chepe se ha pasado
tres lustros señalando desde la isla los peligros de que el gobierno de
los hermanos Castro volviera a apostar por una economía parásita,
dependiente de un aliado extranjero, tras el fuerte trauma
socioeconómico que sufrió el país en los años 90 a consecuencia del
corte de los subsidios soviéticos.

Sus señalamientos cobran hoy mayor actualidad que nunca con la
desaparición física del presidente venezolano Hugo Chávez, el "sponsor"
que convirtió a la empresa estatal petrolera de Venezuela, PDVSA en la
tarjeta de crédito fresca de un gobierno en bancarrota.

Chepe estimó en una entrevista con martinoticias que esa segunda
dependencia del castrismo ha alcanzado tal magnitud que la economía
cubana sufriría una fuerte conmoción no ya si la oposición venezolana
ganara los comicios a que obliga la Constitución en caso de muerte del
presidente electo, y cambiara el enfoque clientelista de la ayuda al
exterior chavista. Bastaría con una reducción de esas subvenciones para
afectar severamente los ingresos en moneda convertible, el consumo
energético y los proyectos de desarrollo en la isla.


El preso de conciencia de la Primavera Negra del 2003, todavía "bajo
licencia extrapenal", repara primero en la situación al otro lado de la
tubería de petrodólares.

"Chávez era en Venezuela el caudillo aglutinador de un movimiento muy
heterogéneo, sin una base ideológica firme, sino más bien nucleado en
torno a un hombre y sus concepciones nacionalistas y del llamado
socialismo del siglo XXI, que nadie sabe bien qué es".

"Su desaparición pudiera crear un vacío político, pero aún si su
sustituto designado ganara las elecciones, la situación económica del
país es muy complicada para el 2013, según apunta la Comisión Económica
para América Latina, la CEPAL. Acaban de devaluar el bolívar fuerte, y
eso sin duda va a crear niveles muy altos de inflación, más altos de los
que ya existían en Venezuela, que es desde hace años el país con la
mayor inflación de América Latina. Por otra parte la deuda externa
venezolana ya sobrepasa los 100.000 millones de dólares. A eso hay que
sumarle cuestiones como la corrupción y la violencia, en las que
Venezuela clasifica entre los peores países del mundo".

"De modo que el nuevo gobierno va a tener que enfrentar estos problemas,
lo cual podría afectar los niveles de subvención, incluso los programas
de créditos a Cuba en muchas esferas --sobre todo un plan grande en la
esfera de la refinación de petróleo-- que se paralizarían. En cuanto a
las entregas de petróleo, incluso si solamente se rebajan los 100.000
barriles diarios, sería un golpe muy grande para la economía cubana.
Ahora bien, en el escenario de que ganara la oposición y se suspendieran
las subvenciones a Cuba, habría un retroceso a un período especial, pero
mucho peor".


"Cuando se perdió la subvención soviética los almacenes estaban llenos,
en el 90 se había logrado una zafra de 8 millones de toneladas de
azúcar, se producía bastante níquel. Y también había una situación
política distinta, Fidel Castro gobernaba todavía con su aura de líder
de la revolución, de la Sierra".

"Hoy hay un proceso de descapitalización material y humana tremenda; la
industria cubana produce en estos momentos a un 50 % de los niveles de
1989, que tampoco eran óptimos; En la producción de alimentos acabo de
terminar un trabajo donde reflejo que la producción de leche está a un
50 % de la producción de 1990; la de carne de vacuno, a un 45 %; la de
huevos, a un 27 %. Y con una tendencia a caer, porque hay problemas con
el comercio exterior y no se compran materias primas para producir piensos".

"Cuba además no acaba de levantar su agricultura. Hubo ya una caída en
2012, a pesar de todas las tierras ociosas repartidas y de que el año
pasado fue un año bueno en cuanto a las lluvias y los ciclones. Eso
obliga a seguir dedicando miles de millones de dólares a importar
alimentos. Ya Raúl Castro anunció que este año posiblemente la cuenta
llegará a los 2.000 millones".

"Pero de todos estos problemas, el más serio es que el gobierno no ha
hecho las reformas que necesitaba el país".


"Las reformas que se han acometido son insuficientes y han dejado sin
resolver todos los problemas graves: la dualidad monetaria, la
descapitalización que ya mencionamos; la misma restructuración de la
fuerza de trabajo se quedó a medias: pensaban que en 2010 iban a
eliminar 500.000 empleos estatales pero no han podido hacerlo. Y ese es
un problema básico, porque si no pueden reorganizar los centros de
trabajo y crear un ambiente de disciplina y racionalidad, es imposible
incrementar la productividad y la eficiencia, y si no se logra eso,
tampoco se puede elevar el salario real. El propio Raúl Castro ha
reconocido que nadie puede vivir en Cuba con los salarios, cuyo promedio
está por debajo de los 20 dólares mensuales".

"Eso se traduce en un aumento a niveles estratosféricos de la
corrupción. Al punto de que, según tengo entendido ese será el tema
central de la sesión de mediados de año de la Asamblea Nacional. Es una
economía en crisis, donde hay problemas en todos los sectores:
construcción, transporte, agricultura… no se puede negar que en estos
siete años [de Raúl Castro] ha habido algunos cambios, pero los cambios
sustanciales que necesita el país no se han hecho".


"En el intercambio de bienes, Cuba solamente exporta un valor que
representa la tercera parte de sus importaciones. Es un desbalance
colosal, que Cuba está resolviendo fundamentalmente con los servicios
profesionales que le presta a Venezuela. Los pagos que recibe por ese
concepto parece que están bastante inflados. Hay otros factores que
ayudan a equilibrar el desbalance, por ejemplo hace poco la revista
National Geographic evaluó en 2,300 millones las remesas que envían los
cubanoamericanos. Yo le añadiría al menos otros 1.000 millones en
bienes: paquetes y otros envíos. Y están también los ingresos del turismo".

"Pero los ingresos que dejan un saldo neto más cuantioso son los que se
reciben por los cooperantes en Venezuela. Andan entre los 5.000 y 6.000
millones de dólares anuales. Hay que considerar que la producción de
bienes en Cuba es muy ineficiente y en muchos casos el costo de
producirlos es muy cercano a su precio de venta. Y algo similar sucede
con el turismo, que tiene que importar hasta los alimentos que se sirven
a los turistas: vegetales, hortalizas, hasta yuca congelada".


"Lo lógico hubiera sido que se hubieran hecho reformas, que el país se
hubiera fortalecido económicamente para hacerle frente a esta coyuntura.
Pero lo que se hizo fue buscar otro "sponsor", y en este mundo ya no
está fácil buscar otro "sponsor" que esté dispuesto a subvencionarte.
Pero el gobierno declaró a este país Estado Parásito desde la Unión
Soviética para acá. Y parece que esa sigue siendo la idea". Continue reading
Washington multa a firma estadounidense por envíos de carga a Cuba
Publicado el Martes, 05 Marzo 2013 13:51
Por Redacción CaféFuerte

La corporación Eagle Global Logistics (EGL), una empresa de liderazgo
mundial en el suministro y la transportación de mercancías, acordó pagar
una multa de $139,650 dólares por realizar operaciones que violan el
embargo a Cuba y las restricciones comerciales con Irán.

La Oficina de Control de Bienes Extranjeros (OFAC) del Departamento del
Tesoro indicó que la penalidad contra la compañía, con sede en Houston,
Texas, tomó en cuenta aparentes violaciones del Reglamento de Control de
Activos Cubanos, ocurridas entre abril del 2005 y diciembre del 2008.

El comunicado de la OFAC emitido este martes señaló que filiales de EGL
en el extranjero estuvieron vinculadas a 280 transacciones de reenvío de
carga marítima hacia o desde Cuba.

Las violaciones ocurrieron cuando EGL no formaba aun parte del
conglomerado internacional CEVA Logístics Group, al que se asoció en el
2007. CEVA, con sede en Hoofddorp, Holanda, cuenta actualmente con
instalaciones en 26 países y 567 almacenes con capacidad de 7.4 millones
de metros cuadrados; sus ventas ascienden a 3,500 millones de euros.

Suministros petroleros a Irán

En el caso de las violaciones relacionadas con Irán, ocurrieron ya bajo
la sombrilla empresarial de CEVA. Las operaciones que transgredieron las
reglas para el comercio con Irán se produjeron entre agosto y octubre
del 2008, cuando empresas afiliadas a EGL realizaron 10 envíos de
suministros a la plataforma semisumergible Aban VIII, localizada en
aguas costeras iraníes y operada por Petropars.

La firma Petroparts está asociada con la estatal Compañía Nacional de
Petróleo de Irán.

El comunicado agrega que EGL reveló voluntariamente las supuestas
violaciones del embargo a Cuba, pero no actuó de la misma forma en el
caso de las operaciones con Irán. El monto potencial de la multa era
inicialmente de $206,889 dólares.

La OFAC señaló que se tomó en cuenta que EGL no tenía historial previo
de violaciones y cooperó sustancialmente en la investigación con las
autoridades estadounidenses.

Daños significativos

Sin embargo, en el 2006 EGL se vio obligada a devolver $4 millones de
dólares al gobierno de Estados Unidos tras reclamaciones por haber
inflado los precios de envíos de suministros militares a Irán. EGLfue
subcontratada por Kellogg Brown & Root, que tenía el principal contrato
con el Ejército estadounidense.

El comunicado añadió, no obstante, que las operaciones de EGL causaron
"daños significativos al programa de sanciones de la OFAC", y señaló que
la compañía tenía elementos suficientes para considerar que Aban VIII
era una plataforma que operaba en aguas iraníes con vínculos con Teherán.

La multa a EGL se añade a la larga lista de sanciones aplicadas por
Washington a empresas y bancos estadounidenses por violaciones al
embargo durante la última década.

Es la segunda penalidad por violaciones al embargo a Cuba que reporta la
OFAC en menos de un mes. El pasado 22 de febrero se informó que la
compañía californiana Tung Tai Group, dedicada a reciclar metales y
componentes electrónicos, fue obligada a pagar una multa de $43,875
dólares por involucrarse en negocios con la isla.

El pasado diciembre, las autoridades estadounidenses impusieron una
histórica penalidad de $1,920 millones de dólares al conglomerado
financiero HSBC por violación de los requerimientos fijados por la Ley
de Secreto Bancario, lo que involucraba transacciones financieras con
entidades cubanas. Continue reading
Patrimonio a crédito: ¿Qué buscan las nuevas medidas del gobierno cubano?
Publicado el Viernes, 22 Febrero 2013 13:49
Por Emilio Morales*

El gobierno cubano ha puesto en marcha una ampliación del acceso de los
trabajadores particulares a los créditos bancarios, que hasta ahora los
ciudadanos solo podían respaldar con dinero.

Las instrucciones 1 y 2/2013 del Banco Central de Cuba y la resolución
80/2013 del Ministerio de Finanzas y Precios dan luz verde para que las
instituciones bancarias permitan a los cubanos -como sucede en otras
latitudes del mundo- presentar activos no monetarios como garantías de
pago, entre ellos joyas, alhajas, prendas preciosas, objetos de valor
cultural (cuadros, piezas de arte), automóviles, bienes agropecuarios,
solares yermos y viviendas de descanso o veraneo. Es decir, un beneficio
extendido para una minoría de la población.

La decisión gubernamental extiende el alcance de algunas opciones
puestas en práctica en diciembre del 2011, cuando comenzó a aplicarse
una nueva política crediticia que favoreció las labores del sector
privado, los agricultores y los ciudadanos de a pie interesados en
construir o mejorar sus viviendas.

Con las medidas del 2011, los beneficiados debían demostrar al banco la
fuente potencial de ingresos que emplearían para pagar el crédito
estatal, lo que implicaba garantías adicionales como depósitos bancarios
del solicitante o de terceras personas, y el compromiso jurídico de un
garante para abonar el monto del préstamo en caso de que el deudor no
pudiera hacerlo.

Comprometiendo al deudor

¿Hacia dónde se enrumba entonces este nuevo paso? Se trata de expandir
las modalidades para ofrecer garantías de pago por parte de los deudores
como parte de la llamada "actualización del modelo económico" que ha
echado a andar Raúl Castro desde su llegada al poder.

A favor, debe reconocerse que las instituciones financieras tratan de
ponerse al día con los procedimientos mundialmente establecidos, pues
hasta ahora sólo aceptaban garantías líquidas para los créditos concedidos.

Las medidas comprenden también la implementación de una estructura de
verificación y control de los bienes negociados como activos, con la
intervención de dependencias del CIMEX y de los bancos. Las
disposiciiones anunciadas aseguran que la certificación del valor de los
bienes que se entreguen al banco en garantía "tomará en cuenta los
precios del mercado".

También las Cooperativas de Créditos y Servicios (CCS) pueden constituir
fondos de garantías y beneficiar a los miembros que soliciten créditos,
según previo acuerdo adoptado internamente con los directivos de la CCS.

Si la deuda se extingue, el banco notificará al registro correspondiente
la cancelación de la inscripción del bien puesto en garantía. Los bancos
custodiarán los bienes otorgados hasta la amortización del crédito y, en
caso de incumplimiento de las obligaciones de pago del deudor, procederá
a la venta de los muebles o inmuebles en custodia.

Entusiasmo oficial

Con entusiasmo, la prensa oficial ha comentado que esta estas medidas
clasifican "como una de esas decisiones que contribuyen a dar
integralidad al proceso de actualización de la economía cubana" y
permiten "ir eliminando progresivamente los obstáculos".

La realidad es que estas resoluciones son limitadas y no acaban de dar
el paso para que las viviendas puedan ser el garante de un crédito. La
vivienda es el mayor patrimonio que tienen hoy día los cubanos después
de 50 años.

En el trasfondo, la medida busca estimular las inversiones en el sector
privado, pero la estructura creada para otorgar los créditos tiene muy
escaso alcance. Es presumible que no se disponen de los recursos
financieros necesarios para otorgar grandes créditos.

Las resoluciones muestra además que hay miedo al riesgo político de
aplicar medidas más profundas. La falta de créditos internacionales para
desarrollar la economía y estimular el crecimiento del sector privado
sigue siendo un obstáculo mayor para el avance de las reformas.

Es por ello que el anuncio de una nueva ley de inversiones despejará
muchas dudas sobre hacia dónde van las reformas de Raúl Castro. Si a los
cubanos residentes en el exterior les permiten invertir en la isla, las
cosas podrían cambiar 180 grados en el tema de los otorgamientos de
créditos y el desarrollo del sector privado. Mientras tanto, seguirán
las resoluciones-parche para intentar estimular el cambio de la economía

El quinquenio de la verdad

El desarrollo del sector privado requiere de créditos imprescindibles
para el arranque inicial de cualquier negocio. Educar a los nuevos
empresarios cubanos a cómo adquirir y usar el crédito no son tareas que
se se cumplen convirtiendo a los bancos en una casa de empeño
institucional como pretenden las medidas anunciadas esta semana.

La economía cubana requiere leyes más profundas y flexibles que generen
mayor espacio a las oportunidades del naciente sector privado. Se hace
imprescindible el asesoramiento externo y financiamiento de
instituciones internacionales para impulsar con mayor efectividad y
dinamismo las reformas económicas.

¿Contempla esos próximos pasos el gobierno cubano en su plan de
transformación del modelo económico socialista? Por lo pronto habrá que
esperar la conformación del nuevo Consejo de Estado que se anunciará
este domingo y las directrices que se trazarán para los próximos cinco
años. El 24 de febrero del 2013 no debe anotarse como una fecha más en
la historia reciente del país, pues marcará el comienzo del segundo y
último período para la octogenaria gerentocracia cubana.

¿Estarán nuevamente todos los que están o habrá sangre joven en el
próximo gobierno? ¿Asistiremos en el quinquenio venidero a reformas más
profundas y audaces en la isla?

A partir de este domingo tendremos necesariamente que comenzar a
observar y evaluar los cambios y decretos con mayores expectativas.

*Economista cubano. Ex jefe de planeación estratégica de mercadotecnia
en la corporación CIMEX y autor de los libros Cuba: ¿tránsito silencioso
al capitalismo? y Marketing without Advertising, Brand Preference and
Consumer Choice in Cuba. Es presidente de Havana Consulting Group, en Miami. Continue reading
Cuba autoriza pagos estatales en moneda convertible a cuentapropistas
Publicado el Jueves, 21 Febrero 2013 04:36
Por Redacción CaféFuerte

En un nuevo paso en el reordenamiento económico y financiero del país,
el gobierno cubano permitirá que las empresas e instituciones estatales
puedan contratar y pagar en moneda convertible los servicios de
trabajadores privados.

De acuerdo con sendas resoluciones del Ministerio de Economía y
Planificación, y el Banco Central de Cuba -publicadas este jueves en la
Gaceta Oficial Extraordinaria- se autorizará "el pago en pesos
convertibles (CUC) de personas jurídicas a naturales en determinados
casos que aconseja la realidad actual", indica una información aparecida
en el diario Granma.

La publicación afirma que en todos los casos los montos requeridos para
realizar los pagos deberán estar aprobados en los presupuestos y planes
para el año fiscal de las personas jurídicas, lo que condiciona que las
cantidades a pagar no estén limitadas por decisiones administrativas.

La nueva medida autoriza el pago en CUC por los servicios de
alimentación que ofrezcan los cuentapropistas a entidades radicadas en
el territorio nacional. También las entidades presupuestadas y las
personas jurídicas del sistema del turismo podrán contratar servicios a
trabajadores privados con la opción de efectuar pagos en CUC.

Las disposiciones, fechadas el 7 de febrero, entrarán en vigor de inmediato.

La información agrega que se permitirá a las entidades contratar
servicios de reparaciones menores, plomería u otras actividades de
acuerdo con un criterio de eficiencia del proveedor.

En el resto de los servicios no autorizados a pagar en CUC, así como
para la contratación de productos, incluyendo las ventas directas de
productos agropecuarios, las entidades del sistema del turismo
ejecutarán l;os pagos en pesos cubanos (CUP).
Se apliocará el mismo sistema establecido por el Ministerio de Finanzas
y Precios para las ventas directas de los productores agropecuarios a
las entidades del sector turístico.

No pueden ser en efectivo

Igualmente, se abre la posibilidad de incorporar el pago en CUC en el
caso de experimentos que se aprueben como nuevas formas de gestión.

El único requerimiento es que los pagos no pueden realizarse en
efectivo, sino empleando cheques, tarjetas, pagarés, letras de cambio,
cartas de crédito local y otros instrumentos financieros.

"No es esta una medida casual y mucho menos aislada", dijo Marta García
Pino, especialista del Grupo de Políticas Macroeconómicas de la Comisión
Permanente para la Implementación y el Desarrollo, citada por el diario.

La funcionaria explicó que el fortalecimiento del trabajo por cuenta
propia y la creación de otras formas de gestión no estatal ha hecho
necesario modificar los límites establecidos para el pago a personas
naturales por parte de los organismos estatales.

El MEP determinó las actividades o servicios que podrán ser pagados en
CUC a un trabajador por cuenta propia por una persona jurídica.

Las disposiciones se suman al marco legal que el gobierno ha emitido
desde el 2010, cuando se amplió el ejercicio del cuentapropismo a más de
180 actividades laborales.

Actualmente el país cuenta con unos 400,000 trabajadores por cuenta
propia en todo el país. Continue reading
Cuba inches in right direction
February 27, 2013
By Dale McFeatters

Raul Castro was rubber-stamped Sunday into another term as Cuba's
president. He says this term will be his last and that he will retire in
2018. In 54 years, Cubans have had only two presidents — not that they
had much choice in the matter — Raul, 81, and his ailing older brother
Fidel, 86, the country's long-serving dictator who stepped aside for
Raul only when ill health forced him to.

Bypassing an entire generation of aging Castroites, Raul named Miguel
Diaz-Canel, 52, as his new first vice president and heir apparent.
Diaz-Canel replaces Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, 81, who fought alongside
the Castros in the Cuban revolution.

Raul praised Machado Ventura for his patriotism and selflessness in
making way for Diaz-Canel, although voluntarily relinquishing power has
not been a hallmark of the Castros' Cuba.

Raul told a gathering of legislative leaders that he plans to establish
two-term limits for Cuba's top political offices and establish age
limits for holding those offices. These may be well-intentioned reforms,
but they would also assure that no future leaders challenge the Castro
brothers for their place in Cuba's history books.

Raul reiterated his commitment "to defend, maintain and continue to
perfect socialism," but while in office he nibbled at the edges of
Cuba's pervasive state socialism, allowing certain types of private
businesses and real estate ownership, and easing travel restrictions.
Those steps were small and slow in coming, but at least they were in the
right direction if Cuba is ever to gain a modicum of prosperity.

Diaz-Canel, an electrical engineer by training, is a former minister of
higher education and headed the Communist Party in two provinces. He
learned quickly when a charismatic patron of his was dumped by the
Castros that the better part of valor was to be neither seen nor heard.
He apparently excels in backroom politics, a skill he will need because,
while Raul sees him as the heir apparent, it's a safe bet that a lot of
Cuban politicians, their ambitions bottled up by the long rule of the
Castros, do not.

Meanwhile, Raul could celebrate his second term and indicate his desire
for friendly relations with the U.S. by releasing Alan Gross, 63, a
USAID contractor who was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in
prison for illegally bringing communications equipment onto the island.

Gross' crime was apparently trying to link Cuba's small Jewish community
to other Jewish communities by providing Internet connections. Most of
the civilized world does not see this as a crime and neither should Cuba.

Dale McFeatters writes for Scripps Howard News Service. Continue reading
Posted on Wednesday, 02.27.13

Cuba can't wait five more year for big changes

Is Cuba really changing?

This past Sunday we witnessed what we had not heard one of the Castro
brothers say in almost 54 years: Come 2018 neither one of them will be
in power.

Raúl Castro announced to the Cuban National Assembly that this would be
his last term ruling Cuba. Watching him closely was his brother Fidel
who has become a symbol of the past.

A mostly under-the-radar faithful Communist Party leader by the name of
Miguel Diaz-Canel known for his managerial skills was selected as the
first vice president of the country and most likely the successor to
Raúl Castro.

Since taking over power, Raúl Castro has named a number of party
faithful to key government positions. Most of them were born after the
start of the Cuban revolution. Many Cuba analysts, including me, would
agree that we underestimated Raúl Castro's management skills.

We all knew he did not have the charisma and leadership style needed to
succeed his brother Fidel. Yet he has proven to be a good strategist by
planning and selecting a new breed of Cuban leaders to follow him and Fidel.

In the months to come we will continue to see more changes and more
youthful people continue to be appointed to key positions in the
government. One big challenge this new cadre of leadership faces is how
to revive a moribund economy.

First up: They will have to create an infrastructure in order to
implement their economic reforms. In addition, they will have to
strengthen their business laws, banking system, justice system, business
environment, just to mention a few of the requirements to attract
foreign investment that's looking for stability not laws that change at
the whim of the Castros.

One very big challenge will be getting the military to loosen control of
most of the country's economic activities. This will be a challenge for
the "old guard" who have benefited from the spoils of the system now in

Putting people back to work in private enterprises will not be easy.
Meeting the population's basic needs will be crucial for any economic
reforms to succeed. However, Cubans have one of the highest literacy
rates in all of Latin America and a good entrepreneurial spirit.

The combination of both of these qualities will be very attractive to
future business investors in Cuba. There is no question that Cuba will
be very attractive to outsource business needs as well.

Going back to the point of how much Cuba is changing, Diaz-Canel and the
other new leaders will have to deal with a country where the majority of
the population does not believe in Marxist-Lennist doctrine. An
"advanced socialist state," as they call it, needs to be further defined.

How much power and influence will Raúl Castro give Diaz-Canel and others
remains a key question.

If history is right, I will say Diaz-Canel's authority will be very limited.

The country cannot wait five more years for major changes to take place.

Cuba and its upcoming leadership know that its major economic market is
90 miles to the north. Simple economic reforms without meaningful
political reforms will not be enough. The clock is ticking fast, but
Cuba seems to keep crawling instead of leaping forward.

Andy Gomez is a senior fellow at the Institute for Cuban and
Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami. Continue reading
Cuba to open state-run wholesaler for private companies
11:56 a.m. CST, March 7, 2013

* Step toward meeting new entrepreneurs' demand
* Signals support for strong private sector
* More than 200,000 small businesses added since 2010

By Marc Frank

HAVANA, March 7 (Reuters) - Cuba established on Thursday a
state-run wholesale company to sell food products, industrial
and other consumer goods to private companies and the state
sector, a step aimed at meeting a key demand of local

The new company was just the latest indication that
President Raul Castro plans to create a strong private sector in
retail services and farming as part of a broader reform of the
Soviet-styled economy.

Since taking over for his brother Fidel in 2008, he has been
lifting some restrictions on civil liberties, such as travel and
the sale and purchase of private property, as well as revamping
the state-dominated economy into a more mixed and market
friendly one.

More than 200,000 small businesses have opened since Cuba.,0,5185472.story Continue reading
Analysis: Castro brothers' successor may inherit a very different Cuba

Fidel Castro, left, and his brother, Raul, are preparing to pass the
torch of power to a new generation.
By Carlos Rajo, Telemundo
News analysis

Raul Castro's recent announcement that he will leave power in 2018, and
his appointment of 52-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel as first vice president
and his de facto successor, are signs of the glacial pace of political
change in Cuba.

Certainly, these announcements won't satisfy those who for decades have
been waiting for the Castro brothers' exit.

Nevertheless, the move marks the beginning of the passing of the torch
of power to a new generation.

For the first time in half a century, there is the real possibility that
a person who did not fight in the Cuban Revolution will lead the
country. Diaz-Canel was not even born when Fidel Castro overthrew
Fulgencio Batista in January 1959. Since then, a Castro has been in
power in Cuba: first the now-retired, 86-year-old Fidel, and from 2006
to now, his younger brother, Raul, 81.

This generational change does not mean that Cuba will move to a
different political system. There is no going back to capitalism, Raul
Castro told the National Assembly on Sunday. Nevertheless, the move
toward a generational change must be seen in the context of other
reforms implemented by the younger Castro.

These reforms already are changing the face of Cuban socialism. Castro
has introduced private farms, cooperatives in industries and activities
outside agriculture, and an array of small business. Granted, these are
restricted and heavily regulated, but still they are earning profits and
starting to create a segment of wealthier, successful entrepreneurs.
Cubans are also now allowed to sell houses and cars, and more recently,
to travel abroad if they can get a visa from another country.

While little is known of Diaz-Canel's ideology, it is likely that as the
appointed Castro successor he is on board with the reforms.

The U.S. State Department reacted tepidly to Castro's announcement and
made clear that it would not be sufficient to prompt a lifting of the
U.S. trade embargo. Although President Barack Obama doesn't have
election constraints in formulating a Cuba policy in his second term,
the issue remains emotionally and politically charged in the U.S., and
Congress is not likely to change its mind and lift the embargo while a
Castro remains in power.

That doesn't mean relations can't change, however.

For instance, the Obama administration could remove Cuba from the list
of states that sponsor terrorism. Cuba had been on that list since 1982,
when it had the financial support of the Soviet Union and could afford
to help guerrilla groups in Central and South America.

Cuba doesn't have the resources to help armed groups - or even the
political will to do so. Cuba is not Syria, North Korea or Iran in terms
of being a threat to the U.S.

However, the lifting of the embargo is likely only after a period of
more normal relations between the countries. There is also a legal
obstacle: According to the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, the U.S. will
recognize the legitimacy of a Cuban government only when someone other
than a Castro is in power. For now, at least, it seems that won't happen
until 2018.

The generational change in Cuba is real. Not only does Diaz-Canel take
the place of the 83-year-old Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, but the
composition of others organs of power is younger as well. Eighty percent
of the members of the National Assembly were born after the revolution,
and the average age of members of the Council of State is 57, with about
60 percent having been born post-revolution.

As is the tradition in Cuba, Diaz-Canel owes his influential position to
one of the Castros -- in this case, Raul. As far back as 2003, the
younger Castro talked about the "solid ideological firmness" of the
electrical engineer, who also has served as a university professor and
party boss in the Cuban provinces of Villa Clara and Holguin. Notably,
Diaz-Canel served in the armed forces under Raul Castro and earned a
reputation as a good manager of the military's diverse commercial

Diaz-Canel will have to be careful. There have been several young
leaders who once looked like they had been chosen as a Castro successor
but later fell from grace. In every case -- Roberto Robaina, Carlos
Lague, Felipe Perez Roque -- they went from being the heir apparent to
being suddenly demoted without much ceremony or explanation. The
difference is that all were put in their positions of power by Fidel
Castro and were demoted when they fell out of favor with him. Diaz-Canel
is said to be Raul Castro's favorite.

Assuming that nothing extraordinary happens before 2018, that Raul
remains healthy and that there are no ideological purges – "corruption"
is the favorite accusation of the Cuban leadership when it comes to
making demotions -- the big question for Cuba, and for Diaz-Canel
himself, is the success of Raul's reforms.
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If they work well, perhaps the regime will develop a sort of hybrid
socialism-communism with a dynamic, state-controlled capitalist economy.
Or maybe day by day the reforms will penetrate Cuban society and
ultimately destroy one the few communist systems left in the world.
Diaz-Canel, meanwhile, will start toying with the torch of power.

Only time will tell whether -- when the day comes in 2018 or sooner --
the Cuba that Diaz-Canel has known will still be there for him to rule. Continue reading
Cuba's leaders

The new man
The Castros unveil their successor
Mar 2nd 2013 | HAVANA

EVER since Raúl Castro replaced his ailing brother, Fidel, as Cuba's
president in 2008, he has made clear that his overriding aim is to
organise an orderly political and economic transition to ensure that the
ruling Communist Party remains in power after both men die. Progress
towards that goal has been painstakingly slow, and sometimes crablike.
But another step was taken at the opening of a newly installed National
Assembly on February 24th, when Raúl began a second presidential term.
Not only did he repeat that it would be his last. He also hailed the
appointment as first vice-president of Miguel Díaz- Canel, a former
higher-education minister, saying this represented "a defining step in
the configuration of the country's future leadership".

"Who's he?" was how one Havana resident greeted the news. Mr Díaz-Canel
may not be exactly a household name in Cuba but he has been tipped for
the top for several years. He has stood in for Raúl on a couple of
recent foreign visits. Aged 52, his elevation means that the Castros,
both of whom are in their 80s, are at last passing the baton to a
generation born after the 1959 revolution. (Fidel gave a short speech at
the assembly, in a rare public appearance which could be read as giving
his blessing to the new appointment.)

Mr Díaz-Canel is an electrical engineer who spent 15 years as a
provincial party secretary before becoming a minister and, last year,
vice-president of the Council of Ministers. He is unexpressive in
public, but is said to be affable and accessible, with a quick wit and
sharp mind. Until fairly recently he wore his hair long, another
reminder of the fact that he is a child of the 1960s, not the 1930s. He
is known to be a fan of the Beatles, an enthusiasm once frowned upon by
the regime.

Whereas Fidel liked to surround himself with young acolytes, Raúl has
long shown that he values the practical experience of provincial party
officials, to whom he has devolved some powers. Another rising star,
Mercedes López Acea, the Havana party secretary, was promoted to the
rank of vice-president as well.

As higher-education minister Mr Díaz-Canel expanded a scheme under which
Cubans taught students from Venezuela, Cuba's chief benefactor. He
forged close ties with Venezuela's leaders, including Nicolás Maduro,
the de facto president. With Mr Chávez seemingly dying of cancer, it is
vital for Cuba's leaders that Mr Maduro should succeed him and continue
to provide subsidised oil.

Raúl once praised Mr Díaz-Canel for his "ideological firmness". The new
man's private views are unclear. In the 1990s he was linked to a group
of communist reformers that surrounded the then foreign minister,
Roberto Robaina, who openly argued for economic liberalisation in Cuba.

Raúl Castro has allowed Cubans to buy cars and homes, to lease farmland
and to set up small businesses. Last year he scrapped curbs on foreign
travel. As a result, this month Yoani Sánchez, a blogger and opponent of
the regime, has been able to visit Brazil—though she has faced protests
organised by the Cuban Embassy in Brasília and members of Brazil's
ruling Workers' Party.

There are signs that Raúl is running out of reformist steam. His tone in
his speech to the assembly seemed at times almost resigned. "I was not
chosen to be president to restore capitalism to Cuba" he stressed (Mr
Díaz-Canel nodded in agreement). He announced no new economic reforms.
It will be Mr Díaz-Canel's job to get to grips with the "issues of
greater scope, complexity and depth" that Raúl said the government was
grappling with. First among these is allowing private wholesale markets.

Various putative dauphins were raised up by Fidel only to fall from
grace, accused of corruption or of excessive ambition. One of them was
Mr Robaina, sacked in 1999. He now spends his days painting and running
a restaurant in Miramar, an elegant district of Havana. Mr Díaz-Canel is
presumably aware of the risks involved in his elevation. But this time
it looks as if the chosen successor may be the one who actually succeeds. Continue reading
New Cuba Cruise Line launches in Europe

Now Europeans can access the newly-launched Cuba Cruise breaking new
ground with its circumnavigation of Cuba. Finally Cuba's fascinating but
otherwise hard to reach ports are accessible to all. Each cruise
includes the opportunity to visit world famous beaches, six UNESCO world
heritage sites and four National Parks & Preserves, as well as in-depth
exploration of Cuba's dynamic culture. The experience offers the best
qualities of cruising and all-inclusive getaways combined with a Cuba
that few people see.

Cuba Cruise will make its European debut during ITB, the world's largest
travel show, from March 6 - 10, 2013 in Berlin, Germany.

Prices start at EU€437 double occupancy for a seven-night cruise. The
upcoming season will run from December 16, 2013 to March 31, 2014 with a
total of 15 departures.

"It is exciting to offer something truly unique to the travel market,
and Cuba Cruise is certainly the only offering of its kind," said Cuba
Cruise President Dugald Wells. "We provide the best of both worlds to
our guests – a top-notch all inclusive cruise experience and the type of
in-the-know exploration of Cuba's remarkable sights, sounds, flavours
and history that is usually reserved for locals only."

Your Cuba, Accessible & Authentic


The line's launch diversifies traditional Cuban travel options to
provide access to the true, authentic Cuba, encouraging guests to "find
your Cuba" beyond busy beaches and high-occupancy hotels.

Easy To Reach with Havana & Montego Bay Embarkation Ports

Cuba Cruise's 480 stateroom, 25,611 tonne ship Louis Cristal will
circumnavigate Cuba with cruises departing from the exciting and vibrant
city of Havana. There will also be cruises departing from Montego Bay in
Jamaica making the experience even easier to access. The 7-night cruise
will call at six unique ports, offering opportunities to visit Cuba's
fabled colonial cities where time stands still, wilderness nature
preserves unseen by nearly all visitors before now, and of course, some
of the most beautiful beaches in all the world.

Quality Imported Food Meets Cuban Entertainment

Each cruise will feature the company's signatures of impeccable service
and delicious meals served onboard. All dining aboard Cuba Cruise will
feature quality imported produce (mainly from Canada), beef and other
food products and specialty Cuban dishes.

Cruises will feature a first-rate entertainment program of Cuban music
and dance by local Cuban performers.

Cruise Line Veteran as CEO, and Award-Winning Partners Louis Cruises

Cuba Cruise is in steady hands with President Dugald Wells at the helm,
a 20-year veteran of the cruise industry. Having been honoured in 2006
by the U.S. influential publication, Travel + Leisure Magazine, as one
of the Top 35 Innovators in travel today, Dugald is uniquely qualified
to bring Cuba Cruise to the market. With ownership partner Louis
Cruises, an industry leader with 25 years of experience in cruising and
78 years of award winning history in tourism, Cuba Cruise is sure to see
success in the years to come.

The Louis Cristal

The Louis Cristal is a modern cruise ship with a unique yacht-like
modern design and a cruising speed of 18 knots. It features an array of
amenities with all the comforts expected of today's contemporary
vessels, including spacious staterooms and suites (some with balconies,
and each one equipped with shower, WC, wash basin, telephone, hairdryer
& TV), elegant lounges and restaurants, casino and open promenades. The
ship also features modern communication facilities including an internet
corner, WiFi and roaming GSM mobile phone service.

Cruises are fully commissionable to Travel Agents at 12%, with land
excursions and beverage package commissionable at 8%.

The company anticipates that easily accessible air, land and sea
packages will soon be available through major European air charter tour
operators, with flights departing from most principal European gateways. Continue reading
Cubans Wonder If Aid Will Still Flow Following Death Of Chavez
by Nick Miroff
March 06, 2013 2:56 PM

Cuba's Fidel Castro was a mentor to Hugo Chavez, and the Venezuelan
leader provided oil and other assistance to Cuba. The two men met in
Havana in June 2011 when Chavez went for cancer treatment. Enlarge image

Cuba's Fidel Castro was a mentor to Hugo Chavez, and the Venezuelan
leader provided oil and other assistance to Cuba. The two men met in
Havana in June 2011 when Chavez went for cancer treatment.

The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is an especially tough
blow for Cuba, whose feeble state-run economy has been propped up for
more than a decade with Venezuelan oil shipments and other subsidies.

The Castro government has declared three days of mourning, calling
Chavez "a son" of Cuba, but privately Cubans are quietly fretting about
the potential loss of billions in trade and the threat of a new economic

When he was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011, Hugo Chavez turned to
Fidel Castro and Cuba's doctors to save him. But his disease came back
again and again, and when news of his death was announced by Cuba's
state broadcasters Tuesday night, all of Havana seemed to go quiet.

Long before Chavez was first elected president in 1998, Castro saw him
as a protégé. Havana sent doctors, teachers and military advisers to
help Chavez consolidate power, and in turn, the Venezuelan president
pulled Cuba out of the economic ditch left by the collapse of the Soviet

The island came to depend on Venezuela for two-thirds of its oil imports
and nearly half its foreign trade.

Among the tens of thousands of Cubans who went to work among Venezuela's
poor was Alvaro Castellanos, a doctor standing on the sidewalk outside
the Venezuelan Embassy in Havana, where he came to pay his respects.

"We gave them what we had, and in a way they gave us what they had,"
says Castellanos, adding that he spent six years working in Venezuela.
"More than anything it was a family, a union, not just between Cuba and
Venezuela but with all of Latin America."

Castellanos was among a handful of Cubans who arrived to the embassy,
but Chavez's death brought no mass outpouring of emotion in Havana,
unlike the scenes in Caracas.

Relationship Could Hinge On Election

The outcome of the Venezuelan presidential election in the next month
will determine Chavez's successor and the future of relations with Cuba.
A win by Chavez loyalist Nicolas Maduro would likely keep the oil
flowing and the relationship tight.

But a victory by Venezuela's opposition could augur a new austerity
period for Cuba. Eduardo Garcia, a university student in Havana, said he
didn't think the Venezuelan people would vote for that.

"I have faith that this is a process that doesn't depend on a single
person," he said. "I have faith that everything Chavez has done has
taken root in the conscience of Venezuelans, and they will continue to
follow his path."

To many in Venezuela and the U.S., Chavez was an autocrat who left his
county divided and dysfunctional. But to many Cubans accustomed to
harsher Castro rule, he looked a democratic figure, and helped push
their rigid government in a better direction.

After all, Chavez based his rule on democratic elections. Compared to
the Castros, he tolerated more criticism from opponents and the press.
And even among frustrated Cubans who saw his aid as a lifeline to the
Castros, they knew it was Chavez who kept the lights on and the air
conditioners running.

Havana resident Miriam Suarez sees nothing good coming from his death.

"A lot of people who don't know what poverty is like can't understand
Chavez," Suarez said. "Maybe now that he's gone there will be changes.
And it'll be the poor who suffer, not the rich."

Tributes to Chavez and condolences have come from all over Latin America
and the world since his death, but Fidel and Raul Castro have been
noticeably silent.

The Cuban government issued a statement Tuesday night, but neither
Castro has appeared in public nor offered a farewell statement.

For the elder Castro, now 86 and retired, Chavez's death is an
especially personal loss. He has even outlived the man he carefully
prepared to be his political heir. Continue reading
Chavez's Death Will Have Ramifications For Cuba
Renee Montagne and Tom Gjelten
March 06, 2013 4:00 AM

The death of President Hugo Chavez could mean as much for Cuba as it
will for Venezuela. The Chavez government has heavily subsidized Cuba.


The death of Hugo Chavez could mean as much for Cuba as it will for
Venezuela. As we just heard, Chavez looked to Fidel Castro for
inspiration, and Castro has supplied Venezuela with thousands of Cuban
doctors, health workers and security specialists. In return, Chavez sent
a massive amount of Venezuelan oil to Cuba at cut-rate prices, and thus
helped keep the Cuban economy afloat during years of crisis.

Joining us now is NPR's Tom Gjelten. Good morning.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Let's start with these Venezuelan oil shipments to Cuba. How
important have they been?

GJELTEN: Really important, Renee. We're talking about close to 100,000
barrels of oil going to Cuba per day. Now, at $90 a barrel, we can do
the math and see what that is worth. Now, Cuba has been charged for it,
but as you said, it's been paying a cut-rate price, and 100,000 barrels
a day is more than Cuba needs. So it's been reselling much of that oil,
maybe as much as 40 percent of that oil, and reselling it at market prices.

So Cuba is earning a lot of hard currency off that oil, just the same as
it did with Soviet oil shipments back in the old days. And this is, in
fact, what has really saved the Cuban economy in the last few years.
Plus, as you said, all these doctors, teachers, coaches, security
officers that Cuba has sent to Venezuela, Venezuela is paying for them,
paying their salaries, and the money is going to the Cuban government.
So that's an important source money for Cuba.

MONTAGNE: OK. So Chavez had a close relationship with Fidel, and
subsequently with Fidel's brother Raul. He went to Cuba for his medical
treatment once Chavez was diagnosed with cancer. Do we know whether his
designated successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, would maintain that
close relationship?

GJELTEN: Well, of course, Renee, he would first have to be elected as
Chavez's successor. And as the vice president, he has taken over for
now, but there will be new elections within 30 days. It does appear he
has a good chance of being reelected, if only because of the sympathy
for Hugo Chavez. So assuming he is the next president, yes, he is likely
to try to maintain that relationship with Cuba.

There are a couple - three factions in the Venezuelan political system,
some more aligned with the military, some more aligned with the
business. Nicolas Maduro is part of the faction, the leader of the
faction that is most closely aligned with Cuba. The problem is that this
has been an expensive relationship for Venezuela, and it is Maduro's
misfortune - as Jon Lee Anderson said - to be taking over at a time of
great economic stress in Venezuela.

He might be hard-pressed to keep the level of largess that Chavez has
maintained for Cuba. Without Chavez's charismatic and political appeal,
he may be tempted to cut back on that in order to spend more of those
resources in Venezuela and maintain his standing with the Venezuelan

MONTAGNE: And just briefly, could this potential loss of Venezuelan aid
threaten the Raul Castro government in Cuba? I mean, how will it affect

GJELTEN: Well, we know that after the loss of Soviet aid in the early
'90s, there was huge discontent in Cuba. And now we are potentially
looking at something similar. This could be, in some ways, even more
traumatic. I mean, Cuba's economic and physical infrastructure has
deteriorated in recent years. On the other hand, Cuba has also
diversified its investment. It is getting aid from other countries,
including China.

It's hard to say. It could be destabilizing.

MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks very much.

GJELTEN: You bet.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Tom Gjelten, speaking to us on the death of Hugo

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Oil and Cuba after Chávez

Hugo Chávez' death could lead, immediately, to a struggle for power in
Venezuela. For non-Venezuelans, the first two questions that spring to
mind are, in no particular order: How will it impact the oil markets?
What will it mean for Cuba's future? Schwartz Fellow Steve LeVine writes
in Quartz that Chávez' death is unlikely to immediately end Venezuela's
policy of nationalizing the industry, as the national assembly is still
dominated by Chávez supporters. But, he notes, a more freely elected
Venezuelan president could decide to pump more oil, and renegotiate the
preferential deals enjoyed by China and Cuba. Speaking of Cuba, Former
Schwartz Fellow Jorge Castañeda, is quoted in a Wall Street Journal just
days before Chávez' death, noting that Cuba's leadership has fully
leveraged Fidel Castro's early and strong political support for Chávez
into financial support from Venezuela, allowing poor, small Cuba to
negotiate hundreds of deals with oil-rich Venezuela that are favorable
to Havana. Chávez death could imperil the Cuban economy just as the
ruling Castros are in their twilight. Continue reading
Cuba Mourns Chavez and His Economic `Generosity'
By Anna Edgerton - Mar 6, 2013 5:54 PM GMT+0100

The Cuban government declared two days of official mourning for
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died yesterday at the age of 58
following a long battle with cancer.

Cuba's government praised Chavez's goal of uniting the people of Latin
America and pledged loyalty to the continuation of his Bolivarian
Revolution, according to the statement in the state-run Granma website.

"He deeply understood our challenges and problems and he did what he
could, with extraordinary generosity," the government said.

Venezuela sells cheap oil to the island nation, while Cuba sends doctors
and other professionals to work in Venezuela. Chavez underwent four
operations for an undisclosed form of cancer in Cuba before his death. Continue reading
Chavez Propped Up Cuba, 'Father' Figure Fidel Castro
Tuesday, 05 Mar 2013 07:11 PM
By Bill Hoffmann

From the moment Hugo Chavez assumed the presidency in Venezuela, he
formed a very close bond with Cuban President Fidel Castro — one that
boosted Cuba's economy through trade, advanced its health care system
and bolstered its military might.

"Venezuela is traveling towards the same sea as the Cuban people, a sea
of happiness and of real social justice and peace," Chávez said during a
visit to Havana in 1999, the same year he rose to power.

One of the first major ties between the two countries came in 2000, when
the two presidents inked an agreement under which Venezuela sent 50,000
barrels of oil per day to Cuba at a heavy discount. The shipment was
nearly doubled by 2005.

In exchange, Cuba sent thousands of specialists in the fields of
education, the arts, sports and medicine to Venezuela.

In 2005, the two countries hammered out a contract to bring tens of
thousands of health care workers, including doctors and nurses, to
Venezuela and establish them in brand-new health care centers.

Chávez and Castro signed a declaration ripping the Free Trade Area of
the Americas, a program supported by the United States as an "expression
of a hunger to dominate the region."

Cuba also helped Venezuela free itself from U.S. influences on its
military by helping train its soliders in guerrilla warfare and

In 2007, Chávez signed an agreement with Cuba to embark on a series of
technical projects, including the construction of an underwater fiber
optics cable.

Venezuelan and Cuban scientists also worked together to improve their
countries' food production — spearheading a research project to improve
the growing of rice.

Last summer, as The New York Times reported, Chavez announced an
agreement with Cuba to create a factory to produce Coppelia ice cream,
famous in Cuba for its tropical flavors.

Washington has kept a weary eye on the ongoing cooperation between
Venezuela and Cuba with the idea they are trying to dominate the
Caribbean economically and militarily. And both sides have fired verbal

President George W. Bush's Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice slammed
Cuba as an "outpost of tyranny.'' She labeled Chavez a "negative force''
in Latin America.

Chávez called Bush's diplomatic efforts "a false democracy of the elite.''

The friendship between Venezuela and Cuba long predates Castro.
Diplomatic ties between the two powers were first established in 1902.
In 1913, they agreed to an extradition treaty.

The bond between the two men was often described as a father-son
relationship — with Castro was seen as a father figure to Chavez.

"Fidel to me is a father, a comrade, a master of perfect strategy,"
Chavez said in 2005. Continue reading
Cuba-Venezuela ties tenuous
06/03 00:24 CET

Cuba is on Venezuelan economic life support. With leader Hugo Chávez
dead, there is speculation that Cuba as we know it may not survive.
Havana's options just got a lot thinner, and it hasn't had many of them
for a long time.

President Chávez venerated the father of Communist Cuba, Fidel Castro.
The historic exit of the island's former Soviet benefactors saw that
support replaced by revolutionary regional neighbour Venezuela. Cuba has
depended on the generosity of Caracas since 1999.

Today, Venezuela sells Cuba oil at a discount – meeting its more than
100,000 barrel-per-day needs. On top of that, Caracas pays Havana some
six billion dollars per year in exchange for Cuban medical personnel,
technology experts, political consultants and other professionals.

Dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe said: "Cuba is extraordinarily
dependent on Venezuela. Venezuela has become the Soviet Union. A kind of
umbilical cord feeds oxygen to the Cuban economy, in the form of money
from Venezuela. If that stops, it will be worse than the worst years
when we lost Soviet help, because the economy is more destroyed now then
when the Soviets stopped helping us."

Even if Venezuela's new political masters want to keep its umbilical
relationship with Cuba, they must rationalise: Venezuela's economy,
despite its oil wealth, is stagnant, and its society seething with
imbalances – including runaway violent crime and corruption.

Chepe said: "This is very dangerous. Last month's devaluation of the
Bolivar currency by 46.5 percent risks introducing more instability to
Venezuelan society."

Many analysts say the Castrist state must accept reality and find a new
economic partner; probably the United States. For years already, Cubans
living there have been sending around two billion dollars to the island
annually, and even though the US has kept up a broad-ranging economic
embargo, it is the second-largest exporter of food products to Cuba.

Chepe said: "It would be a great irony if the great enemy of the last 54
years became the new sponsor!" Continue reading
March 2013
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