Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    25 November 2014 CUBA’S FAST-GROWING PRIVATE SECTOR by Thomas Leroy “I started out seven months ago. I have some foreign customers, but most of them are Cuban. You make more money working for yourself,” says Maykol, a hairdresser in the centre of Havana. “But it means more responsibilities too. We are not sure what income […] Continue reading

    Memories of One December 10th

    Memories of One December 10th / Jeovany Jimenez Vega Posted on May 30, 2014 Act I: The Barricade I notice the foul stench the moment I turn the corner and see the piles of garbage blocking the street. A pair of patrols is stationed, threateningly, half a block away. I keep walking as though it […] Continue reading

    Los americanos

    Los americanos… Martes, 23 de Abril de 2013 00:50 Escrito por Juan Gonzalez Febles Cuba actualidad, Lawton, La Habana, (PD) La canción que puso en boga Alberto Cortez lo decía: “…nacen ancianos y van enniñeciendo a través de la vida, los americanos…”. Un político norteamericano elevado a la silla presidencial, garantizó, por motivos puramente sentimentales [...] Continue reading

    Cuba: Economy In Motion

    Cuba: Economy In Motion
    By Latinamerica Press -- (April 7, 2013)
    By Lídice Valenzuela

    Two years after the reforms to the Cuban socioeconomic model began, one
    must ask: have substantial changes to the life of this Caribbean nation
    of 11 million people been observed? What is missing for the economy to
    be able to advance in the accelerated manner that is demanded by a
    population mostly worn down by the U.S. economic, financial, and
    commercial embargo, internal errors, and the dependency on other nations?

    To avoid creating false expectations, President Raúl Castro warned at
    the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, or PCC, in April
    2011: "We will act with no hurry, but without pausing," which means that
    the period of improvising and economic chaos has ended — at least

    In that context, opening up to private initiative is directing national

    It is still recent history that during the so-called Special Period of
    the economy — established to face the crisis triggered after the fall of
    the socialism in Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s — the return to
    private enterprise was sought, albeit having been limited to two
    sectors: home rentals and the opening of mini-restaurants called
    Paladares, most of which ended up closing because of state obstacles
    that indicated more of a political contradiction than an economic one.
    Now they once again proliferate in all cities.

    In 2011, following the Sixth Congress' guidelines, private work
    reappeared to drive the semi-paralyzed economy, although there are still
    inherent obstacles because of an internal resistance to change by some
    state officials.

    A year before, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security put into effect
    Resolution No. 35 that liberalized 181 activities, including careers and
    professions of different ranks that range from professors of different
    educational levels to barbers and domestic workers. Some 400,000 people
    take part in this strategy.

    Even with a small contribution to the gross domestic product — around 10
    percent — the private sector frees the state from providing small
    services and tries to reverse the tense agricultural situation, which
    offers no solution to the feeding of the people, an issue Castro
    considers "of national security."

    Currently, there are many forms of private businesses that stand out:
    home rentals, cargo and passenger transportation, food manufacturing,
    and mobile vendors of agricultural products. Land leasing with usufruct
    rights to some 176,000 farmers also has a vital role. These farmers
    still do not achieve high production levels for reasons attributed in
    large part to official deficiencies, such as the guarantee of work
    tools, transportation for the harvests, and low prices for the products.
    Tax obligations

    The national economy was the sole main issue discussed by the delegates
    to the Sixth Congress of the PCC. The debate resulted in the approval of
    the "Economic and social guidelines of the Party and the Revolution" –
    the guiding document for all of the changes, consisting of more than 300
    reforms and previously discussed and enriched by the people.

    However, Marino Murillo, vice president of the Council of Ministers,
    told the press in March 2012, "[We] must continue to perfect the
    implementation of the guidelines," given the previously identified

    Although the people understand the official needs, they are dissatisfied
    with the high prices imposed by the so-called "self-employers." There
    are very costly alternatives for the average state employees, who earn a
    daily average of 10 pesos (one of the two official currencies, along
    with the CUC, the Cuban convertible peso). Among them are the taxi
    services, the Paladares, the clothing industry, and home products.

    Another delicate situation occurs when wholesale providers cannot
    steadily deliver products to private businesses. The latter are forced
    to buy from the retail market which supplies to the population, thus
    hoarding products which are for family consumption. For almost three
    years now, basic food products are sold outside of the so-called ration
    card, such as eggs, pork meat, bread, cheese, or tomato puree.

    In the middle of this diverse landscape, some experts link the process
    of labor reorganization in the state sector, started in October 2011 and
    which left 340,000 workers as available labor force, with the emergence
    of private business.

    "The reappearance of private [enterprise] lacks a link to the labor
    reorganization, a process on its way to greater efficiency in the labor
    force, which considers the employment peculiarities, conditions, and
    alternatives of the different territories. The relocation of the
    available labor force happens in the state sector itself, and at a lower
    rate in the private sector," said Ariel Terrero, specialist in economic
    issues, to the Cuban television.
    Experiences in the private sector

    Karelia Sopena leases a room in her house in the Nuevo Vedado
    neighborhood since 1997, when the tax system took its first steps in Cuba.

    "Taxes were exceedingly high," she tells Latinamerica Press. "Then, they
    charged me more than 200 per month although I did not have clients. With
    the Tax System Law of this year," she comments; "now I pay 35 CUC each
    month, while I charge 35 CUC a day for my room."

    In the flower shop "Angélica," an establishment leased from the state in
    the municipality of Playa, six contracted individuals work 12 hours in
    alternating days. They pay two monthly taxes: a work license to be part
    of the private sector and social security for retirement. For vendor
    Indira García, this kind of job "is harsh but positive," for her salary
    is higher than that of a state employee's. Although she is not the owner
    of the shop, she understands the internal management and says that
    obstacles to their business come from lacking a state supplier.

    In the municipality of Central Havana, Manuel Pedroso owns a formal food
    and light food cafeteria. He pays some 1,000 pesos per month in taxes,
    but his daily income is about 2,000 pesos. His employers make 100 pesos
    a day in 10-hour alternating shifts. "Obtaining the supplies is
    difficult, but it's worth the sacrifice," he points out.

    In an informal analysis, it is observed that more adjustments to the
    state-private management relationship are still necessary, but the
    balance is positive if the essential economic movement is considered.

    2013 promises socioeconomic novelties. The Cuban first vice-president,
    Miguel Díaz Canel, informed last March that "the actualization process
    is starting its most important and complex stage because of the
    decisions to be taken and their importance in the future development of
    the country, seeking greater economic and productive efficiency within
    the socialist system with the ongoing transformations." Continue reading

    Where Is Cuba Going?

    Where Is Cuba Going? By JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN Published: September 20, 2012 17 Comments On the plane, something odd but also vaguely magical-seeming happened: namely, nobody knew what time it was. Right before we landed, the flight attendant made a...

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