Suggests that US policy should be reformed to provide support
HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 10 — There are a number of steps the Obama administration should take to support and facilitate the economic reform process in Cuba, according to a new report by Collin Laverty at the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA).
The CDA, which advocates for improved relations with Cuba, urged the administration to recognize the reforms as “real” and moving in the direction U.S. policy has long sought to persuade Cuba to move – economic liberalization, decentralization and increased debate.
“What Cuba is doing to update its model is real, irreversible, evolving, and providing new opportunities for Cubans to lead more prosperous and independent lives,” said Sarah Stephens, executive director of CDA. “We think it’s time for skeptics in the U.S. like President Obama to accept that these reforms – Cuba’s biggest economic changes in decades – are significant, consistent with the goals of our policy, and merit U.S. support.”
The report found that one of the most fundamental changes in Cuba under Raul Castro is a shift in economic thinking, in which the market is now accepted and policy-makers acknowledge market forces will play a much bigger role. It highlights the vast expansion of the private sector, increased autonomy for farmers, growing decentralization in decision-making processes and other substantial changes taking place in Cuba.
There will be “winners” and “losers” in the reform process and Cuba will struggle to contain growing inequality and maintain quality public education and health, according to the report. It also noted that larger “structural” changes promised by Raul Castro have not yet materialized, but reforms implemented thus far indicate the process is moving in the right direction, albeit gradually to ensure stability.
The fact that Cuba is reforming at its own pace and based on the demands of its own people highlights the blatant failures of past and current U.S. policy.
“Cuba is undertaking reforms not because of U.S. pressure, but because of forces and ideas that came from inside Cuba itself,” said Collin Laverty, author of the report. “It still must address a variety of challenges to accomplish its goals, but most importantly, these reforms are based on the needs and demands of under-employed youth in Havana, farmers in Pinar del Rio and cuentapropistas (self-employed) in Santiago and not legislators in Miami, strategists at the White House or officials at the State Department.”
The report lists a number of steps that U.S. policymakers should take to remove impediments to further encourage the reform process and increase the flow of capital and support to Cubans engaged in private sector activities, including:
- Acknowledge the reform process is real; it is opening a greater role for the market, but also likely to bring hardships on the Cuban people. They should not allow skepticism to play into the hands of Cuban hardliners who oppose reform and rapprochement with the U.S.
- Continue loosening restrictions on travel to Cuba to create additional demand for services and goods produced by the emerging private sector.
- Provide greater clarity and detail for new rules allowing any U.S. citizen to send remittances to qualified recipients to boost the flow of funds especially to vulnerable Cubans who lack family supporters abroad.
- Allow independent farms to export agriculture products to the U.S. and allow U.S. entities to contract with Cuban musicians, scholars, and artists for their work.
- Remove Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism to eliminate baseless economic sanctions and expand Cuba’s access to technology.
- Permit the international financial institutions to advise Cuba on the reform process.
The report is available for download here.