New Report: Reforms in Cuba are “Real”

Suggests that US policy should be reformed to provide support

Plaza of the Revolution, Havana. Photo: Julie Webb Pullman

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.

9 thoughts on “New Report: Reforms in Cuba are “Real”

  • November 14, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    John Goodrich says: “And of course those who are calling for the fall of the revolution and how bad things are in Cuba always fail to mention the 50 year war against the Cuban people without which life in Cuba would be much better.”

    No dude! I just want free and/or affordable access to the internet for the cuban people! Don’t want any “war” here! Keyword on the article “monopoly”! Like monopoly on information?

  • November 13, 2011 at 11:45 am

    John Goodrich says: “Cuba also has the lowest crime rate in the hemisphere”

    Dear John! There is not a high rate of crime in Cuba because only those in power can have firearms and they keep throwing everyone in jail for any reason they choose! The Red Cross is not allowed in nor is the U.N.

    Human Rights Watch published an extensive report on prison conditions in Cuba in 1999. In it it widely criticized most aspect of the Cuban judicial and prison system.

    In it criticized the lack of openness of the Cuban regime: “Cuba’s refusal to allow domestic or international human rights monitors to conduct regular visits to its prisons casts a veil of secrecy over its extensive prison system, reportedly one of the largest per capita in Latin America and the Caribbean. Cuba refuses to disseminate even the most basic prison statistics, such as prison population figures. Cuba’s Penitentiary Establishment Directorate, however, reportedly maintains a centralized, computerized system that would readily make available detailed information about all detainees in Cuba’s prisons.”

    According to an article in the Miami Herald in September 2003 Cuba’s jails may hold over 100,000 inmates. The same article puts the last visit of any international organization to Cuba’s prisons in 1989 (International Red Cross). The UN estimated the number of prisoners in Cuba between 100,000 and 200,000 in its 1995 UNHCR Special Rapporteur’s (LINK PROVIDED) report. A figure of 100,000 or more makes Cuba the country with the most prisoners per capita in the world.
    International organizations have reported that inadequate food and medical assistance, sexual abuse, limits and restrictions on visits, beatings,… in Cuba’s prisons. Amnesty International (LINK PROVIDED) has often started letter letter writing operations to support suffering prisoners of conscience.

    I refer to the extensive reports linked to at the top (HRW and Cubafacts) for a more detailed report on abuses in Cuba prisons.

    John! If things in Cuba are so hunky-dory! Then why all the discontent in most of the documentaries i come across like those below? I would also recommend for you or anyone to look at more that one source of information to make up your mind on any Cuba topics!

    John Goodrich says: “Even a casual acquaintance with the high placement of Cuba on the U.N.’s Human Development Index would show that Cuban society is anything but a failure.”

    YOUTUBE : CUBAN Documentary – “Wishes on a Falling Star”

    This documentary leads the audience through the discovery of this hope, through a tourist’s camera which looks to be turned off and oblivious to the conversation at hand, yet is focused on candidly capturing each person’s wishes.
    There is the old guerrillero who took part in the revolution, the lady who met Che Guevara and lives thanks to the government social card, and also the young boys and girls — those who wish to make a career within the rules, as well as those who only try to escape abroad.

    YOUTUBE : DOCUMENTARY – “Soy la Otra Cuba” – Pierantonio Maria Micciarelli / Realizador Italiano (Documentary “I am the Other Cuba”)

    Documentary that exposes the current Cuban reality.
    “When I was young I was fascinated by the myth of the Cuban revolution, but being now in Cuba and saw another face reality. They are people of great valor and courage despite the fact that Cubans are imprisoned in their own home. I knew it was a project dangerous but it was my story, real and proper, that I should continue it “- – Pierantonio Maria Micciarelli

  • November 13, 2011 at 9:40 am

    A few more thoughts :

    Humberto says:
    3.” A failed system for over 52 years, 20% of the population in the diaspora should be a clear sign that Cubans dont want to continue with this “socialist experiment” with the same two old farts.”

    During and after the American Revolution, 10% of the population left to go to Canada or back to England. This is the norm in most revolutions. That another 10% left in the next 50 years during which the entire population was subjected to the deleterious effects of the U.S war on the Cuban Revolution should be no surprise and neither should it in any intellectually honest way be attributed to the failure of Cuba’s state socialism .

    Even a casual acquaintance with the high placement of Cuba on the U.N.’s Human Development Index would show that Cuban society is anything but a failure. Cuba also has the lowest crime rate in the hemisphere

    Of course if you want to dishonestly compare apples and oranges as is done by comparing life in the United States, the richest country in the world with a developing Cuba under economic siege rather than comparing Cuba with any other capitalist developing country of similar economic circumstances you can always be sure that Cuba loses in that comparison.

  • November 12, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Cort is right.
    Those who own and run the United States will not settle for anything less than wiping out any vestiges of socialism: economic justice and economic democracy and the full scale return of feral capitalism.

    It is far better for the people of Cuba to reform from state socialism to democratic socialism than to go from something not so good : state socialism to totalitarian capitalism which is in its end days.
    Compare any capitalist country with the same resources as Cuba and you’ll find that the people are far better off in Cuba.
    Comparing Cuba to the United States is just nonsensical but even then Miami has something like a 35% poverty rate and life for those in poverty in the United States means no health care, no educational opportunities, sub-par housing, crime, homelessness, unemployment, second class citizenship.

    Things are getting better in Cuba and worse in the United States.

    And of course those who are calling for the fall of the revolution and how bad things are in Cuba always fail to mention the 50 year war against the Cuban people without which life in CUba would be much better.

  • November 12, 2011 at 12:22 am

    No Court! I actually live in Venice Beach. And thanks for the heads up on the world financial crisis ! But you know who has it even worse than Italy, Greece or even Iceland! It’s Cuba, they just spend and spend and dont pay their bills!

    REUTERS : Exclusive – Paris Club invites Cuba to resume debt talks
    Cuba’s wealthiest creditors have decided to test President Raul Castro’s pledge to improve the island’s financial credibility by inviting his government to talks with the Paris Club about settling billions of dollars of outstanding debt, according to Western diplomats.

    The Paris Club reported that Cuba owed its members $30.5 billion (19.0 billion pounds) at the close of 2010, but more than $20 billion of the debt was in old transferable Soviet rubles that Russia now claims but Cuba does not recognise.

    The Bank for International Settlements reported banks in 43 countries held $5.76 billion in Cuban deposits as of March of this year, compared with $4.285 billion at the close of 2009 and $2.849 billion at the close of 2008.

    Cuba last reported its foreign debt in 2007 at $17.8 billion, but most analysts agree it now exceeds $21 billion, or close to 50 percent of gross domestic product and 30 percent more than annual foreign exchange revenues.

  • November 11, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Maybe they should have listened to Che on economic matters such as socialism and how to constuct it rather the Soviet Stalinists and the road to state capitalism and talk about a failed system you must not have heard of the worldwide Capitalist crisis.

    And I know many Cubans in Miami who are living on the streets or just not making it and on the island.

    Maybe you live in Doral or Homestead.

  • November 11, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Cort Greene,

    1. Dont paint us Cubans in and out of the diaspora with the same intransigent brush.

    2. All of us Cubans should decide with our votes on how the Island should be run in the future.

    3. A failed system for over 52 years, 20% of the population in the diaspora should be a clear sign that Cubans dont want to continue with this “socialist experiment” with the same two old farts.

  • November 11, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Too bad many who think they can appease the US by going the way market reformed capitalism from Stalinism or state capitalism will be disappointed because the Miami crowd and NEO CONS will not accept anything until all the revolutionaries are hung from gallows .

    What is needed is workers control, proletarian democracy and internationalism and socialism, not appeasement to capitalism.


  • November 10, 2011 at 11:11 pm


    TIME MAGAZINE : Cuban Homes for Sale in New Housing Law- Andrea Rodriguez Thursday, Nov. 10,

    Cuba’s housing crunch is acute. Many extended families are crammed into aging, decrepit houses and apartments that have been subdivided again and again to shelter more and more people. The government acknowledges a shortfall of around 500,000 homes, and some experts say it lacks as many as 1.6 million units of adequate housing.

    “Maybe the expectations are a little overblown to the extent that the situation in South Florida, where most Cuban immigrants are, is not that great right now,” said Sergio Diaz-Briquets, a U.S.-based demography expert who has written about housing in Cuba.

    Economists caution not to expect too much, too soon. Much of the money for purchases is expected to come from exiles helping relatives back home, but some may be wary of investing while one of the Castros are in office. The exile community has also been hard hit by the economic recession, and may not have that much disposable income.

    “Maybe the expectations are a little overblown to the extent that the situation in South Florida, where most Cuban immigrants are, is not that great right now,” said Sergio Diaz-Briquets, a U.S.-based demography expert who has written about housing in Cuba.

    But Omar Everleny Perez, the lead economist at Havana University’s Center for Cuban Economic Studies, said in a recent interview that some Cubans do have the money: Bank accounts are concentrated among 13 percent of islanders who control 90 percent of the deposits, he said, and some are worth $160,000 to $200,000.

    The new law requires that Cubans prove the legitimacy of their funds, and does not establish the right of foreigners to purchase property. There also is no mechanism for lending or mortgages, meaning the price must be paid in cash.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE,8599,2099243,00.html

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