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Fact Sheet: Charting a New Course on Cuba

December 19, 2014 Comments off

Charting a New Course on Cuba
Source: U.S. Department of State

Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people. We are separated by 90 miles of water, but brought together through the relationships between the two million Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States, and the 11 million Cubans who share similar hopes for a more positive future for Cuba.

It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba. At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.

We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state. With our actions today, we are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities. In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.

See also: Announcement of Cuba Policy Changes (John Kerry, Secretary of State)
See also: Briefing on Changes in U.S. Policy Toward Cuba (Roberta S. Jacobson, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs)

Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes

December 18, 2014 Comments off

Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes
Source: White House

Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.

In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.

Cuba’s Economic Change in Comparative Perspective

December 4, 2014 Comments off

Cuba’s Economic Change in Comparative Perspective
Source: Brookings Institution

The Cuban economy has been mired in stagnation for more than two decades, with declining living standards, an outdated productive apparatus and a balance of payments under severe strain. Frustrated by the lack of promising opportunities, many of the best educated youth are exiting the island. In response to these accumulated challenges, the Cuban government has initiated a process of gradual but increasingly comprehensive economic reforms that eventually may resemble a form of mixed market socialism open to the international economy.

The six papers authored by Cuban and international economists in Cuba’s Economic Change in Comparative Perspective explore the roots of the economic crisis from Soviet-era central planning decades earlier, assess reforms undertaken by President Raúl Castro, analyze the challenges to change and recommend steps Cuba and the international community can take to overcome the crisis. Given that its often isolated reforms have so far created further distortions and failed to produce expected outcomes, the Cuban government should recognize the interrelated nature of economic variables as part of these key policy proposals and should present a clear strategic development model. More transparent goals and consistent implementation would improve the coherency of policymaking and help mitigate public anxieties about the future.

CRS — Cuba: U.S. Policy and Issues for the 113th Congress (July 31, 2014)

August 14, 2014 Comments off

Cuba: U.S. Policy and Issues for the 113th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Cuba remains a one-party communist state with a poor record on human rights. The country’s political succession in 2006 from the long-ruling Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl was characterized by a remarkable degree of stability. In February 2013, Castro was reappointed to a second five-year term as president (until 2018, when he would be 86 years old), and selected 52- year old former Education Minister Miguel Díaz-Canel as his First Vice President, making him the official successor in the event that Castro cannot serve out his term. Raúl Castro has implemented a number of gradual economic policy changes over the past several years, including an expansion of self-employment. A party congress held in April 2011 laid out numerous economic goals that, if implemented, could significantly alter Cuba’s state-dominated economic model. Few observers, however, expect the government to ease its tight control over the political system. While the government reduced the number of political prisoners in 2010-2011, the number increased in 2012; moreover, short-term detentions and harassment have increased significantly over the past several years.

Cuba’s New Real Estate Market

February 27, 2014 Comments off

Cuba’s New Real Estate Market
Source: Brookings Institution

In November 2011, the Cuban government legalized residential real estate transactions as part of its ongoing economic reform process. Homes are no longer just assets to be passed on to heirs but can be made liquid, expanding economic freedom for the 84 percent of Cubans who own their own homes.

In “Cuba’s New Real Estate Market,” Phil Peters relies on interviews with market participants and government officials to examine the development of the nascent real estate market, outline its complex processes, and discuss the role of foreign nationals. He argues that the reform helps to address a critical housing shortage, advances private property rights, and repeals the requirement that emigrants forfeit their property to the government upon leaving the island.

CRS — Cuba: U.S. Policy and Issues for the 113th Congress

February 11, 2014 Comments off

Cuba: U.S. Policy and Issues for the 113th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Cuba remains a one-party communist state with a poor record on human rights. The country’s
political succession in 2006 from the long-ruling Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl was
characterized by a remarkable degree of stability. In February 2013, Castro was reappointed to a
second five-year term as president (until 2018, when he would be 86 years old), and selected 52-
year old former Education Minister Miguel Díaz-Canel as his First Vice President, making him
the official successor in the event that Castro cannot serve out his term. Raúl Castro has
implemented a number of gradual economic policy changes over the past several years, including
an expansion of self-employment. A party congress held in April 2011 laid out numerous
economic goals that, if implemented, could significantly alter Cuba’s state-dominated economic
model. Few observers, however, expect the government to ease its tight control over the political
system. While the government reduced the number of political prisoners in 2010-2011, the
number increased in 2012; moreover, short-term detentions and harassment have increased
significantly.

See also: Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances (PDF)

Soft Landing in Cuba? Emerging Entrepreneurs and Middle Classes

November 25, 2013 Comments off

Soft Landing in Cuba? Emerging Entrepreneurs and Middle Classes
Source: Brookings Institution

A dynamic, independent private sector is rapidly emerging in Cuba, despite the dominance of the state-run socialist system. The private sector is quickly absorbing workers laid off from the state, enlarging its growing middle classes and defining a new Cuba. The old narrative — that Fidel and Raul Castro had to pass from the scene before real change could occur — has been discredited by these current trends.

More and more Cubans are opening bed and breakfasts, cafes and snack bars, small shops and markets, and offering services in areas such as construction and technology. But challenges in accessing capital, along with burdensome taxation, often prevent some of these operations from growing into larger firms.

It remains to be seen whether the powerful Cuba state is prepared to allow these businesses to expand and partner with state entities, creating a hybrid market socialist economy that can accelerate growth into a legitimate boom.

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