Cuba Faces Economic Challenges  

Cuba is facing economic challenges. First, certain economists are projecting difficult economic times for 2017.[1] Second, ordinary Cubans already are facing difficulties finding basic foodstuffs.[2]

Carmelo Mesa-Lago, an economist and professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh, said, “The short-term prospects are not good.” If in 2015 Cuban GDP (Gross Domestic Product) grew 4.4%, “projections [for 2016] are of stagnation or slight decline, and a far greater fall next year.”

He said the economic reforms initiated by Raúl Castro are positive, but that they are “extremely slow. We are now in 2016, nine years since reforms began in 2007, and there have been tangible effects on the economy,” but there is a “need to find quick and accurate solutions . . . [to] accelerate the pace of the key changes.” For example, Mesa-Largo said, the development of the non-state sector “authorized only . . . generally unskilled jobs, [with] extremely low productivity.”

The other economist, Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva, stated the Cuban economy will only grow an estimated 0.4% in 2016 and decline -2.0% in 2017. “Cuba must make major changes in its economy to rapidly overcome its structural problems in 2017.” He believes it is necessary for Cuba to develop small and medium enterprises, increase wages, allow foreign investment and accept portfolio investments (with the issuance of fixed income securities (bonds) and equity (shares)).”

On a personal level, ordinary Cubans have great difficulty in finding food to eat, due in part to increased competition for food supplies to feed the increasing number of foreign tourists who can pay more for food.

A U.S. journalist reports that the tourists’ “surging demand for food has caused] ripple effects. . . .Tourists are quite literally eating Cuba’s lunch. . . . [G]oods that Cubans have long relied on are going to well-heeled tourists and the hundreds of private restaurants that cater to them, leading to soaring prices and empty shelves. . . . Without supplies to match the increased appetite, some foods have become so expensive that even basic staples are becoming unaffordable for regular Cubans. . . . Rising prices for staples like onions and peppers, or for modest luxuries like pineapples and limes, have left many unable to afford them. Beer and soda can be hard to find, often snapped up in bulk by restaurants.”

To meet this immediate need for more food in Cuba, this blog has proposed that Cuba impose a requirement that all arriving airlines and cruise ships deliver to the Cuban government set quantities of certain foodstuffs.

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[1] The economic challenges of the island by 2017 according to two experts, Diario de Cuba (Dec. 13, 2016)

[2] Ahmed, Cuba’s Sure in Tourism Keeps Food Off Residents’ Plates, N.Y. Times (Dec. 8, 2016); Severson, For Cuban Home Cooks, Ingenuity and Luck Are Key Ingredients, N.Y. Times (May 17, 2016).

 

Status of Cuban Migrants in Central America Still Unresolved  

Previous posts have discussed the plight of Cuban migrants in Central America on their way for entry to the U.S. under its current “dry feet” policy. Nicaragua refused to admit such migrants from Costa Rica, and a regional meeting of foreign ministers failed to resolve the problem.[1] That is still the case.[2]

Other Countries‘ Refusal To Help

On December 8, the President of Costa Rica announced that his country had failed to find other countries in the region that are willing to take any of the approximately 5,000 Cuban migrants in Costa Rica so that they may continue their journey north to the U.S.

Belize has rejected Costa Rica’s request to allow the Cubans to transit through that country while Guatemala has requested a Mexican pledge to allow the migrants to go through that country to the U.S. before Guatemala will let the Cubans enter their country.

Nevertheless, Costa Rica has stated that it would not deport any of the Cubans to their home country against their will.

In the meantime Costa Rica has asked Ecuador, Colombia and Panama to limit the transit of any more Cubans. Panama now has approximately 1,000 Cuban migrants.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Concern

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has expressed its concern about the plight of the Cuban migrants in Costa Rica. The Commission, however, welcomed the decision of the Costa Rican government to grant transit visas to Cubans and to seek cooperation of other states in the region to facilitate the safe, orderly and documented transit of the migrants to the U.S. The Commission also has taken note of the November 30 U.S.-Cuba meeting about various migration issues.

The Commission reiterated that States have an obligation to respect and ensure the human rights of all migrants who are under their jurisdiction. Those rights are derived from the principle of human dignity

More specifically the Commission has urged the Nicaraguan government to investigate its alleged ill-treatment of the migrants. And to implement training programs on guidelines for use of force and the principle of non-discrimination. The Commission also has stressed the principle of non-refoulement, which necessarily implies that people are not rejected at border or expelled without an adequate and individualized analysis of their situations; the absolute prohibition of collective expulsions; and the obligation to take special measures for the different treatment of vulnerable groups within migrants.

In addition, the Commission urged the Cuba not to put obstacles to people wishing to leave the country.

Upcoming Costa Rica-Cuba Bilateral Meetings

On December 13-15, Costa Rica will hold apparently prearranged bilateral meetings in Havana because the published agenda does not include any mention of the migrant crisis. Instead that agenda includes the following:

  1. Create a strategic alliance to link ecosystems biotechnology research
  2. Strengthen ties of cooperation among public universities that have institutes of biotechnology.
  3. Create links between software industries.
  4. Promote training processes in high performance sport developing anti-doping testing.
  5. Increase tourism connectivity by adding Costa Rica to flights that Cuba receives from China, Russia and Turkey,
  6. Exchange experiences and knowledge in health case, especially primary care, cancer treatments and vaccines.
  7. See investment opportunities in Cuba for Costa Rican businesses.

Let us hope that perhaps behind the scenes the presidents of the two countries will discuss and find ways to reduce or solve the crisis.

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[1] Cubans in Central America Provide Cuba with an Opportunity To Reiterates Its Objections to U.S. Immigration Policies (Nov. 20, 2015); Update on Cuban Migrants in Central America (Nov. 27, 2015); U.S. and Cuba Fail To Resolve Complaints About U.S. Immigration Policies (Dec. 1, 2015); President Obama Should Exercise His Legal Authority To End U.S. Admission of Cubans with “Dry Feet” (Dec. 4, 2015).

 

[2] Reuters, Belize Rejects Plan to Allow Cuban Migrants to Pass Through Its Territory, N.Y. Times (Dec. 8, 2015); Costa Rica Foreign Min., Belize says Cuban migration must be resolved as a regional issue and for now not serve this population (Dec. 8, 2015); OAS, IACHR Expresses Great Concern Regarding Situation of Cuban Migrants on the Costa Rica-Nicaragua Border (Dec. 8, 2015); Costa Rica Foreign Min., Commission expresses deep concern over situation of Cuban migrants at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua (Dec. 8, 2015); Assoc. Press, Costa Rica Will Not Send Cuban Migrants Home, N.Y. Times (Dec. 9, 2015);Costa Rica President Sends Message to Cuban migrants to failure of negotiations with countries in the region, Granma (Dec. 9, 2015); Guatemala demands Mexico pledge over blocked Cuban migrants, Tico Times (Dec. 9, 2015); Costa Rica Foreign Min., Bilateral ministerial meetings agenda official visit to Cuba (Dec. 10, 2015).