Don’t Expect Revolution in Cuba

Cuban dissidents and Cuban-American leaders have started to ask why Cubans haven’t followed the lead of oppressed populations in Egypt and Tunisia in overthrowing long-entrenched regimes. Wake Forest University Associate Professor of Political Science Peter Siavelis said he doesn’t expect to see demonstrations for democracy in the streets of Havana anytime soon.

Political and economic conditions in Cuba are more similar to North Korea than Egypt or even Libya, said Siavelis, an expert on Latin American politics. “The level of repression is much more systemic and substantial than in Egypt.”

The Communist government’s security apparatus is pervasive and quick to shut down any opposition or protests before they have a chance to grow, he said. Fidel and Raul Castro still have the support of the military and secret police. And, because the government controls the media and only the Communist Party elite has Internet access, many Cubans might not even know about the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, he said.

“Cuba is a small, insular place,” Siavelis said. “The government maintains a vice grip over any exchange of information. There is a real sense of isolation among the people, which has limited their ability to build any social capacity for change.”

There are some similarities between Cuba and Egypt, Siavelis said, including a long-standing oppressive regime, high unemployment, an increasingly younger  population, and a lack of opportunities for even the well educated.

Unlike Egypt, Cuba lacks any significant organized opposition, any private enterprise beyond a small number of self-employed people, and a free flow of information, both within the country and in news coming from other countries, he said. Few Cubans — primarily Communist Party leaders and members — even have access to a computer, and there are tight controls on the Internet, Siavelis said.

Cuba is one of the last centrally controlled economies in the world. The government employs about 85 percent of the population. President Raul Castro has made some economic reforms, such as allowing more workers to be self-employed, since he succeeded his brother Fidel in 2008.

Castro announced last year that about 20 percent of government workers — around one million people — would be laid off beginning this month. But on Monday, he announced that the layoffs have been postponed, perhaps with an eye toward avoiding any protests like the ones that sparked the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, Siavelis said.

“Even though Raul has instituted some significant reforms — allowing for some private-sector ownership of businesses for instance — the economy is still in the hands of the government, which lessens any chance of political reform,” Siavelis said.

And there’s still the matter of the 50-year-old U.S. embargo, which Siavelis believes hurts the cause of democracy because it limits the flow of people, goods and information into the country. “The government still waves the flag of national sovereignty and plays up U.S. hostilities. The Castro regime has outlasted presidents going back to Eisenhower, so you have to think at some point that it’s not working.”

Siavelis sees more similarities between Egypt and Venezuela than between Egypt and Cuba: an educated, urban, mobile population; unified opposition; access to outside media sources; and oil money being diverted to support other oppressive regimes, including Cuba.

Siavelis and other Cuba watchers will be watching closely when the Cuban Communist Party Congress convenes in Havana for the first time in 14 year next month. Siavelis expects decisions to be made then about the future of the country’s leadership. Fidel Castro is expected to resign as head of the Communist Party and to be succeeded by Raul Castro. Raul Castro has said that the congress will officially adopt reforms to modernize the Soviet-style economy, but how far those reforms will go remains to be seen.

Siavelis expects Cuba to follow the model of Vietnam and China: slowly embracing limited economic reforms, while maintaining tight political control. “But economic reform does unleash a demand for political reform, and then the question becomes, is the government able to repress that,” he said. “In Vietnam and China, because of the tremendous economic success, the government has been able to do that. But I don’t see Cuba being able to replicate that economic success.”


Long-lasting friendship ties between Vietnam and Cuba further strengthened

VietNamNet Bridge – The Cuban President has declared that the Vietnam-Cuba relationship founded by former presidents Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro will be further promoted by current and future generations.

During a visit to Cuba, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong met with former President Fidel Castro and held talks with the President of the Cuban State Council and the Council of Ministers, Raul Castro on September 6, who affirmed the long-lasting friendship between the two countries will develop further with new achievements.

Meeting with Fidel Castro, Mr Trong conveyed best regards from Vietnamese leaders– he is a great friend of Vietnam and Mr Trong said he hopes under the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party and State, Cuba will overcome its challenges and difficulties to gain more achievements in its national construction and development. He affirmed that Vietnam will further consolidate its traditional friendly relations with Cuba.

Fidel Castro expressed his delight at meeting with old friends and sincere thanks for the sentiment and supports for Cuba from the Vietnamese leaders and people. He reaffirmed that Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh will be great friends and comrades of Cuba forever. He said he hoped that there will more co-operative projects between the two countries, helping to promote mutual socio-economic development.

Receiving NA Chairman Trong, President Raul Castro praised Vietnam’s achievements and the results of talks between Mr Trong and the Chairman of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alacon,

For his part, Mr Trong said Vietnam always supports the Cuban revolutionary cause. To mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between the two countries, Vietnam has been organizing a number of activities to educate the young generation about the special ties. Vietnam has directed a Vietnamese sub-committee to prepare practical co-operative programmes for the 28th session of the meeting of the inter-governmental committee in La Habana in late September.

On September 7, NA Chairman Trong and the NA delegation left La Habana for home, ending their official visit to Cuba.

“For Vietnam, Cuba would gladly shed its own blood,” said the Chairman of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alacon, repeating former Cuban President Fidel Castro’s saying while receiving his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Phu Trong on September 6.

At the reception, both parties expressed their delight at the level of bilateral cooperation between the two national assemblies, and the two countries in general. They reaffirmed that they will work closely to enhance their solidarity, and comprehensive cooperation in a spirit of mutual trust.

They also promised to continue supporting each other on diplomatic issues, especially at international forums such as the United Nations (UN), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)

Both NA chairmen agreed to boost exchanges in legislative and supervisory work, aimed at helping the two governments step up their multifaceted cooperation.

They highly praised the operations of the inter-parliamentary committee and recommended effective measures to boost cooperation in economics, commerce, investment, and science and technology.

Mr. Alacon said that the visit was significant for both countries as they would review their time-honoured relationship over the last 50 years.

By the end of 2008, the turnover of two-way trade between both countries had reached US$497 million and cooperation in other fields including culture, science and technology, healthcare, education and training, agriculture, and oil exploration had grown stronger.

However, Mr. Alacon said that Cuba and Vietnam need to educate the young generations on their traditional relationship.

Mr. Trong said he was happy to visit the heroic and beautiful country and expressed his belief that the Cuban people will overcome their differences and succeed in their revolutionary cause.

He added that Vietnam will spare no effort to strengthen its ties with Cuba, considering it a top priority in Vietnam’s diplomatic policy.

Nguyen Van Son, Chairman of the Vietnam NA Committee for External Relations, said that Vietnam is always eager to share experiences in legislation, supervision, and decision making with Cuba on important issues.

Ranon Rezferro, Chairman of the Cuban NA Committee for External Relations, said that Cuba and Vietnam will do their best to improve their economic cooperation.

On the same day, NA chairman Trong laid a wreath at the Jose Marti Memorial and visited former Cuban Ambassador to Vietnam, Melba Henandez, who is Hero Mocada and chairwoman of the Cuba-Vietnam parliamentary friendship group.

Cuban President Meets Presidents of Viet Nam and Sri Lanka

Cuban News Agency: Cuban President Raul Castro met in Egypt with his counterparts of Viet Nam, Nguyen Minh Triet, and Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

According to Granma newspaper, during his meeting with Minh Triet, both leaders confirmed the close friendship and brotherhood ties that exist between the peoples of Viet Nam and Cuba and reiterated their willingness to continue strengthening bilateral economic and political cooperation.

Likewise, Raul’s meeting with Rajapaksa took place in a cordial and respectful environment. Both presidents spoke of the current state of bilateral relations and expressed their interest in further strengthening them.

Regarding the current international situation, their dialogue focused on topics related to developing countries and, particularly, on the role of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM).

Raul Castro is in Cairo, Egypt, where he arrived on Thursday after participating in the 15th NAM Summit of Heads of State and Government in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. – Cuba travel and hotel reservation

Vietnam invests in real estate project in Cuba

The Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUD) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Cuba’s Palmares Group on HUD’s investment to build a 36-hole golf course and tourism-service-apartment complex in Colodera Bauta.

The project is expected to cover an area of 300-400 ha, including a 180 ha lake.

A joint venture will be established to run the project, in which the Vietnamese and Cuban sides each hold 50% of chartered capital for 50 years. Cuba’s Palmares will hire consultants to assess the value of the land plot, which will be considered its capital contribution.

Palmares is a big group comprising 18 companies running restaurants, entertainment venues and golf courses with 1,000 business points.

The Vietnamese side has also negotiated with Palmares about a second golf course in Cabodela (Varadero, Matanzas).

Besides the cooperation with Palmares, HUD has also talked with Cubanacan, the leading tourism group in Cuba, about investment in a five-star hotel with 800 rooms which is expected to be located on a 9.22 ha land plot in Santa Lucia (Camaguey). The land plot is located next to a hotel run by Barcelo group Ignacio Agramonte.

According to Melia las Americas’ General Director René, Santa Lucia is an attractive place with beautiful beaches, while there are still few hotels here. The place is relatively far from Havana, but this is not a problem as tourists like tours to new places. In addition, Santa Lucia is located near Ignacio Agrimante international airport.

HUD has also worked with Gran Caribe about the upgrading of the Capri Hotel in Havana. In this case, with the two countries’ special relationship, Cuban ministries will seek permission to allow the Vietnamese side to make investment in the project with the Vietnamese side’s expected capital ratio of 20%.