HAVANA TIMES — In response to a question from a reader of Havana Times, dealing with the recently-concluded Conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) held in Miami, we decided to interview the chair of the association, Professor Ted Henken. The question from the reader was: Who participated in conference as a spokesperson for the policies of the Cuban government, which enjoys the support of the majority? Or was the conference more of a monologue?
Ted Henken: Invitations to about ten economists directly linked to Cuban State institutions were sent out. Incidentally, former Minister for the Economy Jose Luis Rodriguez expressed his intention of participating and even sent us a summary of a potential paper. However, he did not remain in touch and we don’t know why he didn’t attend.
HT: What other personalities were invited?
TH: Omar Everleny, from the University of Havana, Lazaro Pena and Armando Nova, researchers from the Center for the Study of the World Economy, a prestigious State institution in Cuba. We also invited Rafael Hernandez, a renowned philosopher and essayist.
HT: Do you know anything about why they were unable to attend?
TH: In the case of Everleny and Hernandez, the State Department denied them a visa. As for the others, there are no official statements. These highly-ranked professionals who work at State institutions in Cuba require permission from their workplaces to attend a conference abroad.
HT: That said, there were Cubans at the conference who are in no way involved in so-called “dissident” circles or “independent” sectors. I say this using the insidious connotations that Cuba’s official propaganda often uses.
TH: I am grateful to third year economics student Jorge Iganacio Guillen, from the University of Havana, for his excellent paper, which dealt with the reforms in Cuba (“Cuba’s Reforms: Towards Comprehensive Human Development”). An exchange with five Cuban entrepreneurs (they are referred to as the “self-employed” there) was a huge success, showing hundreds of people the reality of this emerging economy in Cuba.
HT: So, in your opinion, was the conference a monologue?
TH: Suffice it to say, in addition to the above, that we saw the participation of around twenty Cubans who live on the island, all of whom presented papers. We also had a significant number of Cubans residing in the United States, also more than twenty. We had professors from 10 universities around the country, in addition to professionals from Canada, Italy and Spain, as well as individuals of high prestige in the Spanish-speaking world. The 24th ASCE Conference was an authentic colloquium between Cubans and the world.