US-Cuba relations and the Perfect Storm
I recently chatted with ‘our man in Havana’, Jesus Noguera, about what is going on in our beloved Cuba; how its people are holding up during what has turned out to be one the worst economic crisis in the country’s history. We find him in Torino, Italy, where he is in the process of obtaining his Italian residency with his Cuban-Italian wife Daniela. Not to worry, they will be returning to their beloved Cuba in March of next year!
“It’s a perfect storm” Jesus says with some seriousness underneath his otherwise sparkly personality. “It’s a combination of economic inefficiency, a long delay in updating our obsolete economic model copied from the Soviet Union and proved totally worthless; natural disasters like hurricanes and droughts; plus the most horrible and cruel years of blockade is now creating the worst crisis in our history since the so called Special Period.”
The Special Period was the years following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, when Cubas economy launched into a deep recession, and during which the average Cuban lost 20 lbs due to insufficient nutrition, food, lack of basic household goods and access to other daily necessities.
“If our leaders would have taken advantage of the two terms of the “honeymoon” relationship with Obama we would be in a much better situation now to cope with this monster crisis. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. The agriculture is not doing well and we are still importing more than fifty percent of our food.”
The Cuban government has announced a monetary reform to be implemented in the near future, which includes the termination of what’s known as “la libreta”, a little booklet or card that Cubans since the early years of the Revolution have used to access basic food items such as rice, cooking oil, flour, sugar and other basic food supplies.
Jesus elaborates: “They (the Cuban government) will take away many of these subsidies, and as a result decrease the purchasing capacity of our Cuban peso. Also, the “dolarization” of our economy will result in a huge gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” in Cuba.”
Jesus refers to the stores that sell food and basic staples that before were sold at subsidized prices to low income families, and now to be sold in exchange for USD,
Regarding the how the coronavirus has hit the country, Jesus proudly explains: “The best news coming from Cuba is the way our government has managed the pandemic. We have been able to control it and even to research and eventually will manufacture our own vaccine. That is a huge accomplishment for our dilapidated economy and an evidence of the priorities in our social system.”
Jesus is optimistic about the changes a new US government might implement in the relationship to Cuba, but he believes it is not the only way to Cuba’s future.
“I personally think that the future success of our country as a free and independent nation relies exclusively on us, and not on the President occupying the White House.
Regarding Biden vs. Trump he believe there is reason for hope. “It’s true that a democratic President will have a different approach than a Republican one but we need to make all the necessary changes in Cuba to have a real independence; hence obliging any US President to accept our reality and diminishing their impact on us.
“It’s a titanic task!” he concludes. “But possible!”
Join the conversation!
AND THE PERFECT STORM
When: Friday, December 4th, at 1 pm PST / 4 pm EST
Where: via Zoom (link will be sent upon registration)
CCJ’s Cuba guide Jesus Noguera; and Chip Barclay, former Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba
Note that this session is free of charge, but we kindly ask that you consider making a small donation in support of the Cuban people to Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation’s general fund by clicking here.
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