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Daily Archives: March 15, 2011

Q&A: Cuba’s economic changes

15 March 2011 Last updated at 11:00 GMT

Q&A: Cuba's economic changes

Cuba is devaluing its hard-currency convertible peso, used mostly by tourists and foreign firms, by about 8% as part of efforts to revive the .

It will now be on a par with the US dollar, although it will still equal 24 of the standard pesos in which most Cubans are paid under the communist island's two-tier currency system.

The devaluation, the first change in the currency's value for six years, comes as the Cuban government is taking steps to reduce the state's role in the economy and encourage private enterprise.

In September last year, it was announced that one million public sector employees would be laid off, although the job cuts are now expected to take longer than initially planned.

BBC business reporter Robert Plummer looks at the implications for Cuba's centrally planned socialist economy.

What difference will the currency devaluation make?

It will make Cuba more affordable for tourists, who now constitute an important source of revenue for the country.

The convertible peso came into existence in 1994 and was pegged to the US dollar until 2005, when its worth was increased to $1.08. By this time, Cuba had already banned commercial transactions in dollars, as a response to a tightening of US sanctions.

The latest move brings the convertible peso back to its original exchange rate. However, tourists and Cubans exchanging dollars will still have to pay a 10% commission.

Why is Cuba enacting these changes now?

The changes are taking place in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party's first Congress in 14 years, which starts on 16 April.

This is expected to endorse 's economic reform plans, which call for more decentralisation of decision-making and increasing government revenues, while cutting social benefits and subsidies.

But why does the government feel changes are needed?

Because it simply cannot afford to maintain the old system any longer. Cuba's revolution has always been bankrolled by some external power and the credit has now run out.

During the Cold War, it was the Soviet Union which offered the island cheap crude oil in exchange for Cuban sugar, as well as loans and credits. It is estimated that Cuba still owes present-day Russia some $20bn as a result.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, President decreed a "Special Period" of hardship and allowed a modest expansion of independent businesses, such as restaurants and farms.

But the state's grip tightened again when and became Cuba's new benefactors.

Now Cuba is in hock to both of them as well – and the Chinese are pressing Fidel Castro's successor, his brother Raul, to follow their economic reform path.

What are the main implications of the changes?

Well, if the planned cuts go ahead in full, one in five of the workforce will no longer have a government job to go to. At present, the government employs about 85% of all workers.

But that does not mean they will be jobless. Many of them will continue doing what they do now, but the state will no longer be their employer.

Taxi drivers, hairdressers and those in small workplaces, for instance, will become self-employed and support themselves, rather than letting the state do it for them. Others will be encouraged to set up their own businesses or change jobs.

Cubans will also be able to rent out rooms to tourists, work as self-employed gardeners, iron clothes and shine shoes.

They will even be allowed to employ other Cubans who are not their relatives – something which has been banned since the Revolution.

Raul Castro has said the aim is to reduce the "overloaded" government payroll, but has also pledged that "no-one will be simply left out in the cold".

What other changes are being made?

The whole system will be less paternalistic in future. Subsidies that kept down the prices of basic foodstuffs, such as sugar and , are being removed. In fact, the whole ration book system, which has been providing Cubans with a guaranteed minimum of cheap basic goods since the US began in 1962, is due to be phased out.

At the same time, the newly self-employed will be subject to income tax, ranging from 25% for those earning more than 5,000 pesos ($225; £142) a year to 50% for those earning more than 50,000 pesos.

Like many others before them, Cubans will be discovering that when government grants them rights, it also imposes responsibilities on them.

Is this the end of socialism in Cuba?

In an word, no. Ever since the ailing Fidel Castro stepped down as president in February 2008, observers have been predicting that Raul Castro would produce major reforms.

But it looks like this is as far as it goes. The president has ruled out across-the-board changes and wants the state to continue in its role as the central economic planner, although some control has been, in effect, devolved.

Cubans can no longer expect the same level of cradle-to-grave state care and will have to become more self-reliant, but the country will remain a one-party state.

In fact, the very timing of the Congress shows the centrality of the Cuban Revolution in Raul Castro's thinking. It is due to begin on the 50th anniversary of the battle of the Bay of Pigs, in which a US-backed force of Cuban exiles was defeated in an attempt to invade the island and overthrow communist rule.

Bacardi Continues Legal Actions to Protect Its Havana Club Rum

Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2011

Bacardi Continues Legal Actions to Protect Its Havana Club Rum

HAMILTON, Bermuda — Bacardi Limited, the largest privately held spirits company in the world, continues to pursue all available legal options to protect its legitimate ownership and trademark rights to the Havana Club brand in .

In a brief filed with the High Court earlier this month, Bacardi Limited asked the Spanish Supreme Court for clarification of some aspects of its ruling where the High Court recognized the respect of Spanish law for fundamental rights violated by an expropriation without compensation. While the Court clarified its interpretation of some of the technical aspects in the initial ruling, Bacardi remains focused on the remaining legal options available.

On February 3, the High Court of Spain released its decision that the transfer of the trademark registration of Havana Club rum in Spain by Cuba and its partners was not consistent with Spanish public law. The Spanish Court ruled that Havana Club Holdings "does not deserve to be considered a good faith third party purchaser of the Spanish trademark of Havana Club," and noted that the company Jose Arechabala, S.A. (and Bacardi as its legal successor) was illegally deprived in Spain of the Spanish trademark registration for Havana Club. The Court however did not restore the Spanish trademark registration to Bacardi solely on the grounds of a technicality involving the statute of limitations applied to the claim.

It is critical to note that Spain's High Court declared that Spanish law does not recognize in Spain the validity of the transfers to Cuba and its partners of the Spanish Havana Club trademark registration on the basis of the confiscation of Havana Club ordered by the Cuban State in 1960.

Bacardi will continue to defend its fundamental rights against expropriation having purchased the trademark rights in Spain from the original legal owners, creators and proprietors of the brand.

Bacardi has won all U.S. court cases relating to the rights to use the HAVANA CLUB brand, up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

About Bacardi Limited

Bacardi Limited is the largest privately held spirits company in the world and produces and markets a variety of internationally-recognized spirits and wines. The Bacardi Limited brand portfolio consists of more than 200 brands and labels, including some of the world's favorite and best-known products: BACARDI® rum, the world's favorite and best-selling premium rum as well as the world's most awarded rum; GREY GOOSE® vodka, the world-leader in super premium vodka; DEWAR'S® Blended Scotch whisky, the number-one selling blended Scotch whisky in the United States; BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® gin, the top-valued and fastest-growing premium gin in the world; MARTINI® vermouth and sparkling wines, the world-leader in vermouth; CAZADORES® 100% blue agave tequila, the number-one premium tequila in Mexico and a top-selling premium tequila in the United States; and other leading and emerging brands.

Bacardi was founded in Santiago de Cuba, February 4, 1862, and currently employs more than 6,000 people, manufactures its brands at 27 facilities in 16 countries on four continents, and sells in more than 100 markets globally. Bacardi Limited refers to the Bacardi group of companies, including Bacardi International Limited.

A Gross miscarriage of justice?

Cuban-American relations

A miscarriage of justice?Mar 15th 2011, 10:12 by D.A. | MIAMI

BARACK OBAMA has tried to encourage Cuba's government to liberalise by promoting "people-to-people" contact with the United States. Since becoming , he has relaxed most limits on and money transfers to the island. Cuba's ruling Castro brothers have indeed shown increasing flexibility of late, releasing dozens of political prisoners and legalising some private economic activity. Nonetheless, they do not seem interested in reciprocating America's gestures of rapprochement. On March 12th Cuba sentenced Alan Gross, an employee of a company contracted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to 15 years in jail for crimes against the state.

Mr Gross, who worked for a firm called Development Alternatives Inc., was participating in a programme to improve access for Cuba's Jews, which the government deemed "subversive". His job allegedly involved distributing internet-connectivity devices, which are strictly controlled by the state, and possibly satellite equipment as well, which is banned. Foreigners arriving in the country are specifically asked to declare to officials whether they are carrying any satellite devices, and any that are found are swiftly confiscated.

American officials have called the sentence "appalling" and called for Mr Gross to be released. Although Cuba says that during his trial, Mr Gross "recognised having been used and manipulated" by his company and the United States government, they note that he can still appeal the sentence, and could possibly receive a pardon on humanitarian grounds. According to his wife, Mr Gross has lost more than 40 kilograms (90 pounds) since his arrest, and his mother and daughter are both suffering from cancer.

The Cuban government may well decide that it has milked the Gross case sufficiently to allow him to go home, after an appropriate interval. "I don't think [the verdict] is necessarily the final word," says Philip Peters, a Cuba analyst at the Washington-based Lexington Institute. "I don't see it in Cuba's interest to hold him for a long period of time." However, the Castros might feel tempted to hang onto Mr Gross and use him as a bargaining chip to gain the release of five Cubans who were convicted in the United States of espionage in 2005. In that case, it might be quite some time before Mr Gross is allowed to go home.

ACLU Asks for Review of Cuba Travel Ban

ACLU Asks for Review of Cuba BanDaily Business ReviewMarch 15, 2011

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of a state law banning public universities from using any funds for research and travel to Cuba.

The ACLU, representing the faculty of Florida International and other professors, is appealing a ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed a 2006 decision by U.S. District Patricia Seitz in Miami declaring the law unconstitutional.

"This law allows Florida to be the only state in the country with its own foreign policy which runs over, above and contrary to the foreign policy of the United States," said Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida ACLU.

The state law prohibits professors, scientists and students from using public university funds for work in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

The 11th Circuit decided restricting publicly funded travel was "not beyond a state's valid powers."

The petition filed Friday claims the law "meddles with foreign commerce by imposing restrictions on commerce with certain foreign nations that exceed the restrictions already imposed by federal law."

Paul F. Brinkman of Alston & Bird in Washington is serving as ACLU counsel in the case along with the Flordia ACLU legal director Randall Marshall.

"Crude censorship like this only serves to keep Americans uninformed," Simon said.

The state attorney general's office, which has defended the law, did not respond to a call for comment by deadline.

Despotic Cuba yields a little

Despotic Cuba yields a littleMonday, March 14, 2011

, seeking a better economic deal with the , has promised to release 10 more political prisoners, including the justly celebrated Afro-Cuban medical doctor Oscar Elias Biscet, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of by George Bush in 2007. In absentia, of course. Dr. Biscet was serving a 25-year sentence for political activity at the time.

The question is whether the Cuban government is truly turning over a new leaf or simply trying to curry favor in Europe. The release of Dr. Biscet may be the test case.

The Cuban government this week also gave permission for the family of deceased political Orlando Tamayo to emigrate to the United States. Mr. Zapata died in last year on a hunger strike to protest his mistreatment.

In recent months Mr. Castro has released 80 political prisoners amid indications that he believes such measures will satisfy conditions set down by the European Union in 1996 requiring Cuban respect for human rights and freedom of before normal relations could be established.

Many European nations maintain embassies in Cuba and pursue their own interests without regard to the common position. But a decision by the EU to negotiate aid and trade agreements with Cuba requires a unanimous decision, and in recent years Britain has held out for stronger evidence of Cuban compliance with EU conditions.

The latest releases, negotiated by the Catholic Church's representative in Cuba, Archbishop Jaime Ortega, still leave three prominent political prisoners in captivity, Librado Linares, Jose Daniel Ferrer and Felix Avarro, the Miami Herald reports. Along with Dr. Biscet, the three were among the Group of 75 dissidents arrested by the Cuban government in 2003 and accused to being in the pay of the United States.

Most of the freed prisoners have been exiled from Cuba. But Dr. Biscet, who has been nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize, has announced his intention to remain in Cuba to fight for political rights. That sets up a confrontation with Mr. Castro over the extent to which he is ready to allow anti-government, pro-democracy political activity. That confrontation could become an acid test on Cuba's new policies and how they are interpreted in Europe.

Could it also become the spark for an Egyptian-style public uprising? Revolution, after all, is very much in the air in 2011.

Our Cuba students Frustrated

Our Cuba students FrustratedTuesday, 15 March 2011 16:04

Over 7 months allowance delay

Solomon Islands students studying in Cuba are frustrated over the delaying of their semester allowances.

Reports reaching Solomon Star yesterday claimed that it was almost 7 months now and most of the local medical students have yet to be paid.

"We've never received allowances from the government; 4months last year and including this semester.

"Since December last year we lived without money, assuming that the government should pay our outstandingfor the 4 months last year and this new semester early this year but nothing has happened," a spokesperson for the students said.

A student speaking on behalf of the student said hunger is affecting them, the is less in quantities and each day they never had enough.

"We begin the day with empty stomach until the dusk fall and it becomes our daily routine.

"The diet is lacked quality and quantities that can't sustain us longer while doing more loads of works and studies," the student claimed.

As result some of students are admitted at the and some are on treatment.

"Their sick are related to hunger and we don't know how life would be for us if we continue to live in this condition," the student said.

The students are now appealing to the government through its responsible ministries to help assist them in their plight."We appeal to the government to seriously look into our plight," the student said.

The report said apart hunger some of the students also lost their belongings such as clothes, towel and personal belongings.

"Stealing is commonly practiced here and that made some of us become poor," the student said.

Report said the students have nothing to keep them continue on with their studies.

"So sad that now 4 boys can use one towel and some they don't have enough clothes to keep them for sometimes.

"The conditions that we are facing here is not an easy. Living many miles away on foreign land without money and continue to live in such conditions is painful," the student.

The students are also appealing to their parents to form a committee to approach the government.

"Because our affairs with regards to allowance is ignored or overseen," the student said.

Attempts to get responsible officials from the Ministry for comments were unsuccessful yesterday.

Cuba’s cynical maneuver

Posted on Monday, 03.14.11The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Cuba's cynical maneuverOUR OPINION: No improvement in U.S.-Cuba relations until Alan is free

The 15-year verdict handed down by a Cuban "court" against U.S. citizen Alan Gross is the deeply unjust result of events that bear no relationship to due process in an impartial legal system. Let's call this cynical maneuver what it really is — blackmail.

The 61-year-old Mr. Gross is not a criminal of any sort. He's a chess piece manipulated by the Cuban regime in the relentless war against its own people. The Castro brothers want to stop ordinary Cubans from obtaining the slightest bit of information from the outside world from any independent source. Punishing this envoy from a private U.S. company financed by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development is a convenient way to deter further efforts to circumvent Cuba's extensive system of communications surveillance.

Satellite phones are increasingly common instruments used to make calls around the world. But not in the Orwellian world run by Fidel and Raúl Castro and their paranoid minions. In Cuba, a satellite phone like the one Mr. Gross is accused of carrying for use by the island's tiny and impoverished Jewish community is deemed a dangerous weapon in an alleged "cyber war" being waged by the U.S. government to bolster a web of spies plotting to bring down the government.

In most any other country, a violation of regulations might result in a stiff fine and possible expulsion from the country. In Cuba, where the state controls all information outlets, violations that threaten the state's hegemony are seen as crimes that endanger the security of the state.

The real target of this mock-judicial charade is the "pro-democracy" funding from USAID designed to promote Cuba's budding civil society movement. People who can think for themselves, talk to each other and learn from each other without government intrusion represent a danger to the state's tyrannical masters, which practice various forms of mind control designed to snuff out any kind of independent action.

At a minimum, the punitive actions against Mr. Gross should throw a splash of cold water on what some call the warming in relations between Washington and Havana. He should be released unconditionally and immediately. As long as Alan Gross remains in jail, there can be no improvement in U.S.-Cuba relations.

Obama came to office saying his administration would respond positively to an unclenched fist from previously hostile governments. We doubt that the mistreatment of Alan Gross by the Cuban government is what he had in mind as an appropriate response.

Oscar Elías Biscet, a longtime , was released by the Cuban government last week after enduring years of suffering following an arrest in 2003 for the crime of speaking out against the government. His release is gratifying to his many admirers in and out of Cuba, but it doesn't change the fact that the physician should never have been imprisoned to begin with.

On Monday, the courageous Mr. Biscet called the Castro regime a "total dictatorship" that fears an informed citizenry. The actions against Alan Gross prove his point.

Biscet exige la renuncia de Castro

Publicado el martes, 03.15.11

Biscet exige la renuncia de CastroPor JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ

Tres días después de haber salido de prisión, el Oscar Elías Biscet, la más importante figura opositora de Cuba, exigió el lunes en su primera conferencia de prensa la inmediata renuncia de los hermanos Fidel y Raúl Castro, cuya "dictadura totalitaria'' comparó con las de Hitler y Stalin.

También precisó que las autoridades cubanas eran "antinorteamericanas, antisemitas y antinegras''.

"Exijo inmediatamente la renuncia de , de Raúl y sus acólitos para nombrar el gobierno de transición nacional'', dijo Biscet.

Biscet, de 49 años, pidió la inmediata excarcelación de los presos políticos y criticó la condena a 15 años del subcontratista norteamericano Alan P. por llevar equipos de comunicación a grupos independientes a fin de promover el desarrollo de la sociedad civil en la isla.

"Creo que la comunidad internacional debe enfocar este caso para evitar las arbitrariedades que se han cometido con nosotros'', dijo Biscet. "Gross no debe estar . Detrás de esta detención hay alguna estrategia política''.

El fundador y de la Fundación Lawton habló, desde un lugar no revelado de La Habana, con los reporteros reunidos en el recinto Wolfson del Miami Dade College, en el downtown. Durante la conferencia por Skype, respondió a preguntas por alrededor de una hora.

Biscet señaló las severas condiciones de las prisiones cubanas, donde permaneció desde 1999, excepto por 36 días, sirviendo una condena de 25 años acusado de atentar contra la seguridad del estado. Su liberación el viernes se inscribe en el marco de las negociaciones celebradas en julio entre el gobierno de Raúl Castro y la Iglesia Católica. Más de 90 presos han sido liberados y, en su mayoría, desterrados a España.

Con un tono firme y decidido, pidió la inmediata e incondicional excarcelación de tres de los prisioneros políticos: Librado Linares, José Daniel Ferrer y Félix Navarro. Las autoridades cubanas guardan silencio sobre la prolongación del encierro de estos tres disidentes.

Reacio a ser liberado bajo condición de abandonar la isla, Biscet dijo que la oposición va "por el camino triunfador''.

"Los cubanos no debemos pensar en marcharnos sino en buscar soluciones a los problemas que resulta urgente resolver'', declaró. "Terminar mi labor es conquistar la del pueblo cubano para que viva en paz y bienestar''.

Al preguntarle sobre su candidatura a la presidencia de un posible gobierno de transición, respondió que había que pensar primero en el respeto a los . Precisó que si tuviera que ocupar un cargo público no defraudaría a los cubanos.

"Yo amo a este pueblo'', dijo.

Indicó que una vez que en Cuba se respeten los derechos humanos y haya justicia social, seleccionará un partido político y definirá su pensamiento.

Destacó que las reformas económicas prometidas por Castro no van a solucionar los problemas de la población. A pesar de las promesas, observó, cada vez es peor la "profunda crisis económica, moral y social''.

"Estos [los Castro] han propuesto ideas y métodos [. . .], pero cada vez son peores las condiciones de vida de nuestro país'', añadió. "Los que incurrieron en estos graves errores todavía persisten en que pueden enmendar su sistema''.

Añadió que el movimiento opositor en la isla está ganando cada vez más seguidores y subrayó que existen líderes conocidos y una oposición que ha logrado "avances''. Entre éstos enumeró el freno de la pena de muerte, la disminución de los abortos y el hecho de que la gente puede opinar en la calle ''algo más'' y sin miedo a caer preso enseguida. Según él, hasta en las filas del Partido Comunista hay simpatizantes del movimiento disidente.

"En Cuba existe una oposición fuerte y diseminada en todo el país'', enfatizó. "Esto me hace pensar que, en realidad, el gobierno cubano está en quiebra porque cada vez hay más personas dentro de la oposición a pesar del terror que existe''.

Biscet criticó el relajamiento de las restricciones de viajes y envíos de remesas a la isla, ya que estas medidas no tienen un impacto directo sobre el marco de derechos de los ciudadanos.

"Esto se usó con hace 30 años y veo que sigue con la misma dictadura'', indicó. "Aunque China ha mejorado económicamente no hay libertades civiles ni políticas''.

Alabó la tarea de los exiliados en la búsqueda de un cambio pacífico y consistente por las libertades individuales de los cubanos. Insistió en la necesidad de unir fuerzas dentro y fuera de Cuba para alentar el desarrollo de nuevas oportunidades democráticas.

"Obtendremos esos cambios a través de una revolución de los derechos humanos de forma no violenta'', señaló.

Las primeras horas tras su excarcelación, dijo, habían sido de "alegría y tristeza''. En el viaje hacia casa en La Habana, observó, había presenciado la destrucción y la tristeza de los cubanos.

"Me di cuenta de que todavía vivimos bajo la esclavitud'', sostuvo. "A pesar de todas estas dificultades, me llené el corazón de alegría porque sé que hay un trabajo muy duro que hacer por el bienestar de mi pueblo''.

Calificó de "buena'' la gestión de la Iglesia Católica en el proceso de excarcelación de los presos de conciencia y comentó que ésta será una institución clave en una transición democrática.

"En un futuro, si podemos convencer a los que están en el poder para hacer el gobierno de transición, el que tiene que estar como mediador de esta gestión será la Iglesia Católica'', manifestó. ''Esto es importante para el país porque así evitaremos derramamiento de sangre. El sistema tiene los días contados''.

Resucitan los "nidos de amor" en Cuba

Resucitan los "nidos de amor" en CubaFuente Notimex 14 de marzo de 2011 19:40 hrs

La Habana, Cuba.- El gobierno cubano aprobó 178 categorías de trabajo por cuenta propia, a fin de ampliar el trabajo en el sector "no estatal" para asimilar la reducción de plantillas infladas en centros laborales.

Una de esas modalidades extiende la posibilidad de permuta, compra, venta y arrendamiento de viviendas para facilitar la solución de las demandas habitacionales de la población.

Por tanto, los dueños de las viviendas provistos de licencias y con el pago de impuestos están sustituyendo sus letreros de "Rent Room" para extranjeros por otros en que indican que se rentan habitaciones por horas, noches o días.

La aparición de estos mensajes recuerdan a cubanos mayores de 60 años nombres como " Dry", "Diana", "Las casitas de Ayesterán", "Pampa", "La Campiña", "11 y 24" y otros populares "nidos de amor", donde se podía rentar una habitación por unos pocos pesos.

La crisis económica en Cuba hizo desaparecer los llamados hoteles de paso, por tanto la resurrección de estos sitios no obedece a nuevas construcciones sino a locales que ya cuentan con servicio de bar y refrigerios, música, y algunos con estacionamiento para vehículos.

El envejecimiento, el deterioro por la falta de mantenimiento, los continuos derrumbes, el efecto de los huracanes y la disminuida capacidad constructiva del Estado, marcaron en las últimas décadas el deterioro habitacional de la isla.

Por tal motivo, el gobierno de la isla brindó especial atención a la medida aprobada que algunos ya aprovechan para revivir los desaparecidos "nidos de amor", que tiempo atrás servían a las parejas para evitar las escaleras de edificios, azoteas o lugares apartados de la ciudad donde estaban expuestos a la acción de atracadores o violadores.

A mediados del año pasado, tras reiterados incumplimientos en el plan de edificación de viviendas, las autoridades anunciaron que planean construir hasta 60 mil casas, así como conservar y rehabilitar cerca de 500 mil de forma anual hasta el año 2015."

Cuba da un discreto paso de realismo en su compleja política monetaria

CUBA-MONEDA (Análisis)

Cuba da un discreto paso de realismo en su compleja política monetariaMartes, 15 de Marzo de 2011 – 1:59 h.

Soledad Álvarez

La Habana, 14 mar (EFECOM).- La decisión de Cuba de devaluar en un 8% la tasa de cambio de su peso convertible (CUC, moneda fuerte) y equipararlo de nuevo al dólar es una medida "positiva" y "realista" tendente a incentivar las exportaciones, favorecer el y "animar" la inversión extranjera.

En este sentido se pronunciaron hoy varios analistas y expertos consultados por Efe ante este "paso discreto" -así lo define el propio Banco Central de Cuba- en la compleja política monetaria de la isla, con el que se pretende mejorar el balance de divisas y favorecer las relaciones financieras externas.

En Cuba conviven dos monedas: el peso cubano, en el que la mayor parte de la población cobra sus salarios y con el que paga productos y servicios básicos, y el CUC, convertible en divisas y que fue creado en 1994 equiparable al dólar, aunque en 2005 el Gobierno lo revaluó en un ocho%.

La vuelta a la paridad del CUC con el dólar anunciada este lunes no supone sin la eliminación del gravamen del diez% que Cuba aplica a los cambios en efectivo de dólares por pesos convertibles y que las autoridades justifican en el bloqueo que EE.UU. mantiene sobre la isla.

Tampoco varía la tasa de cambio interna entre el peso cubano y el convertible (un CUC equivale a 24 pesos cubanos) ni la forma de contabilidad estatal que establece que un peso cubano es igual a un peso convertible, un elemento que añade complejidad y distorsiones en las mediciones económicas.

En cualquier caso, expertos y empresarios extranjeros ven con buenos ojos el anuncio del Banco Central, al considerar que el CUC estaba "sobrevaluado" y que su tasa de cambio era completamente "irreal".

Muchos coinciden en que uno de los sectores más inmediatamente beneficiados con la medida será el turismo -la segunda fuente de ingresos de la isla- ya que con la devaluación del CUC "Cuba se abarata en términos de dólar", según dijo a Efe un europeo radicado en la isla.

La medida también será positiva para los cubanos que reciben remesas del extranjero, incluso a pesar de seguir vigente la penalización del diez% para el cambio en efectivo de dólares por CUC.

"En general es una medida realista y objetiva. Nunca debió revalorarse el peso convertible cubano, pero aspiramos a que en el futuro se le quite el impuesto del diez% que se mantiene aún para la población", dijo a Efe el economista Óscar Espinosa.

En la calle, los cubanos de a pie acogieron el anuncio de hoy con cierta indiferencia e incluso con alguna confusión ya que muchos pensaron en principio que se había eliminado también ese gravamen del diez%.

"Es (una medida) para recoger dólares", comentó un habanero de unos cincuenta años que esperaba su turno ante una oficina de una casa de cambio oficial. "Beneficia algo pero seguimos casi en las mismas", fue la opinión de otra mujer consultada por Efe.

Cuba arrastra desde hace décadas una crisis económica que en 2008 se agravó con los efectos de varios huracanes y de la crisis económica internacional, lo que provocó incluso una aguda falta de liquidez que llevó a congelar fondos bancarios de socios empresariales extranjeros.

Esa crisis financiera comenzó a superarse y a finales de 2010 se habían pagado dos tercios de las cuentas bancarias congeladas y se pudo empezar a renegociar parte de la externa.

Dentro del plan de ajustes económicos emprendidos por el Raúl Castro se contempla avanzar en la unificación monetaria, pero "su complejidad exigirá una rigurosa preparación y ejecución", según un documento que recoge ese proyecto de reformas.

En una entrevista divulgada el pasado mes de enero, el economista local Pavel Vidal señalaba como errónea la visión de que la economía cubana tiene que mejorar para eliminar la doble moneda: "No es así. La doble moneda es un impedimento para el crecimiento económico, para continuar con el ajuste y los cambios estructurales". EFECOM

How best to empower Cuba’s civil resistance

Posted on Tuesday, 03.15.11

How best to empower Cuba's civil resistanceBY ORLANDO GUTIERREZ-BORONAT

People-power revolutions have changed the political landscape of the world over the last 25 years. Most, such as those in formerly Communist Central and Eastern Europe, have succeeded. Others, as in and Burma, have failed for now.

In those where has broken out, it has been instigated by a repressive regime rather than by the peaceful protesters who began the movements. Where political change has been brought about civil resistance, democracy seems to have taken a deeper hold.

Nonviolent popular revolutions have sprung from sustained civil-resistance struggles. Wishful thinking did not cause these transitions to materialize out of thin air. They were not products of improvisation or spontaneous fortune. Disciplined and committed networks of nonviolent human-rights activists worked courageously for years in spite of and repression to inspire populations, to organize them along lines that constituted an alternative to regime control and to propagate a consciousness that would result in increasingly active noncooperation by the members of those oppressed societies.

The final acts in these social processes have brought us the dramatic images of courageous people taking their sovereignty back from the grip of autocracy.

As many look at the most recent wave of civic defiance in the Middle East they wonder whether Cuba will be next, as well they should. Many of the key factors present in other regime transformations are also present on the island. Widespread citizen noncooperation confirms what survey after survey indicates: Cubans desire to exercise their individual freedoms, and they are frustrated by a political and economic system that refuses to truly open.

Additionally, Cuban streets have been the stage for mass demonstrations, as took place in 1980 in the Peruvian Embassy in Havana, in 1994 along the Havana sea wall known as El Malecon, and in 2006 when the people of Madruga rallied to defend their neighbors.

These instances of large-scale protests by the Cuban people are important, but they are not the most significant development in Cuba's path toward . What is critical is that an extensive civil-resistance movement has flowered throughout the island. As the release of dozens of political prisoners over the past months shows, the resistance has gained traction in its efforts. Many of these organizations of human-rights defenders have come together in the National Civic Resistance Front, led by former political Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "."

If the Cuban people are to have an opportunity, as befits them, to live in freedom and dignity, then this citizen vanguard needs support.

This week, the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, which brings together some of the main pro-democracy organizations of the Cuban-exile community, will do its part to help those on the island by beginning a drive titled "We All Are the Resistance" ( Todos Somos Resistencia) for private support, on a person-to-person basis, for those in Cuba who are leading the civil-resistance struggle for freedom.

Key artists in this community such as Willy Chirino, Donato Poveda, Lissette and Luisa Maria Guell, as well as prominent civic leaders such as former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, have lent their voices and personal support to this important effort. They know that without money with which to activists, aid families of political prisoners and empower civil society with the technology to connect to the outside world the already heroic nonviolent fight of Cuba's dissidents becomes even more difficult.

This aid cannot depend on the ups and downs of the foreign policy of any one state, but instead on the steadfast conviction of Cubans that freedom and democracy are intimately tied to their very sense of solidarity and national identity and to the help that we, as free citizens close to their shores, can offer them.

History has thoroughly ratified what ethics indicate: It is freedom and not tyranny that is the best guarantor of stability. Without the peace that Cubans need to live their lives as they see fit, Cuba will continue to be an unpredictable den of oppression doomed to become a failed state.

Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat is a member of the Secretariat of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance in Miami.

El ajefismo en Cuba

El ajefismo en CubaTuesday, March 15, 2011 | Por Gustavo E. Pardo

LA HABANA, Cuba, 15 de marzo (Gustavo Pardo Valdés, -En la noche del viernes 11 de marzo, la Academia Cubana de Altos Estudios Masonicos efectuó una Sesión Solemne y Pública, la cual sirvió de marco al Sr Roberto S. Ramírez Galdurralde para exponer el tema "El Ajefismo en Cuba"; acto que tuvo lugar en el piso 10 del Gran Templo Nacional Masónico. En el vvento se hallaban presentes miembros de la tres Secciones que componen la Corporación; así como representantes de las logias masónicas y acacistas de la ciudad.

En su discurso, el orador expuso una síntesis de los principales eventos ocurridos durante la existencia de la Asociación de Jóvenes Esperanza de la Fraternidad; matizando dicha exposición con numerosas anécdotas y experiencias personales vividas, especialmente durante los últimos años de esta Organización.

Galdurralde, en el transcurso de sus 52 años de vida masónica, ha ocupado cargos de relevancia en los Gabinete de distintos Grandes Maestros; además, presidió de la Sección de Historia de la Academia de Altos Estudios Masonicos. El año 1961, este masón fue nombrado Secretario de la Comisi0on Nacional Asesora del Ajefismo y Asesor Provincial de la Habana; cargos que desempeño hasta el año 1965; fecha en que el Gran Maestro Francisco M. Còndom Cestino, declaró en suspenso los trabajos de esta Asociación.

La Asociación Juvenil Esperanza de la Fraternidad (AJEF), fue fundada en 1936 por el ex Gran Maestro don Fernando Suarez Núñez. En ella podían ingresar adolescentes y jóvenes de edades comprendidas entre los 14 y los 21 años. Esta Sociedad tuvo un rápido desarrollo en el país, extendiéndose a todas las provincias de la Isla, e inclusive, a otras naciones de la America Central, en donde aun existen asociaciones de este tipo.

A partir de 1959, los cambios políticos, económicos y sociales introducidos en Cuba por el nuevo régimen; originaron la polarización de la sociedad cubana de la época. Esta situación causó que muchos jóvenes abandonaran las instituciones fraternales y religiosas en las cuales hasta ese momento habían militado, para integrarse a nuevas asociaciones juveniles progubernamentales; tales como la Asociación de Jóvenes Rebeldes (AJR). Esta situación implicó que en las logias ajefistas quedaran integradas por jóvenes desafectos al nuevo estado de cosas, lo cual provocó frecuentes roces entre las logias AJEF y el Gobierno. No fueron pocos los ajefistas que fueron enviados a los tristemente celebres "campamentos" de las "Unidades Militares de Apoyo a la Producción" (UMAP).

A pesar de la oposición de los Ajef y de muchos masones; esta situación obligó a que en 1965, Còndom Cestino, decretara el receso los trabajos de la Agrupación AJEF de Cuba. En ese año, los Ajef contaban con 147 logias.

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