The Stubborn Names of Things

Nothing is called what they told me. Salvador Allende Avenue, the only street from my childhood with trees, has gone back to being called by its noble name of Carlos III. I cross a re-baptized city, although the corners still show signs with the names of heroes that no one uses. The old descriptions re-emerge, even among people my age who didn’t come to know them when those were the public names. However much the news insists, for example, on speaking of the summer celebrations as “popular festivals,” we stubbornly refer to them by the nickname “carnivals.” Something similar happens with the celebrations of each December, which the announcers and bureaucrats designate “year-end celebrations,” but among ourselves — for more than a decade — they’ve come to be known again as “Christmas.”

The adjectives betray us; the nouns get ahead of us, contrasting with the subdued and cautious attitude we assume daily. To name something has been converted into the most widespread way of changing reality. We no longer hear the vocative compañero — comrade — rather it’s the once stigmatized señor — mister — and it’s been a long time since the first person plural has included those who govern us. Now they are simply “them,” while in the maternity hospitals no one chooses names from that olive-green lineage for their newborns. Even the strange phenomenon officially designated as “Revolution” has come to be known among us by a neutral demonstrative pronoun. We have renamed it “this,” because there are times to show dissatisfaction by removing names or returning to things the stubborn names by which they were once known.


16 thoughts on “The Stubborn Names of Things


    NPR: Anti-Castro Uprising Unlikely In Unplugged Cuba-by Nick Miroff-March 3, 2011
    On Friday, authorities in Cuba will put U.S. contractor Alan Gross on trial. He’s facing a 20-year prison sentence, accused of trying to set up satellite Internet networks in a plot to undermine the government.

    Fidel and Raul Castro have been in power longer than any ruler in the Middle East, but Gross’s trial and other recent events on the island are a reminder of the differences between Cuba and Libya or Egypt.

    Social media sites have been powerful organizing tools in the Middle East, but they are of little use to the small opposition movement in Cuba, the least-connected country in the hemisphere. When some activists tried to organize a protest through Facebook last week, no one showed up.

    Long-time Castro critic Elizardo Sanchez argues that while Middle Eastern governments are autocratic, Cuba’s system is totalitarian.

    “This is a government with an enormous capacity for social control,” Sanchez says. “The Cuban people aren’t ready to rise up like they did in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya.”

    Cubans are too intimidated by the regime, and they are almost entirely dependent on it for their economic well-being, Sanchez says.

    ‘I’m Going To Keep Fighting’

    Through an agreement with the Catholic Church and the Spanish government, Cuba has been emptying its jails of political prisoners. Eight months ago, there were more than 50 jailed Cubans who were considered prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Today, there are five.

    But the former prisoners are not likely to lead an anti-Castro uprising anytime soon. Of the 70 who have been released so far overall, only about 10 remain on the island. Most chose to go to Spain.

    Every Sunday outside a Havana cathedral, the Ladies in White march and chant “Freedom!” It’s the only act of public protest tolerated by the government. For years the group’s members have demanded the release of their jailed husbands and relatives. Now many of the men are out, like Angel Moya Acosta, freed last month after eight years.

    “I’ll keep fighting alongside my brothers here in Cuba for freedom, rights and justice,” Moya said at a recent protest. “I won’t stop denouncing the Cuban regime and teaching others about human rights.”

    Within minutes, Moya was arguing heatedly with a Cuban state television crew, and the shouting match spilled over into the street.

    As the film crew yelled pro-Castro slogans, Moya, the Ladies in White and a handful of others chanted “Zapata lives!” and waved photocopied pictures of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner who died of a hunger strike a year ago.

    Several passing cars slowed to watch, but no one stopped to join the protest.

    An ‘Act Of Repudiation’

    Even Jonathan Farrar, the top U.S. official in Cuba, acknowledged in a leaked 2009 cable that Cuba’s dissidents are divided and have little following on the island. Whenever they do try to demonstrate elsewhere, the government’s response is swift. But instead of guns and tanks, pro-government crowds surround protesters and scream obscenities and insults at them in what are known as “acts of repudiation.”

    On the Feb. 23 anniversary of Zapata’s death, more than 100 teenagers and university students swarmed the Havana home of Laura Pollan, a leader of the Ladies in White. They threw an egg at her door, and stayed for more than five hours, calling her ugly, crazy and worse, with puerile songs and chants that seemed like something out of a nasty summer camp.

    Plainclothes state security agents stood by, doing little to hide their role in both facilitating the event and making sure things didn’t get out of hand. Law student Alejandro Gonzalez had shouted himself hoarse.

    “We’re young Cubans who support the revolutionary process and are against these mercenaries who are paid by the U.S. government,” Gonzalez said.

    A new documentary on Cuban state TV features wiretapped phone calls of conversations between dissidents on the island and Miami exiles, showing their alleged political and financial ties to militants the government considers terrorists.

    The star of the program is a journalist and contributor to U.S.-funded Radio Marti who has worked with dissidents for years. As it turns out, he’s really Agent Emilio, an undercover Cuban security official.


  2. Once the Castro’s are out, the world will hear and see the atrocities of the Cuban Revolution. In Romania, in the 50’s and 60’s there were a few prisons where the oppossants of the communism regime were tortured for years or decades. In Romania people were totally stupid as after 1989 they did not punished the ones who commited all the torture. Many them were identifed. Of course they reached the old age but they should have thrown in jail. What will Cubans DO ?

  3. The mummy was an excellent student of 20th century totalitarians, early in his oratorical career he did an admirable Mussolini impression, if not in content certainly in style. I believe that I read somewhere that the mummy read mein kampf, hitler’s paranoid and delusional manual for aspiring tin pot dictators. Hopefully the mummy, the eunuch in north korea and the half-embalmed, walking cadaver from Libya are the last of the 20th century style dictators. I am not counting the light-weights from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia in that group they are merely show shine boys for the walking colostomy bag.

  4. Mazorra: you’re right about Goebbel’s doctrine. Watching the Sergio comedy, I mean documentary, it reminded me of what the master of all propaganda ministers stated as a basic rule of Nazism and totalitarianism, and it goes roughly like this: If you repeat a lie often enough, eventually people will believe it, to where it will be indistinguishable from the truth and eventually becomes fact in people’s mind.

    The scumbag mummy learned this well, probably at an early age, when he was stirring up trouble in Bogota, Colombia back in the late forties.

  5. COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS: After ‘trial by fire,’ Cuba’s Maseda back to journalism -By Carlos Lauría/CPJ Americas Senior Program Coordinator and María Salazar-Ferro/Coordinator of the Impunity Campaign and Journalist Assistance Program

    Amost three weeks after being released from jail following eight years of inhumane treatment in Cuba’s infamous prison system, CPJ’s 2008 International Press Freedom award winner Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez said he is committed to going back to independent journalism. “That’s my will, and I have decided to do it here in Havana,” Maseda said in a telephone conversation from Cuba’s capital.
    On January 18, weeks prior to his release, Maseda turned 68 in prison. He was the oldest of the 29 editors and reporters jailed during Cuba’s March 2003 Black Spring. Despite his age, however, Maseda was able to overcome harsh prison conditions and remained in impressively good health in comparison to other jailed journalists. On the phone with CPJ on Wednesday, Maseda said that he and the others had gone “through trial by fire” but “we were stronger than the trial.”

    Maseda’s firm belief in his right to freedom of expression and the injustice of his imprisonment were the pillars of his incredible strength throughout the eight years he spent in prison. During that time, Maseda said that he exercised daily, running when he was allowed out of his small cell. He also spent time reporting from prison, and wrote two books that he was able to smuggle out page by page.

    His wife, Laura Pollán, the spokeswoman of the Cuban human rights group Ladies in White, was Maseda’s rock throughout his ordeal, the journalist said. Support from the international community, journalists worldwide, and CPJ’s efforts to campaign for his release were another source of strength. “I received positive energy, and I never felt alone,” he told us.

    Maseda has once again set up his office in his central Havana home. The last time he had been at the house before his February release, police were rummaging through his papers, books, clothes, and kitchenware, itemizing domestic objects that would be used as evidence in a sham trial weeks later. And yet, after all this, Maseda said he will not be forced to leave Cuba. “The place of a Cuban patriot is in his country,” he said, adding that “when faced by an opponent, one has to be stubborn in order to show the strength of one’s principles.”

    Click here to read our ongoing series of first-person stories by Cuban journalists who were imprisoned in a massive roundup of dissidents that has become known as the Black Spring of 2003.

    CPJ Senior Americas Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría, a native of Buenos Aires, is a widely published journalist who has written extensively for Noticias, the world’s largest Spanish-language newsmagazine. Follow him on Facebook @ CPJ en Español.


    ASSOCIATED PRESS: Obama, Cuba spar over Havana’s human rights record
    Written by PAUL HAVEN

    HAVANA — President Barack Obama has denounced the Cuban government for harassing the mother of a political prisoner who died after a long hunger strike and said her treatment and the detention of other dissidents stood as evidence of the island’s poor human rights record.

    The statement on Feb. 23 came as a pro-government crowd in Havana threw eggs and shouted insults outside a home where the Cuban opposition group the Damas de Blanco — or Ladies in White — were marking the first anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo following an 83-day hunger strike.

    A leading Cuban human rights leader told The Associated Press that at least 46 opposition activists had been detained across the island Feb. 23, including another well-known hunger striker, Guillermo Farinas. Many of those detained were quickly released but Farinas remained in custody late Wednesday afternoon.

    Obama said Zapata’s “selfless and tragic death” had “galvanized the world’s attention to the ongoing mistreatment of those unjustly held by Cuban authorities.”

    “The Cuban people must know that their suffering does not go unnoticed and that the United States remains unwavering in our commitment to defend the inalienable right of the Cuban people to enjoy the freedoms that define the Americas and that are universal to all human beings,” Obama said.

    There was no immediate reaction from Cuba to Obama’s statement. But two days later, on Feb. 25, the communist government denounced Obama as a copy of his conservative Republican predecessor and said he gave more credence to Cuban-American exiles than his own diplomats.

    An opinion piece in the official Communist Party newspaper Granma criticized Obama for supporting dissidents on the island and calling on Cuba to release all political prisoners. It said the president’s statement shows he is being manipulated by exiles, uninformed advisors and a biased U.S. media.

    Cuba has said its doctors did all they could to keep Tamayo alive. It maintains he and all other dissidents are common criminals and says his jail term was extended because of poor behavior behind bars.

    The Granma piece refers to a secret diplomatic cable sent out in 2009 over the signature of Jonathan Farrar, America’s chief diplomat in Havana, which describes Cuban opposition groups as petty, fractured and out of touch. The cable was revealed by WikiLeaks late last year.

    The Granma article said Obama’s statement made clear he had ignored his chief diplomat’s council.

    “The White House is giving more attention to pressure from Miami and its mafia in the capital than it is to its own diplomats,” the article said, adding that Obama’s emotional statement “emulated his predecessor George W. Bush in its abuse of adjectives.”

    The article was published next to a series of altered photos showing the face of former President George W. Bush gradually turning into that of Obama.

    The newspaper also had harsh words for Cuban bloggers and the U.S. media, particularly The New York Times, the latest in a series of official articles criticizing the American press.

    “In an era where newspapers are filled with more lies than advertisements … it is hard to tell who got the president so worked up, the New York Times or an adviser on the National Security Council,” the article said.

    Granma also carried an article denouncing The Wall Street Journal for an editorial that drew parallels between Cuba and Egypt, where a popular uprising forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Cuba has been led by brothers Fidel and Raul Castro since 1959.

    The article said the newspaper’s “image of sobriety and power cannot hide fanaticism and hate.”

    The articles came days after Cuban media lashed out at CNN’s Spanish-language network for reporting that an opposition demonstration was going to take place in Havana. The protest never occurred.

    Cuban state cable providers last month removed CNN’s Spanish network from a package of channels provided mostly to hotels, foreign companies and diplomats on the island, though no reason was given.

    Relations between Washington and Havana have been frigid for decades, most recently over Cuba’s decision to seek a 20-year jail term for a detained American subcontractor that officials here accuse of spying.

    Obama’s criticism followed similar sentiments by Amnesty International denouncing Cuba for its treatment of Zapata’s mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, who was detained for about 12 hours two weeks ago in her hometown of Banes, in eastern Cuba.

    Reached by telephone in Banes, Reina Luisa Tamayo said she spent the day laying flowers and a Cuban flag on her son’s grave and then went to get passport photos made for a visa to the United States which has granted her political refuge.

    She said she plans to have her son cremated and bring the ashes when she departs Cuba for good, expected to be in the coming months, although Tamayo recently said she was still awaiting Cuban paperwork.

    Since Zapata’s death, the government has cleared its jails of many political prisoners. It has freed 46 activists, intellectuals and social commentators arrested in a 2003 crackdown and now holds just six men arrested in that sweep who are considered “prisoners of conscience” by Amnesty.

    It has also freed about 25 other prisoners arrested separately for violent — but politically motivated — crimes such as hijacking and sabotage.

    Obama credited Zapata and the Damas with forcing the government of President Raul Castro to let the prisoners go and he called on Cuba to continue the releases.

    “Today, I join the Cuban people in marking this anniversary by again calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Cuba,” Obama said.

    The Cuban people must know that their suffering does not go unnoticed and that the United States remains unwavering in our commitment to defend the inalienable right of the Cuban people to enjoy the freedoms that define the Americas and that are universal to all human beings.’

    – President Barack Obama

    ‘The White House is giving more attention to pressure from Miami and its mafia in the capital than it is to its own diplomats’ — and President Obama’s emotional statement ‘emulated his predecessor George W. Bush in its abuse of adjectives.’
    – Granma

  7. 52 years of myth making, the spinning of communist fantasies, regurgitation of ball-faced lies and the substitution of revisionist history for the actual chain of events. They have in fact been very successful playing the propaganda game, Joseph Goebbels would be proud of them. The proof of their success is in the number of tools around the world that still believe in their tragic and nonsensical fairy tale.

  8. 52 years of hostage-taking, and going strong. One of the revolution’s great success stories.

  9. so there is a well-financed international campaign to free from American country club prisons 5 confessed Cuban spies who may be involved in the murder of American citizens, while… one American aid worker who honestly declared what he was doing in Cuba faces 20 years in a Cuban prison for the crime of being an American aid worker helping the remnants of a very small and weak Jewish community.

  10. The first talk posted from TED2011, happening now in California: As a democratic revolution led by tech-empowered young people sweeps the Arab world, Wadah Khanfar, the head of Al Jazeera, shares a profoundly optimistic view of what’s happening in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and beyond — at this powerful moment when people realized they could step out of their houses and ask for change. (Recorded at TED2011, March 2011, in Long Beach, California. Duration: 17:12)

  11. WASHINGTON POST: Detained US contractor goes on trial in Cuba- By PAUL HAVEN-Thursday, March 3, 2011

    HAVANA — More than a man’s fate will be at stake when U.S. contractor Alan Gross goes to trial Friday on charges he sought to undermine Cuba’s government by bringing communications equipment onto the island illegally.

    U.S. officials have made clear that no meaningful rapprochement between the two Cold War enemies is possible while the 61-year-old Maryland native remains in jail. And with Gross facing a possible 20-year sentence for “acts against the integrity and independence” of Cuba, that could put relations into a long, deep freeze.

    “If they sentence him to 20 years and then put him in prison … I think it will have a very damaging effect on US-Cuban relations,” said Wayne Smith, a former top U.S. diplomat in Havana and senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for International Policy.

    Gross was working for the Bethesda-based Development Associates International on a USAID-program that promotes democracy when he was arrested in December 2009. He has been held since then in Havana’s maximum-security Villa Marista prison, most of that time without charge.

    His family, and U.S. and company officials say he was bringing communications equipment to Cuba’s 1,500-strong Jewish community. Cuban Jewish groups deny having anything to do with him, and there is even speculation that leaders of the Jewish community might testify against him.

    Gross’ case will be decided by a panel of five black-robed magistrates – three of them professional, and two average Cuban citizens specially trained to decide cases who are impaneled for one month. A simple majority is enough to convict him.

    The trial is expected to be over in a day or two, with a verdict announced immediately thereafter. Sentencing, should Gross be convicted, would likely come about two weeks later. Under Cuban law, he has the right to appeal any conviction, and can win a sentence reduction because he is more than 60 years old.

    Calls for Gross’ release have poured in as the trial has approached, from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who sent an open letter to Cuban President Raul Castro and offered to fly to Havana personally to mediate the case; and from Jewish groups including the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, who say Gross was simply trying to help and had no idea what he was doing was in violation of Cuban law.

    Gross’ wife Judy appealed to the Cuban government to let her husband go home on humanitarian grounds, saying in a written response to questions submitted by The Associated Press last week that Gross’ daughter and mother are both suffering from cancer, and that he has lost 90 pounds (40 kilos) in prison.

    “He needs to be home. We need him and he needs us now more than ever,” she wrote. “I hope to have Alan home soon; that hope keeps me going.”

    Many observers do see a way forward that would get Gross back to his family, and avoid a standoff between Havana and Washington. They say Gross will likely be tried, convicted and sentenced to a long jail term – then quickly released on humanitarian grounds.

    As recently as January, a senior U.S. State Department official said she had been given signals by the Cuban government that Gross would be sent home soon following a trial. American officials were taken aback when – a few weeks later – prosecutors said they were seeking a 20-year jail term.

    Smith, the former U.S. diplomat, says he expects Cuba to “do the right thing” and release Gross after the trial. He said the stiff charge was to be expected and is not inconsistent with Gross being released.

    “It has to be a major charge. It’s not very magnanimous if you give him a three-year-sentence and then you waive it,” he said. “But if it is a 20-year-sentence, then waiving it is magnanimous.”

    Phil Peters, a longtime Cuba expert who is vice president of the Arlington, Virginia-based Lexington Institute, said he too saw Cuba freeing Gross soon.

    “The odds are the guy is going to get convicted, that’s not hard to predict,” he said. “But I don’t believe that the Cuban government has an interest in holding him in jail for the long term.”

    Peters said the proceedings are Cuba’s chance to shine a light on USAID-funded democracy-building efforts like the one Gross was working on, which Havana says aim to topple the government, ruled since 1959 by brothers Fidel and Raul Castro.

    Washington spends more than $40 million a year on the programs, with USAID controlling most of that and doling out the work to subcontractors.

    Development Associates International, or DAI, received $4.5 million in U.S. government funds for the program in which Gross was involved, and Gross reportedly was paid more than a half-million dollars himself, despite the fact he spoke little Spanish and had no history working in Cuba. Gross traveled to the island several times over a short period on a tourist visa, apparently raising Cuban suspicions.
    While the democracy programs are lauded by some anti-Castro groups, others have criticized the use of expensive contractors to do work that exiles would be willing to perform for free, such as bringing in computers and mobile phones.

    The programs have also been lambasted repeatedly in congressional reports as being wasteful and ineffective. In March 2010, Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Democratic Rep. Howard Berman, of California – both longtime critics of Washington’s 48-year trade embargo on Cuba – temporarily held up new funding in the wake of Gross’ arrest. The money has begun flowing again, though U.S. officials say DAI is no longer part of the program.

    Cuban authorities have not spoken publicly about their case against Gross. But a video that surfaced days before the charges were announced indicates prosecutors will likely argue that the USAID programs amount to an attack on the island’s sovereignty.

    The video features a Cuban Interior Ministry expert saying that Gross was seeking to build communications networks among the Cuban opposition. The expert also indicates that the government plans to use against Gross a statement his company made in his defense shortly after his arrest.

    In the statement, DAI president James Bombard said Gross was not a spy, but acknowledged he was handing out “basic IT equipment such as cell phones and laptops” as part of a U.S.-government backed program.

    “He says, ‘My man is not a spy. My man is not from the CIA,'” the Interior Ministry official says of Boomgard. “He says, ‘This is a man who was there because I have a contract with USAID to promote democracy in Cuba … to promote political competition, human rights, consensus building and strengthening civil society to help build a democratic government in Cuba.'”

    “That is to say, ‘He is not in the CIA, no, no, but he is a person I sent to Cuba with a contract to bring down the revolution.'”

  12. @#3
    from an indictment dated 2004:
    carlos benitez, jose benitez, luis benitez, carlos gonzales, carmen gonzales, emilio r. seiso, fernamdo moreno, just a few names.
    Most of them are belived to be in cuba after skipping bail going to central america & from there tu cuba.
    Most of these people are US naturalized citizens w/connections w/the cuban rebolution.
    At tat time the amount of money believed to have been defrauded from medicare was $217,000,000.00 dollars

  13. the BBC reports about 5 cuban ballet dancers who will not be returning to Cuba, it has not been confirmed if the defected or just staying in Canada for “artistical reasons”
    I guess (once defection is confirmed) the “stubborn names of things” shall be translated form a defection to “stay for artistical reasons”

  14. Humberto here is another way that the Castro regime seems to be leading the way in the medical field, specializing in Medicare fraud. This should help them find employment for some of the medical professionals being laid-off.

    Grassley asks HHS to probe whether Castro regime is defrauding Medicare

    By Julian Pecquet – 03/02/11 12:45 PM ET

    Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) grilled federal officials Wednesday about the Cuban government’s possible ties to rampant Medicare fraud in south Florida.
    Grassley asked Health and Human Services officials testifying before the Senate Finance Committee whether they were aware of any evidence that Cuba might be involved in fraud schemes against the government program.
    He asked HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson to look into any evidence that Cuban officials have been “facilitating” Medicare fraud and to get back to him after coordinating with the Justice and State departments.
    Levinson said he’d “have to get back to you on the particulars.”
    “We wouldn’t comment on any particular case in a public forum,” Levinson told The Hill after the hearing.
    Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services released a list of the Top 10 healthcare fraud fugitives, who have defrauded the government of $124 million combined. Seven of the 10 fugitives were of Cuban origin, and six of those are now believed to be hiding on the island.
    During the hearing, Grassley referenced a report from the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami raising questions about the involvement of Fidel Castro’s regime.
    The report paraphrases a “high-level former intelligence official with the Cuban Government” as saying that there are “strong indications that the Cuban Government is directing some of these Medicare frauds as part of a desperate attempt to obtain hard currency.”
    “The source notes that the Cuban Government is also assisting (while not directing) other instances of Medicare fraud — providing perpetrators with information with which to commit fraud,” wrote the report’s author, research associate Vanessa Lopez. “The former Cuban official goes on to say that, in the instances where the Cuban Government is not directing or facilitating the fraud, it does provide Cuba as a place for fugitives to flee. This gives the Castro regime a convenient and care-free way to raise hard currency.”
    Furthermore, according to this source, “any fugitive in Cuba needs to pay astronomically large sums of money to the Cuban Government in order to enter and remain in the country.”
    Some Cuban-American groups have begun to ask for a congressional probe of Cuba’s potential ties to Medicare fraud.
    Grassley stopped short of that Wednesday, but his comments raised the level of attention a notch.
    “I’m just now getting into this, so I don’t really know what the next step is,” Grassley told The Hill. “But at least there’s one step going on now in regard to the written response that I got from [HHS].”

  15. Very good article Yoani. It’s all about the power of words, and how we use them.

    An honest writer can sometimes cause an empire to fall, keep it up.


    REUTERS AFRICA: FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in Cuba-Wed Mar 2, 2011 –
    By Jeff Franks
    HAVANA, March 2 (Reuters) – Reforms aimed at modernizing Cuba’s troubled economy will be key as President Raul Castro tries to ensure that the communist system put in place five decades ago survives once its aging leaders are gone.

    The debt-ridden government is short of cash and looking to reduce its role while maintaining control of an economy with a bigger private sector and less state spending.

    It could get long-term help if offshore oil exploration begins as planned in mid-2011 [ID:nN07233718], although ongoing rocky relations with the United States could interfere.


    Castro has ordered that 500,000 jobs be slashed from state payrolls in a process that was supposed to conclude in March, but has been delayed. He told the Council of Ministers the timeline should be extended to soften the impact of the cuts, but it was not disclosed for how long.

    About 200,000 of those jobs are expected to shift over to employee-run cooperatives converted from businesses now operated by the state or rental arrangements for such things as taxis.

    The government also is issuing 250,000 new licenses for self employment and for the first time, the self-employed are able to hire workers. Small businesses selling food, pirated DVDs and other items are popping up all over Cuba. [ID:nN25272243]

    After the first 500,000 jobs are cut, the government plans to slash another 500,000 in the next few years, with more private sector expansion likely to come.

    Still uncertain is how deeply the government wants to reform its 3,700 state companies, which manage a broad swath of the Cuban economy and most of which are losing money.

    Proposed reforms to be considered in April at the ruling Communist Party’s first Congress since 1997 call for giving the companies greater autonomy and loosening their ties to government ministries, but leaving them in state hands. [ID:nN0851837]

    Raul Castro, who succeeded his brother Fidel Castro as president in 2008, has said the reforms are critical to maintaining the communist system installed after the 1959 revolution. But whether they will increase productivity and strengthen the economy as hoped is unclear.

    Many Cubans are interested in working for themselves but are concerned that regulations, taxes and lack of credit will kill their businesses. [ID:nN25269725]

    Also, there are worries that planned job cuts may lead to social problems in a country where people basically have been guaranteed employment for decades. [ID:nN06122809]

    Castro has made other reforms, particularly in agriculture where he wants to raise output to cut dependence on budget-draining food imports. But food production has declined as farmers complain they are still too stifled by the state.

    What to watch:
    The numbers and performance of the newly self employed.
    The progress and effects of government layoffs.
    Depth of reforms of state companies.
    Agricultural production.


    What to watch:
    Nickel production and prices, golf course projects.
    Efforts to tax self-employed.


    What to watch:
    Repsol’s exploratory well in Cuban waters.
    Fate of U.S. legislation on Cuba drilling.
    China’s growing presence in Cuba’s energy sector.


    What to watch:
    Fate of Alan Gross.
    Continued release of political prisoners.
    U.S. and EU reaction to Cuban reforms. (Editing by Kieran Murray)

Comments are closed.