lunes, 30 de julio de 2007

Alabama farmers want to export more to Cuba

Alabama farmers want to export more to Cuba


Cuba is under a comprehensive embargo of trade with the U.S. However,
there are several categories of items that the Commerce Department can
approve for export to Cuba. These include:

* Medicines and medical devices.
* Low-level telecommunications equipment.
* Items for news bureaus and groups that promote democracy.
* Sales and donations of agriculture commodities.

Source: Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security
By Marty Roney, USA TODAY
JASPER, Ala. — Dorman Grace looks over his north Alabama farm and
wonders how chickens may play a role in ending the trade embargo between
Cuba and the United States.

Grace, a third-generation poultry and cattle farmer, and others like
him, are already able to do business with Cuba under a law passed by
Congress in 2000 allowing the sale of humanitarian and agricultural
products to the island nation, which slightly eased the trade embargo in
place since 1962.

Since the law began to be implemented in 2001, Cuba has imported about
$1.55 billion in goods from the United States, according to the
U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. The Cuban market is large: The
nation imports half to two-thirds of its staples, according to a July
U.S. International Trade Commission report.

Alabama has been aggressively taking advantage since 2003.

The U.S. Commerce Department estimates Cuba will import $300 million to
$350 million in goods from the USA this year. Alabama will provide about
a third of that, at $100 million to $120 million in goods, according to
the state's Department of Agriculture and Industries.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: Alabama | Cuba | Cuban | Ala | Sparks | Trade |
Jasper | Forest Products | Marty Roney

That's consistent with recent history. Alabama businesses exported $100
million or more of goods to Cuba in each of the past three years,
according to state figures.

A 2005 Texas A&M study showed Arkansas leading the nation with exports
to Cuba, with an estimated $167 million in trade a year. Alabama was
second at $120 million, followed by California ($98 million), Iowa ($71
million) and Texas ($54 million). Many Alabama farmers would like to see
that business expand further.

"It's a global world we live in," says Grace, 51, whose farm produces
about 110,000 chickens a year. "We need markets for what we produce.
Unlike the American market, the Cuban market prefers dark meat, so
that's beneficial. We trade with countries around the world. Why not Cuba?"

Last year, 66% of the wheat imported by Cuba came from the USA. Other
staples imported included: corn, 71%; rice, 77%; poultry, 65%; pork,
42%; soybeans, 100%; and animal feed, 76%, according to a July U.S.
International Trade Commission report.

The effort has even reached state-controlled media in Cuba. The Granma
daily newspaper, which on its website proclaims it the "Official Organ
of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba," is printed on
newsprint made at three south Alabama paper mills, according to Ron
Sparks, Alabama's commissioner of Agriculture and Industries.

Grace has worked with Sparks since he was elected commissioner in 2002
on increasing trade with Cuba.

"When I was elected to my first term, the poultry farmers in the state
were in a bind. Agriculture as a whole was in a bind," Sparks says. "We
needed to expand our markets. Cuba is a natural trading partner. Cuba
only raises 30% of what they eat. There are 11 million people in Cuba
who need to eat."

Sparks says he knows many people disagree with his position.

"There's a lot of folks in South Florida who have a different opinion
than I do," he says. "I hope they see we are trying to make it better
for the Cuban people. We're not selling them bullets or tanks or
aircraft. We are selling them peanut butter, syrup and shingles."

Sales have been somewhat limited by requirements that Cuba make the
payments in full before shipments leave American ports.

Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez said earlier this year that it
would be "naive" to think that easing trade restrictions would improve
conditions in Cuba. He spoke about the embargo at a Council of the
Americas meeting in Washington.

"The question is not when will the U.S. change its policy. The question
is when will the Cuban regime change its policy," he said. "Years of
foreign investment have not improved the lives of average Cubans, only
the lives of those in power."

Many Alabama farmers, however, see trade as a positive for both countries.

"I love my country, and I think capitalism holds the most promise for
the world," says Sam Peak, who owns about 300 acres of timberland in
central Alabama. He sells trees through a broker to Cahaba Pressure
Treated Forest Products in Brierfield, Ala. The company sells poles and
lumber products to Cuba.

"Who knows, maybe expanded trade with Cuba could lay the groundwork for
real change in that country," Peak says. "Sooner or later, the markets
in Cuba, all the markets, are going to open up."

Roney reports for The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser.

Keep pushing state trade with Cuba

July 30, 2007
Keep pushing state trade with Cuba

I's the perfect match -- a buyer who needs the things a seller makes, a
lot of those things. Capitalism doesn't get any better than that.

So it is with Alabama and Cuba, and that is why the state's efforts to
promote trade with the island nation deserve broad support. The
45-year-old trade embargo that needlessly limits commerce between Cuba
and American producers is a demonstrated failure that should have been
abandoned long ago.

As the Advertiser's Marty Roney recently reported, about one-third of
the limited U.S. exports to Cuba come from Alabama. There's potential
for much more trade because, put simply, Cuba needs what Alabama
produces -- particularly forest products and poultry, but also a number
of other products.

"Cuba is a natural trading partner," said state Agriculture Commissioner
Ron Sparks, long an advocate of expanded trade. "The Port of Mobile is
600 miles from Cuba. It takes two days for a ship to make the trip. Cuba
only raises 30 percent of what they eat. There are 11 million people in
Cuba who need to eat."

Cuba is going to import foodstuffs, forest products and the other things
it can't produce internally from somewhere, so why not from Alabama
producers, who are well positioned not only to make the needed products,
but also to ship them out of Mobile? It's hard to imagine a more
mutually beneficial situation.

The only real sticking point is the trade embargo, enacted in 1962. That
was 45 years ago by the calendar, but it was eons ago in a geopolitical
sense. The world is a vastly different place now and a Cold War-era
policy that was ineffective then isn't going to miraculously start
working now.

The issue, of course, is the lingering communist regime of Fidel Castro
in Cuba. Age and illness make it clear that his days are numbered. Even
clearer is the fact that the embargo, aimed at bringing down Castro's
regime, did nothing of the kind. He certainly never missed a meal
because of it, and the embargo's only harm was inflicted upon the Cuban
people and on potential trading partners elsewhere in the world.

As Sparks has correctly noted, Alabama's trade with Cuba is not fueling
some military threat to the United States. "We're not selling them
bullets or tanks or aircraft," he said. "We're selling them peanut
butter, syrup and shingles. Alabama has shipped 25 million utility poles
to Cuba."

Yet U.S. officials cling to the ludicrous positions that the embargo
will force changes in Cuban policy and easing it will not improve the
lot of the average Cuban, only that of those in power there. Can they
really believe that those 25 million utility poles only brought services
to the powerful, or that those tens of thousands of Alabama chickens
only graced the tables of the influential?

Even with the embargo, Alabama producers did about $120 million in
business with Cuba in 2006. The potential for far greater trade is
undeniable, and it is foolish not to tap it -- or, more accurately, not
to be allowed to tap it.

"I wouldn't tell any administration what to do, but I think it's time we
ended the embargo," Sparks said. "We don't have embargoes or trade
restrictions with China and Vietnam and we had two shooting wars with
those countries."

He's right. No one, least of all Alabama producers, benefits from this
outdated and glaringly ineffective policy.

Sin salir de la retórica

Sin salir de la retórica

CEPAL publicó el 'récord' cubano de crecimiento el 26 de julio, el mismo
día en que Raúl Castro admitió que la economía no funciona.

Elías Amor Bravo, Valencia

lunes 30 de julio de 2007 6:00:00

Mientras Raúl Castro "denunciaba" en el discurso del 26 de julio la
falta de productividad de la economía cubana, la Comisión Económica para
América Latina (CEPAL) daba a conocer su Estudio Económico de América
Latina y el Caribe 2006-2007, en su 59ª edición. En éste, una vez más,
se abre un frente de controversia con las autoridades de La Habana por
las estimaciones del crecimiento económico.

Conviene recordar que el pasado año la denominada Oficina Nacional de
Estadística abría esta polémica con CEPAL, al atribuir a la economía
cubana un crecimiento del 11,8% en 2005, una cifra que el organismo no
podía asumir porque no empleaba la metodología utilizada en el resto de
países del continente, que es la aceptada por Naciones Unidas.

Como sucede en otras muchas cuestiones, el régimen castrista simplemente
se autoexcluye, ahora en una nueva versión del bloqueo que más le
conviene, esta vez en materia estadística. El nuevo informe que publica
CEPAL apunta una cifra de crecimiento económico del 12,5% para el año
2006, pero la entidad congela el dato y deja claro que su autoría
corresponde a las autoridades de la Isla.

No caben dudas de que este comportamiento va a tener graves
consecuencias a medio y largo plazo, por su imprudencia y temeridad, por
cuanto significa falta de credibilidad y rigor para el gobierno cubano
en el marco internacional. No conviene olvidar que los organismos
competentes de Naciones Unidas, como CEPAL, elaboran informes periódicos
con el objetivo no sólo de proporcionar datos sobre el devenir económico
de las naciones, sino de orientar las decisiones de los inversores
internacionales, basadas en la credibilidad del país.

No aceptar los modelos que se aplican en todas partes, es un ejemplo de
que el régimen de La Habana tiene la firme intención de ocultar sus
incompetencias en la pésima gestión de la economía, así como evitar
—aunque Raúl Castro haya dicho públicamente lo contrario— afrontar
cambios estructurales cuanto antes, y ofrecer esperanzas y hechos
concretos a las demandas y aspiraciones de 11 millones de cubanos que
luchan cada día por salir adelante en las peores condiciones.

Además, nadie en este momento con un conocimiento objetivo y real de la
economía nacional puede asumir que su crecimiento se sitúe siquiera en
la mitad de ese 12,5% defendido por el gobierno. Ir contra el sentido
común es mucho peor que cuestionar métodos objetivos de estimación
estadística aceptados por todos los países.

La polémica de las autoridades de la Isla con esta edición del balance
de CEPAL alcanza además datos sorprendentes. Ya en 2005, cuando el
régimen defendió el crecimiento del 11,8%, se produjo la primera
sorpresa. CEPAL decidió asumir la cifra, pero no integrarla como suya.
Este año, La Habana vuelve a incidir en la misma cuestión y ofrece una
estimación todavía mayor.

Pese a que 2006 ha sido un ejercicio positivo en toda la región, no
existe otro país en América Latina y el Caribe que registre cifras de
crecimiento siquiera parecidas, de acuerdo con la metodología común de
CEPAL, salvo Trinidad y Tobago, con un 12%, República Dominicana (10,7%)
o Venezuela (10,3%). El crecimiento a nivel regional asciende a un 5%, y
en el área del Caribe, ligeramente por encima, un 7,3%. Nada que ver con
las cifras ofrecidas por el régimen, que una vez más arroja serias
sombras de duda y sospecha sobre los procedimientos empleados para el
cálculo macroeconómico.

Desde un punto de vista objetivo, y atendiendo a las cifras que maneja
CEPAL sobre la economía de Cuba —relativas al comportamiento de los
sectores productivos, comercio exterior, deuda, sistema financiero y
fiscal, desempleo, precios, etcétera—, no cabe asumir una predicción de
crecimiento de la magnitud referida ni en el mejor de los escenarios
posibles; por lo que de antemano hay que rechazar el 12,5% ofrecido por
la Oficina Nacional de Estadística de Cuba.

De ese modo, nos encontramos nuevamente inmersos en la polémica y en la
más que justificada duda sobre qué ha sucedido, qué está sucediendo en
la economía nacional. En ausencia de rigor en los cálculos
macroeconómicos, la credibilidad se resiente. Buena nota deben tomar los
inversores internacionales que aún piensan que es posible apostar por
proyectos en la Isla, con los hermanos Castro al frente del poder político.

Las cifras hablan

Varias razones explican por qué es inverosímil que el consumo privado
—argumentado por el régimen como el principal motor del crecimiento—
haya aumentado en esa magnitud en un solo año.

* El sistema basado en la convivencia de dos monedas, el peso
cubano tradicional y el CUC o peso convertible, está produciendo una
grave asimetría en la composición y dinámica del gasto que es muy
difícil de cuantificar. El primero, equivale en el cambio a 24 pesos
cubanos, que apenas tienen poder de compra. El segundo, buscado con
intensidad por la sociedad, se cotiza al cambio 1,08 con el dólar, sin
duda con objetivos claramente fiscales. Esta dualidad monetaria incide
sobre los patrones de consumo, sin que ello pueda cuantificarse de forma

* Los estudios realizados en la Isla por diversos economistas
especializados, insisten en que la familia media necesita alrededor de
1.600 pesos mensuales (unos 72 dólares) para atender sus necesidades
básicas mínimas, por mucho que se alardee de los bienes y servicios que
se conceden a precios subvencionados vía racionamiento (a pesar de sus
45 años de existencia ininterrumpida, actualmente la libreta sólo
permite cubrir entre un cuarto y un tercio de las necesidades mínimas de
alimentos de las familias). Esto choca con el salario promedio en la
Isla, que según la Oficina Nacional de Estadística se sitúa en 387
pesos, es decir, unos 18 dólares al mes. A ello hay que añadir otro
peligroso enemigo de cualquier economía: la inflación, que no ha hecho
más que aumentar de forma continua en la Isla en los últimos años
pasando del 3% en 2004 al 5,7% en 2006; es decir prácticamente se ha
duplicado. Las alzas de precios erosionan las rentas monetarias y
reducen el potencial de gasto, a la vez que distorsionan los precios
relativos que sirven de información a los agentes.

* La existencia de un mercado negro de dimensiones difíciles de
estimar, en el que se puede conseguir prácticamente de todo, sin
restricción alguna, y que se instaurado en un peculiar sistema de
clandestinidad vigilada y consentida, que el régimen utiliza en
beneficio propio, para evitar el caos social.

Con estos elementos, ¿qué se puede afirmar del crecimiento en el consumo
aludido por las autoridades cubanas, precisamente cuando este es el
punto más débil? En efecto, entre 1996 y 2003, el consumo creció a una
tasa media del 2,4%, que según la estadística oficial se ha acelerado a
partir de esa fecha hasta un 7,5% promedio de 2004 a 2006 (incluyendo la
cifra más reciente en cuestión).

Sin embargo, es preciso tener en cuenta que en el período 1989-1996,
precisamente durante el Período Especial, el consumo total en la Isla
descendió como promedio un 6,4% anual. Luego es evidente que el
"esfuerzo" realizado en estos últimos años sigue manteniendo el nivel de
consumo por debajo del que existía en 1989. Y, desde luego, con los
estándares históricos del régimen castrista, no se puede calificar
aquella situación como positiva.

La economía cubana no admite más retrasos en la adopción de decisiones
que realmente signifiquen un cambio hacia el mercado, los derechos de
propiedad y la sustitución del intervencionismo totalitario que ha
limitado sus posibilidades de desarrollo y calidad de vida durante casi
medio siglo. No hay tiempo que perder.

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Analistas: Raúl Castro está ante el reto de reformar la economía sin molestar a su hermano

Analistas: Raúl Castro está ante el reto de reformar la economía sin
molestar a su hermano

Varios expertos coincidieron en que ningún cambio importante tendrá
lugar mientras Fidel Castro esté vivo.


lunes 30 de julio de 2007 17:04:00

AFP/ Washington. Raúl Castro, que reiteró la necesidad de reformar una
economía que estaría al borde del abismo sin la ayuda de Venezuela, se
enfrenta al rompecabezas de efectuar cambios urgentes sin molestar a su
hermano Fidel, dijeron analistas a la AFP.

"¿Cómo abrir la economía apaciguando a Fidel y dándole, al mismo tiempo,
algún tipo de esperanza a la gente? Ese es el talón de Aquiles del
gobierno cubano", afirmó Marifeli Pérez-Stable, de Diálogo
Interamericano, después que Raúl Castro reconociera el jueves la
necesidad de "cambios estructurales y de conceptos".

Para Janette Habel, del Instituto francés de Altos Estudios de América
Latina (IHEAL), las autoridades se enfrentan a otro dilema: "Por una
parte deben efectuar reformas económicas y, por otra, esas mismas
reformas pueden tener consecuencias sociales y amenazar la estabilidad
del régimen".

"Todas las medidas planeadas por cierto número de reformistas tendrán
como consecuencia, si se aplican ahora mismo, una caída del nivel de
vida para las categorías más pobres", predijo, al tiempo que subrayó la
necesidad de que el gobierno sea "fuerte para aplicarlas y soportar las

Los últimos resultados económicos cubanos dejan que desear: el turismo
bajó un 3,6% en 2006, la última cosecha azucarera apenas superó el
millón de toneladas y la Isla padece asimismo las consecuencias de la
asfixia financiera aplicada por Estados Unidos sobre los bancos.

Al asumir temporalmente el poder tras la enfermedad de su hermano, Raúl
Castro dejó entrever "suspiros de cambio", aunque todo quedó "congelado"
a principios de este año, en palabras de Pérez-Stable.

La analista atribuyó la parálisis al regreso de Castro: "Fidel no está
lo suficiente recuperado como para presentarse en público, pero está
conciente, elabora columnas para los periódicos y llama a la gente por
teléfono", dijo.

Jabel apuntó asimismo que "todas las iniciativas están paralizadas,
especialmente las reformas agrícolas que apuntan a crear más
cooperativas y darles mayor autonomía para estimular la producción" y
pronosticó que "ninguna reforma importante tendrá lugar mientras el
poder no sea transferido a Raúl".

Ian Vásquez, del CATO Institute, en Washington, fue todavía más lejos y
pronosticó que no habrá cambios hasta que Fidel desaparezca: "Mientras
viva, nadie se va a atrever a hacer los cambios que necesita Cuba.
Cuando muera, sí se puede abrir la posibilidad de algunos cambios, pero
van a ser más bien mínimos", añadió.

"Creo que esa es la peor situación posible para los sucesores y la
sucesión: que Fidel siga vivo", sentenció Pérez-Stable.

"La ciudadanía en Cuba sintió que, por los sucesos del año pasado, se
iba a empezar a mejorar algo. Eso no ha sucedido", subrayó. "En Cuba,
entre la gente normal y corriente debe de haber una tremenda frustración
porque ha pasado otro año y su vida no ha mejorado", sostuvo.

Según los expertos consultados, sin la ayuda del presidente venezolano,
Hugo Chávez, la situación en la Isla sería catastrófica. "Si Cuba
tuviera que pagar el barril de petróleo al precio de mercado, a 70 o 75
dólares, pienso que su economía habría colapsado", aseguró Habel.

Chávez, "le saca las castañas del fuego económico" a La Habana, al
suministrar a la Isla unos 92.000 barriles diarios de petróleo a precios
preferenciales, coincidió Pérez-Stable.

"Lo irónico es que Cuba, bajo el comunismo, siempre ha vivido de la
ayuda exterior y ahora mismo es más dependiente que nunca del mundo
exterior", subrayó Vásquez. "En esta oportunidad, Venezuela ha sido la
que salió al rescate de un sistema fracasado", concluyó.

domingo, 29 de julio de 2007

Capitalist notes in Cuban overture to West

Capitalist notes in Cuban overture to West
July 28, 2007

CAMAGUEY, Cuba: People were out in force to celebrate the 54th
anniversary of the Cuban revolution and to wish for a renewal in the
health of Fidel Castro.

Tens of thousands formed a sea of red in Camaguey's Plaza de la
Revolucion Agramonte, many chanting "Viva Fidel", to hear his brother
Raul call to push Cuba in a new direction.

Fidel is still hidden from the public after stomach surgery last July
and his prospects of returning to power remain uncertain.

His younger brother declared that Cuba was considering opening further
to foreign investment, allowing business partners to provide this
financially strapped nation with "capital, technology or markets".

The younger Castro's remarks, coupled with his unusual admission that
the Cuban Government needs to pay its vast cadres of state-employed
workers more to cover basic needs, amounted to the clearest indication
yet of how he might lead the nation. Raul Castro, 76, who was named
interim president on July 31 last year, vowed to partner only with
"serious entrepreneurs, upon well-defined legal bases".

He struck distinctly capitalist notes in this central Cuban city. But he
also was careful to appeal to party hardliners, saying any new business
deals must "preserve the role of the state and the predominance of
socialist property" and that the Government would be "careful not to
repeat the mistakes of the past, [which] owed to naivety or our
ignorance about these partnerships."

He even suggested that the US after the term of President George Bush
might play a role in his new Cuba, an idea quickly rejected by Washington.

"If the new US administration once and for all can set aside its
overbearing nature and talk in a civilised fashion, that will be most
welcome," Castro said.

But a US State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said: "The only
real dialogue he needs is with the Cuban people."

Lawmakers lukewarm on proposed Cuba policy changes

Lawmakers lukewarm on proposed Cuba policy changes
Jul 29, 2007 02:07 AM
CQ Researcher

Several pending bills call for altering or scrapping major elements of
U.S. policy toward Cuba, including the U.S. trade embargo and travel

Bills by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.,
and Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., would remove all travel limits. Rep. William
Delahunt, D-Mass., proposes just removing Bush administration
restrictions on family visits to Cuba.

Supporters of the Delahunt proposal argue that it stands a better chance
of passing than an abolition of all restrictions. They also argue that
if the travel ban were lifted for all Americans, Cuban authorities would
feel free to block access by Cuban Americans, who are seen as carriers
of the democracy virus.

"My biggest worry is that they might have enough tourist dollars from
all Americans that they might block Cuban Americans from entering,"
Carlos Saladrigas of Miami, co-chair of the Cuba Study Group.

Those who support an end to the ban argue that Delahunt's limited ban
amounts to thinking small.

"I'm worried about incrementalism," said Julia Sweig, Latin America
Studies director at the Council on Foreign Relations, who added: "We
need a broader policy that reflects our national interest, and right now
we don't have one. ... The better approach to take, in my view, is to
say: Let a thousand flowers bloom legislatively, in terms of travel, in
terms of getting rid of the embargo."

Nevertheless, the incremental approach has cropped up elsewhere. A
provision inserted in spending legislation would eliminate restrictions
on agricultural sales to Cuba. Bush threatened to veto the bill if it
reaches his desk.

"Lifting the sanctions now ... would provide assistance to a repressive
regime at the expense of the Cuban people," Bush said.

But the sales restrictions have long been unpopular in farm states. Rep.
Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who authored the provision, noted that the United
States trades freely with other repressive countries, including China.

"Why the double standard?" Moran asked.

Havana-born Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a staunch sanctions
supporter, expects no immediate major changes in Cuba policy. He says an
"overwhelming consensus" supports maintaining sanctions against Cuba
until it meets democratic standards, including the release of political

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Cuba's Call for Economic Detente

Cuba's Call for Economic Detente
Raúl Castro Hits Capitalist Notes While Placating Hard-Line Party Loyalists

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, July 27, 2007; A14

CAMAGUEY, Cuba, July 26 -- As one of history's longest-serving political
understudies, Raúl Castro often struggled to persuade his all-powerful
brother Fidel Castro to open Cuba's moribund economy to more foreign

But Thursday, with Fidel Castro still hidden from public view after
intestinal surgery last July and his prospects of returning to power
uncertain, the younger brother asserted his desire to push Cuba in a new
direction. Speaking at a ceremony commemorating the start of the 54th
anniversary of the Cuban revolution, Raúl Castro declared that Cuba is
considering opening itself further to foreign investment, allowing
business partners to provide this financially strapped nation with
"capital, technology or markets."

The younger Castro's remarks, coupled with his unusual admission that
the Cuban government needs to pay its vast cadres of state-employed
workers more to cover basic needs, amounted to the clearest indication
yet of how he might lead this island nation. Castro, who was named
interim president last July 31, vowed to partner only with "serious
entrepreneurs, upon well-defined legal bases."

Wearing his trademark tinted eyeglasses and military uniform, Castro,
76, struck distinctly capitalist notes before tens of thousands of
flag-waving Communist Party loyalists in this central Cuban city, set
amid cattle ranches 350 miles east of Havana. But he also was careful to
appeal to hard-line party leaders, saying that any new business deals
must "preserve the role of the state and the predominance of socialist
property" and that the government would be "careful not to repeat the
mistakes of the past, [which] owed to naivete or our ignorance about
these partnerships."

"These statements seem to be innovative, to be carrying them toward new
initiatives," Wayne Smith, an analyst at the Center for International
Policy and a former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, said
in an interview from his Washington office. "The Cuban people, who have
been waiting for some indication that there is going to be a change,
will really welcome this."

Fidel Castro's absence from the commemoration, an annual event honoring
the quixotic attack on the Moncada Barracks that launched Cuba's
revolution, added to the intrigue surrounding one of the singular
political figures of the 20th century. Thursday marked one year since
Castro's last public appearances, during speeches commemorating the
Cuban revolution, in Bayamo and Holguin.

At the time, "we could hardly expect what a hard blow was awaiting us,"
Raúl Castro said in the opening line of his address.

Five days after Fidel Castro's speeches last July 26, the Cuban
government made the startling announcement that he had undergone
emergency surgery and was relinquishing power, for the first time, to
his brother.

In recent months, Fidel Castro, who turns 81 next month, has seemed more
active, receiving foreign dignitaries and writing more than two dozen
sharply worded editorials. He has appeared weak and frail in several
recorded television segments, though his supporters, most notably
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, have insisted for months that he is

Raúl Castro, who made a low-key entrance Thursday while the audience was
distracted by a dance troupe, acknowledged that "these have truly been
very difficult months." But there has been "a diametrically different
impact to that expected by our enemies, who were wishing for chaos to
entrench and for Cuban socialism to collapse," he said.

The crowd formed a sea of red as participants streamed away from the
event in Camaguey's Plaza de la Revolucion Agramonte, many chanting
"Viva Fidel."

"It would have been great to see him today," Angel Morel, 56, a Camaguey
dairy manager, said after the speech. "But the commander in chief is
sick, and he needs time to recover."

Although Cubans seem to have accepted Raúl Castro's legitimacy, his
brother's absence has been unsettling to many, who had grown accustomed
to his four-hour speeches and impromptu neighborhood visits.

It is almost certain that Fidel Castro continues to wield great
influence, but it is equally clear that Cubans are preparing themselves
emotionally for life without him. In some respects, this past year has
unspooled like a dry run for the post-Fidel era and for his certain
evolution into a historic symbol, a la Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the
revolutionary figure whose legend has grown dramatically in the decades
since his death.

"Che is more active now than he ever was," renowned Cuban poet Pablo
Armando Fernández said in an interview. "Fidel will always live in the
minds of Cubans. He is electric -- like a messiah."

Fidel Castro is widely considered to have been an impediment to efforts
by his brother and other political figures to bring more businesses to
Cuba, where hundreds of miles of spectacular coastline are a developer's
dream. Cuba's economy finally opened in the 1990s, after the economic
crisis provoked by the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had heavily
subsidized the brothers' rule. Faced with a starving populace that was
grilling banana peels and eating house cats to survive, Fidel Castro
relented, allowing tourism businesses, which are administered by
generals under Raúl Castro's command.

The Spanish hotel giant Sol Melia built beach resorts and Havana hotels,
while other European and Canadian firms also established footholds.
Top-line Havana hotel rooms now go for $250 a night or more in a city
where workers are paid about $30 a month. U.S. companies are prohibited
from doing business in Cuba because of a four-decade-long embargo.

Foreign investment plateaued as Cuba's economy improved early this
century. Raúl Castro, friends say, was unable to persuade his brother to
further open the economy. But Thursday's remarks could signal that Raúl
Castro has consolidated power enough to continue advancing his agenda.
It is also likely that any investment would come from Cuban allies such
as Venezuela and China.

On Thursday, Raúl Castro even suggested that Cuba's sworn enemy, the
United States, might play a role in his new Cuba. He looked forward to
the 2008 U.S. presidential election and the end of what he called
President Bush's "erratic and dangerous administration."

"The new administration," he told the crowd, "will have to decide
whether it will maintain the absurd, illegal and failed policy against
Cuba or if it will accept the olive branch that we offered" in December.

Castro condemned the United States for using "corn, soy and other food
products" to produce fuel, saying prices for those food staples were
sure to rise. But he also leveled withering criticism at his countrymen
for "absurd inefficiencies" in food production that force Cuba to import
food and promised unspecified "structural changes."

When it came time to say goodbye, Raúl Castro, a plodding speaker with
none of his brother's rhetorical flourishes, returned to Cuba's one sure
applause line: "Long live the revolution! Long live Fidel!"

Cuba's interim leader says he will seek foreign investment

Posted on Thu, Jul. 26, 2007

Cuba's interim leader says he will seek foreign investment
The Washington Post

CAMAGUEY, Cuba | Interim President Raul Castro announced Thursday that
his government would seek to open Cuba to more foreign investment, the
clearest indication yet of his plans for ruling the nation.

Castro's ailing brother, Fidel Castro, did not appear at an event
commemorating the opening shots of the Cuban Revolution in 1953, raising
more questions about the state of his health.

But his name was invoked repeatedly, both by his younger brother and by
tens of thousands who gathered in Camaguey, a central Cuban city,
chanting "Viva Fidel" and waving small Cuban flags.

Thursday was the first anniversary of Fidel Castro's last public
appearances. He spoke last year in the cities of Bayamo and Holguin to
commemorate his raid on the Moncada Barracks 54 years ago.

Raul Castro said Thursday that his government was studying ways to
increase foreign investment without "repeating the mistakes of the
past," a reference to the oft-heard complaint that U.S. and other
foreign companies dominated Cuba before the 1959 victory of Castro's forces.

Castro said that business alliances would be sought with "serious
entrepreneurs, upon well-defined legal bases which preserve the role of
the state and the predominance of socialist property." Cuba, he said,
wants investment "of the kind that can provide us with capital,
technology or markets."

Five days after Fidel Castro's last public appearance, he underwent the
first of several surgeries, temporarily relinquished power and
disappeared from public view.

In last year's speeches, "we could hardly even suspect what a hard blow
was awaiting us," Raul Castro said in the opening line of his one-hour
speech Thursday.

The younger Castro gave no specifics about his brother's condition but
said that "he is taking on more and more intense and highly valuable
activities, as evidenced by his reflections, which are published in the

In recent months, Fidel Castro has written more than two dozen
editorials for the Communist Party newspapers, Granma and Juventud
Rebelde. In those pieces, he mocked President Bush's European visit,
saying that the "tyrant visited Tirana," and he railed about using corn
for ethanol rather than food.

Cuba's biggest export -- sports

Cuba's biggest export -- sports
Coaches and trainers have been working all over the world since the
breakup of the Soviet Union, but not everyone's happy about it.
By Kevin Baxter and Chris Kraul, Times Staff Writers
July 28, 2007

RIO DE JANEIRO — Watching Cuba's national baseball team play can be a
little like watching a supermodel walk down a runway: They're both
elegant, full of confidence, and though they never look like they're in
a rush, they eventually get where they're going.

So when Cuba began to stir in the final inning of its Pan American Games
opener with Panama there was no doubt a game-winning rally was coming.

But as the dangerous Ariel Pestano strode to the plate with a runner on
first, Panama Manager Alfonso Urquiola didn't turn away. Instead he
turned toward his infield and made sure shortstop Avelino Asprilla was
positioned exactly where Pestano hit the ball a few pitches later,
starting a game-ending double play.

Good scouting? More like a good memory, because Urquiola, a former
standout infielder and one of Cuba's most successful managers, once
coached Pestano on the Cuban national team.

Now he, along with three coaches on Panama's staff, are among the
several hundred Cuban coaches and trainers working with developing
sports programs in more than 50 nations across the globe.

"For us, it's a matter of pride," said Pedro Cabrera, press director for
Cuba's national institute of sports, who managed a smile over Urquiola's
moxie. "We don't like to lose. But we do like it when the managers we
have abroad have [success]."

In that case, there has been a lot to like since Cuba first began
sending coaches — and for a while, athletes — abroad in exchange for
much-needed goods and currency under a program organized 15 years ago.
Twenty of the countries participating in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, for
example, had Cuban coaches or trainers in their delegations. And after
the Athens Games in 2004, Algeria and Argentina sought Cuba's help.

Malaysia recently asked for assistance teaching physical education, Laos
hired Cuban coaches to prepare for the Southeast Asian Games and the
Dominican Republic invited 46 Cubans to coach sports such as swimming
and volleyball.

"The Cuban coaches have been a great help for Dominican sports, a great
asset," said Luis Mejia, president of the Dominican Olympic Committee.

Angola has signed a protocol of cooperation and Brazil has turned its
baseball training program over to three Cuban coaches. Last March,
Nigerian sports minister Bala Bawa Kaoje became one of the latest to fly
to Havana, looking for coaches to prepare his nation for this year's
African Games.

Even staunch U.S. ally Britain has gotten into the act. When the Glenn
McCrory International School of Boxing opened in Newcastle last fall, a
Cuban flag hung not far from the Union Jack to welcome Cuban coaches
Alberto Perez and Alberto Gonzalez, who were given permission to work at
the club as part of an agreement with Cubadeportes, the government
agency tasked with promoting — and selling — Cuban coaches and athletes
around the world.

Although Cuba had been offering coaches — as well as doctors and
teachers — to countries in the developing world for years, it wasn't
until the economy plunged after the breakup of the Soviet Union that
Cuba decided to make money from its sports program. So in November 1992
it created Cubadeportes to market the sale of athletes, coaches,
sporting goods — even baseball cards — internationally.

Over time, Cabrera said, Cubans have gone to work in more than 110
countries with a record 6,300 coaches and trainers deployed to 51
nations last year. In addition to baseball, Cuban expertise is most
often sought in track and field, boxing and the martial arts, with Cuban
coaches sharing the techniques they learned through decades of
cooperation with Eastern Bloc sports programs.

"When you first look at [Cuba's] impact on sport, [it] was bringing in
all these trainers, predominately from the Soviet and Eastern European
countries," said Paula J. Pettavino, author of "Sport in Cuba," a
detailed examination of Cuba's sports program. "Then it started to
switch and there's a point at which [Cuba] is now sending them out. And
the Cubans are now training everybody else."

The coaches are generally provided room, board and a small salary by the
host nation, which also pays Cubadeportes for their services. But
Cabrera said the prices and salaries can vary widely, with wealthy
nations such as Japan and Italy expected to pay more than Ecuador or
Ghana. And still others, such as Venezuela, have traditionally paid for
their Cuban assistance with low-cost oil.

"In some cases, yes," Cabrera answered when asked if Cuba profits from
its sporting exchanges. "But that's not the fundamental reason why we do
it. The satisfaction is to have the possibility to cooperate, in a
humble way, with the development of sports in developing countries."

The program hasn't been without controversy, however. In Panama, where
five of the 10 teams in the country's regional amateur league are
coached by Cubans, local baseball people have charged the imports with
both spreading political ideology and making Panama's coaches and
players less desirable to professional teams, igniting a furor that has
even drawn in the U.S. Embassy.

"They are using baseball to advance their ideology," said former major
leaguer Omar Moreno, a Panamanian. "But the bottom line is they don't
produce any major league prospects. The best baseball in the world is
what I learned, U.S.-style."

So Moreno, 54, has taken matters into his own hands, building a youth
baseball system from the ground up with financial help from the embassy
and Major League Baseball. With that backing, Moreno's foundation
started a league that now offers free instruction for more than 400
youths from poor neighborhoods around Panama City as well as in Moreno's
hometown of Puerto Armuelles in western Panama.

The embassy, through spokesman Gavin Sundwall, said its support was not
politically inspired.

"This is not counter-Cuba," he said. "It's a way to further
understanding and build better relations between countries."

David Salayandia, sports director of TV Channel 9 of Panama and a local
sports agent, isn't so sure.

"The U.S. Embassy isn't doing its job if it isn't alert to what the
Cubans are up to," he said.

But Salayandia has his own ax to grind with the Cubans and the team
owners who brought them to Panama. The 25 Cuban coaches in Panama's top
national league, he says, are taking both jobs and experience away from
locals, which stunts the development of Panamanian baseball.

"A big reason there are so many is that they come cheap, about $5,000 a
year plus expenses," he said.

Cabrera refused to enter the fray, calling the matter "an internal
problem for the Panamanians." But, he added, "in my sincere opinion,
with the concepts of Urquiola, the Panamanian team is getting better."

Besides, he pointed out, if the Cuban coaches are so troublesome, why do
so many countries continue to line up to get them?

"For us," Cabrera said "it's a matter of pride to have so many people
helping out abroad. Sometimes what happens is what happened here [and we
lose]. That doesn't bother us. It makes us proud."


Baxter reported from Rio de Janeiro and Kraul from Panama City.,1,3223916.story?coll=la-headlines-sports

Cattlemen strive to untie business knots with Cuba

Cattlemen strive to untie business knots with Cuba
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 29, 2007

ADAMS RANCH, Fort Pierce — "Home, home on the range."

These days, a Florida cattleman singing those words might be reminiscing
about his own ranch in the Sunshine State.

He also may be recalling his recent horseback ramblings through the
plush pasturelands of Cuba.

Over the past several years, Florida ranchers - some from famous old
families - have toured ranches on the communist island and saddled up
with their cowboy-hatted counterparts. They marvel at the beauty of the
Cuban countryside.

They also have shipped heifers and breeding bulls to those Cuban
"friends" to help replenish the island's depleted cattle supply. They
have even hosted Cuban officials on their Florida ranches to select the

These ranchers are among a growing number of U.S. business owners who
want to trade with Cuba. Some of them favor an out-and-out end to the
45-year economic embargo and travel restrictions against the island so
they can form closer business ties with Cuban cowpokes. And they don't
see the Cuban government as a barrier.

"When we go to Cuba, we don't talk politics," says Jim Strickland, 52,
owner of the 6,000-acre Strickland Ranch in Manatee County, who has been
to the island at least eight times.

"We're just vaqueros and ganaderos - cowboys and cattle ranchers -
talking about our animals and our ranches with cattle people down
there," he says. "We speak the same language. Cattlemen historically
have always looked for new markets, and that's what we're doing."

Castro's brother a friend

Strickland is a fourth-generation Florida cattle rancher, grandson of
Andrew Jackson Strickland. One of his traveling partners to Cuba has
been Alto "Bud" Adams, 81, patriarch of the 16,000-acre Adams Ranch near
Fort Pierce and 40,000 more acres in the state. Adams is the son of the
late Alto Adams, a former chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court.

Both were encouraged to visit Cuba by John Parke Wright IV, a descendant
of the Lykes family of Tampa, famed for its cattle, citrus and shipping
interests, starting in the 19th century.

All of the men come from old, conservative political traditions. They
are hardly the type who might be easily branded as commie sympathizers.

So what are they doing riding with cowhands from Cuban cattle-raising
regions Pinar del Rio and Camaguey? Why are they risking the wrath of
conservative Cuban exiles who believe the U.S. economic embargo against
Cuba should be gospel?

The Florida ranchers say they sympathize with anyone anywhere who has
lost family land. But that doesn't mean they are going to allow someone
from South Florida to tell them where they can and cannot ride horses.

"How is it that Cubans in Miami can tell us what to do if we're
Floridians, too?" Adams asks. "If it isn't illegal or immoral, I see no
reason I shouldn't go to Cuba. I can't please everyone."

For Adams, trips to Cuba have been legal since 2000. That was when
Congress passed an exception to the embargo against Cuba, the Trade
Sanctions Reform Act. It allows direct sale of food commodities to the
island and permits individuals in related businesses to travel there.

That change came in response to political pressure exerted by U.S.
farmers, many of them conservatives. It was also partly a result of a
Clinton administration agenda for more "people-to-people" and
humanitarian contacts with Cubans.

Wright, 57, of Naples has been to Cuba dozens of times since and has
visited dozens of cattle ranches, he says.

He proudly displays photographs taken with cattleman Ramon "Mongo"
Castro, 82, the older brother of Fidel Castro, 80, and Raul Castro, 76.

On Tuesday, it will be one year since Raul Castro became acting
president of Cuba, while longtime leader Fidel Castro convalesces from
abdominal surgeries. Not much has changed in Cuba in that year, and the
forays by the Florida cattlemen have continued.

"Ramon and I have become good friends over time," Wright says, a
statement that would make blood boil over whole blocks in Miami.

Despite opposition in the exile community, Wright has a history of
breaking down trade barriers with communist nations and hopes to do so
in Cuba.

In 1972, just as partial diplomatic relations were being resumed with
the People's Republic of China, Wright, then 22 years old, was
dispatched to Asia by his family firm, Lykes Bros., to try to reopen
shipping routes to China. The company, like other U.S. firms, had been
out of China since the 1948 communist takeover.

Wright, who had studied Mandarin Chinese at the University of Florida,
was ready. He went to work in the Hong Kong office of a British firm
that represented Lykes and by 1974 had been transferred to Beijing. He
began to forge relationships with Chinese officials, and by 1979 Lykes
ships were allowed in Chinese ports, the first U.S.-flagged vessels to
enter there in 30 years.

"The idea today in Cuba is the same as it was back then in China," he
says, "a resumption of trade facilitated by friendship and understanding."

Loophole allows visits

The Lykes family had amassed considerable holdings in Cuba before Fidel
Castro took power in 1959. They had shipped cattle to Cuba since the
19th century and eventually owned ranches and the largest
meat-processing plant on the island.

The revolutionary government confiscated the family holdings, several
million dollars' worth, as it did with other foreign firms.

Despite that, Wright says he feels no rancor toward the regime. In fact,
given his experience in China, he says he has long opposed the embargo
and other punitive measures against Cuba.

When the embargo exceptions became law in 2000, he started immediately
to resuscitate the old relationship, with hopes of shipping cattle to
the island out of Tampa.

He found other Florida cattlemen who were interested in the Cuban
market, like Adams and Strickland, whose families also raised cattle
that had been shipped to Cuba before the revolution.

"We were invited to go to Cuba, saddle up and make friends," Wright
says. "We are following the economic footsteps of our ancestors and
renewing the friendships between here and Cuba."

Along the way, they also have delivered some of the benefits of modern
cattle breeding that Cuban ranchers, largely cut off from technological
advances since 1960, had heard about but had not been able to access.

Breeding animals sent to Cuba have been developed with the help of DNA
engineering. They are made to be raised in the tropics: breeds with
short hair that don't lose great amounts of weight in the heat. Better
animal feeds and veterinary practices are also part of the new know-how.

Professors from the University of Florida Department of Animal Sciences
have traveled to Cuba to share what they know.

The Florida cattlemen want to sell more cattle to Cuba, and some would
even consider partnerships with Cuban cattlemen once the embargo is lifted.

Their visions go beyond Cuba. Adams says that outside the tropics, most
cattle breeders have "maxed out" on how many cattle they can graze in
their location. The tropics are the next big source of meat for the
world, and the breeds that he and other Florida ranchers have developed
are the vehicles, he says.

"The new breeds we are working will do well in places like Africa,
warmer parts of Latin America, etc.," Adams says.

Cuba, only 90 miles away, is a convenient place for Florida cattlemen to
start making that work. In 1960, the island had 6 million head of cattle
for 6 million people. Today it has 2 million head for about 12 million
people, Wright says.

"When Castro came in, he said, 'Before only the rich people ate beef.
Now everybody eats beef,' " Adams says. "They ate up all their cattle.
Everybody ate beef for a year, and nobody has eaten beef since."

Critics of the communist government say Cuban agricultural officials
compounded the problem by importing cattle that were wrong for the
climate and by mismanaging ranches.

"Cuba has food, but it's all low-protein," Adams says. "Cuba has
excellent pastureland and could be a big producer of high-protein beef
for its people. Apart from doing business, this is an opportunity to do
some good."

So far, Adams, Wright and others have provided about two dozen breeding
animals. Another 275 are in the pipeline, and hundreds more have been
shipped from other U.S. states. Wright also has helped the Cubans
purchase more than 400 American dairy cows to increase the island's milk

They are small steps toward renewing a business relationship with Cuba.

Adams recognizes that economic models would have to change in the Cuban
cattle industry for any American rancher to do serious business there.

"Government people don't know how to run a farm," he says. "One thing is
employment. We run this ranch with 10 people, and they would use 1,000."

None of the ranchers is trying to change the world overnight.

Adams says that for the moment they are satisfied to renew an old
relationship with Cuba and start to bridge the bitter political divide.

"It's like moving a herd of cattle from one place to another. You move a
herd real easy. You don't wanna spook 'em."

Caribic reintroduces Cuban tours

Caribic reintroduces Cuban tours
published: Sunday | July 29, 2007

Janet Silvera, Senior Writer

Adding to its current Havana excursions, Caribic Vacations has
reintroduced a one-day tour and a new eight-day, seven-nightvacation
package to Cuba effective Friday.

One day visitors will get to explore historic Santiago de Cuba, Cuba's
second-largest city and a central point in the Spanish-speaking
country's revolutionary fight back in the 1950s.

In fact, Fidel Castro is said to have actually proclaimed the revolution
victory from a balcony on Santiago de Cuba's town hall.The eight-day
tour goes to the resort town of Holguin.


The respective packages are priced at US$250 (J$17,175) and US$825
(J$56,700), and includes accommodation, airport and hotel transfers,
meals for three complete days.

"The only the thing persons buying the package will need is money for
four lunches and four dinners, the Cuban departure tax and possibly
shopping," said managing director Oliver Townsend.

Townsend, who succeeded his father Oliver as head of Caribic in January,
says his company is partnering with tour operator Cubanacan which will
fly an ATR 42-seater aircraft from Sangster International Airport in
Montego Bay each Friday at 8:50 a.m., returning at 5:30 p.m.


"Our aim is to attract tourists already staying in Jamaica and who would
like to island hop for a day, while our seven-day target market is
Jamaicans wishing to vacation there," he said. The package blends two
four-star hotels: the Casa Granda in Santiago and the Occidental Grand
Playa Turquesa all-inclusive resort in Holguin.

The flight also offers Jamaican students studying in the neighbouring
island another option, joining Air Jamaica, which flies to the capital
city, Havana three days per week.

The Air Jamaica hop currently costs more than $26,000 return
(approximately US$382).

Valued at US$250 and $825 respectively, the holiday will give each
visitor the opportunity to experience a guided tour of Santiago de Cuba,
rum tasting and cigar factory, the El Morro Castle, the changing of the
guard ceremony of the national hero José Martí, and a visit to the
Antonio Maceo Revolutionary Square.

Townsend contends that Jamaica also stands to gain in tourism arrivals,
saying the destination is popular among its Spanish-speaking neighbour,
and that already, the tour offering has a number of forward bookings out
of Cuba to Montego Bay.


"The demand is very strong for people wanting to visit here from Cuba,"
he said.

"The success of this programme will be bolstered by the large demand for
the one-day tour of Jamaica from Cuba."

Cuba boasts a very rich history, culture and heritage and Latin music.
It is also famous for the Tropicana Cabaret Show, cigars and rum.

Cuba reports big jump in foreign debt - Update

Cuba reports big jump in foreign debt
Fri Jul 27, 2007 10:07AM EDT

(Adds details and background throughout, Internet link to Cuban
statistical Web site, 14th paragraph)

By Marc Frank

HAVANA, July 27 (Reuters) - Cuba's actively serviced foreign debt jumped
nearly $2 billion in 2006 to $7.794 billion as foreign suppliers more
than doubled their credits to the country, according to figures posted
on the Web site of the National Statistics Office on Friday.

Most of Cuba's new debt was believed by local analysts to be due to
fresh credits from China and Venezuela.

In 2005, Cuba's "active" debt, or debt on which Cuba pays interest and
principal, stood at $5.898 billion. The so-called active debt was
borrowed since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Debt owed to suppliers jumped to 36.2 percent of the total last year,
more than double the 16 percent share in 2005 as trade with China nearly
doubled. Foreign supplier debt usually refers to financing extended with
the shipments of goods to a country.

Venezuela extends up to 60 percent credit on its oil supplies to Cuba,
thought it was not clear if all the loans were classified as being
related to suppliers.


Cuba last reported its "inactive" debt, or the debt it is not paying
interest on and which was built up after Cuba defaulted on its
obligations in the 1980s, as $8 billion in 2004.

That would mean total foreign debt could be close to $16 billion in
2006, given that most of the inactive debt is denominated in non-U.S.
currencies that have appreciated against the greenback since then.

Cuba does not include debt to the former Soviet Union in its figures.

Venezuela has replaced the Soviet Union as the leader in supplying oil
and finance to Cuba.

Cuba now imports all its petroleum products from Venezuela, currently
98,000 barrels per day, with up to 60 percent financing over 25 years at
a 2 percent interest rate. Part of the bill is bartered through the
export of Cuban medical and other services.

Meanwhile, China has increased its trade and development credits to the
Communist-run Caribbean island nation, resulting in a near doubling of
bilateral trade to $1.8 billion last year.

The financial support from Venezuela and China has also allowed Cuba to
lower interest rates over the last few years, according to foreign bankers.


In 2006, official state sector debt accounted for 18.6 percent of the
active debt in 2006, the banking sector for 23.2 percent and debt to
suppliers for 36.2 percent. The year before, 9.4 percent was official
debt, 30.2 percent bank debt and 16 percent supplier debt.

The debt figures were contained in the National Statistics Office's 2006
statistical abstract: The
equivalent abstract in 2005 provided external financial data only
through 2004.

Cuba, which has been under a U.S. embargo since Fidel Castro defeated a
CIA-backed assault at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, defaulted on long-term
debt and interest payments in 1986. Official talks with the Paris Club
of rich creditor nations were broken off in 1989, then resumed in 2000
only to be broken off again.

Cuba is not a member of the International Monetary Fund or any other
multilateral lending organization. The country has a Moody's rating of
Caa1, or speculative and poor.

However, local analysts and foreign businessmen and diplomats said that
despite the added debt load the country had improved significantly in
terms of its willingness and ability to pay, bar a few exceptions.

Cuba was in far better financial shape than a few years ago due to high
nickel prices, lower interest rates, a guaranteed oil supply and
billions of dollars now earned through service exports to Venezuela and
other countries, they said.

The financial support from Venezuela and China has also allowed Cuba to
lower interest rates over the last few years, according to foreign bankers.

House rejects easing exports-to-Cuba limits

Posted on Fri, Jul. 27, 2007

House rejects easing exports-to-Cuba limits

The House on Friday rejected an initiative to ease restrictions on U.S.
agricultural exports to Cuba, virtually burying any chance that U.S.
policy toward the island could be relaxed by Congress this year.

By a 245-182 margin, the House voted down an amendnment presented by
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., that would have allowed Cuban officials to
travel to the United States to inspect U.S. export facilities and
products and let Cubans make direct payments to U.S. banks for any

The initiative would have also allowed the Cubans to pay for the goods
after they are shipped from a U.S. port, rather than before as now required.

Rangel's initiative was backed by a coalition of mostly Democratic
opponents to U.S. policies toward Cuba and farm-state Republicans, but
opposed by Cuban-American lawmakers and others.

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen argued the initiative would
provide Cuba, deemed by the State Department as a state sponsor of
terrorism, direct access to U.S. banks, and that Havana would use the
visas for its inspectors to infiltrate spies into the United States.

The vote Friday was a defeat for Rangel and other lawmakers who say the
U.S. embargo against the island has failed to dislodge the Castro
government. Last month, the House voted against an effort to cut U.S.
aid to dissident groups, and Democrats did not allow any amendments
easing travel restrictions from going to the floor for a vote.

According to a recent report by the U.S. International Trade Commission,
an independent government agency that studies trade-related issues,
lifting some U.S. restrictions would boost U.S. exports to the island by
between $176 million and $350 million.


2006? (2)
Elías Amor Bravo, Economista, ULC

En un trabajo anterior, sostuve que las cifras relativas al crecimiento
de la economía cubana, un 12,5% en 2006, en absoluto se corresponden con
la realidad. Estos datos aparecen en la publicación reciente de CEPAL
Estudio económico de América Latina y el Caribe 2006-2007, en su 59ª
edición, y al igual que en el año anterior han sido objeto de un
tratamiento separado, como consecuencia de la negativa de las
autoridades cubanas a aceptar la metodología empleada por la prestigiosa
institución continental.

En dicho trabajo expuse por qué creo que el crecimiento de la economía
cubana no puede ser del 12,5%, y analicé con detalle la incidencia
negativa del sector exterior. Ahora toca identificar si el estímulo del
crecimiento pudo tener su origen en la demanda interna. La conclusión es
poco optimista.

El Informe de CEPAL sostiene que los sectores más activos de la economía
fueron construcción y comercio. El primero, con un avance del 37,7% con
respecto al año anterior, el segundo con un porcentaje de incremento del
22,6%. A mayor distancia, los servicios comunales, sociales y
personales, fuertemente dependientes del gasto corriente del Estado, se
han mantenido en una tasa de variación del 10,6%.

Vaya por delante que en una economía en la que los medios de producción
están en manos del Estado, y el consumo privado se halla en niveles muy
limitados, cualquier expansión del multiplicador vía inversiones
públicas tropieza con serios límites conceptuales para su aceptación, al
menos a nivel teórico. Por lo tanto, desde el principio, no se puede
aceptar la correlación entre construcción y consumo en la economía
cubana, motores de un crecimiento económico más característico de una
economía avanzada y de libre mercado.

Vayamos por partes. El crecimiento de la construcción, según CEPAL,
tiene su origen en la inversión pública. Lógico si se tiene en cuenta
que el régimen de propiedad existente en el país pasa por el control
absoluto de los activos existentes. En ausencia de derechos de
propiedad, lo público pasa a ser predominante. Entonces, conviene
preguntarse de dónde procede el dinero que se destina a la inversión

La respuesta es obvia, de los ingresos obtenidos por el Estado, que en
Cuba, una vez más, son la práctica totalidad. Esto nos obliga a prestar
atención a la política fiscal. En el capítulo de gastos públicos, con un
aumento del 17,1% real, los gastos de capital aumentaron un 55%, cifra
importante, pero que se tiene que valorar detenidamente.

El Informe de CEPAL señala que aun siendo elevado este aumento, la
participación de los gastos de capital en el PIB tan sólo aumenta del
6,6% al 9,4% porcentaje que es insuficiente si realmente se pretenden
remover los obstáculos que frenan el desarrollo de la economía, y desde
luego, uno de los más bajos del continente.

Actualmente, la inversión alcanza el 13,1% del PIB. No deja de ser
curioso que la estructura fiscal del régimen comunista dependa en mayor
medida de los gastos corrientes que de los relativos a inversión en
infraestructuras. Esa política de gasto con vocación de escasa
permanencia es lo que explica el estado de atraso y de destrucción del
capital productivo que caracteriza a la economía cubana.

Además, es preciso tener en cuenta que no toda la inversión pública
habrá ido dirigida a la construcción, si se tiene en cuenta que otros
sectores, como transporte, también se ven estimulados por esa corriente
de gasto. Las informaciones procedentes de la Isla relativas al
cumplimiento del plan de viviendas o la reparación de infraestructuras
dañadas por los ciclones apuntan a que buena parte de la inversión
pública habrá ido dirigida a recomponer lo destruido, de ahí que su
aportación en términos de valor añadido y obra nueva habrá sido limitada.

La impresión es que, detenido el plan de expansión hotelera por los
pésimos resultados del sector turístico, la construcción ha tenido un
comportamiento más de tipo paliativo de los desastres que de expansión y
capacidad nueva. Su contribución al crecimiento es, en tales
condiciones, limitada. Más aun, cuando el déficit público se ha
mantenido estable en el 3,2% del PIB y el peso del Estado en la economía
ha vuelto a experimentar un nuevo aumento, en línea con las políticas
adoptadas en los últimos años hasta situarse en el 63,1% del PIB, 12
puntos porcentuales más que en 2002, lo que deja muy escaso margen a
cualquier acción privada.

El comercio, según el Informe de CEPAL, ha registrado un crecimiento
como consecuencia del consumo privado. En un país en el que el
racionamiento está condicionando el potencial de compra de las familias,
y en el que el acceso a una relativamente amplia gama de bienes y
servicios viene determinado por la disponibilidad de divisas y por ende,
de moneda convertible de uso generalizado en las transacciones
comerciales, no está muy clara la determinación del gasto consumidor.

Además, dada la estructura de los ingresos fiscales del régimen
castrista, no conviene olvidar que el peso de la recaudación más
importante, el 44,6% del total, incide precisamente en el impuesto sobre
las ventas y servicios, que es un lastre para cualquier despliegue de
las actividades productivas en la Isla, como expertos independientes han
venido observando en los últimos años.

El Informe de CEPAL atribuye el alza del consumo a los aumentos de
pensiones y salarios decretados en los dos últimos años, que han llegado
a alcanzar el 8% del PIB, hasta una cifra de 4.260,9 millones de pesos
(el cambio extraoficial se sitúa en 24 dólares, con una ligera
apreciación) en particular, el del salario mínimo en un 125%. Con
salarios medios que rondan los 20 dólares, cabe preguntarse qué tipo de
expansión del consumo puede producirse en la Isla que sirva para
estimular el crecimiento económico. La respuesta quizás se encuentre en
el aumento imparable de la inflación, pero ese es asunto de otro análisis.

Por el contrario, sectores productivos que tienen un gran peso en la
economía cubana, como la agricultura, han experimentado serios
retrocesos en sus cifras, -6% la agricultura, ganadería, caza,
silvicultura y pesca, por segundo año consecutivo, no ofrece margen
alguno para el optimismo. La actividad industrial manufacturera apenas
aumenta un 1,9% cifra similar a la registrada el año anterior, 1,2%. La
minería registra igualmente cifras muy bajas, lastrada por la falta de
inversiones que permitan aumentar su capacidad productiva, 1,9%,
perdiendo las oportunidades que se derivan en los mercados mundiales. La
producción de electricidad, gas y agua, con un 3,4% tampoco ofrece
motivos para el optimismo.

En tales condiciones, la productividad de los principales sectores de la
economía cubana se resiente por la ausencia de estímulos, la falta de
inversiones productivas y la incapacidad del sistema comunista para
facilitar las condiciones de vida de los ciudadanos. Cabe preguntarse,
¿dónde está realmente ese crecimiento del 12,5% que se empeñan en
defender las autoridades castristas?



27 de Julio de 2007. La Cámara de Representantes de Estados Unidos
rechazó una enmienda demócrata que hubiese dado acceso a Cuba a las
instituciones financieras de la nación, como parte de un esfuerzo por
flexibilizar el embargo contra el Gobierno de la isla.

La enmienda, promovida por el legislador demócrata Charles Rangel, fue
derrotada en una votación de 245 a favor y 182 en contra, en el marco de
un extenso proyecto de ley agrícola.

La derrota de la enmienda de Rangel representa una victoria para los
legisladores republicanos de origen cubano en la Cámara de
Representantes, quienes siempre han asegurado que flexibilizar el
embargo es premiar al régimen de La Habana.

Los legisladores Lincoln y Mario Díaz-Balart, e Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
todos de Florida, señalaron en un comunicado conjunto que el rechazo de
la enmienda de Rangel es una derrota clave para los esfuerzos
pro-castristas en el Congreso.

La enmienda, una de un total de 31 que debatirán los legisladores,
también autorizaba transferencias directas entre bancos de Cuba y
Estados Unidos, y permitía la emisión de visados a funcionarios cubanos
para viajar a este país y realizar transacciones agrícolas.

sábado, 28 de julio de 2007

Anuncia Raúl Castro cambios económicos en Cuba

Anuncia Raúl Castro cambios económicos en Cuba

Raúl Castro reveló un nuevo método económico pero sin grandes soluciones
EFE © Derechos Reservados

Pero no es muy esperanzador

El presidente provisional manifestó que su gabinete estudia cambios
económicos, lo que incluye sólo inversión extranjera socialista

26/07/2007 | AFP.-La Habana- El presidente provisional de Cuba, Raúl
Castro, dijo este jueves que se estudian cambios económicos en Cuba, que
incluyen un posible incremento de la inversión extranjera, pero
socialistas y sin esperar soluciones espectaculares.

"Habrá que introducir los cambios estructurales y de conceptos que
resulten necesarios" en la economía, afirmó Raúl en su discurso en el
acto de la fiesta patria del 26 de julio, primero que se celebra sin su
hermano Fidel al mando debido a que aún convalece de una crisis de salud.

Raúl Castro, a quien Fidel cedió el poder provisionalmente el 31 de
julio de 2006, precisó que se estudia el incremento de la inversión
extranjera, "siempre que aporte capital, tecnología o mercado", pero
"sin repetir los errores del pasado por ingenuidades e ignorancia en
esta actividad".

Afirmó que esa nueva inversión extranjera será "trabajando con
empresarios serios y sobre bases jurídicas bien definidas que preserven
el papel del Estado y el predominio de la propiedad socialista".

Raúl indicó que su gobierno trabaja en varias direcciones "importantes y
estratégicas", lo que se hace "con premura pero sin desespero ni muchas
declaraciones públicas para no crear falsas expectativas", y advirtió
"que todo no puede resolverse de inmediato".

En la agricultura "ya se trabaja en esa dirección y comienzan a
apreciarse algunos resultados modestos", dijo Raúl, quien ha insistido
en el año que está al mando de Cuba en trabajar para resolver los tres
problemas fundamentales de la población: alimentación, transporte y

"No habrá soluciones espectaculares". "Se necesita tiempo y sobre todo
trabajar con seriedad y sistematicidad, consolidando cada resultado que
se alcance, por pequeño que sea", manifestó.

Enérgico, también cargó sus palabras, transmitidas a todo el país por
radio y televisión, de realismo y sentido crítico, al señalar que el
camino de terminar con las necesidades y las carencias es el trabajo y
el ahorro.

Señaló que "no hemos salido todavía" del Periodo Especial, denominación
oficial de la crisis económica que sobrevino tras la desaparición del
bloque soviético, "que alcanza ya 16 años", y que en su opinión mantiene
una serie de problemas sociales y económicos, como la insuficiencia del

Advirtió que un incremento de los sueldos "solo puede venir de una mayor
y eficiente producción" y dijo que hay que "transformar concepciones y
métodos que fueron apropiados en su momento, pero han sido superados por
la vida".

"Puedo afirmar responsablemente que el Partido (Comunista) y el Gobierno
vienen estudiando con profundidad estos y otros complejos y difíciles
problemas, que requieren de un enfoque integral y a la vez diferenciado
en cada lugar concreto", señaló.

Pero Raúl, quien tiene fama de pragmático y hasta cierta aureola de
reformista, aseguró que no habrá transición ni parálisis en Cuba, pues
esos son "sueños trasnochados" de los enemigos de la revolución.

El enemigo "insiste tozudamente en seguir chocando con la misma piedra",
dijo y añadió que "especulan acerca de una supuesta parálisis y hasta
sobre una "transición" en marcha".

"Pero por mucho que cierren los ojos, la realidad se encarga de destruir
sus sueños trasnochados", dijo en su discurso de una hora ante 100 mil
personas que asistieron al acto en la Plaza de la Revolución de
Camagüey, 540 km al sureste de La Habana.

"Son muchas batallas simultáneas que requieren cohesionar las fuerzas
para mantener la unidad del pueblo, principal arma de la revolución, y
aprovechar las potencialidades de una sociedad socialista como la
nuestra", indicó.

Cuba analiza cambios para captar más capital foráneo

Cuba analiza cambios para captar más capital foráneo
Estados Unidos hace un nuevo desaire al presidente interino

LA HABANA, Cuba (DPA y France Presse).— El gobernante interino de Cuba,
Raúl Castro, anunció ayer "cambios estructurales necesarios" para
mejorar la eficiencia y productividad de la isla, y reveló que se
estudia la posibilidad de aumentar la inversión extranjera, aunque
advirtió que no se debe esperar "soluciones espectaculares" a corto plazo.

"Habrá que introducir los cambios estructurales y de conceptos que
resulten necesarios", admitió Castro en un discurso muy crítico con la
eficiencia y productividad de la isla, especialmente en materia agrícola
y ganadera, en ocasión del 54o. aniversario del asalto al Cuartel
Moncada, una de las principales fiestas revolucionarias del país.

"Estamos ante el imperativo de hacer producir más la tierra (...), de
generalizar con la mayor celeridad posible aunque sin improvisaciones
cada experiencia de los productores destacados tanto del sector estatal
como del campesino y de estimular convenientemente la dura labor que
realizan", sostuvo, ante el problema que supone el incremento de los
precios internacionales de los alimentos que hasta la fecha Cuba se ve
obligada a importar por la falta de producción propia.

"Cuba no ha salido todavía del periodo especial", señaló, al referirse
la grave crisis económica en que se sumió la isla tras la caída del
bloque soviético.

"No habrá soluciones espectaculares, se necesita tiempo y, sobre todo,
trabajar con seriedad y sistematicidad, consolidando cada resultado que
se alcance por pequeño que sea", subrayó.

En su discurso, el hermano de Fidel Castro volvió a realizar una oferta
de diálogo a Estados Unidos, aunque consideró que éste sólo será posible
cuando acabe la "peligrosa" y "retrógrada" administración de George W.
Bush y la Casa Blanca sea ocupada por un nuevo presidente.

"La nueva administración que surja tendrá que decidir si mantiene la
absurda, ilegal y fracasada política contra Cuba o acepta el ramo de
olivo que tendimos en ocasión del 50o. aniversario del desembarco del
Granma", el pasado 2 de diciembre, agregó, en referencia a la oferta de
una "mesa de negociaciones" que él mismo hizo en esa fecha.

Tercer rechazo El portavoz del Departamento de Estado norteamericano,
Sean McCormack, dio ayer mismo una respuesta al rechazar, por tercera
ocasión, la oferta de contacto de Raúl Castro.

"El único diálogo real que necesita es con el pueblo cubano. Y pienso
que si el pueblo cubano fuera capaz de expresar su opinión sobre la
cuestión de si le gustaría o no elegir libremente a sus líderes, la
respuesta sería probablemente que sí", expresó McCormack a la prensa.$1410000000$3604447

Los bajos salarios y la crisis en Cuba

Los bajos salarios y la crisis en Cuba

Una familia necesita 1,600 pesos al mes, pero el sueldo promedio es de
387 pesos

Redacción de La Opinión

28 de julio de 2007

La precariedad salarial, uno de los principales problemas de la economía
cubana, obliga a las familias a recurrir al mercado negro para llegar a
final de mes y resolver sus necesidades mínimas.

El presidente en funciones de Cuba, Raúl Castro, reconoció el jueves,
durante su discurso por el 26 de julio, que el salario "es claramente
insuficiente para satisfacer todas las necesidades".

El problema se agrava, según expertos cubanos, por la convivencia de dos
monedas en la isla: el peso convertible (CUC, equivalente a 1.08
dólares) y el peso cubano (1 CUC equivale a 24 pesos cubanos).

Según cálculos de economistas cubanos, una familia media de cuatro
miembros necesita un presupuesto mensual de unos 1,600 pesos (alrededor
de 72 dólares) para atender sus necesidades básicas mínimas, pero según
la Oficina Nacional de Estadística el salario promedio en la isla es de
387 pesos cubanos, o sea, unos 18 dólares mensuales.

En el país hay una libreta de racionamiento de alimentos desde
principios de 1962, por lo cual algunos analistas afirman que se trata
del racionamiento de alimentos más prolongado de los tiempos modernos.

Esa libreta de racionamiento no sólo sigue vigente 45 años después del
comunismo en la isla, sino que hace más de 30 años que apenas cubre una
cuarta parte o un tercio de las necesidades alimentarias básicas de las
familias cubanas.

Por otra parte, en Cuba se ha enraizado muy fuertemente una nueva
psicología social, una especie de nueva cultura popular según la cual
robarle al Estado no es malo, sino un acto de defensa propia para

El resultado de esta lógica socialista es que casi todos los
trabajadores de alguna u otra manera roban lo que pueden, práctica que
el gobierno denomina "desvío de recursos", o "faltantes", cuando se
trata de desfalco de dinero en efectivo.

Este robo sistemático es precisamente el que alimenta el gigantesco
mercado negro cubano. Los ciudadanos encuentran en este mercado
clandestino lo necesario para subsistir.

Ángeles, una vecina de Playa, recurre al mercado negro para comprar
comida y ocasionalmente ropa o zapatos.

"La gente busca precios más baratos y siguen comprando por la izquierda
porque les compensa", aseguró.

Enrique, un padre de familia de 36 años, compra "por la izquierda", como
popularmente se conoce esta práctica, desde carne y pescado hasta
productos que no puede conseguir en las tiendas.

"Hay cosas que son más baratas 'por la izquierda' y es posible ahorrar
un poco, además, se pueden encontrar cosas que no hay en las tiendas,
como aires acondicionados", explicó.

Precariedad salarial alimenta el mercado negro en Cuba

Asunción, Paraguay, Sábado 28 de Julio de 2007

Precariedad salarial alimenta el mercado negro en Cuba

LA HABANA. (EFE). La precariedad salarial, uno de los principales
problemas de la economía cubana, obliga a las familias a recurrir al
mercado negro para llegar a final de mes y resolver sus necesidades.

La Oficina Nacional de Estadística cifra en 387 pesos cubanos (unos 18
dólares según la tasa aplicada por las Casas de Cambio) el salario medio
mensual para los trabajadores de entidades estatales y mixtas en la isla.

El presidente en funciones de Cuba, Raúl Castro, reconoció que el
salario "es claramente insuficiente para satisfacer todas las necesidades".

Señaló que el salario "prácticamente dejó de cumplir su papel de
asegurar el principio socialista de que cada cual aporte según su
capacidad y reciba según su trabajo".

El problema se agrava, según expertos cubanos, por la convivencia de dos
monedas en la isla: el peso convertible (CUC, equivalente a 1,08
dólares) y el peso cubano (1 CUC equivale a 24 pesos cubanos).

La libreta de racionamiento, una canasta de alimentos básicos a precios
subvencionados y que durante décadas fue el principal sustento de la
población, dejó de ser suficiente para cubrir por las necesidades
alimentarias de las familias. y el propio Raúl admitió que la situación
creada por la precariedad salarial "favoreció manifestaciones de
indisciplina social y tolerancia que resulta difícil erradicar".

Sin lista de espera

Año IX - Madrid, viernes 27 de julio de 2007

Los posibles inversores extranjeros en Cuba, cautelosos ante el anuncio
de Raúl Castro

Sin lista de espera
Isabel Rubio

Los inversores extranjeros no han acogido con demasiado entusiasmo la
noticia de que La Habana estudia buscar fórmulas para que vuelva a
aumentar el dinero que llega a la isla desde el exterior. Algunos
posibles interesados creen que el anuncio realizado por Raúl Castro, en
su discurso con motivo del Día de la Rebeldía Nacional el 26 de julio,
es demasiado ambiguo y se muestran cautos, a la espera de que Cuba
concrete algo más la oferta.

Los expertos consultados por coinciden en que no va
a producirse, por el momento, un aluvión de peticiones de compañías
interesadas en hacer negocios con la mayor de las Antillas. El principal
motivo serían los permanentes y conocidos problemas que tienen a la hora
de cobrar las compañías internacionales que ya están instaladas allí,
una circunstancia a la que se suma la falta de planes concretos para
incentivar la inversión.

Y esos recelos de los inversores foráneos también responden a algunas
malas experiencias anteriores que aún pesan en el ánimo de quienes
tendrían verdaderos deseos de ayudar a la isla a superar ese Periodo
Especial (el que se abrió tras la caída del bloque soviético) que, según
Raúl Castro, aún no ha acabado, y de ganar dinero con proyectos
realizados en aquel país.

"Durante la década de los 90 se establecieron en Cuba varias empresas
mixtas cubano-españolas que, una vez que vencieron sus contratos, vieron
cómo el Gobierno cubano se negaba a renovarlos", recuerda Cecilio
Herreros, un abogado español con mucha experiencia en la tramitación de
proyectos en la isla. Herreros añade tmbien que la calificación de la
isla antillana como "país de riesgo" y la falta de garantías en los
países de origen para las inversiones realizadas en Cuba tampoco ayudan.

Estas circunstancias plantean, en palabras del abogado español, una gran
duda sobre qué repercusión pueda tener el anuncio de Raúl que, de ir
acompañado "por más seguridad desde la parte española", podría relanzar
las inversiones ibéricas en la isla. En caso contrario, el letrado es
firme en la opinión de que, como "país abocado al sector turístico, por
sus características, geografía y situación", Cuba no recibirá más
inversiones que las específicas del sector terciario.

Tras las malas cifras arrojadas por el turismo en los dos últimos
ejercicios -en los que Cuba ha sido desbancada por el Caribe mexicano-,
la isla antillana ha solicitado a los inversores extranjeros que sitúen
de nuevo al sector en un lugar primordial de la economia, como
demuestran los acuerdos firmados con España con motivo del viaje del
ministro deExteriores, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, en los que se establecía
cooperación bilateral en la construcción en la isla de parques
temáticos, complejos de ocio, resorts y parques acuáticos, entre otros
complejos dedicados al ocio.

Pero la actitud de la parte cubana tampoco es demasiado receptiva, según
Herreros. Esto se debe principalmente a que Cuba ha favorecido estos
años a compañías capaces de afrontar grandes inversiones, mientras que
las empresas españolas que se habían establecido allí eran
principalmente de tamaño mediano. España, que fue durante los años
inmediatamente anteriores a la crisis de los años 90 (desencadenada por
la caída de la URSS) el primer socio comercial de la nación caribeña, ha
rebajado sus posiciones en favor de países como Venezuela o China. Y
quizá también de EEUU.

Tras el paso del huracán Mitch, en 1998, Washington permitió a las
empresas estadounidenses exportar alimentos y medicinas a la isla,
siempre y cuando el pago se hiciese en el momento y en efectivo. Y
curiosamente, las compañías que representan al tradicional enemigo de la
Revolución cobran al contado, un hecho que discrimina a los empresrios
de los demás países que hacen negocios con Cuba, que ven cómo sus pagos
se retrasan.

Actualmente en la isla hay representación de compañías de unos 146
países de todo el mundo, y unas 350 empresas mixtas con aproximadamente
40 países; la mayor parte proceden de España, Canadá, Francia e Italia,
que copan el 14% de las exportaciones de la isla, principalmente en
sectores como la minería, la extracción y producción petrolífera, las
telecomunicaciones y el comercio.

El ansiado crudo cubano. La búsqueda de socios poderosos para que
participen en la explotación a riesgo de la Zona Económica Exclusiva en
el Golfo de México había sido desde hace unos meses una obsesión para el
Gobierno de Raúl Castro y el primer signo de que la isla podría intentar
volver a captar socios extranjeros. De momento, en aquel aéra hay
instaladas compañías asiáticas (China, Vietnam o India ya han entrado en
el negocio), españolas (Repsol YPF) y latinoamericanas (la venezolana

El Golfo también ha despertado el interés de algunas petroleras
estadounideneses que se han unido en los últimos tiempos al lobby
antiembargo para intentar que Washington les permita instalarse en una
zona muy prometedora, al menos sobre el papel. Según un informe de la
Sociedad de Evaluación Geológica de EEUU, que se publicó en febrero de
2004, en este área habría unas cuantíosas reservas de gas. En el texto,
títulado ''Evaluación de los Recursos de Petróleo y Gas en el Subsuelo
Marino del Norte de Cuba, 2004'', se establecen unas reservas
potenciales de 4.600 millones de barriles de petróleo y, lo que es más
importante, cerca de 9,3 billones de pies cúbicos de gas (263,34
billones de litros). Prácticamente las mismas que, según estos
analistas, tiene todavía Bolivia sin descubrir.

De modo que todo parece indicar que, por ahora, no habrá listas de
espera. Y sin embargo los expertos apuestan por varios sectores que
serían los grandes beneficiados si se dieran las condiciones oportunas.
La construcción (debido al déficit habitacional al que se enfrenta la
nación antillana), las empresas de servicios en el ámbito del
abastecimiento (cárnicas o conservas) o los sectores avícola o porcino
podrían "viajar" a Cuba si en los planes del actual Gobierno cubano
hubiera un programa de captación de inversiones extranjeras a las que
sus propios países de origen ofrecieran cierta seguridad.

Pero los cambios necesarios para que esa situación se haga real pueden
tardar en llegar. En opinión del investigador principal para América
Latina del Real Instituto Elcano, Carlos Malamud, no habrá, al menos en
un período cercano de tiempo, tales cambios, que por ahora se limitarán
a ser "pequeños y cosméticos" por varios motivos. El más importante es
que, aparezca en público o no, Fidel Castro continúa moviendo los hilos
de la política cubana, ejerciendo lo que Malamud ha denominado como "el
papel de Reina Madre en segundo plano" e impidiendo que aquellos
sectores más reformistas, sea o no el propio Raúl quien los dirija,
puedan realizar cambios efectivos en el panorama de la isla.

Además, esta circunstancia, unida al hecho de que no se han hecho
propuestas concretas para salir del Período Especial, pese a que se ha
demostrado la línea más pragmática de Raúl frente a Fidel, genera el
peor escenario posible para una hipotética transición, que de momento
deberá esperar, según el experto del Real Instituto Elcano, que defiende
la postura de que, mientras viva el comandante en jefe, cualquier
cuestión referida a cambio, transición o sucesión quedará
indefinidamente congelada.

Finalmente, la "mano tendida" que Raúl Castro ha ofecido al próximo
Gobierno de EEUU no es considerada un dato relevante por ningún
analista, ya que, según recuerdan, desde la Administración del
presidente Kennedy hasta la actual de George W. Bush, no ha habido
cambios significativos en la política estadounidense hacia Cuba. Y todo
ello a pesar de que el candidato demócrata, Barack Obama, afirme que se
sentaría a hablar con el mandatario de Cuba "bajo ciertas condiciones".

En definitiva, todo parece indicar que habrá que esperar para ver
cambios significativos en Cuba, aunque la cuestión es... ¿cuánto?