Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cuba's Potential Role

Outside the Box
April 4, 2012, 12:01 a.m. EDT

Cuba could be key to Caribbean basin

Commentary: Island is a sterling example of managing scarcity

By Patrick Burnson
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — With the Panama Canal expansion on schedule for completion in 2014, supply chain specialists are anticipating a logistical hub to surface in the Caribbean Basin.
For those investors and traders eyeing opportunities in Cuba, the timing couldn’t be better. As noted in the Wall Street Journal recently, money managers are “optimistic” when it comes to finally eliminating this nation’s 50-year-old trade embargo. And initial barriers to entry should not include logistics, say industry experts.

Frank Barnako
Cuban street
Furthermore, Cuba may not need outside expertise to cope with immediate supply chain problems. According to some leading scholars and practitioners, Cuba is a sterling example of how to manage “scarcity.” They note that operating under resource scarcity already exists there, with businesses facing daily lack of food, medicine, electricity, and raw materials. View MarketWatch slide show, “The revealing faces of today’s Cuba.”
Despite this, the resourcefulness of Cuba’s people has triumphed to some extent. Reverse logistics experts observe that Cuba has created supply chains that re-use and recycle almost everything, despite the lack of government-mandated recycling programs. Indeed, such adaptation may augur the type of closed loop supply chains needed by other emerging nations in the future.
The long-term challenges around opening trade with Cuba would revolve around the issues of customs and export compliance, in particular the infrastructure to support the safe and fully documented movement of those goods.

Frank Barnako
Getting there:
It is relatively easy to go to Cuba, since the U.S. government recently eased restrictions. U.S. citizens need to sign up with a tour company authorized by the Department of the Treasury. Charter flights serve Havana from Miami and other airports will soon be available.

U.S. citizens can go to Cuba alone. They must first go to a foreign city that has service to Havana. Toronto and Mexico City work well. Upon return, travelers may face questions about their trip.

With a drive to increase levels of electronic clearance and export documentation, the lack of investment in computerized systems — and the integration of those systems into the U.S. import/export world — would represent a complication, albeit a surmountable one, say compliance experts.
This could be ameliorated, however, by leveraging systems already in place through Cuba’s trade with the EU and Latin America, since our trade embargo with Cuba is increasingly unique.
To the extent that it has the hard currency to support trade at all, Cuba gets most of its imports from the EU and its neighbors to the south. But this can change in a hurry. Automotive parts, technology and manufacturing materials, as well as luxury items particular to the U.S. market are likely to be in high demand.
That said, it is likely that over the long term, U.S.-based producers would seek to build their own infrastructure within Cuba’s boundaries in order to better embed their business into the U.S. market.
According to the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index, Cuba already performs in the median range. Cuba’s economy is mostly state-controlled, meaning most of the means of production are owned and run by the government.
The London-based Economist Intelligence, meanwhile, ranks the Cuban business environment as one of the world’s worst. In recent years, it was placed as number 80 of 82 nations surveyed, with only Iran and Angola rated lower. However, some forms of foreign investments and private enterprise are allowed. The main sectors of the Cuban economy are industrial production and sugar cultivation. In recent years, tourism, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry are also gaining importance.

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Finally, U.S. investors might wish to look to another hemispheric partner as a model for doing business with this tiny island nation: Canada. Our northern neighbors figured out Cuba’s supply chain long ago.
Canada’s investment, trade and cultural links with Cuba are substantial. In fact, Canada is the second-largest foreign investor in Cuba (after Venezuela) and the third-ranking country in terms of joint ventures. Canada is also Cuba’s fourth-largest merchandise trade partner, behind Venezuela, China, and Spain.
Analysts in Toronto report that a discernible pattern in Canada-Cuba commercial relations to date is that trade has tended to follow investment. In other words, a significant share of Canadian exports to Cuba targets sectors with notable Canadian investments. This is typically the result of an existing synergy between traders and investors that provides clear advantages in the home country and makes commercial sense, not necessarily because of a particular preference for Canadian suppliers.
“Have a Havana?” The supply chain seems ready to oblige. But while rum supplies are likely to meet U.S. demand, tobacco growers and cigar manufacturers are likely to be overwhelmed with orders. As a consequence, industry experts are forecasting a surge in that other great Cuban export: counterfeit Figurados.
Patrick Burnson is executive editor of Supply Chain Management Review and Logistics Management 

Repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act

Time to revisit the Cuban Adjustment Act 

Congress passed the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act in 1966 as a pragmatic solution to a very real problem. As its name makes clear, the CRAA was intended to “adjust” the status of nearly 300,000 Cubans already in the United States who had been admitted with a temporary “refugee” visa.

That visa did not put them on a path to citizenship, and so the act was passed to take them out of that limbo by granting them permanent residency. Neither the granting of the original refugee visa nor the awarding of permanent immigrant status under the CRAA required establishing a need for political asylum on the part of the applicant. Those measures were applied in a blanket fashion to any Cuban entering or already residing in the U.S.

In fact, one could argue that the CRAA is the antithesis of an asylum-granting process. The only Cubans who need to make a case for asylum, on an individual basis, are those not covered under CRAA, that is, those who are outside the United States., such as those intercepted at sea by the Coast Guard (“wet-foots”) or those applying for asylum at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. But if you’re here, you’re in, thanks to CRAA, with no need to establish asylum credentials.

One of the tenets of exile lore is that the recent arrivals from the island came for less loftier reasons than the grandparents and parents of his generation half a century ago. That was mentioned in a recent Other Views piece by Joe Cardona. The former came for political reasons, “uprooted” by the Revolution, whereas the latter are somewhat akin to mercenaries, migrating for “economic” reasons.

That might be true, but that is an empirical question, subject to being verified by research, assuming one can neatly disentangle and dichotomize the complex reasons why anyone migrates. What is true, however — and my point here — is that those who arrived from Cuba just yesterday will have their status normalized through the same process by which the grandparents and parents of Cardona’s generation normalized their status, without establishing the need for asylum. As far as the CRAA is concerned, one group is as “political” (or not) as the other.

A current proposal by Rep. David Rivera to tinker with the CRAA so as to coerce those who have recently arrived from Cuba into behaving like political refugees by threatening to revoke their residency in the United States should they return to the island to visit their families. Presumably, political refugees, fleeing persecution, cannot return to their country of origin.

But since these “refugees” were never required to declare themselves to be in need of asylum to stay in the United States and since they are obviously willing and able to return to Cuba, this move by Rivera has an entirely fictional basis. But the consequence of his efforts will be real: Put a chill on family travel to Cuba as part of the war he has long waged against the reunification of the Cuban family.

If Rivera believes that migrants from Cuba are no longer conforming to what is expected of political refugees, then he should have the political fortitude to advocate for the elimination of the special migratory status of Cubans, that is, repeal the CRAA instead of tinkering with it. Not that Cuban immigrants have always conformed to the behavior Rivera expects of political refugees.

Conveniently overlooked is any mention of the more than 125,000 U.S. Cubans who returned to Cuba to visit at the very first opportunity for them to do so, in 1979, even before the Mariel boatlift, at a time when most of those returning must have been the grandparents and parents of Cardona’s generation. The ones who, we are told, were the true political refugees.

Lisandro Pérez, formerly the director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, is now professor and chair of the Department of Latin American and Latina/o Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.

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Ramy on the Pope and Marxism in Cuba

An opinion about a Papal statement

Monday, 26 March 2012 09:37 Manuel Alberto Ramy

By Manuel Alberto Ramy

Marxism, which is nothing more than an instrument of analysis for society, was condemned by the Catholic Church more than a century ago. Leon XIII's papal encyclical Rerum novarum (1891) can even be assumed to be a response – the first one from a Pope – to that nascent ideology. The ideological differences between Catholic doctrine and Marxism, as a theory, go a long way back.

The novelty, pointed out to me by several readers and friends who have asked for my opinion, lies in a recent statement by His Holiness Benedict XVI with relation to his trip to Cuba. Traveling in the papal plane was the excellent journalist and Vatican specialist Paloma Gómez Borrero, who, with a direct question that was answered by His Holiness, unleashed some headlines that were a bit forced.

At one point in his reply (the exchange appears in Progreso Semanal), His Holiness says, “Today it is evident that Marxist ideology, as it was conceived, no longer responds to reality. In this fashion, it can no longer respond to the construction of a new society.”

In addition to having been the guardian of the faith during John Paul II's papacy, Benedict XVI is an intellectual, theologian and philosopher who has published about 20 books. He knows about thought, from his ideology, and also knows how to use the precise words to express himself.

The concept “no longer responds to reality,” he says –leaving open the question that, at some point, it might have responded to it – and continues by saying that “in this fashion” it's not valid for “the construction of a new society.” “This fashion,” I think, refers to the practice of applied Marxism, which to a great degree imploded in the former socialist republics, those in the so-called real socialism.

If I am right, we are not looking at a forced reiteration of positions in the field of ideas but to a statement about the experiences we've all lived.

It happens that His Holiness comes to Cuba when our country is going through a crucial moment in its history called an Actualization, which, in addition to reforming the socioeconomic system that has existed for half a century, is trying to erase old schemes of the Marxist praxis, copied from the USSR.

The Pope who visits us now is not the same Pope who visited us 14 years ago. But he also does not arrive to the same Cuba, which is something he knows. He will arrive into a society and country that are living through a process that leads to social and economic changes.

“In this process, which requires patience but also decisiveness, we wish to help in a spirit of dialogue, to avoid traumas and to help achieve a fraternal and just society with – for all the people, and we want to collaborate in this sense.”

“This visit has inaugurated a road of collaboration and constructive dialogue, a road that is long and demands patience but goes forward,” the Pope answered the journalist.

These words mean not only a disposition toward our government but also support for the bet on that option that the Cuban Catholic hierarchy has placed. Because of that decision, the Cuban hierarchy has been suffering attacks and pressures from powerful external forces, mainly from the administration in Washington.

That administration does not agree with Cuba's aspiration to make reforms that will lead to a new model of internal coexistence capable of excluding U.S. domination, or a model where the adoration of money does not prevail, something that the Pope mentioned in another context and upon which I wish he had been more forceful. (Marxism was a response to the then-emerging capitalism, which has since become globalized.)

Putting Washington aside, I opine that one of the possible objectives of the recent events in several churches – aside from the clear objective of pushing Church-state relations into a crisis – could be to alter the consensus that exists within the national hierarchy and turn it into confrontation.

“It is obvious that the Church is always on the side of freedom: freedom of conscience, freedom of religion. In this sense [INAUDIBLE] also contribute the simple faithful in this road forward,” the Pope said.

With all due respect, I cannot overlook and must lament the fact that His Holiness called "simple faithful" those who form the Church, which is nothing more than the communion of the faithful, the millions of people worldwide who share and practice the faith and preachings of the Son of God, the putative son of carpenter Joseph and Mary the virgin. Without the simple faithful, there would be no Church, only an institutional skeleton.

Progreso Semanal/ Weekly authorizes the total or partial reproduction of the articles written by our journalists, so long as the source and author are identified.

Carlos Saladrigas Speaks in Havana

Anti Castro activist condemns the blockade and urges support for the budding private sector
Sunday, 01 April 2012 07:40 Gerardo Arreola/la Jornada

Carlos Saladrigas appeals for an end to confrontation
By Gerardo Arreola
From La Jornada

Cuban American businessman Carlos Saladrigas, who over a decade ago was a prominent anti Castro hardliner in Miami, spoke today in public for the first time in Havana, under the auspices of the Catholic Church – Saladrigas rejected the U.S. blockade against the island and asked émigrés to eradicate the “confrontation model” and support, with resources, the budding private sector promoted by President Raúl Castro’s reform.

“A large part of that diaspora that we call exile has reached the conclusion that it is neither ethical nor sustainable to maintain policies or positions of isolation, alienation and economic sanctions that hurt our people, and even less when you do it through the intervention of a foreign country,” he said. “It is neither acceptable nor licit to harm the Cuban people in order to achieve a change of government”.

Saladrigas, 63, gave a lecture at the Félix Varela Cultural Center invited by Espacio Laical, a magazine of the Havana Archbishopric. The room was packed with some 100 people as diverse as the Vicar of the Catholic Church and essayist Carlos Manuel de Céspedes; academics Carlos Alzugaray and Esteban Morales; Pedro Campos and Félix Sautié, editors of the Socialismo Democrático y Participativo newsletter; members of the Communist Party and political opponents Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Miriam Leiva and Reinaldo Escobar.

"Cuba’s problems are many, but they are our problems, and we have to solve them among ourselves,” Saladrigas said.

“We are running out of time. Let us tear down the walls we have built and construct the necessary bridges, and let us face the task of building a new Cuba, a free, sovereign, inclusive, prosperous, diverse, wealthy, fair, equitable Cuba, one that is generous to the weaker sectors of our society.”

His emphasis on the solution among Cubans was equaled by his skepticism of Washington changing its policy toward the island in the near future. He even predicted that “it is very probable and possible that in the coming years we will see that Cuba is changing at a faster pace than the United States can react to.”

He also remarked that “nothing can have more impact” on U.S. policy than “Cuba’s aperture.”

A member of a family linked to the Fulgencio Batista regime deposed by the revolution in 1959, Saladrigas began the new relation with his home country almost a year ago when Palabra Nueva, another publication of the Archbishopric of Havana, interviewed him. At the time he launched the idea that emigrant investments should flow to the island, like China did in its time, and his words unleashed a controversy in Progreso Weekly, a U.S.-based digital magazine focused on Cuban affairs.

His conference in Havana is another step forward in his insertion in the Cuban debate.

He further elaborated on the need for change, both for the U.S. administration and the Cuban government, and also among émigrés and their local politicians.

A Personal and Political Dialog with the Church

My first Mass

By Jesús Arboleya Cervera
My first Mass-Jesús Arboleya CerveraHAVANA - Although I was baptized Jesús (for reasons that I was never curious enough to find out), my personal contacts with the Catholic Church have been scant.
My father was a mason-turned-agnostic and my mother did not practice any religion. My grandmothers worshiped the saints at home and although an aunt became a famous Santera, the syncretic rituals were not a common practice in the family.
I always studied in public schools, did not take first communion, was not married by the Church, did not baptize my daughters, and the closest I was to a confession was during self-criticism sessions within the Communist Party.
Obviously, I'm not a typical Cuban, generally close to religion, but my history demonstrates the disparate and sometimes conflicting influences in our ideological formation. However, this distance did not generate disinterest in Catholicism, or rejection towards people who practice this religion.
In fact, Catholicism is part of my own culture, I absorbed it in my neighborhood, in the study of my country's history, my tastes and traditions and, above all, in my social relationships.
To a degree, I am also a Catholic, although I do not believe in God and reject the institutional patterns that acknowledge the supposed infallibility of the Pope and promote ideas that I consider archaic, even potentially harmful to human welfare.
I find it paradoxical that a religion that had its origin in the struggle of the poor and proclaims itself as such – I'd like to think that that's why my parents named me Jesús – revels in luxury and ostentation to express itself and has a history of partnership with the exploiters.
If the Virgin of Charity had worn the cloak of gold and precious stones in which she's clothed today, she would have sunk hopelessly into the sea and never would have become the patroness of Cuba.
That cultural community was what impressed me the most when I attended my first Mass on March 28 at Revolution Square in Havana. I met people of all colors for whom the Virgin is Ochún, couples who displayed more love for each other than for “the Holy Father” and old communist friends who questioned the meaning of their presence in that act.
I also met a trio of devout practitioners who complained about the ignorance of the rest of the crowd during the liturgy, as well as young Catholics who obviously enjoyed proclaiming their belief in a climate of acceptance and respect. I recognized in the crowd some notorious “dissidents” and former leaders of the nation that no longer are on the public stage.
The truth is that I could not identify the pilgrims from Miami, maybe because they looked like everybody else or because, following the norms of Vatican protocol, they were placed in an area to which I had no access.
I do not think that the Pope's homily generated much passion among those present. Perhaps it was too doctrinaire in an environment that did not contribute to the meditation requested, but I guess that that was its job and those were its goals.
However, the Pope’s call to the rescue of human values ​​as a standard for social behavior is undoubtedly of vital importance and constitutes, by its very nature, a criticism of the current world order. Also in Cuba it is necessary to reinforce these ethical values ​​and helping to highlight them is one of the Catholic Church’s main contributions to the nation right now.
I cannot deny that my education and intellectual interests lead me to prioritize the understanding of the political role of the Catholic Church at various times in history, particularly in Cuban history. To deny this role is to ignore the history of mankind and ignore an essential ingredient of the formation of the Cuban nation and the country's political struggles.
Although earlier in Cuba, and currently in many places, the Catholic Church has promoted political parties and organizations, which implies a commitment to certain programs and specific alignments, this is not the case in Cuba today.
Which does not imply that the Church does not have its own political interests and attempts to influence the direction of government structures and the rest of society in that regard, with the addition that the Catholic Church worldwide is a state and behaves as one.
The challenge for the Cuban state and the Catholic Church itself is to reconcile these interests in an inclusive national project, where they are not the only actors.
Nowhere has the Catholic Church, as an institution and as a state, proclaimed to be an ally of socialism, and in Cuba it certainly isn’t. In fact, for many years, it declared itself the state’s enemy and was an active participant in a fierce battle, whose aftermath remains alive on both sides. The most that can be said is that good relations and a constructive dialogue now exist between the parties.
This is no minor achievement. So much so, that probably only in Cuba there is a formal dialogue between Marxists and Christians. However, we continue talking about two divergent positions, from both the doctrinal point of view, and their political views. The change in mindset does not lie in ignoring this reality but in assuming it and finding points of reconciliation in a context where the differences are given.
I think that, rather than a limitation, this divergence conveys the importance of dialogue between the State and the Catholic Church in Cuba. Only Miami schizophrenics can say that the Church is an accomplice of the Cuban government. The legitimacy of this dialogue lies precisely in the fact that they are opponents duly accredited as such.
If the Cuban government can dialogue with the Catholic Church and find ways to coexist, it can do the same with anyone who does not undermine the basic principles of national sovereignty. This is something that was stressed by both President Raúl Castro and the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Msgr. Dionisio Garcia.
This concurrence is capital, because it reflects both the essence of the Cuban Revolution and the transformations that have taken place in the composition of the Catholic Church in this country. I think that, for the first time since the 18th Century, when it ceased to be a Spanish-rooted institution, the Catholic Church in Cuba can be justly considered Cuban.
Cuban are most of its authorities and priests and therefore Cuban are their minds, their culture and national aspirations, which facilitates understanding, regardless of differences.
Such a dialogue could be very broad, because it will be developed not only between the parties but also inside themselves and the rest of society, including the émigrés, opening spaces for participation in which all Cubans would be included, thus channeling a national consultation process that will be essential for the future of the nation. From this equation would be excluded only those who are not patriots, easily identifiable by their intentions, practices and subordination.
For these reasons I attended my first Mass on March 28. Some may say that that doesn’t count because I was not summoned by my faith in God, or that it was not a traditional Mass, but perhaps that was the reason for its appeal. Also I did not start badly; the Pope officiated, and I watched the service in the company of my people, who have the right to believe or disbelieve in whatever deities they please, yet they’d rather do it together.