Parliamentary Smugness in Cuba 2015

Inactivity, closures and a preference for the private

Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

The Cuban parliament.  Foto: cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES – The midyear session of the Cuban Parliament has ended, amid resounding fanfare over the macroeconomic successes – successes that no one from below perceives. The official media rejoice over the proclaimed growth in the Gross Domestic Product and massively forget the criticisms aimed at this indicator as a terrible measure of social progress.

A participant as committed as Francisco Rodriguez Cruz observes impatiently how more and more time goes by without bringing to fruition any legislative projects of real significance. The “Paquito el de Cuba” blog reviews the topics that have been pending for years: The Family Code, the Penal Code, a new Electoral Law, a Law of Police Functions, another for State Enterprises, for Cooperatives, for Water, for the Movie Industry, for Gender Identity, among others. Some of these drafted bills have been gathering dust for years on end, while others don’t even seem to have any defined prospects.

Inflation is low, production is growing, the economists rejoice. Meanwhile, the salaried workers of the State with their modest wages despair over the uncontainable rises in food prices. Promises that the productive growth would bring them down remain unfulfilled. Put simply, the unilateral analyses leave to one side the fact that certain sectors bring in and move more money. Social inequalities increase, but this doesn’t receive one millimeter of space in the deliberations of the parliamentarians.

President/General Raul Castro with his VP, Miguel Diaz Canel, and the powerful Communist Party No. 2 man, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura.  Photo: Ismael Francisco/cubadebate.cu

The company decisions in Cuba dance to the tune of the good and well-known customs of the “normal” world.   For the enterprises that can’t realize a profit under the current system of management – off to bankruptcy, or to closure. Several dozen State enterprises, it was announced, will be liquidated, and there are more waiting in the wings. Of course, the Government would have liked a foreign capitalist to rescue them, but that group doesn’t want to take on this type of complication.

They’ve been unable to find an adequate word with respect to the situation the workers will be left in: available? Unemployed? No one can be observed suggesting the truly revolutionary option: to recognize those people’s right to organize themselves with the means of production in their hands and to form an autonomous collective with the opportunity to move forward. This would allow them to establish their own mechanisms for production and distribution, forming alliances and relationships with other productive collectives and with the community. Such collectives have been constituted in capitalist countries such as Argentina when confronted with similar situations involving factories being closed by their former owners.

One of the most eloquent signals of the change in eras was given by Commander Ramiro Valdes. It came in a commission that was discussing the topic of construction and housing. As Valdes recognized: “The available housing is ever more deteriorated and the plan for construction is still low.” So what’s the solution that they see up there? “The solution lies in individual effort.”

Not long ago I heard the announcer Serrano from the National Television News declare that “private initiative improves the quality of services.” Such words cast into the air are not so easy to recover, but now it’s right there in the pages of the official website “Cubadebate” so that I can’t lie about it. They clearly do not aspire towards policies for collective solutions.

There was much applause in the plenary session of the National Assembly.  Photo: Ismael Francisco/cubadebate.cu

The government continues along the path of “everyone sort it out however they can,” even for problems as severe as that of housing. If you’re a modest employee of the State, like the majority of the local citizenry, you receive a salary of 20 to 30 dollars a month when the cost of a modest home is never under 15 thousand. You can barely feed yourself and your family badly with the salary you receive and now here comes the minister of the Economy, Marino Murillo to repeat that we should forget about any raises in salaries.

What message are they sending? Sadly, many will perceive that their “individual efforts” will only allow them to find solutions in other countries. And, in general, “individual effort,” “private initiative,” continue to be the key words used to stimulate the capitalist reforms in progress.

Once again, it’s evident that the State today has turned to the mechanisms and common ideologies of the capitalist way of doing things. For that reason, way up there, they’re so happy with that growth of the GDP; for that reason, they don’t feel the fact that prices rise; for that reason, they order a lay-off of the excess labor force; and for that reason, they dispatch the people to put things in order “through their own efforts”.


33 thoughts on “Parliamentary Smugness in Cuba 2015

  • July 22, 2015 at 6:48 pm
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    yup! totally agree as she’s one smart person. there are more and the fact that Cuban’s can now travel worldwide has led a major shift in those who are opposed to the system in Cuba. I think though it’s time for you to chill and enjoy a nice bowl of Coppellia’s ice creme. Don’t share it with Griffin but perhaps Moses might take a scoop out of your bowl!

  • July 22, 2015 at 11:18 am
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    Yoani was clever enough to rapidly develop an international audience. The Castro family regime has had to strike a balance between locking her up with hundreds of others with similar dissident views and by so doing create international media attention at a time when rapprochement was in the offing (three years since the meetings commenced in Canada) or let her roam free but with harassment organized by the Communist Party of Cuba. They chose the latter.

  • July 21, 2015 at 9:35 pm
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    Yoani i Sanchez is who i’m referring to Carlyle. She is adamantly opposed to the present day regime and last I checked is still walking the streets of Havana. That’s all I can refer to.

  • July 21, 2015 at 8:41 pm
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    Communist is the name that the party that runs Cuba has chosen. Not a lot of communitarian decision making involved. The few decide for the many how production and distribution will be shared. Lacking individual buy in, this top down model fails to tap discretionary human potential. At preset all major industry is run by select officers appointed by the self named communist regime.

  • July 21, 2015 at 4:18 pm
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    Did you pay a lot for your harp Mr. Goodrich?

  • July 21, 2015 at 4:14 pm
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    Are those bloggers residents of Cuba or Cubans resident in the US.
    It is true that Cubans can in general obtain passports and the white paper that was necessary for them to actually leave the country, ceased in 2012. But most countries are resistant to giving them visas – for example my wife’s applications for a temporary resident visa to Canada were rejected five times.
    Do those bloggers – I refer to ones normally resident in Cuba use other than their legal names when blogging or not?
    Having actually seen the regimes computer file on my wife – the Security officer made a mistake – I can tell you that it is detailed proving how effective the CDR system is. It includes the date and place of our marriage.

  • July 21, 2015 at 4:02 pm
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    Still tediously banging your State Capitalism drum Mr. Goodrich?

  • July 21, 2015 at 3:58 pm
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    You can observe now Mr. Goodrich that you have joined with the Castro family regime in using the embargo as an excuse for their sins, errors, omissions and incompetence.
    Military intervention in 13 other countries was expensive both in financial and human terms. But that rather than the Cuban peoples needs was the Castro family regimes choice.
    Building up a military strength far beyond its needs (the US committed to non-military intervention to achieve the agreement with Kruschev to remove the nukes from Cuba).
    Building up a State Police of unnecessary strength. (Taking a taxi-particular from our home to Jose Marti Airport and leaving at 6.00 a.m., we were stopped four (4) times by the State Police en route.)
    I do not and have not supported US policies regarding Cuba. I have repeatedly deplored the embargo – although you love it. I deplore the Monroe Doctrine, the Platt Amendment (incidentally have you read the original 1902 Constitution of Cuba – I have. I forgot that not knowing Cuba you would not have been able to read it, but in case you ever go there you will find it in the north-east corner on the third floor of the Governor’s House at the Plaza d’Armas) and the Helms-Burton Amendment regarding them as counter to US interests.
    If you ever do get to Cuba, you will see the crumbling houses and the consequences of the neglect of the regime. GO LOOK!

  • July 20, 2015 at 6:52 pm
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    John, Air B n B in Cuba is just the beginning. Regarding unions, let me tell you a story. I was in a union, while a college student, who paid in full my tuition and lifestyle working 60 hours a week and during the summer almost 80,
    one of my jobs was setting up shows at the NY Coliseum. It was a family connection that got me this and on Saturday, while doing the luggage show,
    we had to wait over 24 hours for the electrician union member come in and plug in the lamps etc into the sockets. It could have been done in minutes but I got triple over time and the check was obscene. I couldn’t continue with this because it wasn’t right so went to bartending and was no longer in that union.
    Needless to say, a few years later, the Auto show moved from NYC because of excessive expenses due to the unions. My suggestion is to start a business and share your profits with your employees. It’s micro but a start.

  • July 20, 2015 at 6:44 pm
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    John, capitalism as we know is dead! There’s a massive amount of taxpayer money that funds inner city residents to the tune of billions along with education and jobs. This wouldn’t happen under capitalism, especially the taxes. I lived in Chicago, that now has the highest sales tax in the country, 10.25% along with city, state and federal taxes is draining the middle class.
    I don’t call this socialism but certainly the poor are being funded by those who work and pay for items in the stores. Regarding Google, do you use it? I’m being serious in asking this. Do you own an Apple computer or Iphone?
    Creativity at its best!!

  • July 20, 2015 at 12:41 pm
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    Google employs relatively few people for the amount if money they make.
    It is hardly a model for any sort of future economy which will inevitably be all automated .
    Also neo-liberal capitalism never works well in underdeveloped countries because they lack the infrastructure and wealth of the developed countries.
    Capitalism will die within a couple of decades when the machines have taken so many jobs from humans that capitalism cannot work.
    Ref: “The Rise Of The Robots” : Ford
    ( IMO, this is the one book to read on this eventuality if your time is limited -just published in May this year so its really up-to-date. )

  • July 20, 2015 at 12:34 pm
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    It’s a state capitalist economy with government officials doing what owners and corporate boards doing under free -enterprise capitalism .
    It’s not socialism
    It’s not neo-socialism (whatever that is)
    Please stop making up even more confusing terms .
    A great many posters have trouble defining the few economic systems we already have.

  • July 20, 2015 at 12:29 pm
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    A well warranted dread, my friend.
    You use the expression “needle in a haystack” which means something hard to find when I believe you meant to use ” a drop in the bucket” meaning the small number of rooms available on the private market were far less than what is desired.
    I understand you disliking unions since the government , the corporations and the corporately owned media have been attempting to eliminate them ( quite successfully) since the end of WWII.
    Their combined propaganda power is hard to resist unless you have an understanding of workplace democracy and the ruthless nature of capitalism when it controls the state.
    And finally, sorry Cuba has never been socialist.
    It has socialist style distribution of the basics but because it is not a worker-run ( bottom-up majority rule ) system , it does not meet the standards by which you can intelligently term it socialist.
    It has all the totalitarian characteristics
    of capitalism and only the equitable distribution of essentials which is not enough .
    The answer to the problems of Cuban and U.S. societies is democracy which does not seem to enter into your thoughts. .

  • July 20, 2015 at 12:16 pm
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    “……past socialist models..”
    There have never been socialist economies .
    All economies under Communist Parties were state capitalist .

  • July 20, 2015 at 12:14 pm
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    This is a serious question:
    What is a state communist economy in your mind.
    Which aspects of the Cuban economy are run in a communist, i..e . democratic, manner

  • July 20, 2015 at 12:11 pm
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    You need to correct your post from:
    “Due to the fifty six years of neglect the infrastructure of he country is in a pitiful state.”
    to:
    Due to the fifty-four year US embargo , Cuba has had to neglect its infrastructure for things more essential to human life.
    I will repeat this analogy because your post demands it:
    In supporting U.S. policies against Cuba, you put yourself in the position of someone who trashes someone’s house and then complains to the rest of the neighborhood about the appearance of the damaged property.

  • July 20, 2015 at 11:15 am
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    I built two nice houses in Niquero – Granma for Michel and Angelica and the cost for labour material was CUC $ 5,000.00 each. The price of houses various in Cuba according to location as it does in Canada.
    Gordon Robinson
    [email protected]

  • July 19, 2015 at 9:40 am
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    First words change. Then action follows. Results are last. While the regime has discovered that humans are motivated by incentives that reward effort, they are a long way from end state model.

  • July 19, 2015 at 6:31 am
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    I’m living in Tucson and there are two alternatives for grocery shopping. One is union and the other non-union. Both are nationwide and billion dollar operations. My experience is the non-union workers are happier the stores better laid out and the grocery carts work. The other, just the opposite. To prevent massive anxiety you know where I shop. I’m not naive so minimum wages I support and feel should be raised so please don’t put me in the “pig” category. I also run a business where I have co-workers not employees and they share in the profits. Cuba is a mess and socialism doesn’t work, the shopping carts are broke and the average Cuban knows that.
    Here’s where I differ with you. There are many in Cuba, bloggers especially who are totally against the regime. post and travel to the US freely and express their views without getting arrested when they return. Cuban’s can now travel freely and get to see first hand whether our system is better or perhaps feel that they’re content with the status quo in their homeland. There are over 2,000 individuals who now rent and advertise their rooms for tourists who are making a go of it and although a needle in the haystack, a breath of fresh air. I’m against the embargo and the fact that I cannot go to the airport, book a ticket to Cuba without twelve rules, and spend my money whichever way I wish so there’s my gripe. In short, the glass is tilting towards half full and progress is being made. Change is inevitable. ps- i dread Mr. Goodrich’s response!

  • July 18, 2015 at 2:27 pm
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    The regime will try to fly under the socialismo banner as long as possible to keep legitimacy. This neo-socialism will employee collectivism for heavy industry and core social goods. Otherwise, a high percentage of economic activity will be regulated but not directly controlled.

    Authoritative or Fascist will be a distinction without importance. Cuba will have a market sector, it already does. As the government becomes comfortable in regulating the market it will make more use of it. It ain’t eassy having to provide for and take all the blame. Building individual versus collective accountability will be a natural outgrowth of new model.

    The most distortive area of economic activity is remitences. The Government will allow the consequences of this money flow as benefits of U.S. Dollars entering state coffers are critical to it’s survival.

  • July 18, 2015 at 2:04 pm
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    Yea, the military attire dimminishes Raul. He could add an image consultant to his team.

  • July 18, 2015 at 12:30 pm
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    When in Cuba, I too wear T shirt and shorts, but in Canada I wear short sleeved shirts and shorts – I keep my shopping list in the shirt pocket! In Cuba a shopping list is misleading as one can only buy that which happens to be available.

  • July 18, 2015 at 12:25 pm
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    Did you watch Marino Murillo describe the “new” economic model at the Congress in January? I did as I was at home at the time. Regarding the “incentive” he showed a model of how management in a state enterprise would be able by increase in production to improve their income by up to 8%. = $2.40 per month. Now that’s incentive!
    I hope that you are correct in saying that the regime is recognizing “the fatal flaw” of past socialist models, but can see no sign of them doing so, or of any remorse if indeed as you indicate, they are recognizing their faults.
    To me it is amazing that the world’s media – which has little access to Cuba and very little even in Havana – is swallowing the concept that there is change in Cuba. None is visible in the country itself unless one recognizes 51 second hand cars being sold in one year and signs saying “Se vende esta Casa” as change but Raul Castro Ruz is very street smart and cunning and the optimistic are swallowing the bait.
    The cost of living is rising and few Cubans have any way of improving their incomes – even recognizing the widespread pilferage. For Cubans at large, life is a daily struggle to feed and clothe their families – no change!

  • July 18, 2015 at 12:13 pm
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    The discussion taking place here on Havana Times should really be taking place in the Cuban Parliament.

  • July 18, 2015 at 12:06 pm
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    Marino Murillo said at the so-called “parliament” that Cubans should not expect an increase in income. Due to the fifty six years of neglect the infrastructure of he country is in a pitiful state. Projects like the wonderful bridge to the Province of Matanzas and the tunnel under the harbour entrance were constructed during the government of Batista. The Autopista was a Russian endeavor, but was left incomplete with flyovers going nowhere when the Russian Soviet Empire imploded. The living standards of Cubans will not rise as long as the current Castro family regime and the Communist Party of Cuba are in power.
    As for the truthfulness of the regime declaring the 4.7% increase in GDP and bearing in mind the regime’s record the answer is to suck it and see.

  • July 18, 2015 at 7:03 am
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    Carlyle, I too sold cars many years ago and perceptions , smoke and mirrors were major parts of that sad game. Now we have Edmunds website making it easier for buyers to know before hand what the wizard of oz players, like us, had to deceive with. I made fun of Raul’s fatigues outfit but I’ll also add Fidel’s ridiculous photo op’s that almost always include his Adidas wardrobe. Personally, i wear a T shirt and shorts at all times and now am sitting writing this with Nordstrom boxer shorts, tube socks and nothing else but a smile. The difference is i no longer sell cars and certainly not running a country. If Fidel is reading this please get a new outfit and tell your brother to chuck the out of the movies Groucho Marx attire.

  • July 18, 2015 at 6:55 am
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    I agree with you Marti and personally believe that Cuba knows full well they need to shift in a major way to offset defections and unrest compared to what it’s citizens are seeing now that many have the opportunities to travel and surf on line. Yes, social media is my favorite for allowing people to have open discussions, both for and against what could work differently to advance their world. I’m not stating giving up Cuba’s right to remain independent but certainly to improve life in general and staying sovereign. The decision to move slowly is probably the lesser of two evils to create stability and offset unrest.

  • July 18, 2015 at 6:54 am
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    Given the less than 1% growth in GDP in Cuba for 2014, while certainly possible, it remains incredible that Cuba is currently experiencing growth 4X greater. Especially when agricultural production has worsened. Increased tourism would help but not to this extent. It is far more likely Castro is lying or misinformed. After all, the Castros were star pupils in the defunct Soviet school of public announcements. Remember that whole “we will bury you” thing? Yea, those guys.

  • July 17, 2015 at 9:16 pm
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    “The official media rejoice over the proclaimed growth in the Gross Domestic Product and massively forget the criticisms aimed at this indicator as a terrible measure of social progress.”

    So far, no one has suggested that the Cuban government was untruthful in reporting a growth in the Gross Domestic Product. But I will grant that, by itself, it is not necessarily a measure of social progress.
    I can think of a number of reasons why a growth in GDP would not yet have reached the average Cuban. Some of these are negative reasons, corruption and inefficiencies. But there are some good reasons as well. Increased production could be invested in infrastructure and other capital spending. Such spending would not immediately raise the living standards of Cubans.

  • July 17, 2015 at 7:41 pm
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    The economic model is being updated. Some turbulence in the change over from the state communist model to a mixed economy with a market and core socialist services is to be expected. Productivity increases that are behind GDP growth are fueled by the new incentive system. Education and certain sectors will pay more. That is only fair as the educated should be compensated for their effort and those that produce more for society should also be rewarded.

    Systems that do not reward personal effort lead to impoverishment. A safety net, taxes and other mechanisms exist to share production for common good. Cuba is not putting a capitalst system but it is recognizing the fatal flaw of past socialist models. The old system failed, if the state corporate economy model does not work, then it too will be changed.

  • July 17, 2015 at 2:33 pm
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    As Larson’s famous dog said:
    BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH
    Raul Castro Ruz’s self satisfied smile in the photograph says it all:
    “Everybody equal except me and I am in charge – Socialismo for everybody and forever.”
    Describing the gathering of the tongue-tied as a “parliament” is ludicrous. I have watched the proceedings on TV in Cuba and the automatic 100% of members approving whatever Raul Castro Ruz has predetermined.
    Regarding housing, Raul cleverly made the citizenry responsible for the increasing number of crumbling and collapsing houses by giving ownership to the occupiers.
    As a used car salesman he has proven a failure.

  • July 17, 2015 at 1:55 pm
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    There is nothing capitalist about the mechanism or ideologies of Cuba’s new economic changes. Raul is transforming Cuba from a Marxist-Leninist style economy to a state-corporate economy run by the military – Fascist, by another name. The Castro regime will welcome business partnerships with foreign corporations. But there will be no free enterprise, no true entrepreneurship, no labour freedom for workers.

  • July 17, 2015 at 12:48 pm
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    Pretty sad indeed Rogelio! Amazing how they also target Google as an enemy when in fact this company would provide Cuba with free internet access but printing blogs like yours would be dangerous in the hands of the “people!” On a side note, Google stock just skyrocketed to a market cap of 500,000.00 dlrs today and I’d say they’d make great friends in Cuba with any alliances. Also a great indication to the masses what free enterprise and creativity can do for its citizens and employees of Google. I don’t think those working for Google have a problem with milk, eggs, water and a crumbling infrastructure! Continue to get the message out my friend!

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