Tuesday, December 4, 2018
A Harvard University professor for many years, Jorge Dominguez served as chair of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. With a research focus on Cuba, Jorge Dominguez talked in-depth with Readara on a volume he co-edited, The Cuban Economy in a New Era: An Agenda for Change toward Durable Development (David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Series on Latin American Studies 33).
Describing a background of international financial crisis that compelled president Raul Castro to liberalize Cuba’s economy, Dr. Dominguez noted import-dependent Cuba has still not developed an international exports initiative.
A past international strategy was to export services such as health care professionals to other countries. Unfortunately, unlike a decade earlier, when Venezuela was a major partner in services traded for petroleum, these deals with countries such as Kenya are relatively small today.
Another revenue-generating avenue has been tourism, with more facilities opened and an agreement made during the last two years of the Obama administration that generated significant tourism from the United States. In 2017 alone, approximately 600,000 US tourists visited Cuba.
However, these numbers have dropped, and Cuba has tried to attract more European, Latin American, and Canadian travelers. Unfortunately, the “sun and beach” tourists Cuba attracts tend to be those who take lower-end package tours.
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Professor emeritus at Harvard University, Jorge Dominguez most recently held the position of Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico. Focused on researching Latin American domestic and international politics, Jorge Dominguez co-edited The Cuban Economy in a New Era: An Agenda for Change toward Durable Development (David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Series on Latin American Studies 33).
In a recent Readara interview, Dr. Domínguez spoke of the background of the book as being a political situation that evolved when Fidel Castro became extremely sick in 2006 and his brother Raul Castro took on a position as acting president. With Fidel remaining in poor health until his death a decade later, Raul Castro formally became president in early 2008.
Unfortunately, the brother inherited what Dr. Domínguez describes as Fidel Castro’s “last gambit in economic policy,” involving a close “solidarity relationship” alliance with Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela at that time.
The foundation of this was barter trade, which relies on goods and services being exchanged, rather than cash instruments. Venezuela provided petroleum to Cuba at a major discount, while Cuba provided services, particularly health care personnel. This created a boom in the Cuban economy from 2002 to 2007, but ultimately succumbed to a worldwide petroleum price collapse, as the international financial crisis hit. Raul Castro took the reins at exactly the moment that Cuba was bearing the full weight of this economic uncertainty.