[Marxism] CUBA: A City Drinks in Change

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Jun 10 10:21:27 MDT 2008

Agriculture, marketing, an energy revolution, infrastructure
and housing, these are all in the process of being upgraded
today since the Cuban economy has begun to turn upwards over
the past two years. Sales of industrial nickel, tourism and
other areas, including stable economic relationships with
Venezuela, China, Canada and Spain, among other countries 
have enabled the island to begin confronting long-delayed
problems within the country. This is reflected in the moves
by the Europeans to restore their relations with Cuba to a
more normalized level. Bush isn't likely to get very far in
whatever efforts he makes to block these developments today.

The United States is in decline on a world scale now, one
of the consequences of Washington's response to the attacks
on the American people which occurred on September 11, 2001.
Instead of accepting support and solidarity which the world
offered, Washington used the moment to try to impose an even
more aggressive stance on the planet. It has not proven to
be successful, has it? This is where the Obama presidential
campaign comes in. It represents a possible shift in tactics
which is being proposed for the position Washington takes in
the world today. There's clearly a division of opinion among
the wealthy and powerful over which tactics can best achieve
their goal of maintaining Washington's influence in the world

This is the context in which the Cubans are confronting and
trying to resolve their long-standing problems. So far, the
indications are in general quite positive.

Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California
June 10, 2008
Defying U.S., EU Nears Deal Ending Cuban Sanctions

Filed at 6:44 a.m. ET

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union states are nearing
agreement on ending sanctions on Cuba in defiance of U.S.
calls for continued pressure for democratic reform on the
communist island, diplomats said on Tuesday.

CUBA: Local Farmers Producing Food Solutions 
By Patricia Grogg

SAN JOSÉ DE LAS LAJAS, Cuba, Jun 5 (IPS) - Cuba’s food
production is insufficient to meet the country’s needs, but
the solution may lie in successful local experiences that
show that farming is possible without the costly inputs
used by the agriculture industry up to the late 1980s.

Agriculture on this Caribbean island is still recovering
from three decades of the "green revolution" characterised
by a centralist policy that kept most of the 6.6 million
hectares of arable land in state hands.

However, the authorities appear convinced of the need to
adopt certain changes in the face of rising food prices on
the world market, which will force the country to spend
around two billion dollars this year on food imports.

"I think the country’s leadership is closer than ever to
letting us decentralise agriculture," Fernando Funes,
coordinator of the Cuban Association of Agricultural and
Forestry Technicians (ACTAF) Agroecology Project, told IPS.

"The fact that power is being given to the municipalities
to work at local level is a great step forward," Funes
said, about the creation in April of Agriculture Ministry
delegations at municipal level which will be in charge of
land tenure and boosting production.

Luis Sexto: Where to Cuba? [excerpt]

Email: sexto at enet.cu
2008-06-09 | 09:22:42 EST

We can find an infinite number of suggestions from people
with philosophical, economic, or sociological wisdom. They
have proposed advanced movements from a position attached
to the purest and exact interpretations of Marxism, with
these making due note of the recent and fateful
applications that existed as models. However, one
tentatively must ask, can foundations affected by humidity
or their shallow depth support the upper floors? Keeping in
mind the fragility of the foundation, we must ask if this
is similar to the most peremptory urgencies faced by the
country and our people.

I raise this not with the insecurity of the one who is
unwise, but for the concerned citizen. They repeat what now
appears obvious: that for socialism that is fair,
thoroughly participative, efficient and effective, it needs
above all to add that concrete the strengthens the base.
This is needed to solve problems of a strict and elementary
nature: to free the economy by combining individual and
collective initiative to produce food, build housing, make
wages compatible with work. Work needs to be combined with
discipline, discipline that adds to productivity and that
results in well-being. Likewise, the theory of democracy
needs to be combined with its practice... so that no one
will have to seek abroad what we should find here.

Everyone, or at least those not willing to relinquish a
just and independent homeland, will take part in the cause
-now announced by Raúl- toward the solution of bureaucratic
distortions that restrict and impede the satisfaction of
economic and social needs. National unity -so much praised
and defended by Fidel- requires us not to saturate the air
with vague exhortations... accusing others of not wanting
to work and blaming everything on subjectivity. This, in my
way of seeing, confuses the issue.


CUBA: A City Drinks in Change
By Dalia Acosta


HOLGUÍN, Cuba, Jun 10 (IPS) - Afflicted for far too long by
severe drought, which concentrated all minds on how to get
water to entire communities of people, this eastern Cuban
city seems at long last to be drinking its fill, and its
appearance is completely different from what it looked like
two or three years ago.

Cafés, restaurants, snack bars and opportunities to combine
leisure and culture are beginning to flood into the
historic centre of Holguín, the capital of the province of
the same name, as the most visible sign of a government
project to embellish the city and restore services that
have been in poor shape since the 1990s.

And one of the most important things is that "the Cuban
peso is returning to its former prominence," Rigoberto
Romero, the provincial government coordinator for the
project to restore the boulevard running through the heart
of Holguín, which is also known as the City of Parks, told

"Services paid for in national currency should have the
same quality standards as those that are paid for in hard
currency. We are trying to add character to the venues with
cultural options, as well," he said.

And so La Caverna de Los Beatles appeared, followed by a
jazz club, a piano bar at the Hotel Majestic, and Las Tres
Lucías, a café decorated with stills from the Cuban film
"Lucía" (Humberto Solás, 1968), which shows videos and
films to its customers.

The pedestrianised boulevard did not exist early this
decade, but now harbours a large number of eateries with
prices in national currency, which have resurrected popular
and economic dishes like croquettes on bread or "al plato",
breaded fish fillets and fresh fruit juices.

Smaller shops selling water, milkshakes, ice cream and
coffee at subsidised prices are comfortably elbow to elbow
with restaurants, cafeterias, bars and pubs that are a
little more expensive, but still accessible because they
charge in national currency.

"We're open 24 hours a day. Towards midnight, the clientele
are mainly intellectuals. Then the young people arrive when
the discothèques close, and at about four or five in the
morning, people who are on their way to work come by,"
Lisandro Fernández, who works at a coffee bar, told IPS.

The legalisation of the dollar in 1993, together with the
severe economic crisis that hit Cuba in the 1990s, led to a
decline in services offered in national currency, and the
emergence of a parallel market in hard currency that
gradually became virtually the only option for Cuba's 11.2
million people.

The government of President Raúl Castro regards revaluation
of the Cuban peso as one of its economic priorities, but
has recognised that it will be a slow process, requiring
"an integrated approach" that will include eliminating the
present dual currency system on the island.

Meanwhile, in cities like Havana, most restaurants still
charge in convertible Cuban pesos (CUC), and the equivalent
of five U.S. dollars will only buy lunch for one person at
one of the most inexpensive cafeteria chains.

At the state exchange bureaus, the CUC is worth 25 Cuban
pesos, or 1.25 dollars.

In spite of government efforts, the venues accepting
national currency still do not satisfy demand in Holguín,
one of Cuba's biggest cities. Official sources indicate
that in late 2007 there were 334,046 residents of Holguín,
to which must be added a floating population of another
45,000 people.

"In the boulevard area alone, 75,000 daily rations are
being sold. Sometimes, supplies run out," said Romero.

Prices vary from 0.70 pesos for a croquette on bread to 100
pesos for lunch for three at the restaurant known as 1545,
one of the most upscale in the city. In dollar terms, an
average family would spend five or six dollars for lunch at
one of Holguín's new wave of restaurants.

Among the new developments, three hotels which charge in
national currency have been restored and reopened. "We get
reservations for honeymoons or company events, but around
50 percent of our guests are ordinary people who book their
own visits as they please," Leonides Romero, manager of the
Hotel Majestic, told IPS.

At Isla Azul, the most economical chain of state hotels
that only take hard currency, a double room including
breakfast costs about 50 dollars, whereas at the Majestic
the bill is 75 Cuban pesos a night, equivalent to about
four dollars.

Located in the centre of Holguín, the Hotel Majestic was
founded in 1932 and rescued from a state of ruin in 2007.

The aim is to "restore rundown old buildings in the
communities and save the local heritage, while adding an
element of modernity, and creating new options with three
basic elements: utility, beauty and culture," said Miguel
Díaz-Canel, first secretary of the Communist Party for
Holguín province, in an interview on local television.

The initiative, known as the Imagen project, is being
applied in all the municipalities of this province of over
a million people. In addition, a state aid plan for the
eastern part of the island has led to more than 100
economic and social projects being inaugurated in late

The list of projects, published in the local newspaper
Ahora, includes electrification in several neighbourhoods,
generators installed in mountainous areas, refurbished or
newly-built sports facilities, public health centres,
centres for the elderly, housing, hydraulic plants in
isolated areas, maternity homes and children's parks.

In spite of what has already been achieved and the plans
for more progress this year, there is still much to be
done, in Romero's view. "All the cultural development in
the city is taking place basically in the historic centre.
We should start decentralising city services towards the
outskirts," he said.

Dissatisfactions aside, and although provincial development
plans have continued without interruption, Holguín is a
flourishing place compared with what it was in 2004, when
the drought was at its height. "This city is changing day
by day," Manuel Escobar, who works at the Taberna Ahumados,
told IPS. (END/2008)

     Los Angeles, California
     Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
     "Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"

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