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Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Cuba: Whose Afraid of the Debate? / Iván García

Cuba: Whose Afraid of the Debate? / Iván García
Iván García, Translator: Unstated

Every day Cuba is more of an island than ever. A sector of the official
intelligentsia is engaged in an interesting debate on the future of the
country. It's something that's needed. I don't think it's the shock
troops of Cuban Intelligence, as a certain sector within the opposition
insultingly suggests.

Simply something is moving. Both bloggers — we call those accepted by
the government, within this movement there are many nuances — as well as
figures within the national culture use new information tools to reflect
their points of view.

I'm not naive. In Cuba spontaneity is rare. Certain government sectors,
to counter the phenomenon of alternative bloggers, have encouraged the
intellectuals who defend the irreversibility of the revolution, who with
their talent, in their proposals, reports, articles and analysis, assume
the need to maintain a project created by in 1959.

Is good that journalists of the caliber of Reinaldo Taladrid, Rosa
Miriam Elizalde and Enrique Ubieta sharpen their pencils and make known
to us their keen observations.

Their works, which I sometimes do not agree with, are better and more
substantial than the soporific political speeches of the island's
hierarchy. The evil background of this supposed "Battle of Ideas" is an
unwillingness to accept the other side.

And it exists. They live in the same country and think differently. I
would be disappointed if people who I appreciate professionally, such as
Sandra Alvarez or Elaine Diaz, bloggers accepted by the government and
of unquestionable quality, fall into the cliché of the official
discourse, of labeling all who disagree with the Castro brothers, with
the crutch of 'agents of the empire, mercenaries or traitors."

Any ideology or political system leads to resistance. To fail to
recognize it is to deny the dialectic. Unanimity does not exist. A
government cannot govern only for its supporters. In democratic
societies, the various factions argue and talk to each other. In Cuba,
each side is entrenched in an islet. And they fire their missiles. They
read what the opposite group writes sideways. But always at hand they
have the little sign that some are "puppets operated by the State " and
others, "mercenaries paid by the empire."

If the Cuban revolution is considered a mature and consolidated project,
it need not fear open and respectful debate among Cubans who think
differently. Enough of monologues. There should be a dialogue.

I find it incomprehensible that journalists, analysts and foreign
scholars can debate with people who advocate socialism and these
intellectuals cannot even say hello to citizens whose "sin" is to not
agree with the Castro brothers.

What is at stake is not to tear the system down and implement capitalism
as Enrique Ubieta believes, director of La Calle del Medio, the only
readable newspaper on the island.

It would be very pretentious to think that bloggers barely known in
Cuba, by dint of posts that are read only by those the other side and
0.2% or less of the Cubans, will create a climate of opinion to unseat
the established status quo.

Were it to happen, it would be the first revolution in history.
Let's not fool ouselves. Yes, new tools such as the , Twitter or
Facebook have a remarkable drawing power. But only when the
deterioration of a nation, its citizens' complaints and malfunctions of
the country's articulate a widespread discontent.

If things in Cuba are distorted it's simply from inefficient government
management. If there is a sector of society that asks for deeper changes
it is because the present does not meet their expectations.

What has devalued Marxist socialism is incompetence. It has not worked.
Nowhere. And not for lack of professionals and resources. True, in the
utopian communist society there is no lack of material and money is not
needed. Nor is the or the to suppress or tough guys with
State Intelligence making your life impossible.

But we must keep our feet firmly planted on the ground. And to be human,
to truly evolve, we need , confrontation of ideas, dialogue and
to listen to the other party.

The point that most worries closed governments such as Cuba's is
information flow, and therefore they control it because they find it
easier to govern. They also inconvenience people fleeing the tight state

I think the followers of the revolution driven by convictions. If so,
they are honest citizens. So why not have a face to face dialogue?

If, in fact, the supporters of Cuban socialism have solid arguments, I
do not see why they're so afraid to discuss eye to eye, and not in
virtual forums. Please Ubieta and company, show that you are free men.

May 17 2011

The Agrarian Problem / Dimas Castellanos

The Agrarian Problem / Dimas Castellanos
Dimas Castellanos, Translator: Unstated

In the struggle for land ownership and against eviction in Cuba, many
farmers and farm workers lost their lives. Among them is Niceto Perez,
who was killed May 17, 1946. In tribute to him and the rest of the
martyrs of the field that day, the Law of Agrarian Reform was
promulgated in 1959 and the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP)
founded in 1961. A brief look back to such a vital issue in our history
can form an idea about the achievements and what we are still waiting
for in this area.

The diversification of agricultural property in the sixteenth century
began with the delivery of circular farms for raising livestock to
Spanish settlers in Cuba. Later, in the spaces between haciendas–unowned
land–other farmers were allowed to farm, but the royal decree issued in
1819 to identify the rightful owners did not recognize the latter. For
this reason about 10 thousand families were robbed of the land they
worked. Subsequently many farmers were displaced by the advance of the
sugar industry, with orders No. 34 and 62 issued in 1902 by the
government auditor, by which the railroad companies and U.S. investors
could acquire land. From this process emerged the modern estates with
over half of the country's land in the hands of national and foreign

The discontent of the peasants had begun in 1717, the year that about
500 armed planters staged a protest against the tobacco monopoly which
set the price and quantity and prohibited the sale of the surplus,
similar to the current Empresa de Acopio. Those protests were repeated
until 1723, when the growers of Santiago de las Vegas were hanged; later
farmers were involved in the independence struggles of the nineteenth
century. They developed, in parallel, associations to defend their
interests. In 1890 they founded the Association of Settlers in the areas
of Manzanillo and Bayamo, and in 1913 the Farmers' Association of the
Island of Cuba. Beginning in 1930 they began a broad struggle against
eviction and for better markets, prices, credits and rent rebates.

Under the guidance of the Communist Party in October 1937, the First
National Farmer's Congress was held and they created committees, unions
and peasant associations in the six provinces, some of whose demands
were endorsed in the 1940 Constitution. The Second National Peasant
Congress in 1941 created the National Peasant Association (NCA), and
likewise, but under the direction of the Authentic Party, was founded
the Peasant Confederation of Cuba (CCC). During the government of
Fulgencio Batista, between 1940 and 1944, families settled on lands
abandoned by the state and landowners. One such case took place in the
hacienda Uvita, Sierra Maestra, with over thirty-three thousand acres.
However, each settled family was only given "five hens and a rooster, a
plow, a machete and a few dollars," similar to the current distribution
of land in usufruct by Decree-Law 259. Despite these efforts, in 1944
54% of the land was concentrated in large estates, while many peasants
continued to live in poverty.

In his brief "History Will Absolve Me," Dr. proposed to
grant land to all tenant farmers, subtenants, sharecroppers and
squatters who occupied plots of up to 165 acres. Accordingly, the
October 10, 1958, the Commander of the Rebel , Law 3, arranged to
transfer land ownership to the occupying lots of less than 165 acres and
on 17 May 1959 he signed the Agrarian Reform Act, which limited large
estates to just under 1,000 acres and gave titles to a hundred thousand
families, who could get 66 acres without payment and purchase additional
lots to complete 165 acres. With this Act, the State concentrated in its
hands, 40.2% of the country's arable land.

The Second Law, issued on October 3, 1963, lowered the maximum of 165
acres with 100,000 other properties turned over to the State, increasing
its properties up to 70% of arable land, accounting for volume higher
than all prior estates. Then in the '70′s, with the intent to further
reduce private property, they insisted on the socialization of farms
that had been in private hands. As a result of this effort, the number
of Agricultural Production Cooperatives increased from 136 in 1977 to
1,369 in 1986, 64% of private lands, a process in which the ANAP had to
intervene directly in order to convince farmers to join their farms and
work together collectively. Currently non-state land is about a quarter
of the arable land, with more than half in tobacco, corn, , cocoa,
coffee and vegetables that are grown in Cuba.

Army General , in his speech on July 26, 2007 in Camaguey,
explained the need to produce in Cuba–where surplus land and rainfall of
the last two years had been generous–the the State was buying
abroad at high prices. That is, he took up the unresolved issue of the
inefficiency of state , of which sugar is a paradigmatic
case, since the island had emerged from the eighteenth century as the
world's largest sugar producer. However, two centuries later, when the
entire industry and agriculture are almost all in state hands, it has
fallen from 8.5 million tons produced in 1970 to 1.2 million in the
2010-2011 harvest. A result similar to the early years of last century
and without any correspondence to the thousands of professionals,
academia and research, machinery, irrigation systems and technology now

In the Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the
Revolution, adopted recently, it was confirmed: that the socialist
planning system will remain the principal means to address the ,
the socialist state enterprise is the main form, and encouraging the
participation of foreign capital will continue. However, it turns out
that the system of socialist planning, the state-owned monopoly and
granting rights to foreign businessmen that are refused to Cubans, are
among the main causes of the current crisis. Three aspects sufficient to
lead to new failures.

For the foregoing reasons, the Cuban Government should amend Decree-Law
259 to transfer ownership to the peasants of the land which the State is
unable to make productive, and increase the limit from 100 to 165 acres,
consistent with the farmers' struggles and in memory of Niceto Perez,
and of the previous laws and the needs of the country.

(Published in el Diario de Cuba ( 17 May 2011)

May 20 2011

Younger Castro brother turns 80 in aging regime

Posted on Sunday, 05.29.11

Younger Castro brother turns 80 in aging regime
Associated Press

HAVANA — Cuban is set to join elder sibling Fidel
in the ranks of octogenarians this week, even as he spearheads efforts
to rejuvenate the Communist-run island's tired .

The big day comes Friday, June 3, and it is likely to pass with little
fanfare. Raul and Fidel – who turns 85 on Aug. 13 – have historically
eschewed public celebrations of their birthdays, and the government told
The Associated Press it had no word of any official events to mark the day.

But the milestone is sure to remind supporters and detractors alike that
the era of the Castros is nearing its end, biologically if not
politically. Raul is already a month older than Fidel was when a
near-fatal illness forced him to step down – temporarily, then
permanently – in 2006. In April, Fidel gave up his final post as head of
the Communist Party.

"Fidel is out at the age of 85 – and he was always much healthier than
Raul as a young man – and now Raul is 80," said Ann Louise Bardach, a
longtime Cuba expert and author of "Without Fidel" and "Cuba Confidential."

She gave Raul credit for having the courage to push an agenda of
economic change since taking over the presidency, but said he missed a
great chance to bring in new leadership at a key Communist Party summit
in April when he selected old-guard revolutionaries Jose Ramon Machado
Ventura, 80, and Ramiro Valdes, 79, as his Nos. 2 and 3.

"Their challenge is that they must bring in a younger generation, but
instead Raul picked someone even older than him as his chief deputy,"
she said. "It just shows how unconfident they are. They missed an

On the streets of the capital, Havana, reactions to the president's
round-number birthday were mixed.

"I'm not so concerned about his age because he looks like he's in good
," said Marcelo Delgado, a 72-year-old retiree. "What I am worried
about is that it seems to be taking a long time to bring in the economic
changes he is talking about, and there isn't much time left."

Since taking office, Raul has legalized some forms of self-employment,
turned over fallow government land to small-time farmers and promised to
trim the state's bloated payroll by 500,000 workers.

He also has pledged to legalize the sale of cars and homes, end
restrictions on Cubans traveling abroad and open up credit to would-be
entrepreneurs – though those proposals remain part of a vague five-year
plan and many are still skeptical.

"Raul is going to turn 80, and the others are even older," said Ernesto,
a 26-year-old Havana resident, who asked that he only be identified by
his first name for fear he could get into trouble for speaking out about
the country's leaders.

"To make real changes the country needs young people," he said. "Raul
talks a lot about giving power to the young, but I ask you, 'Where are

Those with long years of involvement in the island's affairs say Raul's
birthday is a moment for reflection.

Wayne Smith, who was a young foreign service officer in Havana when
President John F. Kennedy pulled U.S. diplomats off the island in 1961,
said he never thought at the time that the Castros would still be in
power all these years later, nor that Cuba would still be America's enemy.

"Good Lord, no," chuckled Smith, who is now a senior fellow at the
Washington-based Center for International Policy. "When we left in 1961,
I expected to be back shortly. Here we are more than 50 years after the
revolution and we still haven't come to a decent relationship with them."

Smith, who returned to Havana as America's chief diplomat in 1979 and
remains an outspoken opponent of Washington's 49-year trade ,
said he was hopeful Raul Castro could make good on his economic overhaul
now that he is in command and out from under his charismatic brother's

"It will be interesting to see how far they get before he does pass from
the scene, because of course he will," Smith said.

That would be fine with many Cuban exiles in Miami, who have grown old
themselves waiting for an end to the brothers' reign.

"He's 80 and he may have another four or five birthday celebrations,"
said Pepe Hernandez, head of the Cuban American National Foundation, a
Miami-based exile organization. "But our concern is what happens after
that, and in Cuba they don't seem very concerned about that. I think we
should be concerned about what happens when there are no more birthday
parties for Raul."

One person who is unmoved by Castro's birthday is Daniel Torres, a
69-year-old retired veteran in Miami who left Cuba shortly after the
1959 revolution because he says he was threatened with jail time for
speaking out against the government.

"After 52 years of tears and suffering, I don't know what else to say,"
he said. "It's a shame he's made it to 80."

Cuba reduces taxes to stimulate self-employment

Cuba reduces taxes to stimulate self-employment
12:36, May 28, 2011

Cuba's self-employed will enjoy a significant amount of tax cuts as the
government has adopted a series of measures to boost the country's
private , the official daily Granma reported on Friday.

The report said self-employed workers hiring between one and five
employees will be exempt from certain taxes this year. Other jobs
including home construction and transportation will see temporary or
permanent tax cuts.

The government has also raised the seating limit in private restaurants
from 20 to 50.

These measures were approved at a recent meeting of the Council of
Ministers to facilitate "the rise of self-employed work as an employment
alternative," said Granma.

Apart from cutting taxes, the Cuban authorities also decided to further
expand the current categories of private jobs, taking in occupations
like insurance agents and wedding planners.

owners, landlords, agricultural products sellers, private
taxis and cargo carriers will benefit from these measures.

Cuba has so far issued licenses to 314,538 "self-employed" workers. The
country has a population of 11.2 million.

In October 2010, local authorities approved 178 categories of
self-employment, seeking to find "new ways of working" as the country
decided to streamline the bloated state-run firms to "update" its
socialist model.

The expansion of the private sector is one of the major economic reform
measures proposed by Cuban leader and ratified at the Sixth
Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in April.

Raul Castro stressed at the Congress the need to rectify "old mistakes
that have damaged the Cuban economy for the last 50 years".

Cuba: Facts and Realities

Cuba: Facts and Realities


"No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver"
– Spanish saying

(There is no worse blind person than the one who does not wish to see.)

On May 13, Miami newspaper headlines and TV leads should have said:
"Obama makes fool of himself." The "leads" would have referred to his
statement: "I would welcome real change from the Cuban government."

Obama's conditions? "For us to have the kind of normal relations we have
with other countries, we've got to see significant changes from the
Cuban government and we just have not seen that yet."

A clever tabloid might have headlined, "Obama Goes Blind – Can't See
Changes Right in Front of His Eyes!"

If Granma had a sense of humor its editorial would have begun with:
" Obama stands for `Change we can believe in,' but does not
stand for change Cuba's leaders believe in."

Indeed, changes in Cuba have come fast and furious over recent months,
but apparently Obama has his own definition of the word "insignificant."
Or, maybe his advisers did not inform him that Cuba has freed all the
"political" prisoners it in 2003 and some others as well.

"The bottom line is political prisoners are still there who should have
been released a long time ago, who never should have been arrested in
the first place," Obama said. (Univision May 13, 2011)

Did he ignore the words of his Secretary of State? "Let those political
prisoners out. Be willing to, you know, open up the and lift
some of the oppressive strictures on the people of Cuba. And I think
they would see that there would be an opportunity that could be perhaps
exploited. But that's in the future, whether or not they decide to make
those changes." (January 13, 2009, Senate Confirmation hearings)

Did no one inform the President that the United States now has more
political prisoners in Cuba than the Cuban government? Did he not hear
from the government of that they refused to accept nine of the
remaining 46 Cuban prisoners because they had committed terrorist acts?

The President also remained blissfully unaware that he had vowed shortly
after his inauguration to close the U.S. in Guantanamo where the
political prisoners – more numerous than those held by Cuba – have not
enjoyed even the basic rights of the Magna Carta. Cuban prisoners have
all heard accusations against them, had lawyers and trials. No one at
Guantanamo can claim any of those formal processes.

Obama also ignored the vast economic changes. "The economic system there
is still far too constrained," he told Univision.

Again, his advisors went to sleep at the switch and neglected to inform
him that in alone, the Cuban government vastly reduced the
number of state farms and simultaneously increased the number of private
holdings as well as the amount of acres individuals farmers can control.
Thus far, the state has turned over 63% of uncultivated lands to the
private sector. By mid May, individual farmers and cooperatives had
received 1,191,000 hectares. (1 hectare + 2.47 acres) And private
farmers now can employ as many workers as they can afford – not allowed
since 1963.

The state also increased the price tenfold for farmers selling beef and
three times for milk. In addition, farmers can now sell more easily to

The state retained price controls on 21 agricultural commodities; all
the rest follow supply and demand. For farmers, access to bank credit
has become much easier; the rates lower.

Oh, people may soon be able to buy and sell homes and cars, and go into
business for themselves in many areas.

Obama, however, is fixated on Fidel. "If you think about it, (Fidel)
Castro came into power before I was born – he's still there and he
basically has the same system when the rest of the world has recognized
that the system doesn't work," Obama said.

Fidel left power in 2006 as we know and ironically Cuba possesses the
only system that still can claim some semblance of old-fashioned
socialism – despite a 50-plus year economic war against it by Washington.

Interestingly, in declaring Cuba's systemic failure, Obama did not
mention the U.S. recession, the double digit unemployment in several
states, the millions of people homeless and hungry, with many more
facing foreclosures and job loss. Indeed, for two centuries the U.S.
economic system has broken down cyclically, and in this best of all
possible systems millions of homeless people stare at vacant homes and
apartments and hungry people cohabit with billionaires. And this
well-working system does not suffer from having on its economic throat
the boot of the largest economic power – as Cuba endures.

Is Obama's word frivolity simply a product of the perfect system's
rhetorical demand at pre-election time? After all, only a year and half
remains before the next presidential contest and the "Miami-Cuban vote"


(CINEMA LIBRE STUDIO – distributor).

Nelson Valdés is Professor Emeritus, Univ. of New Mexico."

Cuba announces tax break for private businesses

Posted on Friday, 05.27.11

Cuba announces tax break for private businesses
Associated Press

HAVANA — Cuba announced new measures Friday to spur the island's push
into private enterprise, instituting a moratorium on payroll taxes for
small business owners and loosening limits on the size of private

Under the new guidelines, anyone who hires between one and five workers
will not be subject to payroll taxes during 2011.

The measure was adopted at a recent Cabinet meeting chaired by
and announced in Friday's issue of the Communist Party
newspaper Granma. It applies to all small business owners, but is likely
to have its greatest effect on private restaurants and cafes that employ
waiters and cooks.

The government said it will allow such establishments to serve up to 50
diners at a time, up from the 20 that had been permitted previously.
Many private restaurants – known as "paladares" – already openly skirted
the size limits.

Dozens of new restaurants, some with chic decor and first-world prices,
have opened in Havana and other cities since Castro's government began
overhauling the last year, and more than 222,000 Cubans have
taken out licenses to work for themselves since permission for such
activities was liberalized in October.

Castro is also seeking to reduce state subsidies and trim a bloated
government payroll, though his plan to lay off half a million state
workers has stalled indefinitely. Economists say creating jobs in the
private sector is crucial to getting that plan back on track. Cuba's
Communist government still employs about four in five Cuban workers, and
the state controls virtually all means of production.

According to Granma, authorities are also studying whether
state-controled real estate could be put to better use by renting it out
to private owners, a measure that could dramatically increase
the size and marketability of the new establishments.

Most of the new restaurants have been set up in homes and back yards for
lack of commercial space.

The Granma article also laid out rules that make it easier for the
self-employed in several areas to claim tax deductions, and to receive a
temporary suspension of their business licenses if they don't plan to work.

The economic overhaul aims to pull Cuba out of a deep fiscal morass
while preserving the Communist system ushered in by 's 1959
revolution. More changes appear on tap as well, though it is not clear when.

Delegates to a key Communist Party summit in April approved a long list
of guidelines for economic changes including legalizing the sale of real
estate and cars and expanding the ranks of private cooperatives that
could morph into mid-sized companies, though neither measure has yet
been passed into law. The party is also studying ways to grant
small-business loans to would-be entrepreneurs, create a wholesale
market and improve the spotty supply of raw materials.

Cuba interior commerce chief out, No. 2 promoted

Cuba interior commerce chief out, No. 2 promoted
Associated Press
2011-05-25 10:01 PM

Cuba has replaced its minister of interior commerce after two years on
the job.

An official report in Communist Party daily Granma on Tuesday does not
give a reason for the change. It mentions no criticism of Jacinto Angulo
Pardo and says he will be reassigned, "taking into account his
experience and career."

The No. 2 person at the ministry was Mary Blanca Ortega Barredo and she
has been promoted to replace him.

Cuba is in the process of shaking up its socialist system to try to save
a struggling by allowing more private sector activity.

The Crooks Stealing From Thieves

The Crooks Stealing From Thieves
at 1:23 AM Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In 1989, then-Defense (MINFAR) Minister led an operation to
purge the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) and its
lucrative commercial enterprises (e.g. CIMEX).

It resulted in the execution of three senior officials — including
Cuba's most famous officer, General Arnaldo Ochoa — and the arrest of
the Minister of the Interior (who died of a "heart attack" in ),
Jose Abrantes.

They were officially charged with serious acts of corruption, dishonest
use of economic resources and abetting drug trafficking.

But in reality — the operation was designed to centralize all of the
island's armed and economic forces under Raul's MINFAR.

Despite this, the Financial Times's Marc Frank writes about Raul's
latest "anti-corruption" crackdown:

The crackdown, launched two years ago, has already cost hundreds of
senior Cuban Communist party officials, state managers and employees
their jobs and sometimes their , as Mr. Castro has struggled to
shake-up the country's entrenched bureaucracy and move the country
towards a less centralized and more market-driven .

Although such campaigns are not new, the intensity of the current drive
is unprecedented, as are the number of high level targets and breadth of
their illicit activities, Communist party and government insiders said
this week.

"Move the country toward a less centralized economy"?



Meanwhile, The Miami Herald's Frances Robles says, this "show[s] how
Raul Castro wasn't just paying lip service to cracking down on corruption."

So how do you fight corruption from within a corrupt regime?

Just like in the past — against even more powerful and senior officials
than today (note to Marc Frank) — the recent purges are simply an
attempt to weed-out disloyal regime officials, who are stealing from the
Castro brother's totalitarian monopolies.

Thus, the purpose is to further centralize economic power amongst those
most loyal to the Castro brothers — to get rid of the crooks who are
stealing from the thieves.

It's Castro's full circle of corruption.

Revolutionary Cuba Now Lays Sand Traps for the Bourgeoisie

Revolutionary Cuba Now Lays Sand Traps for the Bourgeoisie
Published: May 24, 2011

MEXICO CITY — One of Fidel Castro's first acts upon taking power was to
get rid of Cuba's golf courses, seeking to stamp out a sport he and
other socialist revolutionaries saw as the epitome of bourgeois excess.

Now, 50 years later, foreign developers say the Cuban government has
swung in nearly the opposite direction, giving preliminary approval in
recent weeks for four large luxury golf resorts on the island, the first
in an expected wave of more than a dozen that the government anticipates
will lure free-spending tourists to a nation hungry for cash.

The four initial projects total more than $1.5 billion, with the
government's cut of the profits about half. Plans for the developments
include residences that foreigners will be permitted to buy — a rare
opportunity from a government that all but banned private property in
its push for social equality.

Mr. Castro and his comrade in arms Che Guevara, who worked as a caddie
in his youth in Argentina, were photographed in fatigues hitting the
links decades ago, in what some have interpreted as an effort to mock
either the sport or the golf-loving at the time of the
revolution, Dwight D. Eisenhower — or both.

President Hugo Chávez of , who maintains close ties with Cuba,
has taken aim at the pastime in recent years as well, questioning why,
in the face of slums and shortages, courses should spread over
valuable land "just so some little group of the bourgeois and the petit
bourgeois can go and play golf."

But Cuba's deteriorating and the rise in the sport's popularity,
particularly among big-spending travelers who expect to bring their
clubs wherever they go, have softened the government's view, investors
said. Cuban officials did not respond to requests for comment, but
Manuel Marrero, the minister, told a conference in Europe this
month that the government anticipates going forward with joint ventures
to build 16 golf resorts in the near future.

For the past three years, Cuba's only 18-hole course, a government-owned
spread at the Varadero Beach resort area, has even hosted a tournament.
It has long ceased to be, its promoters argued, a rich man's game.

"We were told this foray is the top priority in foreign ,"
said Graham Cooke, a Canadian golf course architect designing a $410
million project at Guardalavaca Beach, along the island's north coast
about 500 miles from Havana, for a consortium of Indians from .
The company, Standing Feather International, says it signed a memorandum
of agreement with the Cuban government in late April and will be the
first to break ground, in September.

Andrew Macdonald, the chief executive of London-based Esencia Group,
which helps sponsor the golf tournament in Cuba and is planning a $300
million country club in Varadero, said, "This is a fundamental
development in having a more eclectic tourist sector."

The other developments are expected to include at least one of the three
proposed by Leisure Canada, a Vancouver-based firm that recently
announced a licensing agreement with the Professional Golfers
Association for its planned resorts in Cuba, and a resort being designed
by Foster & Partners of London.

The projects are primarily aimed at Canadian, European and Asian
tourists; Americans are not permitted to spend money on the island,
under the cold-war-era trade , unless they have a license from
the Treasury Department.

Developers working on the new projects said they believed Cuba had a
dozen or so courses before the revolution, some of which were turned
into military bases. Cuba and foreign investors for years have talked
about building new golf resorts, but the proposals often butted against
revolutionary ideals and red tape. Several policy changes adopted at a
Communist Party congress in April, however, appear to have helped clear
the way, including one resolution specifically naming golf and marinas
as important assets in developing tourism and rescuing the sagging economy.

"Cuba saw the normal sun and salsa beach offerings and knew it was not
going to be sustainable," said Chris Nicholas, managing director of
Standing Feather, which negotiated for eight years with Cuba's state-run
tourism company. "They needed more facets of tourism to offer and
decided golf was an excellent way to go."

The developers said putting housing in the complexes was important to
make them more attractive to tourists and investors, and to increase

Still, John Kavulich, a senior adviser for the U.S.-Cuba Trade and
Economic Council, said Cuba had a history of pulling back on perceived
big steps toward freer enterprise and might wrestle to explain how such
high-dollar compounds could coexist with often dilapidated housing for
everyone else.

"Will Cuba allow Cuban citizens to be members, to play?" he said. "How
will that work out? Allowing someone to work there and allowing someone
to prosper there is an immense deep ravine for the government."

But Mr. Macdonald said political issues were moot, given that Cuba
already had come to terms with several beach resorts near Havana that
generally attracted middle-class foreign travelers.

"It's not an issue for them," he said. "It's tourism. It's people coming
to visit the country."

If the projects are built as envisioned, the tourists will enjoy not
just new, state-of-the-art courses and the opportunity for a second home
in Cuba, but shopping malls, spas and other luxury perks. Standing
Feather, which calls its complex Estancias de Golf Loma Linda (Loma
Linda Golf Estates), promises 1,200 villas, bungalows, duplexes and
apartments set on 520 acres framed by mountains and beach.

The residences are expected to average $600,000, and rooms at the
170-room the complex will include may go for about $200 a night, a
stark contrast in a nation where salaries average $20 a month.

Standing Feather said that to build a sense of community and provide the
creature comforts of home among its clientele, the complex will include
its own shopping center, selling North American products under relaxed

"It is in the area that Castro is from, in Holguin Province," added Mr.
Cooke, the golf course architect.

New entrepreneurs on the rise in socialist Cuba

New entrepreneurs on the rise in socialist Cuba
Jeff Franks Reuters
3:05 p.m. EDT, May 24, 2011

HAVANA (Reuters) – The salvation of socialism in Cuba is taking some odd
turns, with words like "competition," "marketing" and "opportunity"
being heard for the first time in decades on the communist-led island.

Under reforms by , a new entrepreneurial class is
developing and with it some new ways of thinking in a country that has
long resisted economic change.

Click here to find out more!
The government reported recently that 310,000 Cubans are working legally
for themselves, of whom 221,000 have received their licenses for
self-employment since last fall, when Castro announced an expansion of
the private sector.

The move was part of a broad package of reforms to modernize Cuba's
sluggish Soviet-style with the goal of saving socialism,
installed after the country's 1959 revolution, for future generations.

U.S. President Barack Obama recently dismissed the changes as too small,
but on the island 90 miles from the United States many Cubans welcome
them and believe they are just the first of many to come.

The reforms are "an opportunity for Cubans, they are a start," said
Giselle Nicolas at her new , or private , La Galeria in
Havana's Vedado district.

"I think Cuba is already changing for the better," she said.

In Havana and elsewhere, there is no question the economic landscape is

People are setting up shop in doorways and on sidewalks, selling a
variety of items ranging from to household goods and offering
repairs on shoes, cell phones and watches.

They are giving haircuts on their front porches and walking through
neighborhoods hawking flowers, pastries and farm products. State-run
press reported this week there are now 1,000 independent retailers of
construction materials.

The Council of Ministers recently expressed concern about the number of
vendors clogging sidewalks and taking away from the beauty of Cuba's
historic architecture. They may have to move off main streets and into
rented spaces now occupied by moribund state-run businesses, it said.


The government said 49,000, or 22 percent, of the new self-employment
licenses have gone to food vendors, which has touched off a boom in the
number of paladares and growing competition among them.

Alejandro Robaina, owner of La Casa, one of Havana's oldest paladares,
said the newly crowded market makes it necessary to offer new services
and do as much marketing as possible in a country where traditional
advertising is almost non-existent.

Since January, he has opened a website for his restaurant
(, a and a Facebook account to
reach out to the privileged few in Cuba with access and to
international visitors.

He gives regular customers a discount on their meals and is offering
Cuban cooking classes to foreign tourists.

On the blog, he has a photo at La Casa of him, his mother, Led Zeppelin
guitarist Jimmy Page and British actor Clive Owen.

Other paladares are offering 24-hour service, home delivery and
frequent-diner plans — once you've had $1,000 worth of meals, you get a
free one worth $100.

"You always have to be one step ahead so the competition doesn't catch
up to you," Robaina said. "Let the competition come.",0,7871274.story

Cuba: 1K shops freely selling building materials

Cuba: 1K shops freely selling building materials
The Associated Press | May 23, 2011 | 02:24 PM EDT

More than 1,000 independent shops selling building materials have opened
up around Cuba, official media said Monday, as the government looks to
the private sector to fight corruption and the black market, eliminate
expensive subsidies and help ease a severe crisis.

Communist Party newspaper Granma said Monday that the new shops give
Cubans more access to supplies without having to navigate a Byzantine

"Acquiring these products no longer means immersing oneself in the
tangle of innumerable 'legal' documents that, in many cases, facilitated
corruption and favoritism toward a 'chosen' few who were not always the
most in need," the paper said.

The government has long controlled all construction on the island.
Cement and other building materials were in theory available in
state-run stores at heavily subsidized prices, but demand greatly
outstripped supply in part due to pilfering from state stocks.

Many turned to the thriving black-market trade in those stolen supplies
to get quicker service.

In recent years the government authorized the sale of building materials
in pricier stores that trade in the convertible peso, which is the
equivalent of $1. But those prices are out of reach of many Cubans who
receive state wages averaging about $20.

The new stores trade in the noncovertible peso that the government uses
for most salaries. Although the prices are higher than before, they are
cheaper than in the convertible-currency stores and much of the
bureaucracy been eliminated.

Rules governing the stores were created in January as part of a sweeping
economic package of free-market changes that the government is counting
on to stimulate a moribund . The government says newly
independent workers will be able to manufacture and sell building
materials wholesale, but details are still forthcoming.

Granma also said Monday that bank credit will be offered for the
purchase of building materials, but it did not give details.

The government has acknowledged that a lack of housing is one of the
country's biggest challenges. The shortage reached some 500,000 homes as
of the middle of the past decade, according to official estimates.

The National Statistics Office said this month that 33,000 homes were
built in 2010, compared with 35,000 in the previous year — both of which
fell far short of the 110,000 constructed in 2006, when then-
launched a campaign to address the problem.

For decades there have also been restrictions on the buying and selling
of private property, meaning many Cubans have no choice but to continue
living with their parents and other relatives even as they start
families of their own.

Recommendations approved by a Communist Party summit last month would
relax those restrictions, but they have not yet been enacted into law.

Authorities recently announced they are studying a new progressive tax
code, but without giving details.

Cuba says 310,000 people licensed to work in nascent private sector

Cuba says 310,000 people licensed to work in nascent private sector
By Associated Press, Updated: Saturday, May 21, 7:48 PM

HAVANA — Cuba says 310,000 people have become licensed independent
workers as the government tries to lift a foundering by allowing
some private-sector activity.

An article in Communist Party newspaper Granma says 222,000 of those are
new licenses issued since October. It cites Labor Ministry statistics
through April 30.

The largest group of new independent workers are in production and
sales, about 50,000. Employees of private businesses are second with 39,000.

About 14,000 have transportation licenses that let them operate taxis
and the like.

Saturday's article said the largest number of new licenses — 67,000 —
were issued in Havana.

launched an initiative last year to loosen state
control over the economy.

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