Partner of Bird & Bird (International) LLP
The visits by foreign leaders to Cuba boost the debates in relation with the future of Cuba: “Where is Cuba heading to?”. Or inspire certain wishes in the collective thinking: “I would love to visit Cuba before it changes”, as if changes in Cuba would necessarily produce as indefectible effect the disappearance of the collective memory. Quod non.
The announced visit to Cuba of the president of the government of Spain is not an exception. However the visit shall occur in a very different context than that of the visit of his predecessor Felipe González in 1986.
In 1986 the socialist block was still operative and Cuba was a party of the COMECON where the criteria for the economic exchange responded to different logics than those of the market economy. In 1986 the Cuban tourism industry was embryonic and the sugar –the sugar crop- was still leading the headlines of Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party.
The economic relations with the member states of the European Economic Community did not surpassed a marginal category and only few visionaries –those who risk the good patriots condition to navigate towards the dark waters of the defeatism- dare to anticipate the collapse of the Regime mentioned by Fidel Castro after the visit paid by Gorbachev in 1991. The works of the nuclear power plant of Juraguá were progressing in 1986 and Hugo Chávez was continuing his military career without any serious setbacks since that same year of 1986 he was promoted to major in the army of the Republic of Venezuela. The Bolivarian revolution, should it be already conceived, was still living in the most hidden wishes and plans of the major Chávez. The economic and financial blockade of the United States against Cuba was kept under the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who was much more concerned in bridling the fiscal deficit and discoloring the fateful clouds of the Iran-Contra. Silvio Rodríguez published his record “Causas y Azares” where he sang that “random is tangling around me, so powerful, so invincible.”
The history of Cuba, as it happens in all history, is that of causes and random. And the Cuba that Pedro Sánchez will find in 2018, being the same Cuba in its fundamental features, is not the same that Felipe González found in 1986. The dollar circulates freely since 1993, year up to which the simple holding of a few dollars was punished in the Criminal Code. The “cuentapropismo” (self-employment) is a firm reality from 2011 and the non-agrarian cooperatives (embryo of limited liability companies) were endorsed in 2012. As from 2013, as a consequence of the immigration reform driven by the government of Raúl Castro, the Cubans need no more than a passport (which is generally issued to all Cubans requesting it) to travel abroad. The remembrance of the Juraguá nuclear power plant has been replaced by the reality of the wind farms, the biomass plants and the photovoltaic solar installations. Cuba aims to produce 24 per cent of its electric power in 2030 from renewable sources.
In 2018 the economic and financial blockade of United States is still a stubborn reality and also a pretext. The Helms-Burton Act (and all the myriad of regulations designed by the US Administration) is still encysted since 1996 as a malignant tumor that hinders the normal development of the Cuban economy. Economic sanctions –weapons of massive destruction in the post-modern war- spread out a diffuse fear and slow down the brisk walking of foreign investment and long-term financing. However, Cuba in 2018 has solid assets that allow anticipating a more prosperous future in a scenario of normalized relationship with United States. A healthy and reasonably instructed population that maintains intact its ability of personal indebtedness (ordinary Cubans ow very little money) and whose real estate is adequately represented by titles (land registries operate well); security, which is essential for the development of the first industry of the country: tourism.
The constitutional reform started this year aims to include in plain language beneath its protective umbrella private property, cooperative property, separation of powers, judiciary Independence, the patrimonial liability of the Administration and the guarantees to foreign investors, among other elements. Although it may appear as a timid step for some, for other the mere citation of those potential realities deserves the anathema.
Everything indicates, however, that the new generation of Cuban leaders will manage to break the resistance of the more stagnant apparatchiks and to encourage the push of those who, like the Chilean Julio Numhauser, trouvère of Quilapayun, sing that “everything that changed yesterday will have to change tomorrow”. As it will in Cuba.
29/10/2018. © All rights reserved