Cuba’s Urban Cooperatives: Hard to Receive Approval, Difficult to Grow

By Gisselle Morales Rodríguez  (Progreso Weekly)

The La Esperanza cooperative in Fomento, Sancti Spiritus.

HAVANA TIMES — Last February, when 83-year-old veteran military leader Ramiro Valdés Menéndez visited the urban cooperative La Esperanza [The Hope] in the city of Fomento, the 11 partners had great expectations.

The vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers was interested in the manufacturing of plastic tubing and took a tour of the factory.

He watched the workers at their stations, rummaged through the raw materials, talked with Julio Ramón Cermeño, the man who invented each one of the machines in use, assessed the quality of the hoses just made, and was dazzled by the so-called “plastic wood,” a secondary product of the small factory.

Two months later, another vice president of the Council of State, Salvador Valdés Mesa, made the same tour of the tubing factory, a gesture that its workers interpreted as a show of governmental support to the incipient cooperative. Today, however, they’re not so sure.

“Ever since Commader Ramiro’s visit, we’ve been asking for permission to expand the factory, because — obviously — we’re running out of space here,” said Yoel Torres Hernández, president of La Esperanza, while guiding this reporter past the boxes of raw materials, the rumbling machines and the rolls of hosing ready for shipment.

He’s trying to prove a point: the place is overcrowded. “And after all this time, they’ve still not given us an answer,” he adds.

Torres explains the inconsistency with a thought that he has mulled after innumerable consultations with fellow entrepreneurs in other parts of the country.

“Urban cooperatives are trapped in a dual discourse. On the one hand, we are told that the process of development of our kind of enterprise is irreversible, and on the other hand we’re tripped every day with arguments like ‘this won’t work,’ or ‘what do you need this for?’”

Torres’ experience is repeated — with slight variations — in the almost 500 cooperatives that were legally operating in Cuba by late May, 500 small businesses that have embarked on their own to sail through the so-called “experimental phase” of cooperative labor.

Neither state-run nor private

“We haven’t invented a thing. It’s all here,” Torres explains, waving a copy of the Guidelines of Economic and Social Policy of the Communist Party and the Revolution, approved in April 2011.

Ramiro Valdés Menéndez visits the cooperative.
Ramiro Valdés Menéndez visits the cooperative.

From the start, the document states that “this model of management recognizes and promotes — in addition to the socialist state enterprise, which is the main form in the national economy — the modalities of foreign investment permitted by the law […] the cooperatives, the small farmers, the owners in usufruct, the leasers, the self-employed workers and other forms of employment that, as a whole, should contribute to elevate efficiency.”

Nevertheless, one year and seven months went by before, in November 2012, the Council of State issued the governing documents: Law/Decree #305, cornerstone for the operation of urban cooperatives and Law/Decree #306, which deals with the special Social Security coverage granted to cooperative members.

It took just as long for the Council of Ministers to approve Decree #309, a sort of manual for first-level cooperatives.

Those are the guidelines for the more than 2,300 co-op members who, according to the National Office of Statistics and Information, have opted for this form of employment, a kind of hybrid between the private sector and the state enterprise.

Perhaps because this new labor modality is still in development, the nation’s leaders have been watching with a magnifying glass every aspect of the process.

At its most recent session, the Council of Ministers officially acknowledged the flaws that many cooperative workers had already pointed out: the difficulty in accessing supplies by legal means, and the trend toward a constant increase in the prices of services and products, especially in farmers’ markets and the restaurant sector.

Without approving the much-requested wholesale markets that would guarantee stable supplies for the non-state sector at competitive prices, thus preventing inflation in the cost of merchandises and services, the Council of Ministers decided “not to massively expand the creation of cooperatives. The priority will be to consolidate the existing ones and move ahead gradually, because otherwise we’d be generalizing the problems that come up.”

A full-sail experiment?

“It’s like stepping simultaneously on the accelerator and the brake.” That’s the description given by a member at La Esperanza of the crossed fire in which he believes his company now finds itself. La Esperanza is the only urban cooperative in Cuba devoted to the manufacture of garden hoses, tubes for electrical and sewage use, and a long etcetera of plastic devices.

Judging from the indicators, everything shows that the business is going well. Last year, the members received an average wage of 5,000 pesos a month ($189), between advance payments and final profits (around nine times the average wage in the country.) By the end of April this year, they had also paid the equivalent of US $20,566 in taxes.

The factory maintains an adequate tax discipline and meets its debt payments to the bank, according to a report made by the provincial government to which the press had access.

In addition to the performance of the seven urban cooperatives now in operation in Sancti Spíritus, that document lists more than 10 applications from similar groups sent to the ministries of Construction, Communications, Industry and Transportation for approval.

“In general, we consider that the cooperatives have contributed to elevate the quality of productions and services,” says Roberto Fajardo Veloso, vice president of the Council of Provincial Administration, which oversees the program of economic and social development.

cooperative5jpgFajardo cites figures to buttress his belief. During 2014, the non-state sector contributed 63 million pesos (US $2,377,358) to the national budget, “and this year it will be more,” he adds.

Among the problems identified by the local government is the fear of many state-run businesses to enter into contracts with these associations. Then there’s the urgent need for a wholesale market.

And a new concern has arisen: the possibility of tax evasion. Provincial government authorities now devote 30 percent of their supervisory activities to a rigorous examination of non-state enterprises.

The insistence on close control may have been caused by three radical events:

A refusal of the Ministry of Transportation to recognize an association engaged in the rental of bicycle-taxis, inasmuch as that activity falls under the designation of self-employed entrepreneurship.

The rejection of an application from a cooperative engaged in the manufacture and installation of electric motors that didn’t submit guarantees of its supplies of raw material.

The suspension of the Lapinet Construction Company, the first cooperative of its type to operate in Sancti Spiritus, which according to government sources, committed “legal irregularities.”

Little willingness to negotiate

Out of 300 state-run companies and 20-some cooperatives that participated in the “Second Fair of Conciliation and Fidelity to the 2016 Plan”, La Esperanza stole the show with its display of plastic wood.

“We detected a 20-million-peso demand for that unique product, a demand we cannot fill and are renouncing,” says co-op president Yoel Torres with pain in his voice.

“To deal with that production volume we need machinery, which could come from other industries that are not using it. But the State businessmen are shutting us out. They say that they can’t lease it or sell it to us. They say that they have to wait for approval ‘from above.’ We can’t move ahead that way.

“To increase the production of plastic wood we could turn to foreign investment. The law takes cooperatives into account and gives them their space. However, we applied for a partnership with a Mexican company and the response from the [Cuban] Ministry of Industry was that the procedures for implementation are not yet ready.”

“How do you appraise the development of this form of business?” I asked Torres.

“It’s however anyone wants to view it. I see the processes as slow. They say it’s necessary to speed up production but we’re hog tied. Every time I go to a meeting of cooperatives, I hear the same thing. In Sancti Spiritus — and in the rest of the country, I believe — there is a lack of willingness to negotiate, to agree,” he answers.

The Council of Ministers seems to agree with that opinion, because it amended Law/Decree #305 and Decree #309 so as to adjust the rules to the current circumstances, although suspicious minds may have interpreted the official statements as a sign of retreat.

Just in case, Torres pinned to the door of his office a kind of prescription that his associates are calling The Ten Commandments. The last item reads: “You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

“Abraham Lincoln said that,” he says proudly, without realizing that it was actually the Rev. William J. H. Boetcker who published the so-called Decalogue of Prosperity in the early 20th Century, and that there is no way — no matter how hard plastics manufacturers may try — to adjust that precept to the very peculiar economic model that Cuba is trying out today.

34 thoughts on “Cuba’s Urban Cooperatives: Hard to Receive Approval, Difficult to Grow

  • And this is where our conversation comes to an end. It is apparent that you live in your own private eco chamber with very little understanding of economics or military (I mean my God man….even China asserts they don’t have a blue water navy!). Simply repeating your statements over and over without any proof doesn’t make them true, it just makes it a “proof by assertion” fallacy.

    So let’s bring this conversation around back to the beginning ….When biology has it inevitable way with the Castro’s, Cuba will go one of two ways, either a Scandinavian style Capitalist / Socialist model or an authoritarian Capitalist model similar to China’s. Let us hope it is the former.

    I leave you in the twilight of your Castro fever dream

  • Finally, a some-what adequate response…Now that you have finally deemed appropriate to answer some concrete points, let me first point out that China owns or has controlling interest over a large chunk of the USA Economy, buying shares in USA Stock Exchanges (and in EU Stock Markets also) and buying non-strategic companies and real state all over the country. Wikipedia figures do not account for many of these investments because they go as part of the USA (or EU) Economy; you wrote off the BBC on your own authority to prove your point and Bloomberg figures are tainted by provenance because they emanate from a right-wing source. Also, notice I said Economy not GDP (Gross Domestic Product); but let’s not split hairs, China is today at least as powerful economically and militarily as any of the other 3 superpowers: the EU, USA and Russia. They have grown this Economy on a Free Market basis under the control of the Communist Party. This is precisely what has to happen in Cuba before the Economy can take off. I fully support more privately owned small business and medium sized business co-ops all over Cuba to begin with, with more development as trade with the USA increases and the Blockade comes down.
    Thank you for saving a significant portion of our culinary cultural heritage in Miami, as soon as Cubans in the Island can afford such delicacies, after the Blockade comes down, they will be asking their relatives for recipes. I also hope Cuban-Americans invest millions on business’ in the Island through their relatives and actually return to run them with all the knowledge you all picked up in Yuma. And this is precisely why I want the CCP in charge of making biz work for Cuba, for the benefit of our people on the Island, not just for a relatively small upper class and/or foreign economic interests.
    What can be wrong with taking back the $ Uncle Sam stole from us Cubans, Canadians, Latin Americans and the people of the Caribbean in whatever way, and why should that be a problem for me or of any consequence to the discussion? I don’t dispute your immigration figures at all, people go where the $ is (USA, EU, Australia) and not away from it; and alongside there is the Hollywood Dream Machine fomenting both the legal and illegal brain and human resource drain that you mentioned. There is an old saying in the Southern USA that “Chickens come home to roost”, the USA has laid eggs of misery, poverty, exploitation, abuse, war and murder all over the world, these have hatched and the chickens are coming home in record numbers. I am also glad to see you are using the automatic spelling option or am I talking to # 3? See, I taught you something…(joke).

  • ….and yet everything you wrote has nothing to do with my post.

  • Compare the trickle of Cubans trying to cross the Fla. Straights with the hundreds of thousands trying to cross the Mediterranean to escape the poverty, war and devastation the Developed World has created in Africa; how about across the USA border from all over Central and South America, or let’s talk about the Rohinga and other minorities in South-East Asia boarding leaky boats to try to cross the wide Pacific to Australia, maybe comment on the new Iron Curtain the Hungarian Gov. wants to put up to stop Kosovians and other migrants from crossing. There are desperate people everywhere, in Cuba the % is very low specially now with the very high hopes brought about by the opening of relations with the USA and the re-establishment of large-scale trade with Russia.

  • I obviously struck a cord! ….Listen up, whoever you are. I’m no more hiding behind the shadows than you are, I’m simply not bothering to play a silly game and post some picture / Avatar that may, or may not be, me. As for facts, apparently that’s something you have difficulty with. It takes no genius to simply look them up. Obviously you are either too dense, or to stubborn, to accept them. Here, for your benefit, I am attaching several links to world economic data. Read it slowly and you may understand it. Now lets start with the most benign of sources, we (the royal we) would not want to be accused of using biased sources.

    Here’s Wikipedia’s numbers of largest economy:

    Turns out that the EU, taken as a whole, is larger than the US economy. However taken country by country the US still has the largest GDP followed by China.

    Here’s another:

    Here is a BBC story that show’s China slightly ahead of the US when using an IMF estimate, adjusted for purchasing power. However remove that arbitrary figure and China is shown to lag far behind the US, once again.

    This one is a Bloomberg article showing current and future US economic standings when compared to China.

    …I provide you with the above information only to show you that you can’t just “wish away” facts that disturb you. Economic rankings come and go, they don’t affect my sense of self worth, but apparently they effect you….somehow, but you still can’t make stuff up! Well, I suppose you probably can.

    Monseigneur, I don’t poo poo everything about Cuba, I just lament the cultural destruction and decay that has happened to Cuba under the Castro’s. For example if you are looking for traditional Cuban cuisine, it is no longer to be found in Cuba, you must come to Miami. Fortunately we brought much of our cultural legacy with us. As it relates to cuisine, have you ever tried to find Vaca Frita in Cuba? Tasajo Criollo? …Good Luck!

    The only thing the revolutionary government brought to Cuba my friend, was misery and fear. You don’t see anyone risking their lives fleeing the US on a raft to Cuba do you?

    Finally, I would like to address your obviously passionate comments on U.S.”likability”. No one likes the US? ….my “gut” answer to you is, so what? Like the U.S. or hate the U.S., the world still conducts it’s business in U.S. dollars, even you wrote how you LOVE it (so you hate the U.S. Monseigneur but will take it’s money, yes?) Regardless I would be careful of projecting your hate and prejudice. Not everyone apparently shares your distaste, and putting in CAPS does not change anything. It’s interesting to note that the US has the largest immigrant population in the world.

    Sadly Cuba loses it’s best and brightest to immigration. Yes the US makes it very easy, but things must be very bad when you are willing to risk your very life, on a rickety raft, on the open ocean, to flee your Cuban paradise of free housing and free health care. Those actions speak much more eloquently than anything you or I can every say

  • English is not my 1st language either, but most computers have automatic spelling functions…You did spell altruistic correctly but failed at “believe” and “bruised”. Listen here you, when you are rude to others, you open yourself to rudeness and you are rude so take some of your own medicine. Not only were you wrong about all your economic facts and your Cuba facts but you were wrong about me being in the USA, me claiming to read your mind when I was reading your writing, me being an “armchair Bolshevik”, in fact you are just plain wrong. You refuse to show your face under your pseudonym (mine is there), you have no profile and you just poo-poo everything about Cuba but hiding from behind the shadows; everything I am proud of and all that makes me proud and glad to be Cuban. It looks to me there is a lot of fear in you to face the realities of this world and the damage the USA does everyday around the world and the good things for Cubans and the world the Revolutionary Government of Cuba has accomplished. Then there is the lack of reciprocity, I answer your questions straightaway and openly, you hide from mine; are you scared of me or the G2, do you suffer from Paranoia Cubensis Acutis? The USA is the least popular country in the World today followed closely by its ally Israel, a fascist, militarized theocracy. NOBODY LIKES YOUR COUNTRY, NOT EVEN IN EUROPE, YOUR OWN NATO ALLIES DETEST THE USA, there must be a reason We all agree your country is a drag…

  • English is not my first language so I thank you for correcting my spelling. However I belive it was not done for altruistic (did I spell that correctly?) reasons. Instead it probably served as a salve for your pride, a way to sooth your brused ego. …an obvious lost argument on your part.

    Communist sauces? Uggghh……Sounds repulsive!

  • What garden are u talking about? Try doing concrete work on the bald prairie for a couple of Alberta Winters; what your father endured as part of a penal process is akin to the “Chain Gangs” of the USA, even today there are prisoner work details all over the USA though chains are not necessary anymore. I was forced to pick peanuts for Mr. Luther’s pigs in Smithfield, Va for defending African American workers’ right to strike a hospital in Suffolk; that really sucked…Emancipated is not the word you were thinking about when mentioning your dad’s jail stint, I can plainly read your mind, it’s E-M-A-C-I-A-T-E-D…
    I have not disputed that your dad was sent to a penal work camp, there were such places in Cuba, but as you point out, they were closed a long, long time ago and recognized as mistakes by Fidel, but they were never Abu Graib or the USA Naval Base and Torture Center at Guantánamo; and Cuba sent no suspects to be tortured (“rendered”) in foreign jails like the USA does. In fact, jail conditions in the good ol’ USA are atrocious by any standard, remember Attica, and It jails the most people per thousand in the world, overwhelmingly black and brown folks although poor whites are also well represented.
    Stick in my craw? I love the USA Dollar! I get 15+ cents premium when USA Turistas, who are too stupid to change their currency into Canadian Dollars, buy my Communist-made and inspired sauces (many of them actually RED) at par. But that does not make the American Economy bigger that the Chinese and neither does the value of your currency! You are just reading USA sources.
    Further for your education, an “Armchair Bolshevik” is a Commie who has never actually done anything to promote his/her leftist-revolutionary ideas. As I revealed to you and the rest of the readership, I have done a lot for my beliefs from organizing to demonstrating to taking risks to being jailed and persecuted to actually fighting with guns against Pinochet’s Coup…Where is the armchair and, by the way, what have you done to fight the Castro Regime?

  • Perhaps I’ll think about it over a glass of milk. Something I can’t get in Cuba

  • It is an endless sources of wonder and amusement that you can get so many things wrong in one post. Despite your best attempts at obfuscation the realities I write about are a part of the written record. Nothing you can do will change that. After all, those reading have access to information, this isn’t Cuba!

    – Firstly the US economy continues to be larger than China’s, it’s a fact that you can look up for yourself. But why you would wish an authoritarian hyper capitalist oligarchy type system in Cuba is beyond me. Obviously you care nothing for the Cuban people!
    -Secondly US debt in the form of securities are a source of finance used between governments, totally safe …and coveted. There is a reason that every time there’s an international crisis everyone runs to the safety of the US dollar….must stick in your craw huh?
    – as far as the UMAP camps are concerned, it’s all well documented, no exaggeration is needed. Even the Castros have come out and admitted that they were a mistake. Are you now saying the Castros were wrong.

    I’m so happy you had access to a nice warm tub to sooth your aching muscles after your hard work in your little garden. May father unfortunately had none of those luxuries. After spending 12 hours of hard labor he sometimes went to sleep on a hard straw mat on the floor with nothing to eat. When he finally came home he was emancipated and suffering from dysentery.

    And I love visiting Canada, specifically Ontario, but I have no plans to visit you!

    ….Cubans reading this diet know what I’m talking about, they don’t take to kindly to your attempts at whitewashing history!

  • Well Informed Consent, let me remind you that China chose to use, and still uses the Communist Central Planning System for a lot of its governing, and I do hope Cuba learns from them, the Chinese economy has yours beat to smithereens and they own half of your country; so it worked very well there, providing the needed economic and educational platform to launch the Free Market Economy under Communist Party sponsorship, guidance and control. I hope Cuba gets there soon! The Chinese economy serves the Nation unlike the USA where the nation serves the economy, which is controlled by Big Business. Your problem is, like most USA citizens you are densely ignorant of the rest of the world, of its History and development and Hollywood has been your only teacher. All this business of being made to do manual labour being akin to torture is BS, you exaggerate everything; I have done manual labour, working outside in minus 23-25 degrees sometimes, minus 10 was normal, to keep a roof over our heads and bacon on the table; my wet undershirt would freeze to my skin and I had to pour warm water on it in the tub b4 I could take it off or skin would come off with it; I’d love to bring you here and have you work outside for an Alberta (or Minnesota) Winter and then shout “I’m Free!”

  • You can openly air whatever grievances or problems in the USA, but that is different than changing them, look at Racism: 9 black people shot during a church service, the murder of Tamir Rice, I could go on ad-nauseum… Racism was supposed to end a long time ago, African Americans have been agitating for an end to Racism since the end of the USA Civil War but it’s still alive, well, institutionalized and extremely dangerous. And is still used in American Economics, who gets hired and fired first and last, who gets promoted, who is hired to bring “color” to the office or the boardroom.
    About being thrown in a Cuban prison for talking against the Cuban Government, BALONEY!, I have held intense discussions and arguments multiple times with dissidents in Cuba, in public, OUT-CUBAN-LOUD, and no one came to throw us in jail or arrest us. What did you infer by saying Obama was black? That Racism is finished in the USA because He was elected? ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?
    Trying to discuss anything with you is a real waste of time, so take a long hike and think about everything I said to you, you might learn something.

  • Cuba grows pineapples. If they grew the best pineapples in the world, they would sell all their pineapples and use the profits to grow even more pineapples. Soon, Cuba could grow rich (or are least less poor) by controlling the pineapple market. Unfortunately, the Castros’ pineapples are just ok. That’s Cuba’s problem, and it’s not the US embargo. What Cuba sells is ” just ok”.

  • The bureaucracy is terrified of even these small changes. They fear the success of the self managed and cooperatives. But if Cuba is to survive they need the agility that unleashing economic creativity brings. The revolution can not survive a second special period.

  • This is nonsense, poor countries like Cuba don’t have the money they should have to succeed economically because you need money to make money and the largest share of the Cuban Budget is allocated towards urgently needed public works, social services, education and health, instead of for commercial widgets for a limited market. Cuba has to prioritize how it spends whatever $ is left after looking to the basic needs of the population and often there is not enough to go around. Today Cuba exports nickel, tobacco, citrus, medicines, vaccines and culture, tourism provides the rest of the money; we have very little oil or gas, gold or other precious/strategic minerals and we don’t make weapons. So in Cuba, social concerns come before anything else and that is not a bad idea, pass it on to your Member of Congress…

  • So only breakfast, lunch, and dinner remain a problem in Cuba then? How can Cuba have so many doctors and so few cows and chickens. It must be Castro’s guidance.

    And yes there are problems with US society. The difference is that we can openly air our grievances and problems and address them. Try to do that in Cuba and you get thrown in prison. ….And the last time I checked, the president of the United. States was black (two terms!) when I last looked there was still a Castro in charge of Cuba, I believe his reign is no longer than queen Victoria’s. That’s quite an accomplishment.

  • Wow, I always thought Cuba’s poverty was a direct result of Communist central planning….because it’s obviously worked so well everywhere else it’s been tried (that’s me being snippy back at you)

    Nature will soon have it’s way with the Castros, the inevitability is beyond doubt. As is the unquestionable fact that once the Castro’s are gone Cuba will move quickly towards capitalism. What form it will take is still in doubt however. Will it be a system similar to that of Sweden (my hope) or will it take on more of an authoritarian tilt as that of the Chinese system (let’s hope not)

    One things for sure, there are a lot of scared people in the Cuban government today. Will they be able to get off the back of the tiger without getting eaten. It will be interesting to see. ….but sad for you as you continue to see the failure of world socialism. By the way, how’s Venezuela doing these days? And to think they have no embargo to blame. Ummmmm.

  • Apparently Gisselle, author of this article, is also looking to “demonizing” the revolution. …And frankly no inference is really needed, the conclusions of his story are black and white. Even you can’t miss the significance.

    You had mentioned in a previous post something having to do with being rude. I think this post of yours applies, on many levels…..beyond being insensitive to a reality you obviously know nothing about! Castro’s labor camps, euphemistically called “Military Units in Aid of Production,” known better by the Spanish acronym UMAP, was used to by the Castros as a repressive political tool. Being homosexual, religious, or in anyway considered “counter-revolutionary” was enough to be sent to do “volunteer” work at these camps. In addition to forced labor, internees were forced to undergo ideological “re-education.” Beatings, malnourishment and death were common. So you try and cut cane while being starved and beaten, I think you’d get more than just a blister.

    We Cubans hate your type, the armchair Bolshevik who sees Cuba as a utopian society. A little communist zoo that they can visit to bask in the glories of the revolution and then slink back home to enjoy the comforts of capitalism.

    …What Castro did was to create a whole island of poor macheteros!

  • Sheez, this is Economy 1A with you. What is a budget? The money available for you to spend. Where do you get your money? By selling a service or a product. If Cuba built or grew something or offered a service that everyone wanted to buy (think Microsoft and Google), they would create their markets and sell big. Budgets, even with the US embargo, would not be a problem. As it is, Cuba struggles to compete in the world market even if there was no embargo. What I’m suggesting is Cuba would likely be a poor country even if the Castros hadn’t screwed it up even worse.

  • Try the USA, where being young, male and black is perceived as “dangerousness” by the mostly white, militarized, police forces; where reading ISIS propaganda will have you designated a terrorist and where dope and sex dealing taxi drivers make as much as doctors after taxes, insurance and overhead, which the cabbies don’t pay. But it’s wrong in both places.
    However, this “economic anomalies and abnormalities” all countries have are but a small part of a much larger picture, and thanks to the “guidance” of Fidel, Raúl and the Revolutionary Government, Cuba today has more doctors per capita than any other country in the world, it has a world-class athletic program and many, many international awards and stars as a consequence. The health sciences have also advanced to a level unequaled in Latin America and so has the health of the Nation from life expectancy to live births per thousand, I could go on but why try to convince you; if you look for the negative, you will find it.

  • Moses, how about budgets? The widget budget was insufficient because Cuba is a 3rd World Country and thanks to the USA Blockade, it must purchase or make/grow its widgets at a higher price, from a distant source and/or has no budget or possibilities to build it or grow it, as it is with a lot of technology. Cuba’s poverty is a direct result of the USA Blockade and the USA will be happy to tell you that was and still is the purpose: To cause discontent among the Cuban People against their government because of shortages and poverty. The problem is it failed except amongst the lesser lights in our population, who, like Informed Consent, can’t see the forest ’cause the trees get in the way. We are poor because the Blockade has forced us to sell cheap and buy expensive since our international markets are extremely limited: International Companies that do biz. with Cuba, can forget about doing biz. with the USA by the terms of the USA Blockade. But soon it will be over, and when Donald Trump becomes President of the USA, he won’t be able to ignore an 11 million people market for his global empire…(tongue firmly in cheek).

  • Jeez, Informed Consent, are you that thick? What part of “could not help but notice the huge difference in language and composition of this response…” did you not understand? I’m not reading minds, I’m reading what you wrote! And IT DOESN’T MATCH YOUR WRITING BEFORE, Ha ha ha ha… (this is me being “Snippy” to you.
    And again you go on to provide a scenario out of your imagination, you can infer whatever you want but its all in your desire to demonize everything the Cuban Revolutionary Government does.
    Bureaucracies are like everything else, a trade where you learn to do things from the people that came before you and where you resist change as it forces you, in the best of cases, to think outside the box. Cuban Bureaucracy is no different. Did your daddy get blisters in his hands cutting cane? Did it teach him how the poor macheteros work and live before the Revolution, working for 3 months out of the year and starving for 9 months of “Tiempo Muerto”…

  • How can things get worse? It’s the “guidance” that the Castros have given Cuba these past half century that has created an economy where someone driving a taxi makes more mint than a doctor. Where consuming unapproved information is illegal and where you can be arrested for the crime of “dangerousness”

  • One, two, or three of “us”…who’s reading minds now?

    But seriously, there is no need to get into anyone’s minds as you suggest. Instead, I can infer from this article the overall intransigence, foot dragging and outright fear / reluctance in making decisions that move the Cuban economy forward outside of the comfortable communist central planning bureaucracy. Why stick your neck out and have it chopped off.

    Why do Castro apologists still use Batista, gone these 55 years plus, as an excuse for the failures of Castroism? …and since you mentioned it, I do indeed get “snippy” when reading what your ilk posts here. And you would as well, if you saw your father being taken away to cut Caña at a work camp.

  • No, rumors are rumors and although is not beyond possibility, and I’ve heard some of those rumors while in Cuba, they are not worth repeating unless you have some facts, Moses. It’s not an iceberg either, but ice-cubes in the bribing mojito. Like you say, “… corruption in Cuba is mild by international standards”; but I agree with you that once the guidance, control and restraint that Fidel and Raúl provide, things might just get worse.

  • Think about what you have written for a second. Let’s say Cuba is experiencing a ‘widget’ shortage. What does mean? It means that the Castros did not buy, build or grow enough widgets to meet the demand. The US embargo impacts Cuba’s ability to buy or not but a product or service. It doesn’t affect the quantity that Cuba may purchase. So, if Cuba has a widget shortage, it means that the Castros failed to grow, manufacture or purchase widgets. That has nothing to do with the US embargo. It has everything to do with the Castros management. Think about it.

  • Your anecdotal experiences reflect the tip of the iceberg. While corruption in Cuba is relatively mild by international standards, it is far more harmful to the Cuban economy than say the level of corruption in Mexico is to the Mexican economy. Institutional corruption in Cuba goes far beyond bottles of whiskey and spare car parts. Ministry officials are rumored to have received homes abroad and Swiss bank accounts. Once the Castros leave power, the power vacuum in their wake will only worsen the corruption in Cuba.

  • During the 1990’s and the first decade of the Millennium, I brought a lot of visual artists, dancers and musicians to Canada, and also organized, curated, participated and/or showed in 8 exhibitions/performances of Cuban Arts in Canada. All this meant close work with Cuban and Canadian officials and bureaucrats to obtain all the paperwork required. Typical Cuban “bribe” was to take the official to lunch or dinner at a fancy restaurant, drink a lot of beer/rum with them and pass on a gift of appreciation for their cooperation (bottles of imported whiskey, tickets to Tropicana, promise to bring back a replacement part for a generator, a car, a high-speed drill and for electronics), none of which was demanded. This is not just our cultural custom, we are economically poor and appreciate whatever we can get, we also understand the value of reciprocity and abide by it. I understand money is now being demanded and saw a crowd of unofficial “facilitators” standing outside several ministries, ready to expedite your transaction from 3 days to a week (official) to 30 minutes for $20 to 35 CUC’s (25-40 U$D). This is the thin edge of Free Enterprise making its way up the Revolutionary Government’s ladder…

  • These “No ones” that you mention, how did you get into their minds to view their deepest fears and motives? Could it be that by doing so you are shifting away the blame; supply shortages in Cuba have always been the result of the USA Blockade, more so since the demise of the Soviet Union and the turn to the right by the EU which is now just starting to change. Having two degrees in Language Arts and Lit., I could not help but notice the huge difference in the language and composition of this response of yours to other such responses or comments, often rude and snippy, made by “Informed Consent” in the past; it’s just like there were two of you…(or 3 or 4)?
    As far as institutionalized corruption goes, it is a problem exacerbated by poverty, by greed and by tradition. All governments in Cuba before 1959 were historically corrupt and the Revolutionary Government inherited all the bureaucrats and apparatchiks in all the Ministries from Batista who passed their ways on to their replacements. Add to that the extreme poverty of the Periodo Especial, after the fall of the Soviet Union and you have most of your answer. Greed is a factor only at the highest level, and when Comandante Ochoa was caught turning a blind eye to drug shipments from Central America to the USA through Cuban sea and air space, he was tried, convicted, sentenced to death and shot by a firing squad.

  • …and privatization is the key to success, just ask China!

  • Don’t forget the role that institutionalized corruption in Cuba plays in making these decisions. Mid-level bureaucrats create artificial delays in the decision-making process in order to generate bribes. Higher-level managers allow these delays because they know that bribes flow uphill. The greater the visibility of the decision, the longer the delay and the greater the amount of the bribe.

  • A “co-op” which partners with a private company (proposed above) is no longer a co-op. Almost anything can be called a “co-op”. Under Gorbachov, in the USSR, co-ops were the beginning of privitazation.

  • There’s that. But also these business suffer from half a century of engrained fear. No one wants to make a decision for fear it will be the wrong one. No one wants to be responsible. There is the added burden of an ingrained distaste for free market enterprise. Here we have the council of ministers recognizing the difficulties in obtaining supplies and instead of implementing some type of wholesale mechanism to meet the needs of these obviously successful businesses, the state instead decides to consolidate and throw up other barriers to success. It’s as if Cuba is used to failure and doesn’t know what to do with success, especially success from the private market.

  • Well at least they are learning the inefficiency of all that micro management. It is just that bauracracy is comfortable and does not want to risk. Thus they are the ones that need to be assigned the task of stream lining to increase production or be held accountable.

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