The Cuban Economic Model Update Comes Up with Some Unpopular Measures

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The upgrades to Cuba's economic model have implicated the establishment of measures that, although economic, impact other aspects of daily life: the relations between different social groups and between individuals. 

Such measures have been supported in principle by the Revolutionary Party's Social and Economic Policy Guidelines, which were discussed at the sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba and approved in April 2011. 

According to the official document (pdf):

Los Lineamientos definen que el sistema económico que prevalecerá continuará basándose en la propiedad socialista de todo el pueblo sobre los medios fundamentales de producción, donde deberá regir el principio de distribución socialista “de cada cual según su capacidad a cada cual según su trabajo.

The Guidelines establish that the prevailing economic system will continue to be based on the people's  socialist ownership of the fundamental means of production, ruled by the socialist principle of distribution:  “from each according to his ability to each according to his work.”

The package of implemented measures have been many and dissimilar.  Some have reorganized the functions of state institutions, like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for example, and for others the sphere of action has strictly been the production of goods and services, emphasizing those related to agriculture

Undoubtedly, the [rules] on the stimulation of a non-state sector of employment and economic management, understood as self employment, has been one of the most novel and its consequences have also been studied. 

In this regard, sociologist Mayra Espina Prieto, in a trilogy of papers published in the Cubacontemporanea magazine, reveals some of the tensions occurring in Cuban society after the implementation of the new economic model:

A través de consultas a expertos se ha podido establecer que la lista de actividades autorizadas para el trabajo por cuenta propia preferencia actividades masculinas, con lo que se crea un desbalance y barreras de género desde el inicio. De igual modo, muy pocas de las ocupaciones listadas se basan en conocimiento técnico de media y alta calificación, activo que poseen muchas mujeres y generaciones adultas mayores.

By consulting experts, it has been found that the list of authorized activities for self-employment gives preference to masculine activities, whereby creating an imbalance and gender barriers from the get-go. Likewise, very few of the listed occupations are based on mid and high level technical knowledge, an asset that many women and older adults possess. 

And she adds:

Es difícil pronosticar los impactos sociales de la reforma, y es obvio que los cambios que se producirán no provendrán exclusivamente del rumbo de transformaciones centralmente pautado y planificado.

It is difficult to predict the reform's social impacts, and it is obvious that the changes that occur will not come exclusively from the course of centrally governed and planned transformations. 

Unpopular Measures?

The decisions taken at the government level, by virtue of the Cuban economic model update, draw attention to their repercussions, which are concentrated not only in the realm of private work or self-employment. 

To be able to understand and learn about what have been the most controversial measures that the Cuban government has taken, this author asked Twitter users in Cuba what they thought was the most unpopular measure yet. Here are some opinions: 

@cubanoinsular19 @Negracubana @Ravsberg @lrpbyzard the most unpopular is closing the #cines3D [3D cinemas] and the most dangerous is #CodigoTrabajo [the Labor Code] what do you say @Isbel_oc

— Yasmin S Portales (@nimlothdecuba) January 3, 2014 

To which @cubanoinsular19 responded:

@Negracubana @nimlothdecuba @Ravsberg @lrpbyzard I wouldn't know what to pick,  my favorites: the retirement age, the 3D [cinemas], and the clothing. — Yohan González (@cubanoinsular19) January 3, 2014

Interested in going deeper into why there is concern for the retirement age in Cuba, @cubanoinsular19 tells us:

… porque es una medida q en cualquier país sería de un gobierno neoliberal, pero en Cuba fue presentada como una “medida necesaria”

….because it is a measure that in any other country  would be from a neoliberal government, but in Cuba it was presented as a “necessary measure.”

The retirement age in Cuba was extended, in a progressive way from 2009 to 2015, to 60 years old for women and 65 for men. In other words, for 7 years an additional [year] will be consecutively added until reaching the age limits established for each gender. However, according to @cubanoinsular19:

… en lo personal, no conozco a nadie q esté de acuerdo con los términos de jubilación.

…personally, I don't know anyone that is in agreement with the terms of the retirement age.

The Cuban economic model update also needed to rewrite the Labor Code. The draft was discussed on the island by labor unions and received numerous criticisms from bloggers, some of them as blunt as those made by LGBT activists to the point that they were taken into account in the final draft of the legal norm. 

Regarding the 3D cinemas,  the Juventud Rebelde [Youth Rebel] newspaper, a branch of the Young Communists League, published an extensive report titled “Live in 3D“, which was followed by the decision of the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers  to prohibit such theaters, which had been established and maintained operating on a self-employment license called “Recreational Equipment Operator.”   

The controversy that arose from the measure was very arduous, and renowned Cuban intellectuals participated in it, such as Victor Fowler, Dean Luis Reyes, and Gustavo Arcos, for example; it also impacted social networks: 

Cuban intellectuals argue about the closing of the #cines3D [3D Cinemas] in l#Cuba (

— PortalComunicacion [Communication Portal] (@portal_com)  November 22, 2013

The Price of Cars

Judging by how much the media has addressed the subject, the price list (in CUC) of the cars that the Cuban government sells to the population for the first time in 55 years, will qualify by the end of 2014 to be granted the title of the “most commented and vilified event” of  all of the government decisions. Blogger Alejandro Cruz  publishes his discontent on his Twitter profile: 

Nobody fools me with this, this is counterrevolution to the core, those prices only show disdain…

— Alejandro Cruz (@Cuba1erPlano) January 3, 2014

Besides Facebook, blogs, media outlets, and websites, it is possible to access the numerous writings concerning this measure: for example, OnCuba Magazine published an extensive report titled “The Automobile Market in Cuba: Antillean surrealism.” 

Even though the news of the sale of cars was enthusiastically accepted at the time, the prices have destroyed any possibility that some people had to buy, as they say in Cuba, “a carrito.”

In an article published by Cubadebate a commentator named Lourdes said: 

Y los médicos, artistas, ingenieros y todos los cubanos que de una manera íntegra y muy sacrificada lograron obtener la carta de autorización del Ministerio al que pertenecen y del Ministerio de Transporte luego de una minuciosa investigación de sus ingresos, un certifico del Banco Cubano donde fue depositado este dinero, que la mayoría no sobrepasa los 5 000.00 CUC que será de ellos???? El Estado Cubano al que han servido durante tantos años los olvidó???. No tendrán nunca la posibilidad que tanto soñaron y por la que trabajaron durísimo en nuestro país y fuera de él??? En fin no son pocos los amigos que se encuentran con las “AMBICIONADAS CARTAS” en sus manos, sintiéndose estafados, engañados y decepcionados con esta nueva medida que quizás debió tener en cuenta que estas personas que ya estaban aprobadas hace más de un año no podrán nunca alcanzar un auto de 2da al menos con estos nuevos precios!!!. Qué será de ellos????? :(

And the doctors, artists, engineers, and all of the Cubans who have wholly and sacrificially managed to obtain a letter of authorization from the Ministry to which they belong and the Ministry of Transportation after a meticulous investigation of their income,  and a certificate from Banco Cubano where the money was deposited,  the majority doesn't exceed 5,000.00 CUC; what happens to them???? The Cuban State that they have served for so many years has forgotten them??? They will never have the opportunity that they have so dreamed of and worked so hard for in and outside of our country??? Anyway, many friends  have the “COVETED LETTERS” in their hands, feeling duped, cheated, and disillusioned by this new measure that maybe should bear in mind that these people  were already approved over a year ago will never be able to get a second hand car, at least with these new prices!!! What will happen to them???? :(

Since laughing in hard situations is one of the specialties of the people of the Island, comments appeared in the internet like the following; both on the Facebook profile of journalist Francisco Rodriguez who also blogs in PaquitoeldeCuba:

Y eso no es nada, deja que empecemos a vender barcos…

And this is nothing, let us start selling the boats…


Dicen que había muchas personas en las agencias de autos: NINGUNA es periodista. 

They say that there were many people in the car agencies: NONE are journalists.

In this way important reactions have been stirred up on the social networks, which make us think that perhaps the issue of the price of cars that the Cuban government sells will be revisited, such as what happened in the case of musician Robertico Carcasses and the closing of 3D cinemas. Although in the latter case the official reaction was limited to an analysis of the implication in the paper Granma, a publication of the Communist Party of Cuba.  However, in what is called “El Carcasseo” the pressure from the social networks probably positively influenced the final solution of the case.

Perhaps the issue of the price of cars will be solved by such citizen pressure or move to second place this year when it is replaced by  the final news about the currency exchange

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