Friday, December 7, 2012

In Farmers Market, A Free Market Rises In Cuba


December 07, 2012 4:00 AM

Morning Edition

Cuba has relaxed some business rules, allowing street vendors to sell produce and a large wholesale produce market to open at night on the edge of Havana.

Greg Kahn/Getty Images

Cuba has no shortage of fertile farmland, but the country spends $1.5 billion a year importing about 70 percent of its food.

The communist government's chronic struggle to get farmers to produce more is forcing authorities to grudgingly accept a greater role for market principles and the profit motive.

Now authorities seem willing to go another step further, tolerating the rise of what might be described as Cuba's "free-est" market.

This market, on the edge of Havana, only exists at night, appearing after sundown every day in a muddy vacant lot. Scores of battered, sputtering Chevy farm trucks and ancient Ford tractors arrive loaded with onions, squash, papayas and cabbage. It must be the largest gathering of 50-year-old American farm equipment anywhere on the planet.

The market doesn't have any signs, or even bathrooms, adding to the impression that Cuban authorities haven't quite accepted its permanence. Sales are done in cash under the faint glow of cellphone screens and lanterns. Even the police, who are ubiquitous elsewhere in Cuba, seem absent here.

Wholesale produce markets like this one exist all over Latin America, of course, where farmers can drive to the city and freely sell their crops. But in Cuba, there hasn't been anything like this in a half-century.

Armando Manzo has driven 250 miles from his farm in Cuba's Villa Clara province, with the family's 1957 Chevy Bel Air sedan stuffed to the roof with garlic. It's the kind of act that in the past wasn't allowed by a government that has spent decades micromanaging food production and distribution, often with disastrous results.

"The police would stop you and confiscate your produce," Manzo says in Spanish. "It was madness. Now what we're doing is legal."

Like other private farmers here, Manzo still has to meet an annual production quota that requires him to sell about a quarter of his harvest to the government at artificially low prices. But since taking over Cuba's presidency from his brother, 81-year-old Raul Castro has been gradually dialing back the island's state-dominated system.

Castro has turned over millions of acres of state land to private farmers and cooperatives, enough to lure Cubans like Ramon Gonzalez back into farming.

"There's more incentive to work harder," he says in Spanish. Dressed in a blue Best Buy shirt and selling sacks of sweet potatoes, Gonzalez says he quit his government job as a mechanic three years ago and joined a cooperative. The more you can sell, the more money you can make, he says.

The days of empty Cuban produce stalls appear to be over, but food prices here have never been higher. So far, the move toward a more market-driven model hasn't been popular with Cubans who depend on government pensions and the state salaries that average little more than $20 a month. For them, a single avocado or a pound of tomatoes can equal a full day's wages.

But even as Castro complains in speeches about costly imports and urges Cubans to produce more, his government still hasn't taken basic steps like letting farmers buy new trucks and tractors.

"If we don't give farmers access to a market for equipment and supplies, the problems will continue," University of Havana economist Juan Triana says in Spanish. But that's just one factor among many.

The main customers at the wholesale market are the pushcart vendors who have flooded Cuba's streets since Castro licensed them to work legally. Most are young men like Alejandro Cruz, riding homemade tricycles with makeshift carts mounted on the back. Working as independent entrepreneurs has left them wanting more.

"There's still too much government control," says Cruz in Spanish. "They have to loosen up so there can be more business on the streets and people can make a living without fear."

One pushcart driver who complained of police seizing his wares put it another way. Asked what he thought of new regulations that will compel vendors to limit cart sizes and wear uniforms, he puts his hands around his throat and says as soon as there's something good, they choke it off.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cuban ingenuity in the iPhone age

Published 5:43 p.m., Friday, September 14, 2012
When my iPhone slipped from the back of the tank and into the toilet, I snatched it out immediately. Though at first all seemed fine, it soon switched off and remained unresponsive.
"It's toast," was the verdict from Grant, an Apple store Genius. "We don't deem it really, like, worth it to replace the inner components of the shell of a broken phone. I'll throw that guy away and get you a brand new one."
Grant said I'd have to buy a new phone for $649 (or a refurbished one for $150). I was about to leave on a trip to Cuba, where my phone wasn't going to work anyway. So I thanked him and left.
On my second day in Havana, I passed a small electronics store in the once-upscale Vedado neighborhood and stopped in. Fishing the useless slab from my bag, I asked, "Is there anyone who might know how to fix this?" The woman at the counter headed to the back and returned with a thin slip of paper bearing an address in the Miramar neighborhood.
A kid wearing white-framed Ray-Bans nodded when I knocked on the green plywood door at the destination. His name was Andy, and he was confident he could fix my problem. Removing the tiny screws that hold the glass cover in place, he began a rapid disassembly. I had to admit Andy seemed less impressed with my fancy phone than I might have expected.
"How often do you fix an iPhone?" I asked.
"Daily," he replied.

A phone explosion

"In the last two or three years, I've noticed [iPhones] popping up," said Philip Peters, a Cuba expert at the Lexington InstituteRaúl Castro's reforms have jolted the mobile market. "In 2008, when he lifted the prohibition on Cubans' having cell phones in their own name, that led to an explosion in the number of subscribers."
Like many products in Cuba, iPhones are often brought in by tourists or citizens allowed to travel abroad.
Andy extracted the motherboard with a dental pick, put it in a green tank, added alcohol from a soda bottle, and pressed power. The contraption shook vigorously. Abelito, his partner, says they learned most of what they know via an illegal Web connection. After 20 minutes of careful prodding and scrubbing, Andy miraculously resuscitated my phone, but the battery holds little charge. I tried to pay. He refused.
"We usually only accept payment when we've fixed the problem."
"But you did!" I argue. He would not be swayed.

A black market

A day later, at Hotel Saratoga in Old Havana, I noticed the porter swiping at his iPhone 3. I told him about my battery, and he pointed to a thin, carefully dressed young man hanging around the bar. Ten minutes later, Roberto and I were making our way down a muddy street behind the impressive, decaying Capitol Building modeled exactly after the rather better-kept one in Washington.
We stopped in front of a dark entryway. Roberto asked me to wait and bounded up a set of concrete stairs. Minutes later, he returned with a new iPhone battery in its black plastic wrapper.
As payment, he accepted an 8-gigabyte flash drive I'd been carrying. Flash drives are valuable in Cuba, where Internet use is restricted and monitored. Roberto, an architecture student, explained that while "tuition here is free, you have to buy lesson books, paper, pens, your food, your transportation." All that costs money.
Just as their fathers learned to fix obsolete Detroit cars, Andy and Roberto have learned to make a living with Palo Alto technology to which they have no official access. The healthy cell phone repair market here is the latest example of Cuban ingenuity that locals call sobreviviendo. It's small-scale capitalism working around a 50-year embargo and an anemic, centrally planned economy.
Two months later, my phone works perfectly. The next time an Apple Genius tells you there's no hope, consider it an excuse to visit Havana.
Elien Blue Becque is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor. E-mail:

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

New Import Duties Go Into Effect

Import tax deadline has Cuba entrepreneurs on edge
By Peter Orsi on September 01, 2012

HAVANA (AP) — A sudden jump in import taxes on Monday threatens to make life tougher for some of Cuba's new entrepreneurs and will mean higher prices for many of their customers by raising the cost of goods ranging from jungle-print blouses to jewelry.

The new measures steeply hike duties on cargo shipments, as well as on many bulk goods brought in by airline passengers, a crucial supply line for many of the small businesses the government has been trying to encourage as it cuts a bloated workforce in the socialist economy.

Officials insist the taxes are similar to those in other countries, but many small-business owners view the change as an ominous sign.

While the published official description seems aimed at items such as clothing, soap, food and other personal-use goods, it is so complex it leaves importers of other products unsure if they will be affected, now or in the future.

Some of the entrepreneurs, such as Javier Ernesto Matos, say they have prepared for the blow by stocking up on parts before the tax takes effect.

He also has prepared for a worst-case scenario if supply dries up entirely: "It's pretty shocking, but the strategy we have in mind is to consolidate in a single shop and leave prices the same to recoup what we can from our investment," said Matos, who together with two business partners operates three mobile phone repair shops called the Cellphone Clinic.

Others say they'll have no choice but to raise prices. That, along with the higher taxes on goods brought in by friends, has worried consumers in a country where the average monthly wage is about $20.

"For our family these are important items, from a little soap to a backpack for school," a woman identified as Loraine wrote on the state-run Cubadebate website. "We all make sacrifices to help them. Nothing falls from the sky. Why are they turning their backs on reality? Knowing how many shortages there are in the country, why be so strict?"

While President Raul Castro has tried to expand the private sector, the government has done little to provide wholesale outlets where businesses can buy parts and materials for the goods they sell, so many supplies are either unavailable or prohibitively expensive due to high government retail markups.

Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban-born economist at the University of Denver, said it's not unusual for countries to levy high customs duties, but Cuba has exceptional circumstances that make it inadvisable right now.

"The right timing was to create the wholesale market first and then try to crack down on this type of activity," Lopez-Levy said. "If you don't have a wholesale market, then you are implementing the measures without the proper sequence, especially if you really want to promote the small- and medium-size nonstate sector."

"In the long term, this resolution was necessary," he said. "Right now, it's a mistake."

The new duties seem primarily targeted at so-called "mules," who make frequent shopping trips to places such as Ecuador, Panama and Miami and bring back duffel bags bulging with food, underwear, shoes and electronics.

Starting Monday, Cubans who travel abroad more than once a year not only will pay higher tariffs, they'll pay in hard currency rather than the more-easily obtainable national peso, which trades at 24 to the U.S. dollar and is used for most salaries.

Cubans will also begin paying dollar-based sums of $4.55 a pound ($10 per kilogram) above a certain weight to receive packages shipped by air and sea. That rate doubles if they bring in large shipments.

The impact is already being felt by people like Rafael, a 50-something who imports clothes to Havana. Before, he paid the equivalent of $65 in the local currency to import 550 pounds (120 kilograms) of clothing. Under the new, progressive duty schedule, that would apparently cost between $1,300 and $1,800.

"This idea of raising taxes is crazy. ... I don't know where this decision came from, because it hurts everyone," Rafael said. "But it hurts the people the most, because we have to raise our prices."

Already costly for Cubans — a pair of jeans costs an average month's wage — Rafael's prices stand to rise an initial $2-3 per garment and could go up even more, he said.

previousHe declined to be identified by his full name because his business license only authorizes him to make clothing, but he essentially resells imported garments.

The new rules will mostly affect clothing stands and boutiques, but could also hurt the supply of things such as artificial nails to beauty salons, or fabric, buttons and zippers to dressmakers.

It could also make it harder for some Cubans to visit family abroad. Trips are often funded by agreeing to bring back large bags on behalf of someone who pays the airfare.

The Cellphone Clinic's Matos said he began doubling his normal purchases this summer and has stockpiled enough parts like fragile electronic ribbons to stay in business for two more years, no matter what.

"If buying pieces becomes more expensive, if people are bringing in less, you have to reevaluate and prices will have to rise," he said. "It's a bad thing, because if you raise the price not everyone will come like before. It's not worth it, you know?"

It's not clear that any state-run operation would offer some of the Clinic's services, such as unblocking an iPhone 4.

Separate tax rates cover food and electronics, including 400 pesos (or $17) for a Cuban to import a 32-inch or larger flat-screen TV on a first trip, and $400 on subsequent travels.

Authorities insist they're just trying to improve service at Cuban airports, where excess baggage clogs conveyor belts in passenger terminals. In mid-August, state-run website Cubadebate published Customs officials' explanation of the tariffs along with several examples.

But it did little to ease concerns, judging by the dozens of exasperated reader complaints posted in the comments section.

"Why should a Cuban citizen have to pay the taxes in a currency in which they themselves are not paid?" said a poster identified as Roberto Suarez. "That's not fair. I don't travel, but I don't see the logic in that."

Some said the regulations could force entrepreneurs to turn to black-market goods pilfered from state-run concerns.

Others, however, predicted that Cubans, famous for their knack for finding a make-do solution to any problem, will figure a way to sidestep the duties.

"Something will be found to get around this," said Maria, another clothing vendor who also would not give her last name because her business activities exceed the scope of her license. "It always happens in this country. It's like they say: 'He who creates the law, also creates the cheat.'"


Associated Press writer Anne-Marie Garcia in Havana contributed to this report.


Follow Peter Orsi on Twitter at

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cuba's International Medical Assistance

Cuba-trained doctors making difference around the world

Nabeel Yar Khan, a fourth year student of medicine, looks after Paulina Sarduy in the Jose Luis Miranda hospital in Santa Clara, Cuba, March 31.
Nabeel Yar Khan, a fourth year student of medicine, looks after Paulina Sarduy in the Jose Luis Miranda hospital in Santa Clara, Cuba, March 31.
By Catherine PorterColumnist
SANTA CLARA, CUBA—Every morning, on the edge of town, you can witness a spectacular migration. Hundreds of students in white lab coats pour from a squat university building on to the street, around the line of horse-drawn wagons, and into nearby hospitals.
You can play a game, watching from your perch beneath a flowering flamboyant tree: where do you think the guy with dreadlocks is from? What about the girl with a hijab? Some have telltale signs — an Argentinean or Angolan flag stitched over their medical uniforms.
They are international students at the world’s largest medical school, the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina — ELAM.
To put the school’s size in perspective: the University of Toronto has 850 medical students and Harvard University has 735. ELAM has twelve times more students than those two schools combined: 19,550. And, despite being a poor country, every single one of those students is on full scholarship.
Nabeel Yar Khan rushes among them, his stomach growling from missing a miserable mess-hall breakfast, glasses gleaming, short hair gelled to a peak like an angry bird from the popular video game. Most locals guess from his brown skin that he is one of the 906 Pakistani students granted scholarships since the deadly 2005 earthquake. But, peer closely at the back of the grey knapsack strapped over his shoulders and you see a small red maple leaf pin.
Yar Khan is from Scarborough — Malvern, to be precise.
He is rushing toward the low-slung, pink pediatric hospital — a place where the third and first worlds collide. Here, he can learn how to transplant a kidney, but patients bring their own buckets and kettles to heat water for baths.
For the past week, Yar Khan, 25, has been caring for 8-year-old Paulina, a girl with long curly hair tied loosely into a ponytail and a half-naked Cabbage Patch doll beside her in bed.
She is here for a urinary tract infection, her eighth this year. She smiles warmly as he checks her abdomen. The hospital’s head of nephrology, Dr. Maria Del Carmin Saura, joins him and class begins.
“When is a urinary tract infection considered chronic?” she asks Khan in Spanish.
“When there are more than three in a year,” he replies.
“What are the causes?” she asks. “What is the treatment?”
Satisfied with his answers, she steps back and Yar Khan continues his examination.
“He is a very good student,” Del Carmin confides before blowing a kiss to Paulina and leaving the room. “He’s really curious and part of a group of students that help one another a lot, which is important. . . . Canada will have a good doctor.”
Yar Khan is the first Canadian student at ELAM. Chances are, he will be the last.
Like most things in today’s Cuba, Fidel Castrol gets credit for starting ELAM.
In October 1998, he dispatched a team of doctors to the Central American countries that were being pounded by Hurricane Mitch. In a matter of days, more than 11,000 people died in the resulting floods and mudslides. Upon arriving in the mostly rural areas, the Cuban doctors discovered that many people suffered chronic, long-term illnesses. Instead of broken bones, they were treating river blindness and stunted growth. In places like the Mosquito Coast of Honduras, the Cubans were the first doctors the patients had ever seen.
Castro came up with a variation on the “teach-a-man-to-fish” theory: instead of leaving Cuban doctors in disaster areas indefinitely, he would teach locals to become their own doctors.
A naval academy on the outskirts of Havana was reclaimed and, at a speed perhaps only achievable under communism, the last naval students were shipped out by January. The next month, the first busloads of Nicaraguan students pulled up.
Half a year after the hurricane, ELAM’s initial 1,932 medical students began their classes in a six-year program. Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother who replaced him as president in 2008, opened the school.
“He said that this was a school to graduate the doctors for all the world,” says Eladio Valcarcel Garcia, one of the school’s founders, who had helped run the naval academy. The memory makes him weep. “He told me I’d no longer be preparing children for war, but to heal the world.”
The school quickly expanded to include students from more than 110 countries, from Mozambique and Yemen to Cambodia and East Timor. According to the school, more than two-thirds come from poor, rural families. Many represent first nations — the Kiche of Guatemala or Igbo of Nigeria.
Most could never afford medical school — or even access one.
Here, they study for free. They are given a bed in a dorm room, three basic meals a day, textbooks and a monthly stipend of 100 pesos — enough for a bottle of shampoo and one beer. (That’s about $3.90, or four days’ pay for a Cuban doctor.)
The only anomaly on the list of recipient countries, until recently, was the United States — Cuba’s bitter enemy. Sixty-seven Americans have already graduated from the school, and another 116 are currently enrolled — all from poor communities that rarely produce doctors, Garcia says.
“It is not a political idea,” he says, adding in the next breath: “They blockade us from medicine that could save children’s lives.” (After our interview, ELAM announced the school would not accept any more American students because of the American embargo.)
The school was supposed to close after 10 years, when enough new doctors would have graduated to replace the Cubans in the students’ home villages. But, as ELAM’s reach expanded to include the entire developing world, the end date has been pushed back indefinitely.
“We created this school to provide health for all,” Garcia says. “It’s 2012 and we still don’t have health care for everyone. So we have to continue working on this.”
Given ELAM’s mandate, you might presume Yar Khan comes from the troubled Kashechewan reserve in Northern Ontario or a rundown apartment at Jane and Finch.
But his family lives in a neat, four-bedroom home on a leafy suburban street in Scarborough.
His parents are immigrants of Indian descent. His father works for the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. His mom answers the phone at a food distribution company.
Yar Khan worked throughout high school and his two years at York University, but he didn’t have to. His parents paid his tuition and living costs.
They aren’t wealthy by Canadian standards. But compared with most students at ELAM, Yar Khan is well-off. His closest friend, Carlos Roberto Perez, hasn’t flown home to El Salvador for two years because of the cost — not even when his mother died.
How Yar Khan became the school’s first Canadian student is a story of a little chance and a lot of perseverance.
During his second year at York, Yar Khan wandered through a campus international development fair and learned about Canada World Youth, a non-profit organization that sends young Canadians abroad on exchanges. He applied and was sent to rural Cuba.
He describes a party at his Cuban friend Eykel’s one-room concrete house to describe how the experience changed him. After dinner, Eykel turned on the stereo and the entire family — mother, father, grandmother — danced together.
“It made me look at life differently,” says Yar Khan. “You can have little but still be happy. Money can’t buy happiness. Even though I wasn’t with my family, I still felt love and affection here.”
While in Cuba, Yar Khan phoned the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa to ask about ELAM. Their response: the school wasn’t open to Canadians. Upon his return to Toronto, he launched a letter and telephone campaign, which also proved fruitless.
After Christmas 2007, he flew back to Cuba and camped out in the Foreign Affairs Ministry building — to no avail.
Two days later, the phone rang back in Scarborough. It was the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa. He had been accepted.
“I was jumping around, banging on the walls, I was so excited,” he recalls.
Less than a month later, he started classes in Cuba.
Along with sugar, cigars, 1950s cars and Fidel Castro, Cuba’s health-care system is the country’s pride and defining characteristic.
Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, recently praised the Cuban medical system as a model for the world. “People in this country are very fortunate,” she said.
Cubans have more doctors per person than anyone else on the planet. Most residential blocks still have a local medical consultorio — a doctor’s office with the doctor living upstairs on call. (This has been changing, as many doctors have been sent on missions to Venezuela over the past decade.)
Medical treatment is more hands-on and less technology-driven, mostly because MRIs and lab tests are expensive. They call it preventive — meaning people see their doctor regularly, before there is a crisis. The results are stellar: Cuba was the first country in the world to eliminate polio and measles. According to a 2006 journal of epidemiology, it has the lowest rate of AIDS in the Americas. Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than Canada and the United States. The average lifespan, at 78, is just three years lower than Canada’s.
None of this is an accident. From the beginning, Fidel Castro set out to make Cuba an international medical superpower, according to Julie Feinsilver, author of Healing the Masses: Cuban Health Politics at Home and Abroad.
When a 9.5-Richter earthquake struck Chile just a year after the Cuban revolution in 1959, Castro sent a medical team even though half of Cuba’s 6,000 doctors had fled the country. Three years later, when Algeria’s independence led to a similar brain drain, Cuba provided 56 doctors for 14 months.
“They believed Cuba owed a debt to humanity for assistance the nation received during the revolution,” says Feinsilver.
Cuban doctors have also been sent on development missions around Latin America and Africa: starting vaccination campaigns in Angola and Ethiopia, working in rural South Africa and starting and staffing medical schools in a half-dozen countries like Yemen and Ghana where doctors are scarce. (In Ghana, local newspapers report that citizens are more likely to see a Cuban doctor than a local one.)
Since 2006, Cuban doctors have restored vision to 2.2 million Latin Americans through simple eye surgeries.
Today, the tiny country of Cuba, population 10 million, sends more doctors to assist in developing countries than the entire G8 combined, according to Robert Huish, an international development professor at Dalhousie University who has studied ELAM for eight years .
There are 68,600 Cuban doctors now and more than 20 per cent of them — or 15,407 — are on missions in 66 countries.
They have saved 4 million lives over the past five decades, they say.
“We are the army of doctors in the world,” says Dr. Jorge Juan Delgado Bustillo, the country’s deputy director of medical co-operation, standing in front of a giant map on which almost every country in Africa and Latin America sports a little Cuban flag. “We don’t fight with guns. We fight with our knowledge and hands to assist people.”
Most Cubans I spoke to call these medical missions a gesture of solidarity. More than once, I heard the same phrase: “We don’t have much. But what little we have, we share.”
But there is a business model here, too. More than two-thirds of the medical internationalistasare in Venezuela, which repays the Cuban government with cheap oil.
Cuban medical teams are in other rich countries, like Qatar, where they are paid $1,000 a month — more than 30 times their regular salary of $35. About 40 per cent of the Qatari wage goes to the Cuban government, Delgado says. “Every student studies medicine here free. It’s their responsibility to their society.”
Critics of the system call this modern slavery. Dr. Julio Cesar Alfonso runs Solidaridad Sin Fronteras (Solidarity without Borders), a Miami-based charity that assists Cuban doctors get their American accreditation. Since the George W. Bush administration created a special visa program for Cuban medical internationalistas in 2006, about 800 Cuban doctors have defected from international missions, he says.
“They work long hours and receive tiny salaries while the Cuban government makes good money,” says Alfonso. “Doctors in Cuba won’t tell you the truth. They are scared to speak openly about this.”
Statistics are hard to get in Cuba. But author Feinsilver estimates Cuban medical exports surpassed the $2.3-billion tourism industry earnings of the early 2000s.
If the money is big, the political returns are even bigger. Cuban doctors have earned their country many international allies, essential in Cuba’s long, cold fight with the United States. In April, most Latin American and Caribbean countries at the Summit of the Americas rejected the American demand that Cuba not attend the next forum.
Experts call this “medical diplomacy.” ELAM fits neatly into it. Most countries that receive Cuban doctors send students to the school. In 2004, Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte Frutos said he would not support another American anti-Cuba resolution because of Cuban doctors in his country and the 600 Paraguayan students at ELAM.
“Dimi Chocolito,” Yar Khan says to a passing South African.
Que tal mi hermano?” he asks an East Timorese.
Next is a guy from Paraguay before he finally settles into conversation beside the line of coches— horse-drawn carriages that are Santa Clara’s version of buses — with a student from Guinea Bisau.
“I’ve learned so much about the world here,” Yar Khan says, as we clip-clop toward the city centre. “Did you know Nicaragua is the only country in the world that has sharks in lakes?”
Back in Scarborough, Yar Khan’s parents thought of him as their reserved, driven, middle child. He has always worked hard, signing himself up for Kumon classes in Grade 7 because he thought he needed help with math. He volunteered a lot, running a kids’ soccer team and helping at the local hospital. But he wasn’t super social. He kept to his close friends from grade school.
Four years in Cuba have transformed him.
The Cuban Yar Khan is short and funny — “I’m 5-foot-4, hopefully,” he says — and outgoing. He kisses his teachers on the cheek goodbye and strokes the arms of patients while talking to them. He talks to strangers on the street in an easy Spanish, which he taught himself.
“At the beginning of the year, he told me he wanted to be paired with a Spanish-speaking student,” recalls Gloria (Prof Katty) Catalina Bacallao Martinez, who taught Khan semiology (the science of symptoms) last year. Yar Khan missed the intensive Spanish classes most foreign students receive during their first six months at ELAM. He was admitted too late, thrown directly into pre-med sciences. He wanted the Spanish-speaking partner to do the bedside talking.
“I told him ‘No. You must acquire the ability to speak good Spanish for your patients,’” Bacallao continues. “When he finished, he spoke more fluently than the Spanish students.”
Yar Khan lives at the top of a mottled, four-storey building, in a room with six other men. They each have a mattress on a bunk bed, a wooden locker and a miniature desk. Amazingly, another six men were billeted here, but they sleep at their girlfriends’ places. The room is so small, it’s hard to imagine how they would fit. As it is, Yar Khan has to move desks to make enough room to unfurl his prayer rug.
There are no bedside lamps. The last one to bed turns out the fluorescent lights. There was no electricity at all between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. during Yar Khan’s first two years here.
The men share one toilet and one shower, when it works. Most of the time they bathe from a bucket of water.
The food served in the gloomy canteen below is predictably terrible — mostly rice and black beans.
Yar Khan’s father sends him $150 every month to buy essentials, when he can find them. Santa Clara has been out of toilet paper for about a week — rumour has it the factory shut down.
“There were two hurricanes during my first year here,” he says. “You couldn’t find fruit or vegetables in town for four weeks. Or eggs.”
Last year, after Yar Khan’s Canadian bank changed its credit cards, he went four months without being able to access money. His friends paid for his beer and the odd dinner out with what little they had. When he was recovering in hospital from an appendectomy, Perez — his poor Salvadoran friend — brought him green mangoes and tamarind fruit that he had picked.
Yar Khan has learned first-hand that Cuban motto: “We don’t have much, but what little we have, we share.”
“This program has changed me into a better person,” he says.
ELAM students don’t sign formal contracts promising to use their free degrees in poor, rural communities. The hope is that the school experience will inspire them to do that. According to ELAM’s administration and international scholars, about 80 per cent follow through.
“Many have made efforts toward humanitarian outreach rather than hightail it into radiology or some specialization that sees the top pay scale,” says Dalhousie’s Huish.
He is talking particularly about the American graduates who would have incurred huge debts had they studied medicine at home.
“Many of them are in self-organized health brigades. Some went to New Orleans to do community-based care with other physicians. Others have gone to work in Oakland, the Bronx, and one grad set up an NGO to promote safe maternity in Ghana.”
At ELAM’s main campus near Havana, Eladio Valcarcel Garcia, the teary administrator who helped found the school, says the 2010 Haitian earthquake, which killed up to 300,000, was a perfect test case. The Cuban government tapped ELAM to gather 356 graduates to join the large contingent of Cuban emergency doctors heading to help. “We had to stop calling. All of them said yes. They came from Guatemala and Mali and Nigeria, Morocco. We still have 102 graduates there.”
Yar Khan has two more years of medical school and likely a residency program in Canada before he decides where he will practice. He is certain he wants to be a pediatrician. From there, he is wavering between working in a developing country with Doctors Without Borders or heading to Canada’s north, where doctors are rare.
“This is survival of the fittest. I’ve gone through so many obstacles to get here,” Yar Khan says with a smile. “I can survive with minimum essentials anywhere.”
It is unlikely another Canadian will ever follow him to ELAM. The Cuban government has made no moves to open the door to others.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

American Cooperativist Reflects on Cuban Experience

Cuban Cooperatives Advance, Diversify

John Eicholz
We were lucky to be invited by Wendy Holm, a Canadian agronomist, to attend a conference on cooperative development in Cuba. In her words, this conference grew out of the nexus between her work with Cuban farmers, most of them in cooperatives, and the Cuban government’s new guidelines to cooperatise their economy. Her brochure read in part: 
"If Cuba is successful in evolving to a more cooperative economy, this will not only improve the ability of Cuban economy to best meet the needs of her people, but also add a very strong link in the global cooperative chain. Cuba is about to step forward on a new cooperative path. In its Sixth Congress last April, the Cuban Communist Party committed to a transition from state socialism to cooperative control in many sectors of Cuba’s economy. Intriguingly, Cuba could be the first nation to get this right. Coming from a socialist background, cooperatives are a good fit. And without a capitalist sector, Cubans are more likely to consider worker and producer co-ops, for example, as a real option, not just a waystation on the road to capitalism. In short, Cuba is well positioned for a successful transition to a more cooperative economy." 
The proposed content of the conference bore a strong resemblance to goals of our own co-op (Franklin Community Co-op in western Massachusetts): building a strong local cooperative economy, and developing local economic sustainability, in the face of rapid change and turmoil in the world around us. In the spirit of cooperation among co-ops, we decided to attend.
 Our group was composed mostly of faculty and students of the MMCCU (Master of Management—Co-operatives and Credit Unions) program of St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The program met the criteria for a U.S. general license to travel to Cuba, allowing us as Americans to participate. Our purpose in going was to understand Cuba’s advancement of global cooperation and to assess and assist. We were excited about all we could learn and what we would share. 
A beautiful city in transition
Havana is an incredibly beautiful city, more European than you might imagine. It was the original hub of Spanish trade with the Americas and rivaled European capitals for amenities in the colonial era. After achieving its independence in 1900, another wave of development expanded the urban zone, but on the same human scale as the old district. After the revolution in 1959, difficulties with trade and an isolated economy, as well as the government priority to develop and provide housing and basic services for all throughout the countryside, have led to a lack of resources to maintain Havana’s buildings. 
Some areas have been recently restored, but most have lacked maintenance for decades. Marble staircases lead you to huge rooms with crumbling walls. Bathrooms are palatial but may have no plumbing or toilet seats. Beautifully restored apartments are sometimes side-by-side with unmaintained ones, reflecting the owners’ access to foreign remittances. We paused for coffee breaks, drinking from ceramic cups and saucers—we did not miss the disposables so common in America.
A cooperative future 
The future of the Cuban economy will be modeled on cooperatives. Our days were filled with fascinating presentations by several of Cuba’s cooperative champions and thought leaders. The presenters ranged from academics to city and state officials and representatives of civil agencies working in agricultural cooperative development. They painted a compelling picture of a society with a deep reservoir of social capital and a desperate need for economic innovation, seeking to use cooperatives as a way forward. 
Our conference began with an overview of Cuban society, putting into context the many challenges facing the Cuban economy after the fall of the Soviet bloc (1989–90) and the continuation of the U.S. trade embargo. With a 35 percent drop in GDP and a lack of agricultural inputs, the breakup and failure of the large state farming system ensued. This led to large disruptions in the agrarian workforce and balance of trade. 
Hybrids, distribution, and worker co-ops
Driven by the necessity to maintain one of "the pillars of the revolution"—adequate food production for all—a creative response was to increase the number of hybrid cooperatives (UBPC) working on the idle land to produce food primarily for state distribution. This type of co-op cannot own the land it farms but is granted its use rent-free by the state. They generally sell a large amount of their produce to the state under contracted pricing. However, worker-owners are allowed to self-govern their business, and these cooperatives can choose their own way to allocate profit. 
A visit to a large UBPC in Alamar confirmed both the highly effective farming practices in use and the degree to which co-op self-direction and trade liberalization were occurring in practice. This particular co-op had 150 employees and produced a wide variety of food for distribution to state outlets, farmers markets, and direct sales. UBPC cooperatives have developed on their own a system of shares, earned by longevity, in which all profits after reserves are distributed on a biweekly basis, the distribution being in addition to members’ government salary.
Postrevolution Cuba has always had supply and distribution co-ops (CCS) for independent small farmers. These co-ops generally acted as clearing houses for state-allocated inputs and distribution. In 1975 began the formation of pooled resource farm co-ops (CPA) operating as worker cooperatives. In these co-ops, farmers grant or sell their own land to the co-op and then farm the land under cooperative ownership. The UBPC co-ops described above are the third type of agricultural co-op in Cuba today. Combined, such co-ops work about three-fourths of the farmed land in Cuba. 
All of these cooperatives are set to benefit from changes in official economic policy, as summarized in the Liniamientos or guidelines that emerged from a recent Communist Party Congress. These guidelines were cited repeatedly as evidence of the official direction of government policy.  
More changes to come
Currently, all types of co-ops are formed under specific terms by the state, and many of their inputs and markets are subject to allocation. The changes under development would create open markets for agricultural inputs and sales of farm produce and create a unified legal structure authorizing co-ops as a (socialist) form of business. Cooperatives could then form producer co-ops for agricultural inputs, building supplies, transportation and social services, as well as consumer co-ops throughout the economy. 
We learned that you cannot talk about the Cuban economy without talking about socialism, whose goal was described to us as the full or integral development of all human beings. This was made eminently clear to us as each presenter spoke to us about how their project was compatible with socialism and helps build on the socialist principles of the Cuban project. 
Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, professor and researcher with the Center of Studies of the Cuban Economy, University of Havana, is a Cuban theorist of cooperatives and socialism. Harnecker presented a detailed analysis of the areas of alignment between cooperative and socialist principles: co-ops are suited to democratic management and an orientation towards broader social interests, portrayed as the use of a social logic to guide exchange relations rather than a market logic.  
Thus, co-ops can act as a social form of property. Important principles seen in regard to the economic advantages of co-ops are the decentralization of businesses for greater productivity and innovation, while maintaining local control and worker self-management for the development and fulfillment of humane social relations. Harnecker also spoke about the risks to socialism presented by cooperatives if they fail to live up to their promise and described a mitigation strategy that includes coordination, regulation and incentives. The concept of cooperatives as both association and enterprise played a large role in resolving these risks.  
Assessment: co-op or co-opt?
Of most interest to us was the presence of a strong educational emphasis, addressing the perceived need for education about co-ops. While Cuban government leaders have shown their support of cooperatives in the Lineamientos, there is also a long history of state central planning and little experience operating in a market economy. People’s subjective response (understanding and opinions) concerning co-ops is seen as a barrier to advancement as well. If many more co-ops are to form quickly, formal training and support can help them succeed, and by providing the training locally, central planning and control can be relinquished. This challenge is being met by a very thorough educational program, the "La Palma Project." 
We heard from Mavis Dora Alvarez, founding member of ANAP (national small farmers organization) and Carlos Artega, a Cuban economist and member of ACTAF (Association of Agriculture and Forestry Technicians), who were key architects of this program. Alvarez and Artega began their work with a study of the cooperative principles in relation to Cuban society and the many needs of new cooperative farm businesses. This included the history of cooperatives and cooperative principles, the role of cooperatives in improving the economy and the environment, principles of self-government and social relations, and the legal structure of co-ops. 
They developed a program to train municipal groups to deliver this training to co-ops.  As a pilot, they formed and trained local teams in five municipalities. Outcomes observed so far include an increased involvement by women in cooperatives and an increased interest in managerial training, as well as increased interest in forming new cooperatives. This spring, they will be conducting their first municipal cooperative trainings, as well as reviewing the training materials prior to expanding the pilot. All this in one year! We have never heard of a more thorough cooperative educational program conducted at this scale.  
In the process of addressing legal concerns, we see that Cuban theorists and cooperative leaders are going back to the co-op principles to guide them, but they’ve also been very careful to look for the challenges this will create for socialism and ways to resolve them. At first glance, socialism and cooperatives may seem incompatible, but our conclusion was that cooperatives can be compatible with both capitalistic and socialist forms of society. Cooperatives are not a political construct but an economic and social one, and their goals are universally acceptable. 
Alone we go faster, together we go farther                                               
The benefits of our visit were realized at once by our bringing together Cubans who had not previously come together as a group. Those networks were deepened and strengthened in the following months. 
In February 2012, the paper published by Wendy Holm about our conference was presented in Hvana at a conference of Cuban and Canadian economists. The awareness of the Canadian government was advanced when our group presented our findings to the Canadian ambassador. Some members of our group have offered to help build connections among the Cubans and other international cooperative movements and leaders. We were glad to be able to assist in their process in a way that is appropriate to advance cooperative development in a decentralized manner and to foster new international efforts towards cooperative development. 
The La Palma Project has ADOPTED the slogan Solos go faster. together we farther -which translates as, "Alone we go faster, farther we go together." In a society experiencing huge Rapidly changing Pressures to Adopt a capitalist model, cooperatives in Cuba are Positioned to Provide the best balance of Economic Development and social equity.
References and links
Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Party and the Revolution (Lineamientos):
Links to reports by Wendy Holm, and an article about our trip: 
  • Presentation to the University of Havana Co-op Conference, February 2012."The December 2011 Havana Workshops: Reflections of Canadian co-operators on Cuba’s Economic Transformation and Decentralization."
  • "Walking the Walk: Cuba’s Path to a More Cooperative and Sustainable Economy." Report on the outcomes of an informal Havana
  • "There are many lessons to be learned here..." The Havana Reporter, Feb 17,
This article was featured in Cooperative Grocer, Issue 160 June 2012, the bi-monthly trade magazine for food cooperatives in North America.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

View from Miami of Cooperativism

Analysis: Adjusting the socialist model: Cooperatives


By José Manuel Pallí, Esq.

The notion that workers/owners could effectively and efficiently direct production in a given business organization within the tenets of a market-based economic system has historically been branded as utopian. This is even more so the case today.

Faced by the ever more pronounced crisis of a system driven by poorly understood financial forces (even by those who claim to master the universe), the defenders of the dogmas and mantras of a no less utopian neo-liberalism cling to the fraudulent argument that it is either their way or the communist party's way.

In fact, this false dichotomy seems to be grounded on both Marxism's and Neo-Liberalism's reliance on a particular "institution" that is key to their respective socio-economic construct: the Ministry or Department of Wishful Thinking (an institution that has achieved church or cult-like status in Miami, where I live).

Cooperativism in agricultural activities is deeply rooted in the Cuban experience. The Taínos, who inhabited the island when Columbus landed, did not recognize individual ownership of land and tilled and cultivated it collectively, in a sort of productive association.

The spirit of cooperativism can also be found in the number of fincas or haciendas comuneras — undivided (and, in many cases, factually indivisible) ranches — that characterized and often complicated the land tenure system that preceded the Cuban Revolution (a problem that you are bound to find throughout the world, specially in the less wealthy parts of it).

Although this form of land ownership, known elsewhere as proindiviso, is, in essence, private ownership of land, it often compels those forced into co-ownership to engage in associative production schemes, at least for as long as the land remains undivided.

Among the steps taken by the Cuban government to offset the effects of the crisis of the 1990s (a.k.a. Periodo Especial) was the creation of the basic units for cooperative production (unidades básicas de producción cooperativa, or UBPC), presumably a way to streamline food production at a time when Cuba had lost close to 80 percent of its trading partners due to the demise of the Soviet empire.

Decreto Ley 142 of 1993 was aimed at increasing agricultural production by creating the incentives that would lead individual campesinos to better use and conserve the land, getting the most out of it at the lowest possible level of costs and governmental expenses.

Originally conceived for what was still then Cuba's main productive industry, that of sugar, the creation of the UBPCs fell short because it ignored what the law itself and its enabling regulations claimed was one of its basic tenets: autogestión.

Any autonomy that the law nominally extended to the UBPCs[1] was severely watered down by subjecting them to the dictates of the Ministries of Sugar and of Agriculture.

Small wonder then that, beginning in 1997, individual campesinos who owned their lands — there are well over 100,000 such small landowners of less than 5 caballerías[2] in Cuba — and some who hold land in usufruct, began forming independent agricultural cooperatives throughout the island.

Despite efforts by the Cuban Government to manipulate this process and despite the lack of financing, these individuals' pursuit of economic independence through solidarity and mutuality of interests has been successful to some extent and at different levels.

It is this sense of achievement, even if modest, that should be used to gauge the success of the cooperative movement as an economic form of production (beyond agriculture) and as a vehicle for the satisfaction of collective goals in the Cuba of the future.

And in order to more effectively gauge that success, it could be helpful to be free of ironclad notions about what success and other concepts — including property rights — actually mean for people with views and priorities that may differ from ours.

For instance, in other societies that have emerged from behind the Iron Curtain or from authoritarianism in the recent past, the present worldwide crisis has driven people to certain measures that we would consider anathema.

Not only are homeless people — families made homeless, in many cases, by mortgage foreclosures — taking over (occupying) unfinished apartment buildings in Spain and other countries with battered-down economies.

Even in Germany (in what used to be East Germany or the GDR) tenants are trying to figure out how to preserve their housing from ever escalating rental prices. Some of these tenants at risk are forming cooperatives in order to buy the buildings they inhabit — social housing still owned by government-controlled holding companies — before they are sold to profit-hungry private landlords.

Cuba has yet to publish the new rules that will govern cooperatives in the island. It would be good to see in those impending rules a stronger sign that cooperatives in all segments of Cuba's productive system will be truly independent and autonomous when they decide what to produce, what and who they sell to or buy from, even if they remain loosely integrated into a collective productive system that, at times, calls for state intervention in order to coordinate their activities with other socially desirable goals. It would be even better to see these other goals determined freely and democratically by all Cubans soon, without any exclusion whatsoever.

Utopian? Maybe. But not any more so than anything out of the mouth of Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan Chase …

Our next look into the way Cuba is trying to adjust its socialist model will explore the still not fully regulated and clarified use of derechos de superficie in Cuba, specially how they relate to the kind of rights foreign investors can expect to hold over Cuban real estate.
José Manuel Pallí is a Cuban-born member of the Florida Bar, originally trained as a lawyer in Argentina. He is president of Miami-based World Wide Title

[1] Resolución 354/93 (as amended) of the Ministry of Agriculture, which enacts the Reglamento General for the entities (UPBC or Unidad) created under DL 142/93, defines the Basic Unit for Cooperative Production as a business and social economic organization formed by workers and autonomously run, that is wired into the (national) production system.

[2] In "Cuban", one caballeria de tierra amounts to 13.42 hectares, or slightly more than 33 acres.

This entry was posted on Saturday, June 2nd, 2012 at 5:47 pm

A Canadian Perspective on Small Business Growth

Small business takes root in the new Cuba

March 18, 2012

In central Havana, not far from Revolutionary Square, a teal mural sports the words "Defend Socialism" in white capital letters. Just steps from the square, a sign says "53 years since our victory," referring to the communist revolution.

Despite the trappings, there are subtle fissures in the social fabric that Fidel Castro fought so hard to keep seamless during his reign. His younger brother, President Raul Castro, is making major concessions, allowing more Cubans to open up small businesses and make a living outside a meagre state-issued paycheque. They are concessions experts say are needed for the country to survive.

Before the economic reforms in late 2010, only 140,000 people in Cuba's workforce of four million- less than three per cent - were self-employed.

Approximately 350,000 Cubans have now been granted small business licences and that number is likely to grow.

Some ferry tourists across the cobblestone streets of Havana on three-wheeled bikes. Others have set up stands selling books, handmade jewelry, wooden trinkets and artwork, most of which immortalizes celebrated revolutionary figure Che Guevara.

Ernesto Estrada, 33, takes a taxi 20 kilometres every day from his home in Matanzas City to Varadero, the tourism heart of this tiny island, to work at his uncle's stand in a popular market. It costs him $2, but he quickly notes that's the fare for him, not tourists - most taxi drivers will charge $10 for tourists heading a few kilometres.

Estrada is encouraged by the new self-employment policy touted by Raul Castro.

"The government start to open the life for Cuban people," he said, pausing from his work to talk to me during a trip to the country in late February. "It's better for us," he added. "The pay [in Cuba] is very bad."

If his uncle sells $100 worth of portable wooden chess sets, carved wooden turtles or maps of Cuba painted on pieces of leather, Estrada will make $10 that day. That's not bad, considering most Cubans make $20 a month.

Estrada is trying to save money to open a stand of his own.

When the self-employment policy was announced in September 2010, Raul Castro promised to eliminate up to one million publicsector jobs by 2015, laying off 500,000 people by March 2011.

Archibald Ritter, an economist at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University who specializes in the Cuban economy, said the roll-out of the plan was a disaster. Layoffs had to be drastically scaled back, because the government had yet to liberalize the private sector or lift the debilitating restrictions on small business.

While some of the limitations on small businesses have been lifted, Ritter said they don't go far enough.

Up until November 2010, a private restaurant could only have 12 chairs. Now, restaurants can have 50 chairs.

Small businesses can employ a maximum of five people - an improvement from banning employees altogether.

The government still prohibits professional activities from being sold in a small-business enterprise. Businesses like accounting services, engineering consultancies and private law offices, which fill phone books in North America, are not allowed in Cuba.

The government is allowing many state-run businesses to shift to private enterprises selling the exact same service.

Ritter said this will make the economy more efficient, eliminating the complex and bureaucratic hierarchy that regulates state-run services.

"You have to have a big bureaucracy to organize everything. If they're just operated by little family firms, then each one is independent - they rise or fall depending on the demand they produce. So it's a direct relationship between the entrepreneur and the customer."

Francisco Yoslay, a charming, fashionably dressed 30-year-old, paced outside a cigar shop popular with tourists, briskly asking if they wanted fine Cuban cigars.

"Cohibas, I have Cohibas, very good price," he said with a smile.

Yoslay insists he gets them from family members who work in the state-run factory. Without having to pay the store commission, he can sell them at a better rate.

I asked if he considers himself a businessman and he replied: "Always."

"It's better than working for the government," he said, before leading me down a secluded alleyway to show off his wares.

Most people will tell you cigars not sold from behind a store counter are black market, but Yoslay's pitch was convincing. He rolled the thick Cohiba in his palms to show that the tobacco wouldn't fall out. He let customers smell the pungent aroma and showed off the engraved, cedar wood Cohiba box. One Canadian tourist took him up on the offer and bought 10 for 60 convertible pesos ($60).

Some of the government's draconian restrictions have led Cubans to cheat the system by stealing or selling services under the table.

Ritter said during a trip to Cuba last year, he was walking by a state-run cigar factory when he struck up a conversation with a night watchman.

The security guard asked Ritter if he wanted some cigars and led him to a cache of stolen cigars that he was selling out of the security booth.

- - -

Most Cubans live on a monthly income of $20 US, even though their country has a large professional workforce. The government provides people with housing, food rations, education and medical care.

As much as the ideology of socialism demands that there be no class divisions among the people, two distinct classes have emerged. There are those who work in the tourism business and those who don't.

More than two million tourists a year visit the Caribbean nation, providing the country with one of its main sources of revenue.

Waiters, bartenders, taxi drivers, tour guides and housekeepers are in the enviable position of making tips in Cuban convertible pesos, which are worth 25 times more than the Cuban peso.

Ismary Castillo, a waitress at a resort buffet in Varadero, is an engineer by profession. She took the job waiting tables to support her extended family. In addition to tips, tourists also shower her with a host of North American consumer goods - things like shampoo, makeup and brand-name clothes. Most of the coveted items go to her 17-year-old daughter, who is studying to get into a university architecture program.

Castillo said her daughter, Isis, sometimes gets frustrated studying and working so hard for what will be little pay in the future.

"My daughter, she say, 'Mom, why I study here? There is nothing.' I say, 'It's your future. If you do go to another country, you have to be a professional.' She says, 'But you're an engineer and you're waitressing.' But I'm always an engineer. I have that."

Hamet Manson Guerra, 42year-old, is a taxi driver, barman and mechanic. He has two sons, ages 15 and seven, whom he's encouraging to learn English fluently in the hopes that when they are older, they'll be able to leave the country for opportunities abroad.

Cubans are not allowed to leave the country unless they marry a non-Cuban, are artists or intellectuals or are sponsored by someone outside the country. Those who leave rarely come back for fear of reprisals.

"The people want to see a difference, they want to feel more freedom, you know what I mean?" said Guerra, wearing a crisp white shirt and perspiring in the hot Havana sun while taking a break from his taxi service. "The people can buy house, can sell it, can buy car, can buy the engines."

Guerra said the move to allow more small businesses is evident on the bustling streets of Havana.

"You can see - everybody have a small cafeteria, people open some restaurants, they drive the three-wheeled taxis," he said.

Santiago Pons said he makes good money running a taxi service in Varadero.

"It's a good business now - it's good money, driving taxi," he said from behind the wheel of a shiny white 1955 Cadillac Eldorado with a red interior and a loud engine.

"This is the only one in Cuba," he said with pride.

Pons also makes money repairing cars, a steady business given that most Cuban cars are decades old, thanks to the ban on foreign imports. "You [meet] many people, it's a nice job," he said.

Ritter doesn't see Cuba's economic reforms as a major shift in ideology so much as a necessary move to keep the economy afloat.

"It means that the regime is trying to save itself," he said. "The Castro brothers have been the dominating force for more than half a century. They want to get the economy working well, but with themselves in power."

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