Cuba’s Culture Minister Criticizes US Attempt to Boost Private Sector

By Cafe Fuerte

Prieto questioned the use of the word “empower” by the promoters of Washington’s new strategy.
Prieto questioned the use of the word “empower” by the promoters of Washington’s new strategy.

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto, lashed out this week against the policy drawn out by the United States to boost the private sector in Cuba. He considers their efforts to empower civil society nothing more than actions taken with the aim of destroying the revolutionary process on the island.

Speaking before attendees at the Cuban Writers and Artists Association (UNEAC), Prieto questioned the use of the word “empower” by the promoters of Washington’s new strategy.

“What does “empower” mean?  Empowering civil society, empowering the private-sector, small business people…,” Prieto said at the meeting’s closing session, which took place in the auditorium at the National Museum of Fine Arts. “That is to say, they’re pulling the rug from out under our feet, you can see it clearly.”

Culture as an antidote

He argued that “this is why culture plays such an important role” in tackling the dangers that surround Cuba with Barack Obama’s policy.

The 65-year-old Prieto, who served as an advisor to leader Raul Castro, was named minister of Culture provisionally last July, after Julian Gonzalez Toledo was removed from this position.  In both positions, Prieto has raised his voice against Obama’s proposals, and consumer society’s so-called “pseudo-cultural products”, which have managed to captivate the Cuban public.

Prior to Prieto’s speech, the critic and researcher Desiderio Navarro had critically addressed the empowerment of Cuba’s emerging private sector according to how the US government wants it to be.

“We all know that our economy is interested in developing this private sector, independent workers and to give them some of the work which used to be done, well or poorly, by the State’s public sector.  However, at the same time, we know that the US government’s main task, which it has explicitly expressed, is to empower the private sector,” Navarro explained.

Independent workers’ ideology

And he followed up this statement with: “Therefore, our biggest challenge, the biggest question we have to ask ourselves, is how will this sector think, what role will it have, what ideology will it have…?”

The meeting, which was also chaired by the writer Miguel Barnet, UNEAC’s president, encouraged debate about the Conceptualization of the Cuban economic model and the National Economic and Social Development Plan through 2030, both approved at the 7th Cuban Communist party congress.

“The cultural vision in the general Conceptualization of the Cuban model should be made more evident,” said Jose Antonio Choy, president of the National Architecture and Heritage Committee.

At the meeting, it was agreed to boost the promotion of “Cuban music’s more authentic values” and close ranks to mediocrity as a permanent working model along with cultural institutions and the country’s artistic avant-garde.

Concrete actions

“This should immediately be translated into timely and concrete actions, which will be followed up by all of us with a shared responsibility,” wrote journalist Pedro de la Hoz, UNEAC’s vice-president.

According to De la Hoz, the creators pronounced that they would revise the ties between institutions and the market as well as the role of companies in great depth.

“The market can’t distort our cultural policy in promoting music or making room for concessions in content and quality,” the journalist claimed.

In the face of the vacuum that still exists in regulations regarding the music used at state-run and independent recreational centers and in public spaces, De la Hoz said that “it’s urgent that these fundamental laws be defined and adopted as soon as possible.”


8 thoughts on “Cuba’s Culture Minister Criticizes US Attempt to Boost Private Sector

  • Abel Prieto, take a look at today’s private enterprise genius, amongst many, Elon Musk, and his SpaceEx launch site via YouTube. Ah yes, capitalism at its best. All you do is complain and what the world see’s is a country that’s dependent on its enemy, the US. You can’t make this up.

  • You are correct Gordon in saying that more private investment is necessary in Cuba if the well being of Cubans is to improve instead of pursuing the current path of planned poverty. But, that investment must be in the private sector, not into the sinkhole of regime controlled business. Too many private investors have been jailed for supposed ‘corruption’ having established businesses but in which the employees are paid by the State under the contract arrangements upon which the State insists upon imposing. Having found inevitably, that some of those employees are better that others, the businesses make additional payments to them or as with Tokmadian hold a Christmas party and make gifts to the attendees including some of the State employees with whom the company had been dealing. they are then jailed for ‘corruption’.
    If private enterprise is to succeed in Cuba, the Castro regime ‘the State’ has to get out of the way of initiative rather than constantly obstructing it..
    That same regime Gordon, ought to be ashamed of having a pension level of 200 pesos per month ($8 US – not $10).

  • We have been successfully managing culture in the U.S., as a business, since the late 1920s. Not quite a central authority, but the number of businesses that manage the culture is quite small and getting smaller. Go online and look at the balance sheets for two relatively new media firms, Google and Facebook. They’re squeezing out older firms like Viacom because, simply, they’re managing culture better. If you read their quarterly and annual statements you’ll see quite a bit of planning led to their current success. This has been the case in the U.S. culture industry for decades. Perhaps the human spirit can resist commerce or planning but from where I sit, that spirit looks like a pretty fragile flower.

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