Thursday, February 19, 2015
"La inmensa mayoría de los informáticos cubanos son jóvenes inclinados a la modernidad y se preocupan más por estar actualizados con las últimas novedades que de los potenciales peligros de que este 'potro salvaje' sea finalmente el caballo de Troya que permita a los cubanos acceder libremente a cualquier información y poder interactuar con el mundo exterior, sin intermediarios y sin miedos."
Friday, February 13, 2015
Goods (few) and Services (many) Eligible for Importation to the United States from Cuba's Nascent Private Enterprise Sector
The "Cuentapropista Importation List" itself (technically known as the U.S. Department of State Section 515.582 List), is currently more a "list of exceptions" to the list of importable goods than a list of permissions (see below). On the bright side, the list of "importable" services is much more open-ended. A helpful Fact Sheet is also available at the DOS site.
Here is my favorite Q&A from the FAQs sheet:
Q: Will the Cuban government allow independent entrepreneurs to export to the United States?
A: We cannot predict what the Cuban government will or will not allow, but we sincerely hope that it makes this and other new opportunities available to Cuba's nascent private sector. This is another measure intended to support the ability of the Cuban people to gain greater control over their own lives and determine their country's future.
Indeed, the ball is now in Raúl's court and we will see if he can take this preliminary "yes" for an answer.
Mimi Whitefield has a good write up on the new list at the Miami Herald: "New import rules for Cuba represent historic change." Despite the hopeful title of the article, Whitefield does not ignore the unfortunate, "underwhelming" caveat that this opening is riddled with exceptions:
"But forget the artisanal cigars, home brew or even refurbished vintage cars. Tobacco, spirits and machinery are among the exceptions not eligible for import under the new rules.
"Prepared food and beverages, textile and textile articles and animal products also aren’t eligible for import, cutting out important potential sales opportunities for Cuba’s cuentapropistas, the self-employed. For the record, imports of live animals, vegetables, chemical and mineral products, electrical equipment, telecom parts, articles made from nickel, zinc, copper and other non-precious metals and mechanical appliances aren’t permitted either.
"Items that aren’t on the list of exceptions may be imported."For me, the three big takeaways are:
1. The list is purposely a "negative" one meaning that instead of listing what is permitted in exhaustive detail (as the GOC does with its list of licensable self-employed occupations), the DOS only lists what the exceptions are - hoping that this approach sends a message to Cuban entrepreneurs that they should use their imaginations, be encouraged to be creative, and think outside the box.
2. However, a big problem is that all imports into the U.S. are subject to tariffs and those from Communist countries like Cuba even more so, plus there are tons of things that remain off limits as indicated in the quote from Whitefield's article above. This part is quite disheartening. Along with the fact that agriculture is more or less off the table (for now). American companies may advocate for the ability to sell their wares and foodstuffs to Cuba, but few are demanding the right of Cuban entrepreneurs to compete as sellers in the U.S. market.
3. There is much more space in this opening for "importable" Cuban services and even products produced by Cuba's new non-agricultural co-operatives (note the "entities" language in the list). Also, those returning from Cuba to the U.S. with goods can go beyond the previously established $400 limit as long a the other goods were acquired from the private sector (and under a $800 total since that's when steep tariffs would kick in).
So while important in making a historic crack in the wall of the U.S. embargo, challenging the Cuban government to respond by broadening and deepening its initial micro-enterprise reforms between 2010-2014, and facilitating some trade with Cuba's emergent private sector, this is still quite a small, symbolic step that will have little impact on the ground in Cuba in the short term.
This is due to (1) the Cuban government's continued monopoly over imports and exports and (2) the limited authority the Obama administration has vis-a-vis trade since much of the economic embargo (and tariff restrictions for imports) remain in place preventing full engagement with Cuba's emerging private sector.
One silver lining is that the DOS sees this as a "living document" that they expect to expand over time as they get feedback from Cuba's private sector.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
|Four of the 11 Baruch College journalism students who joined Professor Andrea Gabor on a January 2015 enterprise reporting trip to Cuba.|
Monday, February 9, 2015
Here's an excerpt of the last three paragraphs of the article, which zero in on some of these points rather eloquently:
SNET es el vivo ejemplo que cuando se quiere se puede, sin complicaciones y con una estructura organizada y con reglas éticas y técnicas que han permitido su supervivencia. Cada persona que integra esta red, pasó de la palabra al hecho, de las ideas a la realidad, de lo insipiente a la experiencia… pues como dijera la milenaria sabiduría China: "El camino más largo de todos, comienza dando el primer paso"
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Miriam Celaya and Antonio Rodiles.
(pictured together to the left)
Why is this important? Well, to the extent that Cuba's dissidents and civil society leaders will have any influence upon the pace and scope of the US-Cuba engagement, what those dissidents think, how they express themselves, and interact with one another will impact the diplomatic opening.
Also important - as we saw during the Congressional hearings last week - is how various US business groups, members of Congress, and pro-engagement and pro-embargo lobbies position themselves vis-a-vis the dissident community on the island.
Remember that the Cuban activists invited to speak or share statements at the hearings (Rosa María Payá, Miriam Leiva, Berta Soler, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Dagoberto Valdés, and Antonio Rodiles) did not speak with a single voice, and their competing comments, criticisms, and praises of U.S. policy were later highlighted by US lobbying groups to justify and reinforce their own positions: See #Cuba_Now and Capitol Hill Cubans for two examples.
The Rodiles-Celaya debate dates back to late December when two different groups of dissidents issued two very similar statements (Espacio Abierto de la Sociedad Civil - here; and Foro por los Derechos y Libertades - here), weighing in on the Obama-Castro deténte.
Among other things, this back-and-forth is about whether Cuba's opposition can properly be described as having become "divided" into two opposing poles following "D-17" (the new Cuban term for the shift in U.S. policy from isolation to engagement). Also important is the question of whether (and which) Cuban dissidents and civil society leaders will be included in future diplomatic negotiations.
Rodiles outlines what he sees as a split in the dissident community. On one side are those who see Obama's move as an "abandonment" or "betrayal" of the Cuban opposition, and providing diplomatic legitimacy and a much-needed economic lifeline to the Cuban government.
According to him, on the other side are those who see Washington's move as a (golden?) opportunity for the dissident movement to occupy new space and engage more directly with the mass of the population, now that it won't be so easy for the government to dismiss them as "mercenaries."
His first statement is at Diario de Cuba: "Hablar con la misma voz." He thinks that this split is not a good one as it dilutes the message of the dissident community, which should speak "with a single, unified voice."
He does grant that it's to be expected that the dissident community sound like a "jazz combo" (where clashing, discordant views are enriching), but he also insists that the differences among them be clearly laid out making the implications of those differences transparent as well. He gives a very clear (though perhaps debatable) point-by-point listing of those differences.
However, where Rodiles sees a split, Celaya sees a rich and healthy diversity of opinion. Her first response to Rodiles is at 14ymedio: "Una confrontación esteril." She also argues that what Washington does is much less important than what Cubans themselves do with this changing and challenging scenario.
Rodiles response to her is here: "Notas sobre una polémica," and Celaya's response to him is on her blog, A pie y descalzos: "Réquiem por un debate."
Interestingly, Rodiles also recently challenged Yoani Sánchez, Reinaldo Escobar, and Dagoberto Valdés (who seem to share Celaya's point of view) to join the debate.
Both 14ymedio and Estado de Sats have catalogued this developing polémica at their sites.
Friday, February 6, 2015
"Cuba's Perplexing Changes": #Cuba in Transition: Volume 24 - All papers now live and available in PDF!
Thursday, February 5, 2015
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
As the administration's human rights point-man Tomasz Malinowski - born in Communist Poland - said in his Senate testimony, U.S. policy isn't about waiting on the whims of the Castro government anymore:
"[The] Cuban government has succeeded in making our embargo and its isolation from the United States a bigger issue than its own repression, making it difficult to mobilize international pressure to improve respect for human rights on the island. To its own people, the government has justified Cuba's isolation, poverty and lack of democracy as being a result of American hostility. These were bad excuses; they justified none of what the Cuban people have suffered all these years. But we have to acknowledge that, over the years, shifting the blame to America has worked for the Castro government.
It is not going to work any more.
Now, every country in Latin America and the Caribbean, and indeed around the world, knows that the United States is not the obstacle to Cuba's integration with the hemisphere and its prospects for economic development. Cuban policies are the obstacle. Now every citizen of Cuba knows that the U.S. is willing to have improved relations with their country, to support private business on the island and to help connect them to the world. These steps have raised the Cuban people's expectations, and shifted the burden of meeting those expectations back upon the Cuban state."H/T @Cuba_Now #Cuba_Now
Thursday, January 29, 2015
What to make of Raúl's recent declarations? Or, how are "normal" relations different from "diplomatic" ones?
El mandatario cubano puso cuatro condiciones como premisas para el restablecimiento de las relaciones bilaterales:
1. La eliminación del embargo.
2. La devolución del territorio ilegalmente ocupado por la Base Naval de Guantánamo
3. El cese de las trasmisiones radiales y televisivas (Radio TV Martí) hacia el territorio cubano.
4. La compensación al pueblo cubano los daños humanos y económicos sufridos como resultado de la política estadounidense.
* * *
I responded with three questions of my own:
1) Is Raul serious or just saber rattling to strengthen his negotiating position (ahead of future talks that will surely include some or all of the issues above),
2) Would he be willing to indemnify/settle outstanding property claims against the Cuban government (given that he is raising the "reparations" issue himself)? and
3) Is he simply looking for a new series of excuses to prevent real detente and maintain his tried and true enemy as an enemy?
* * *
Two other colleagues chimed in to the effect that:
*The nitty-gritty of full diplomatic relations -- raising the flags over embassies, naming ambassadors, etc. -- is being negotiated.
*But beyond that, both governments are noting other issues (financial claims, the Guantanamo base, TV & Radio Martí, the embargo itself, etc.) that need to be resolved if they are to consider that relations have been "normalized".
*In other words: "normalized" relations are not equivalent to "diplomatic" relations and neither side is saying that the second is contingent on the first.
In sum, establishing diplomatic relations will be relatively quick and painless, while full "normailization" will take time (years, most likely) and involve painful and controversial decisions on both sides.
Readers: Your thoughts please...