Should We Finally Take Cuba’s Reform Process Seriously?
August 6, 2013
Haroldo Dilla Alfonso*
HAVANA TIMES — I often wonder how much of what Cuban leaders say is
based on knowledge of the subject in question and how much is sheer
nonsense. For the good of the country, of the people who eke out a life
on the island, day after day, I mean, sometimes I even wish these
leaders were compulsive liars who are hiding a secret agenda but
ultimately know what they’re talking about.
For, if these fellows truly believe what they’re saying, then there’s no
doubt in my mind that the fate of my compatriots on the island is
anything but enviable.
Some weeks ago, the government decided to authorize the creation of
urban service cooperatives. This is an interesting topic which has been
enthusiastically received by some of Cuba’s left-leaning lot, who still
do not understand that cooperatives aren’t intrinsically left-wing (or
right-wing), that they are merely administrative spaces whose
orientation depends on how they relate to the rest of society.
As regards to this last point, Cuba’s reform process is steering such
cooperatives towards market relations (and, as such, the Right), for the
system of domination that still prevails on the island does not tolerate
any horizontal relations outside the market. And you don’t mess around
with such an authoritarian government.
In any event, it is a positive step, for it helps loosen the State’s
grip on society, gives people the opportunity to improve their lot and
makes daily life more comfortable and easy, among other things.
The problem lies in the fact that, even though Cuban leaders have no
choice but to do this (and other things they still refuse to do, fearing
it will weaken their authority), they ceaselessly criticize and downplay
what constitutes real progress for the country, to end up voicing all
manner of unwitting and premeditated nonsense. With this, they disorient
the whole of society, or at least those who still put any stock in what
Recently, it was Ms. Grisel Trista Arbesu’s turn to do this. This woman
is the head of the Improved Business Management Group of the Permanent
Implementation and Development Commission, a long title which, if
referring to anything factual, surely entails significant
responsibilities and skills.
According to Mrs. Trista, 124 cooperatives were created around the
country, most of them out of previously existing State entities. “With
this measure,” she said, “we are hoping to place inefficient State
activities under cooperative management. In addition, this allows the
State to gradually unburden itself of matters that are not essential to
the country’s economic development.”
That is to say, in this public official’s view, cooperatives (and all
small-scale private enterprise, I would imagine) are there to do the
State’s dirty work, to shoulder the “inefficient” sectors which the
State doesn’t want to deal with anymore and, what’s more, aren’t really
A singular perspective, not only with respect to cooperatives and the
private sector, but also regarding what’s important for the country.
For, if memory serves me right, I believe the strategy the government
has adopted to overcome Cuba’s serious food deficit is to put food
production in the hands of private businesses and cooperatives.
The creation of urban cooperatives stems, in fact, from issues related
to the management of agricultural and livestock markets. So, for this
government official, producing food and administering how the population
accesses such food is an issue of secondary importance, not a strategic
priority, one could say.
At the end of her explanation, to my even greater surprise, Ms. Arbesu
clarified that cooperatives “are being called on to occupy an importance
place within the country’s economy,” but not, to be sure, because this
is a process of privatization.
“Cooperatives,” she said, “aren’t the result of a process of
privatization. Rather, they administer State property, which is,
ultimately, the property of the people.”
Well, there you have it. Should we take this seriously?
(*) An HT translation of the original published in Spanish by
Source: “Should We Finally Take Cuba’s Reform Process Seriously?” –