New resolutions issued by the Ministry of Economy and Planning, introducing changes in economic relations, give more attention to the re-insertion of non-state forms of management. The measures, published in the Official Extraordinary Gazette, No. 4, of February 21, 2013, authorize the “payment in convertible pesos (CUC), to legal entities to natural persons in certain activities.”
Among the new provisions are food services offered by self-employed workers, the contracting of minor repairs services for government entities and the tourism system. They also apply in the experiments that are approved as new forms of management. Contract payments are to be made by “checks, cards, notes, bills of exchange, local credit cards and others.” The amounts payable are not limited by administrative decisions, as the amounts to be executed must be approved in the budgets and plans for the fiscal year of legal persons.
The information, that with the exception of North Korea which has no news range anywhere in the world, in Cuba, due to the pushback suffered in economic relations, is a peculiar, necessary and important fact.
It is a peculiar fact, because it is a step backwards. In 1959 the government unleashed a crackdown on private property and economic rights that began with the nationalization of foreign-owned companies, continued with national companies and did not stop until the elimination of the last 56,000 small private enterprises with the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968.
The result of the nationalization was inefficiency. The disappearance of the products and services provided by the closed establishments could never be made up for by the State. Instead, interest in productive results began to decline, which together with the insufficiency of wages, forced Cubans to survive on the margins of legality with consequent ethical deterioration.
It is, therefore, a partial return to what existed in Cuba before 1959, when the products and services offered by small private companies were paid for with the Cuban peso which was pegged to the U.S. dollar. The difference with the past is that there is now a dual currency: charge devalued pesos salary paid in CUC and the vast majority of products and services, which means Cubans return to the past in worst conditions.
At the same time, it is a necessary event because limitations and contradictions of the measures introduced to overcome the crisis in which the country is sunk, are not yielding positive results and must be amended and supplemented. Self-employment, a step in that direction, is only a tenuous resurrection of what existed before 1959 and require the removal of the barriers that were born to play an effective role in economic relations. Hence the need for the recent measures and other measures that will have to be enacted.
And finally, it is an important event because the delay has been so great that the return to the past is a step forward. The intention of the changes, that were manifested in 2006 and began to take shape from 2008, has not yielded the expected results. While the causes are many, among them two contradictions are highlighted: one, the attempt to achieve an efficient economy while preserving the model that led the country into the crisis; two, changing some aspects of the economy while ignoring the systemic character of social phenomena. These two contradictions, in an unfavorable national, regional and international context, with a huge debt and the possibility of losing at least part of the large subsidies from Venezuela, prevents the possibility of further retreat.
In this sense, according to an article by Yaima Puig Meneses, that appeared in the newspaper Granma on Thursday February 21, Marta García Pino, the specialist of the Macroeconomic Policy Group of the Standing Commission for Implementation and Development, said, “It is not a casual or isolated measure, rather a strengthening of self-employment in conjunction with the creation of other forms of non-state management as part of the reorganization of the economy in the country, making it necessary to modify the limits for the payments to natural persons from legal persons.”
The few results obtained with the measures that have been implemented are forcing them to reform the reforms in real time, complementing them with new provisions, such as the recent decisions about the payment in CUC from legal persons to natural persons as well as other provisions sure to be enacted.
Consequently, to advance is imposing the need to reintroduce economic relations and forms of property that were removed and remained banned for decades.
The result of this process is that it is producing changes. Whether or not the results of political will, what is important is that each step generates new contradictions, new scenarios and new possibilities. For that reason opinion journalism has a duty to point out the slowness, limitations and inconsistencies of the changes with critical remarks and suggestions, and at the same time to stimulate everything that goes in the direction of the transformation, until vital aspects that remain outside the government agenda are introduced.
I mean citizen rights and freedoms, without which the current measures also will not yield the results that Cuba urgently needs.
Published in Diario de Cuba
1 March 2013
“Without a strong union there will be no economy,” said Salvador Valdes Mesa, vice president of the Council of State and member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) in the recently concluded plenary session of the National Union of Sugar Workers. An approach which clearly expresses the vision of unions as instruments of the State and not as an association to defend the interests of workers.
Valdes Mesa, replaced the previous week as general secretary of the Workers Central Union (CTC), in the last two decades was first secretary of the PCC of the municipality and of the province of Camagüey, secretary-general of the Agriculture and Forestry Labor Union, Minister of Labor and Social Security.
Upon his departure from office of the head of the labor organization, Machado Ventura, second secretary of the PCC, explained that Salvador Valdes’s responsibility as vice president of the country did not allow him to also head the CTC, “but given the importance and significance of having a strong and consolidated labor movement,” he would continue performing this work from his new role. In his place, Carmen Rosa López Rodríguez, second secretary, will head the CTC until the XX Congress to be held in November.
The departure of Valdes Mesa from the CTC seems to be a part of the change in leadership of political and mass organizations. A few months ago, Carlos Rafael Miranda Martínez, Félix González Vigo, Yuniasky Crespo Vaquero and Teresa María Amarelle Boué, all replaced those who held those responsibilities in the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), the Young Communist Union (UJC) and the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). The four joined the Council of State on the 24th of February, when Valdes Mesa was appointed vice president of that body. This shows the lack of autonomy of the labor movement in Cuba, without which it might not economy is strong, but it is certain that there will be no strong unions.
Rise and Fall of Cuban Unions
A brief look at the history of this movement reveals the process leading to its demise. Emerging in the second half of the nineteenth century during the process of replacing the slave labor with wage labor, the Cuban labor union movement first showed itself with strikes in the tobacco industry and the founding of the first workers’ newspapers; it was extended in during the colonial period with the Law of Associations in 1888; and it was supported in the rights and freedoms recognized in the Constitution of 1901, receiving its first fruits in the first decade of the twentieth century with the approval of holidays and time off for bereavement, the eight-hour day for government workers, the prohibition of payment in tokens and vouchers, and the closure of shops and workshops at six in the afternoon, among other steps.
Its growing strength was manifested in the formation of the National Confederation of Workers of Cuba in 1925, in the strike that toppled the regime of Gerardo Machado in 1933, in the labor legislation of 1938, which guaranteed workers’ rights such as minimum wage and death pensions which were guaranteed in the constitution; and in the birth of the CTC in 1939. All these prior events made the labor union movement an important factor of Cuban civil society.
However, the subordination of trade unions to political parties that began in 1925, worsened in the 40’s with the struggle between Authentic Party and the Communists for control of the labor movement; and again in 1952, when Eusebio Mujal, then general secretary of labor movement after ordering a general strike against the coup that year, ended up accepting an offer from Fulgencio Batista in exchange for preserving the rights acquired by the CTC.
Finally, in 1959 it received the biggest blow: the CTC was dissolved and replaced by the CTC-R, the Revolutionary Cuban Workers Union. In November of that year, at the Tenth Congress general secretary David Salvador Manso said that the workers had not gone to Congress to raise economic demands but to support the revolution. The XI Congress in November 1961 confirmed the loss of autonomy when delegates gave up almost all historical achievements of the labor movement: the nine days of sick leave, the additional Christmas bonus, the work week of 44 x 48 hours, the right to strike and the 9.09% wage increase, among others. From that moment, the CTC became an auxiliary to the government.
The State Interests
The independence of labor unions with respect to any non-union institution is a prerequisite vital to the defense of their own interests. With their functions under state control, they ceased to emanate from the needs and interests of workers, leading to their demise. This dependence was endorsed in the 1976 Constitution, which did not recognize the results achieved by the union movement since its inception.
A vivid expression of the loss of autonomy was the pronouncement of the CTC with regards to the measures taken by the Government to reduce the State workforce and substitute self-employment. In the document entitled “Pronouncement of the Cuban Workers Union” issued in September 2010, it is stated that “Our state could not and should not continue maintaining companies, productive entities, and services with inflated payrolls, and losses that weigh on the economy, are counterproductive, generate bad habits and distort workers’ conduct. It is necessary to increase the production and quality of services, reduce social spending and eliminate undeserved bonuses, excessive subsidies, study as a source of employment and early retirement. The success of the process that starts now will depend on the political assurance from the union movement and under the leadership of the Party we union leaders give our support for the actions to be undertaken … “
The above text confirms the loss of independence of the CTC, without which the existence of real unionism is impossible. State interests are embedded in the document quoted, while nothing is said of the enormous problems of workers, firstly, of the inadequacy of current wages to provide a living.
23 April 2013
On the 29th of October of 1897 in the pasture of La Yaya, in Sibanicú, Camagüey, the drafting of what would become the last mambí Constitution came to an end. The resulting text represented a qualitative leap forward in Cuba’s constitutional history. This was due to the inclusion, for the first time, of a dogmatic part that included the most advanced individual political and civil rights at the time: habeas corpus, freedom and confidentiality of postal communications, freedom of religion, equality before taxation, freedom of education, right to petition, inviolability of the home, universal suffrage, freedom of expression and the right of assembly and association.
This result was determined by multiple causes; particularly because the always-present interdependence between development and individual freedoms in every social project is reflected in the constitutional history of human rights.
For example: the Magna Carta imposed by the English nobility on John Lackland in 1215, the Habeas Corpus Act of 1674, the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the United States’ Declaration of Independence of 1776, and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789. These, among other documents, spread at a global level, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, put into force in 1976.
Cuba’s constitutional history began in the colonial period with the Project for an Autonomous Government in Cuba, drafted in 1811 by Father José Agustín Caballero. In 1812, Joaquín Infante, an attorney from Bayamo, drafted the Constitutional Project for the Island of Cuba, and in 1821, priest Félix Varela drafted the Project of Instruction for the Politically and Economically Autonomous Government of the Overseas Provinces. Later, during the wars of independence, in a context of contradictions between military and civil law, Cuba’s constitutional history was enriched by the mambí legislation.
On the 10th of April of 1869, the Guáimaro Constitution, in which an emphasis on civil law was imposed, was signed. This Basic Law based on a tripartite division of powers, gave the legislative power to a House of Representatives that had the authority to appoint and depose the President of the Republic in Arms and the Commander-in-Chief. The executive power was in the hands of the President, and the judiciary was independent.
Despite the facts that it was created during the war of independence and that the House of Representatives was granted authority over the Republic’s sovereignty, the Constitution’s emphasis on civil law? allowed for the rights and freedoms of all Cubans to be protected? in Article 28 as follows: “The House cannot attack the right to freedom of religion, freedom of the press, peaceful assembly, education and petition, or any inalienable right of the people.” According to Dr. Oscar Loyola, in Guáimaro, the possibility of a military dictatorship, always latent in a historical process of this nature, was programmatically eliminated.
From the 13th to the 18th of September of 1895, at the rebirth of the war of independence in Cuba, a new Constitution was drafted in Jimaguayú, which reflected the experience gained from The Ten Years War. As M. Sc Antonio Álvarez expressed, three groups of interests intersected in this document: predominance of military power, José Martí’s principles and an exacerbated anti-militarism, between those who had a pact of interests reflected in that the highest authority of the State was concentrated in a Council of Government with powers to dictate all matters relating to the civil and political life of the revolution; in other words, this body had executive and legislative powers. Article 24 limited the validity of this Constitution to a period of two years.
In compliance with this article, a new Constituent Assembly met in La Yaya from the 13th to the 29th of October. The resulting Constitution readopted the civilian character from Guáimaro. It consolidated the organization of power in civil institutions, and closed the cycle of the type of constitutionalism that had resulted from the wars of independence (Guáimaro, Baraguá, Jimaguayú, and La Yaya), which, obstructed by the American occupation and the imposition of the Platt Amendment, gave way to the Republican Period. The best evidence of the scope and importance of La Yaya is that the civil and political rights enshrined in this document were readopted and enriched in the constitutions of 1901 and 1940.
The advocates of the supremacy of militarism wondered: Why did the Basic Law include a dogmatic part whose immediate purpose was to serve as judicial instrument during wartime? The answer to this question had been already answered in several writings by José Martí, for whom the Republic had become the definition of the democratic soul of the nation.
Martí established a logical genetic relationship between war, independence, and the Republic, where the first was a bridge to reach the last one. This is why he clearly defined the purposes of the war, so that after that conquest of immediate independence, these then would become the seeds of tomorrow’s long-lasting independence. He believed that, in times of victory, only the seeds that were planted in times of war thrive.
In his speech, “With All and for the Good of All,” delivered in November of 1891, Martí said: “Let’s close the doors to a Republic that is not founded on means worthy of the decorum of men, for the good and the prosperity of all Cubans!” In April of 1893, he expressed: “That is the greatness of the Revolutionary Party: that to found a Republic, it has started from a Republic. That is its strength: “that in the work of all, are the rights of all.” In the Montecristi Manifest, he wrote: “Our motherland must be built, from its roots, upon feasible ways that are self-born, so that a government that lacks truth and justice cannot lead it to the path of favoritism or tyranny.”
The post-1959 events are what best proves the importance of the civil law emphasis of the Constitution of La Yaya. After 17 years of government under The Basic Law of the Republic of Cuba, the Constitution of 1976, which abolished the Constitution of 1940 and made political and civil rights were subject to the legitimization of the Communist Party as the maximum leading force of the State and society, was approved; something alien and contrary to the day when a new Constituent Assembly, elected by the people, assumes the task of drafting a Magna Carta that includes our constitutional heritage and shapes it into the reality of today’s Cuba and of the winds blowing across the universe.
Originally published in El Diario de Cuba
Translated by: Chabeli
1 November 2012
Several articles, which I have now re-uploaded, disappeared from my blog for unknown reasons, among them “Baseball Classic III” and “Are There Unions in Cuba?” published in Diario de Cuba on the 26th of March and on the 4th of April of 2013, respectively. I apologize to the readers for any inconvenience this may have caused.
Translated by: Chabeli
22 April 2013
According to the official results of the “elections” held on Sunday, February 3 of this year, 1,249,832 Cubans, “14.22% of all voters,” did not go to the polls or cast invalid ballots in a clear display of their rejection of the Cuban electoral system.
The number of people behaving in this way has been growing over the last few elections. In 2003 the total of these two categories (non-voters and those who cast invalid ballots) was 506,453, or 6.09% of the electorate. In 2008 it was 657,119, or 7.73%. In the most recent elections, however, it rose to 1,249,832 Cubans, or 14.22% of the electorate, almost double the number from the previous balloting.
The most notable thing about this jump was the number of people who decided not to vote. In 2003 193,306 people abstained, 2.35% of the voters. In 2008 the figures were 264,212, or 3.11%. In 2013 the number rose to 790,551, 9.21%, nearly three times as many as in 2008.
To not vote “in a society without civil or political rights, under almost total state control and with only one constitutionally recognized party” is the most daring option.
In Cuba, where the only option is to approve the candidates chosen by the Candidacy Commissions — committees made up of leaders of mass organizations, whose own statutes declare them to be subordinate to the Communist Party — not voting is proof that the Government has lost the popular consensus. The results, therefore carry a clear lesson and are a message that the Cuban authorities should take to heart. To ignore this would lead to an inability to govern.
The reason behind the results is that it is really the Candidacy Commissions which choose the deputies who make up the National Assembly of the People’s Power. These deputies then choose the Council of State and its president as well as the president of the Council of Ministers. The latter then chooses the members of the Council of Ministers itself. As a result the National Assembly and the government are really determined by the powerful Candidacy Commissions. This explains why many Cubans decide not to vote to such a degree that abstentions now account now nearly 15% of the Cuban electorate. This is three times the number of members in the Communist Party. It also shows that the so-called elections in Cuba have little bearing on the difficult living conditions of the thousands and thousands of Cubans who live outside the law or who choose to leave the country.
Faced with a profound structural crisis like the one threatening Cuba, the election results are confirmation that is impossible to limit change to certain aspects of society. Therefore, in spite of the government’s persistence in ignoring the subject of a multi-party system, reality has succeeded in bringing it to the forefront. The election figures confirm the existence of a non-conformist segment of society that is demanding a political role. It is made up of Cubans who lack the right of free association and the right to participate in deciding the fate of the nation. How is it possible to justify the existence of a single party when almost 15% of voters do not respond to its call?
Social development does not exclude but rather implies a multi-party system as the natural expression of a diversity of ideas and interests. It is the mechanism by which citizens express themselves politically. The nation is a community of people who are diverse but equal in dignity. They are looking for a common good for which full economic, civil, political and cultural rights and responsibilities are essential. Therefore, the restitution of the right of association and the depenalization of political differences are necessary for Cubans to be able to play their corresponding active and decisive role in the changes to come.
In The Social Contract Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote that the union of persons to defend and protect their well-being emanates from a general will that transforms the parties to the contract into a collective political body. The exercise of this will confers power, which is referred to as sovereignty, and the party exercising it is sovereign. Based on this sovereign status, the people choose officials to carry out the general will and temporarily invest them with a mandate to propose and effect laws, and to preserve citizens’ liberties. In other words elections are a manifestation of popular sovereignty.
The violation of the constitutional order in Cuba, which occurred in 1952, gave rise to an insurrectional movement which overthrew the dictatorship in 1959. On January 8 of that month the leader of the revolutionary movement swore that he would hold elections in the shortest period of time possible and restore the constitution of 1940. However, several days later and without popular consultation, the nation’s Magna Carta was replaced with the Basic Law of the Republic of Cuba. By virtue of this Law, which was in force until the adoption of the constitution of 1976, the Council of Ministers assumed all legislative power and constitutionally affirmed one-party rule. From then until today “elections” have been carried out under this policy of exclusion in which the people cannot directly elect the president of the republic. This amounts to a clear rejection of our historic legacy.
The current system, which limits direct vote by the people to delegates for municipal assemblies, is one of the main causes for the indifference of those who do not take part or who cast invalid ballots. It is an efficient system for holding on to power, but useless for advancing the changes that society demands. All these issues emphasize the need to introduce a multi-party system and to carry out the corresponding changes to the constitution.
Published in DiariodeCuba.com
8 March 2013
A report released on Friday, January 25, 2013 in the newspaper Granma reports that the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) replaced or “released from their duties” 632 presidents of agricultural cooperatives. The president of that institution, Viego Felix Gonzalez, said at the Eighth Plenum of the National Committee, that a cooperative can not function well if those who direct it do not. The news is proof that what in Cuba is called by the term “cooperative” are actually enterprises created, controlled and directed by the State.
To Gonzales’ approach must be added that much less can a cooperative work well if it ignores its basic principles, defined by ACI (1): “The cooperative is an autonomous decision of persons united voluntarily to meet their economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a publicly-owned enterprise together with a democratic structure, where every associate has the right to one vote and decisions are made by the majority, with an elective management and equitable share, with proportional distribution of the surplus.
The absence of these principles in the agricultural cooperative is related to the removal, after 1959, of the peasant associations which were born in Cuba in the late nineteenth century. Among many others: in 1890, the Neighborhood Associations in the areas of Manzanillo and Bayamo; in 1913, the Farmers’ Association of the Island of Cuba; in 1937, the celebration of the First National Peasant Congress, as well as the committees, federations and peasant unions across the country; and in 1941, the celebration of the Second National Peasant Congress and the creation of the National Peasant Association (NCA) to fight eviction, for the ownership of land, improved markets, prices, credits and income rebates, a movement in which many fighters were killed, among whom was Niceto Perez, killed on May 17, 1946.
In 1960 the leader of the Cuban revolution said: It is necessary for small farmers, rather than being sugar cane growers, tobacco growers, be simply farmers, and we organize a large National Association of Small Farmers. For this purpose some existing organizations were disbanded or merged into the National Peasant Association, which in May 1961 became the ANAP.
In order to reduce the number of independent farmers a policy was defined to “cooperativize” the existing 200,000 peasant proprietors (100,000 that existed before 1959 and another 100,000 who received title deeds with the First Agrarian Reform Law 1959).
On the basis of the National Peasant Association began to be created the first Mutual Aid Brigade and starting in 1960, the Credit and Service Cooperatives (CCS) made up of peasants who maintained ownership of the land and the means of production, but no legal ownership.
In the same year, 1960, by government decision, the Sugarcane Cooperatives were created in areas that had belonged to the sugar companies, but soon were transformed into state property, so that the cooperative was reduced to a few associations made up of private farmers. Fidel Castro himself stated: those cooperatives did not really have a historical basis, since cooperatives are actually formed by farmers who own land, so it was decided to convert them into state enterprises.
Starting from the thesis of the First Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) in 1975, the development of Agricultural Production Cooperatives (CPA) was promoted, formed by peasants who joined their farms and other means of production “voluntarily”; a process in which ANAP concerned itself with convincing the farmers in order to weaken the resistance to giving up with their land and joining cooperatives.
Eighteen years later, in 1993, faced with the inefficiency of state farms, in an attempt to make them produce, they created the Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC), and leased them idle state lands in usufruct.
As we can see, neither the sugarcane cooperatives nor those created later were born from the voluntary union of their associates, but rather they were created by external decisions. Their productive and economic activity was subordinated to the State’s plans to meet the demand of domestic consumption of the population, while the marketing of their products was the job of the State Procurement and Distribution Agency. Thus, the agricultural cooperatives emerged in Cuba and beyond the control of the peasantry and contrary to the need as defined by the ACI Congress in 1995.
Due to failure of cooperatives without autonomy, in August 2012 a package of measures was dictated, and a new general regulation for the UBPCs with the objective of “liquidating” the dependence of these associations on State enterprises. That document states that managers are not cadres appointed by the State, but elected by the members in General Assembly.
Despite this provision and the fact that the President of the Council of State reaffirmed on December 13, 2012, in the last session of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the need to break the colossal psychological barrier that results from a mentality rooted in habits and concepts of the past, the ANAP, anchored in time, replaces hundreds of presidents of agricultural cooperatives, as if we were in 1961 undertaking three strategic missions in the current scenario: work to increase domestic food production; defend the principles of the Revolution, standing with justice for reason; and the political and ideological education of farmers and their alliance with the working class.
This is proof that, along with the introduction of new measures imposed to implement the right of farmers to freely associate, which is impossible to do through an institution which, in addition to having been created from, by and for the purposes of State, continues to act today as it did yesterday.
(1) International Cooperative Alliance developed the principles of cooperatives during its founding in 1895 and enriched them with the Cooperative Identity Statement, adopted in 1995 at the Second General Assembly.
February 11 2013
Just a few days ago, December 9, 2012, Decree-Law 300 came into effect, authorizing the leasing of idle state lands under the concept of usufruct. The new measure repeals Decree-Law 259 of July 2008, whose ridiculous results led to its repeal by the State Council.
Judging by the official criteria reported in the press, now the land will indeed produce. Among others, the legal director of the Ministry of Agriculture said the new Decree-Law will strengthen the process of leasing vacant land and ensure continuity and sustainability in its use; meanwhile the director of the National Control Center of Land, under the same ministry, ruled that the application of the law will allow an increase in food production.
These triumphalist statements do not take into account the relationship of the recent Decree-Law with the background of the agrarian problem in the country, especially with regard to land tenure and its efficient exploitation.
In the period between the end of the War of Independence of 1895 and the great expansion of the sugar industry between 1918 and 1924, agricultural property in Cuba suffered a considerable shift to the detriment of small and medium producers with tens of thousands of evictions.
The result of this process is reflected the 1946 census: of the 142,385 farmers who were in the country with 165 or fewer acres (equivalent to the Cuban land measure of 5 caballerías), which represented 24% of the arable land, only 48,000 were homeowners, while the remaining 76% of the land was concentrated in the hands of large national landowners and foreign companies.
With this distribution big landowners were not interested in intensive use of the land, while nearly a hundred thousand tenants, subtenants, sharecroppers and squatters,were unwilling to efficiently produce on land they did not own.
With the Revolution of 1959 the socialist State monopolized land ownership and introduced central planning. These two factors, property and planning, explained that half a century later, despite the various measures, more than one-third of the land concentrated in the large State-owned estates, remained and/or became idle.
After multiple failures in the attempt to make State-owned land produce, in the year of 2008 Decree-Law 259 was enacted, which delivered 3.7 million acres of the land to leaseholders (a large part of which remains unproductive). However, this legal judgement ignored the main causes of inefficiency and therefore failed to increase agricultural production.
Despite this experience, the Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy, adopted by the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party in 2011, re-instituted central planning to the detriment of the market and refused to deliver land ownership. That is, it insists on the implementation of an economic, political and social model that has never worked anywhere.
It must be said that, although the Decree-Law 259 lacked the basic elements to produce the required shift to agriculture, its importance was the recognition that something had to change. However, that something, to circumvent farmers actually holding title to property made the economy subject to ideology, and so could not fulfill the stated purpose.
The recent Decree-Law 300 is a step forward in some respects:
1 – Before, the area could be offered in lease could be from given from 33-100 acres of land and now is extendable up to 165 acres, but only for those who already possess land and are linked to a legally established State Farm, a Basic Unit of Cooperative Production (UBPC). or Agricultural Production Cooperative (CPA).
2 – Housing, warehouses and other facilities, previously banned, are now permitted.
3 – It provides certain facilities for the hiring of a workforce through family support, temporary agricultural workers and permanent workers.
However, access to inputs and services depends on those leasing the land being linked to legally established agricultural entities; there is a manifest disadvantage to individuals in the duration of the contract and that they are also responsible as part of the lease for fulfilling State plans for livestock and unproductive trade. Such limitations are moving towards an insurmountable contradiction: make the land produce while avoiding the formation of a national business.
In turn, Decree-Law 300 does not hide the decision to maintain monopoly control over the property of the State. In Article 11 it states that the lessees can be integrated with workers on a legally established state farm, or as cooperative members with a UBPC or CPA. In such cases, “the lessee cedes lease rights over the land and additions to the entity to which he is a member, which evaluates whether or not he may continue to work the land.”
Most significant is that the lease, understood as the right to enjoy a good of others, does not get to the root of the problem. It holds great contradiction: the land in State hands becomes idle, but whomever makes it produce is unable to access it as his property.
The subordination of economic laws to the ideology of power, explains both previous failures as well as the attempt to repair previous decisions with recent measurements. These changes inform preserve the essential factors that have conditioned the backwardness in agriculture.
Its positive aspect is that, despite government intentions, in a slow and tortuous process against all odds, many farm workers are training themselves as future agents of a national business.
Ultimately the new measures lacking the necessary depth, with occasional modification, will repeat previous failures. These facts allow us to assume the Decree-Law 300 will not make the land produce and until that changes, Cuba will have to continue acquiring, at high prices on the international market, products that could perfectly well be produced in the country.
Published in Diario de Cuba
December 17 2012