Monday, March 13, 2017

Cuba Beyond the Cusp of Change (Day 4a): Reflections on a Week Long Penn State Graduate Course in Cuba

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)

It is my great privilege to have been encouraged to design and hold a week long embedded course program through Pennsylvania State University. My thanks to the office of the Penn State Office of the Vice Provost for Global Prgrams, Michael Adewumi and Kate Manni, Assistant Director for Embedded Programs, for making this possible.  Thanks as well to  Scott Gartner, the Director, Penn State School of International Affairs, and special thanks to Claudia Prieto (SIA Academic Adviser and Student Services Coordinator) and Rachel Arnold (Assistant to the Financial Officer, Penn State Law/SIA), without whose help and encouragement this program would not have happened. Great thanks as well to our hosts in Cuba, the Centro de Estudios Martianos that went out of its way to enrich the course and the experiences of our students.

This is the first of a series of posts that will develop reflections both on the teaching of embedded programs in Cuba, generally, but more specifically as a way of documenting the way my students and see see Cuba today.  For many years Cuba and its political order was said to be on the "cusp of change" (e.g., here).  Since the start of normalization of relations with the United States, it is quite evident that Cuba has now moved beyond the "cusp" and into the realities of integration within a global system to which it has had both privileged access and been excluded over the last half century.  The re-adjustments in both respects will mark the trajectory of Cuban life for the next generation (compare here, with here).

I started with the embedded course syllabus (INTAF 597C Penn State SIA) and then will post reflections for each day of the journey through the course materials and within Cuba.  The hope is that this provides some food for thought respecting the necessary evolution of political and economic systems, and the constraints within which systems change or expend great energy to stay the same.

Links for full contents HERE.

This post considers our activities on Day 4 Morning--Organization of the Cuban State and the Economic Model of Cuba.

Day 4 Organization of the Cuban State and the Economic Model of Cuba
 9:00           Lecture—Implementation of the Cuban economic model: Agriculture and Tourism.
                   Dra. Yainelis Mulet
11:00          Lecture—History of Cuba: Population, and governmental Structures.
                   Dr. Hassan  Pérez
12:30          Almuerzo included
14:30          Visit local and community development proyecto Muraleando de desarrollo

 We were fortunate to have two morning lectures at the Centro de  Estudios Maritanos in the Vedado section of Havana.  The classroom space was quite comfortable and conducive to learning.  The two lectures provided a window onto the range of opinion on key issues of policy and the conceptualization of the Cuban economic and political model. The afternoon was devoted to a visit to one of the better known private civil society projects to augment the social policy of the State through community based development strategies.

The first lecture was given by Dr. Yailenis Mulet of the University of Havana.  It was entitled Implementation of the Cuban Economic Model: Agriculture  and Tourism. Her focus has been on the process of economic decentralization in Cuba.  She spoke to the Cuban economic model in the principal sectors of agriculture and tourism.  Her presentation was in 3 parts: (1) on the Cuban economic model and the character of its reform; (2) main aspects of Cuban agriculture, and (3) major aspects of tourist economic model. 

1) on the Cuban economic model and the character of its reform;

Basic premises.  First is the socialist nature of the Cuban economic model.  This means that the Cuban constitution vests the state with the supreme power over the means of production. The result is a model grounded in central planning and all economic agents are subsumed within this planning, including foreign investors.  It is grounded in the old Soviet Model and in opposition to what they understand as the capitalist model (an understanding that is also grounded in a Soviet world view). The private sector remains limited and highly managed to avoid the emergence of class structures in the private sector.  It has severe limitations.  Many believe as a result that the model is not functional. There is rising social pressure for further reform.   changes in Cuban society also threaten the integrity of the system.  this occurs in a state that is still developing, with scarce natural resources, and from its view under severe military and economic threat from the united states, and negatively impacted by climate (hurricanes, drought and the like). While administration is decentralized within the country, virtually all decisions will be taken at some higher level of government. That has an effect of misallocations as it fails to take into account regional differences.

She then reviewed the substantial effects of economic collapse after the end of the Soviet Union, from out of which Cuba resorted to a social program expenditure and debt financing model. 

As a consequences they experienced high economic growth in the first decade of the 2000s, but in a way that was unsustainable.  Sustainability was attempted by opening up a private sector, and the economic model appeared to be opening up to markets based elements.  Yet this movement was short lived as the government sought to divert growth back toward a Soviet socialist model focusing on social spending without connection with GDP that characterized the last years of the leadership of Fidel Castro. This remains unsustainable and subsequent reforms suggest the tensions between the need for a markets friendly approach and the preference of many in the state apparatus for Soviet style anti-markets central planning. 

This tension has been evident in the movement between either markets or central planning that characterized economic policy in recent decades.

       1989-1993 Crisis and adjustment
       1994-1999 Reanimation and opening
       2000-2007 Grown and recentralization
       2007-2010 External adjust and put-out irrational prohibitions
       2010-2012 Construction of a vision of the country; New Policies (Guidelines)
       2013-2015 Reconstruction of international relations, fight against corruption and structural reforms.
       2016…… projections of the Development’s Plan to 2030 and new Model’s Conceptualization

The latest round of reform was viewed as economic, especially after the start of Raul Castro’s Presidency. The high point of reform produced the 2011 Lineamientos (Guidelines) for Economic Reform, a large set of reform measures that meant to balance the Soviet socialist basis of the economic model with the need to encourage a small private sector and that was meant to increase the wealth creating possibilities of economic activity. The results were to be implemented by 2016, but that was impossible as only 22% of the roughly 330 reforms were implemented.  Thus, reform remains a work in progress.

So where does the Cuban model go? That depends on where the state chooses to draw the line between the need to spend on social programs, or to focus on the development of national productive forces through state and private enterprises. The tension between the need to develop socialist relations and transformation of social awareness with the need to develop productive forces and produce sustainable growth through economic incentives may not be resolved soon. 

The current framework, then, appears to seek to try to focus on state social expenditures, but to finance that expenditure, in part, though managed development of productive forces within the state and non state sectors.  The consequence is the development of a mixed economy, but one with the vanguard party still very much in command.  That command, of course, is meant to provide a means of constraining either autonomy in the public sector or the development of markets (including markets in pricing of labor and goods) in the non state sector. Navigating between markets based activity and strong central planning will appear to be a principal object of vanguard part polities.  One thing that is clear is that in  the process of navigation, Cuba will go its own way; it has rejected as inapposite other state systems (esp. China and Vietnam) as inauthentic or inapplicable. To my taste, this narrow view of the constraints imposed by the Cuban economic and political model unnecessarily limits the ability of the state to develop its own ideology with the times, the principal lesson the Chinese model might have been able to teach had the Cuban state apparatus been open to broader study.

The Direction of reform?

What, then, is the character of reform that seeks to navigate between the focus on social spending and the need for a sustainable production model? Professor Mulet suggested its contours.  First Cuba had to secure a stable international financial position through debt renegotiation. Second, the state would have to institutionalize in a sustainable way, the reconstruction of international relations, through the acceptance of the necessity and reality of stable economic relations.  Third, a new foreign investment law might make more plausible the likelihood of increased foreign direct investment.  All three of course could be reduced to one: the need raise development capital. To that end it will be necessary to stabilize the international context within which Cuba can again draw on a stable flow of investment to reduce its costs of capital, avoid vulture funds (dragging down Cuba’s financial position until it is able to pay off its massive outstanding debt), and gaining Cuba access to debt financing that would permit leveraging.  

To that end, Professor Mullet suggested more specifically the course of reform the government had sought to emphasize.  First a reform of the state sector would be necessary.  That might include reduction of state sector employment, institutional reorganization for improvement in efficiency, and decentralization to permit more contextually relevant decisionmaking respecting economic planning. The heart of these reforms would be to delegate central planning from the national to provincial governments—the national government would become a principles based apparatus (at its most developed state) and operationalization would be crammed down to the provinces but remain firmly within the public sector. Second, a similar reform of the SOE sector would have to be undertaken. Again the focus would be on institutional reform for efficiency and a  move toward SOE autonomy—leaving regulatory governance and principles and objectives based direction from the national apparatus of state.Third, the agricultural sector reforms would be directed toward achieving sustainability. This would require reform that would encourage a move toward an agricultural sector that would not need state subsidies and that might become a net contributor to wealth.  with own resources.  Yet ideological constraints continue to set the limitations of this vision.  For example, the idea of allowing individuals to aggregate capital in corporate form would be incomprehensible within the Cuban Marxist Leninist model.  The corporate form, as an echo of the aggregation of authority of the vanguard Party itself and its ultimate control of all productive assets, makes corporate form not directly managed by the state impossible. What is left is the labor cooperative, which has both been liberalized but remains tightly constrained and managed through the relevant ministries and their provincial counterparts (On cooperatives in Cuba see HERE). Fourth, the state would have to encourage a broadening of self employment.  The object is to reduce the social spending that now drains the state of the capital it might otherwise devote toward investment in development (through investment in targeted sectors like bio-medical research, agriculture, and the tourist sector). These objectives, of course, formed the core of the goals of the Lineamientos from 2011, and they remain a vital part of economic reform.  Yet, the state appears to be its own worst enemy in the realization of these reforms: the state remains firmly in control of labor pricing (the chasm between official labor pricing and the realities of pricing for necessities tending to exacerbate the difficulties of managing the euphemistically called “underground” economy.”  (see, Pérez-López,  Jorge  F.  1995. Cuba’s  Second  Economy (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers).

These four elements, then, frame the main structural changes  that are understood to be required to effectuate sustainable economic reform.  These structural changes can also be divided into four categories:
--role of different kinds of property (delegation of rights to exploit the means of production in controlled and managed ways) social property
--ways of administering social property promoting deconcentrating and decentralizing state and giving more space to cooperatives
--distribution of wealth in accordance with the work contributed
--move more toward regulatory governance—from direct to indirect regulation (through private sector businesses for example)

The results of this conceptualization of reform and its implementation have been both positive and negative:

            diversification of export matrix; some complementarity between sate and private sector; diversification of export sector; payment and renegotiation of external debt; consolidation of political international spaces; bigger space for internal public discussion
            poor dynamic growth of GDP; insufficient structural transformation; weak reform of agricultural sector; low dynamics of exports of goods; loss of qualified manpower; persistence of low salaries; functional concentration of income; territorial concentration of positive impacts (some regions gain much more than others). In addition, the education success has created disjunction between training in education and economic needs (lots of PhDs and few farmers and plumbers).

Professor Mulet noted the volatility of GDP growth, which has oscillated but always below 4.5%.  Such oscillation in the face of relatively weak growth always increases the danger both of instability and of the inability of the state to adequately raise capital and ensure an appropriate level of social spending. My sense is that the problem currently defies solution within the contradiction of state ideological choices and the realities of the Cuban economic condition exacerbated by the weight of Cuba’s large and unresolved sovereign debt (on Cuba’s sovereign debt and Cuba’s position see eg HERE).

With this context nicely established, Mulet pointed to the main challenges now facing Cuba.  She divided these into three categories—while there have been many reform the fundamental concepts underlying them has not changed creating string constraints.  Tension—they want a private sector but find them incompatible with the system; they want foreign investment but fear its effects on sovereignty. Need to move to a new conceptual middle for economic organization.  Yet the vanguard party appears committed to its traditional Soviet style conceptual basis for its political economy: e.g. Conceptualización del Modelo Económico y Social Cubano de Desarrollo Socialista (2016). The state leadership insists that reform if they come but be slow and carefully considered.  That means that the pace of reform will slow even in the face of needs.  What still prevails in the fundamental concept of state ownership of the means of production. Financial system is really weak—Cuba relies on the support of friendly countries and serendipity of its economic transactions abroad.  As a result many economists believe that Cuba needs to reintegrate in international finance (including World Bank and International Monetary Fund membership).  This they believe will increase FDI and economic development. But if there is no public investment there will be no development or be able to sustain growth.  But again, the absence of development capital tends to remain the elephant in the room. Infrastructure is in need of repair and decapitalization is low.

It is in this context that I found it interesting that entities like the emerging Asian Infrastructure Bank, organized under Chinese leadership, and the willingness of several sovereign wealth funds, including those of Russia, to invest in capital intensive infrastructure projects, do not appear to be high in Cuban development planning.  Perhaps this is something that the vanguard party is now considering.  It is hard to know.  It is also hard to understand why these more socialist friendly sources of investment might be ignored in any of the approaches to be articulated by the Cuban state apparatus.

My sense is also that resistance to change is generational and concentrated in the nomenklatura (similar in characteristics to the Soviet nomenklatura). That has also produced a criticism that the intransigence of the nomenklatura might well bring on another crisis like that of the Cuban Special Period of the 1990s.   In that context the Economic Plan 2030 approved in the 7th Party Congress appears as both hortatory and aspirational in the sense that the vision it builds lacks much by way of means toward implementation in light of the realities of the fundamental premises of Cuban political economy.  Much of the changes will require legal reform as well—as they are built into the state constitution.  Thus the legalization of economic models fused law, politics and economics.

Professor Mulet then considered the application of this general framework for the reform of the agricultural and tourist sectors.

(2) Cuban agriculture and sector reform

Professor Mulet provided some useful basic information of the state of Cuban agriculture.  Though about 60% of the land is arable only part is actually farmed. The challenges of the agricultural sector are well known—monocultures, export based agriculture, natural resource exploitation (depleting soil productivity) resulting in Cuba becoming a net importer of food.  

The rise of the Cuban agricultural cooperative in the later 20th century, but the challenge of low worker productivity.  She suggested that the ration and food subsidy system has created incentives toward low productivity. Contributes 10% to GDP though used 20% of the labor force.  Yet about 70% of salaries go toward food purchases by Cuban families. Since the 1980s the sector has decreased by 80%.
Climatic changes also pose a challenge. Average temperatures are rising and rain is decreasing. Hurricanes have been destructive.

So biggest problem is labor force and the model for agricultural production. It is clear that private farms are far more efficient with larger yields. Important element has been the cooperatives. One of the most important reforms has been the effort to give greater autonomy to cooperatives. It has been favored as more compatible with Cuban socialist political economy and as a counter to the move toward privatization of agricultural production.  They have been favored in both agricultural and non Ag sectors open to private enterprise.
Reform focuses on agricultural  control decentralization.

The considered the details of Cuban food imports—focusing on soy, wheat, corn, rice and chickens. 40% of which comes form China and the US. Cuban reform objectives—becomes food self sufficient (food security issues). problem is implementation where power is delegated to local units within a culture in which local institutions had operated under a culture in which they only responded to central government command.
Other challenge revolved around wholesale markets for food, which the state continues to dominate and with respect to which there is little taste for opening up. The limited experiment in loosening price controls did not end well.  When prices were allowed to reflect market prices rose 40% and threatened to be unaffordable in the face of low state salaries.  The result—the state intervened to cap prices. .

(3) Cuban Tourism and Tourism Economic Model.

Cuban state has invested heavily in tourist infrastructure—ecological reserves, world heritage sites, beaches, national monuments and the like.  These are meant to draw visitors. The country itself offers itself as a tourist attraction (see the unique social system in operation in Cuba). 

And, indeed, the tourists have come. Moreover, the state is now encouraging internal tourism is also encourages. 600,000 domestic tourist also generate income. Cruise ship traffic growing. Since 2010 growth 19 times—anticipated to be the main entry points for tourist (nice and controlled). 

Cruise ships of course are a marvelous method of absorbing tourist income in an controlled environment: Cruise passengers tend to be housed on their ship, they tend to more easy to manage in directed tours, especially in buses, and they stay for a relative short time within the core of the area designated for Tourist activity. 

Most tourists are still Canadians and Western Europeans, but the expectation is for many more form the U.S.
There is a hope is for diffusion of benefits—trickle down theory of economic benefits of tourism.But it is not clear how this will emerge.  What does seem clear is that tourism has reintroduced the culture of the tip--that is that Cubans associated with tourism have become aware that the easiest way to augment their very low state salaries is through interactions with tourists directly, and especially where those interactions produce tips.
Lastly, she noted that Cuban partners in foreign joint ventures in this sector tend to be important SOEs associated with the Cuban military.

Hasan Pérez Casabona presentation: History of Cuba: Population, and Governmental Structures

I. Introduction
II.Approach to the fundamental stages in the construction of Cuban socialism
III.Main demograohic characteristics
IV.Future challengs

Professor Pérez Casabona provided an excellent overview of the structures and fundamental premises of the Cuban state.  It offered a perspective that Americans rarely receive in its unfiltered form.  It provided an elegant window onto the way that the embrace of a state ideology can serve as a potent means of ordering information and interpreting both history and context.  To that extent certainly the lecture was profoundly valuable.  My own initial observation, An interesting observation—the Revolución as a noun. The Revolution has been personified and incarnated.  It has become not so much an event as the incarnation of a historical stage the manifestation and the preservation of the character of which now serves as the core ordering principle of the ideological structures around which political consciousness is ordered and manifested. The Revolución, then, has acquired an autonomous personality through which it acts of state and party.

Cuban state organization:
Professor Pérez Casabona provided a lucid explanation of the structure of the state and its embedding within constitutional structures. (For the Cuban Constitution of 1976 as amended through 2002: HERE).
--long tradition of constitutionalism from 1869 through Constitution of 1976 reformed in 1992 and 2002
--principles of the Cuban state constitution: socialist state, class struggle,  popular sovereignty, delegated to state apparatus, role of the communist arty as the vanguard in turn constrained by Marxist Leninist principles
--National Assembly of People’s Power the repository of popular sovereignty (legislative authority)
--Council of State (President, 1st VP 5 VPs 1 secretary and 23 members elected by National Assembly)
--Council of Ministers
For me the most interesting aspect f the discussion was the focus of the organization of the state apparatus. Yet that tells us only half of the organization of the state--for the core of Leninism teaches us that the vanguard Party assumes a fundamental and critical role in the organization of the state and the direction of society within the strictures of Marxist theory as augmented, within the context of the state, by indigenous development.  Within Cuba that would mean a substantive program grounded in Marxism but elaborated through the thought of Fidel Castro.  One understands that in Marxist Leninist states the role of the vanguard party is to assert leadership, and that of the state to administer and implement the policies, objectives and directions developed through and under the leadership of the vanguard.  Article 5 of the 1976 Constitution legalizes these notions:
Art 5: The Communist Party of Cuba, Martian and of Marxist -Leninist, the organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the superior leading force of the society and the State, organizing and guiding the common efforts aimed at the highest goals of the construction of socialism and advancement toward the communist society.
 While in China the roles of state and party tend to be moving toward more theoretical division, in Cuba--following a Soviet model--the Party and the state apparatus appear to be more merged as a matter of fact and theory. During our colloquies Professor Pérez Casabona was quite helpful in fleshing out some of these out basic concepts.  For my views in the Chinese context see HERE, HERE and HERE

Stages of political development
--from 1959-61 proclamation of socialist character of revolution;
--1961-mid 1970s;
--1976  fist PCC Congress (long hiatus was ascribed to the need for maturity of vanguard—the transformation process was necessary before the vanguard could meet in Congress and exercise vanguard activities),  proceso lento y que termina con toda la institutionalization of the state. Comes at the end rather than at the beginning and marked the maturation through the approval of the 1976 constitution. Impossible to compare the Chinese experience because of the different historical context—different visions, around which dialogue might be possible.
The Chinese issue does appear to remain sensitive.It is clear that the Cuban elites view their Marxism as substantially different from that which is emerging in China.  On the other hand, China as an important and powerful ally is spared criticism of what might, to Cuban intellectuals, appear to be fundamental error in Marxist and Leninist thought. (My own thoughts HERE).

Elements of the legitimization process of the Cuban Political System
--the authority of the leadership after 1959
--social justice principle
--the legitimating role of the PCC
--constitutional guarantee of religious freedom

Essential features of Cuban Democracy
--Leninist vanguard Party and its leadership role
--the PCC does not choose the candidates for election to National Assembly
--these delegates are responsible to their constituents
--elected by majority vote
Professor Pérez Casabona emphasized the role fo popular elections as the principal means by which the masses participate din the governance fo the state through its governmental apparatus.  He spoke eloquently of the way in which voting is both symbolically and functionally vigorous.  Yet that symbolism and vigor remain confined to the very well defined space of the assembly the core purpose of which is to carry out the mandate of the vanguard party.  That does not reduce the actions to insignificance.  There is some value in having a local voice in national affairs, especially where the representative might be able to intervene within the state apparatus to solve local issues with administrative implementation of state policy. But the overarching role of the Communist Party ought neither to be underestimated nor ought it to be brushed aside.

Professor Pérez Casabona then considered State approaches to Medical Collaboration.  He sought to make the case for socialist solidarity and the way in which society was also moving toward a collectivist model of cooperation in the economic sphere.

State approach to blockage as a genocidal policy

Professor Pérez Casabona did an excellent job of describing the Cuban emerging position, one likely to be aggressively pursued in negotiations for compensation touching on Cuban property expropriations of the early Revolutionary period, of American businesses.  The position is direct and intriguing.  He argued that the economic Embargo was illegal under international law (a position that, indeed, will be hard to prove, despite the nonbinding though regular resolutions emerging from the UN General Assembly). That Embargo then caused harm to Cuba that can be quantified.  That quantification suggests the amount that the Cuban state might seek in counter compensation to match against its responsibility for the current value of expropriated land and other property. Currently, it looks like the Cuban state is seeking about $9 Billion in compensation for lost opportunity and other damages. Of course, and this is a danger for the Cuban position, the Cubans themselves have engineered their own blockade of any interactions with foreigners especially since the fall of the Soviet Union.  Indeed, there was little discussion of the impermeable membrane  that also serves as a barrier  that permits the Cuban state the power to control inflows. However, to the extent that damages are gauged with reference to contemporary practice within globalization, Cuba’s own decisions to withdraw form international financial and commercial streams might be used to reduce to challenge the damage claims.

Demographic characteristics.

Professor Pérez Casabona, discussing the progress of the Cuban state in social and economic matters despite the Embargo. Focus on cell phone usage, infant mortality, internal migration within Cuba, and the growing participation of youth in Cuba in the highest political spheres. The object here was to evidence the extent that Cuban society had, indeed, begun to enjoy the use of many of those objects that tend to serve as a symbol of modern advanced civilization.

ME: Like many of the lectures the touchstone of comparison is still in some instances 1959.  It is as if there is a need for continued justification for the legitimacy of the Revolution and thus of the political and economic order.

Yet there has also been a greater willingness now to start the comparative timer at the fall of the Soviet Union (1989-91)or at the start of the 21st century, as the new baseline for comparison. That I view as a welcome and important development.

Professor Pérez Casabona then noted a set of future challenges
--transformation through international partners
--dismantling patriarchy; male heads of households have decreased, end of prostitution as professions opened up to women (comparison with pre 1959)
--Trade through special economic zones: Mariel.
--Looking to strengthening the ALBA model regionally for regional development and augmenting e wealth of the state as well as its social programs.
--wants to retain a role as a regional conflict mediator (example of the resolution of the FARC insurgency in 2016)
--deepening normalization within the context of deep and contentious and perhaps irreconcilable differences, even as those differences in turn are built on large cultural and social symmetries. These cultural affinities ae especially apparent in the great contemporary symbols of popular culture:
                  -Katy Perry
The Cubans however always feel the asymmetries in the relationship because of differences in size and power. Careful about being overwhelmed by American culture and practices because Cuban culture is also quite powerful (example 100,000 people go to Cuban music conference) international book fair. And there is a constant fear that in relations with the United States always the fear that power asymmetries will have detrimental effects on Cuban sovereignty in any actions taken—hypersensitivity to sovereignty effects of relations. They believe their political sophistication and experience might serve as a counter to the possibility subordination in bilateral relations.

But does this lead to the production of a preservation culture—the need to protect culture power forces control of its natural development because any change can be understood only in political terms. Thinking about an article I wrote almst twenty years ago about the perverse effects  of cultural protection within a legalized framework, which often has the effect of flash frezzing culture at the moment of its recognition (Not a Zookeeper’s Culture: LatCrit Theory and the Search for Latino/a Authenticity in the U.S.,” 4 Texas Hispanic Journal of Law & Policy 7-27 (1998)).

One of the most interesting  aspects of the lecture was not about its substance, but rather about cross cultural communication—especially cross cultural communication of politics.  To an American ear it might be easy to hear in the modalities of the communication expressed in this engaging lecture the conveyance of a substantial amount of fear, a communal elite fear expressed through protective belligerence (“In any scenario Cuba will remain firm” “The United States must renounce any intent to assert domination of Cuba”).Yet to a Cuban ear, the very same words might express the opposite, it might verbalize a collective sense of self confidence and a signal about the integrity of the nation. Each of these messages is clear when directed inward.  Yet curiously, they tend to produce quite different effects when they cross rhetorical “borders.” And thus perhaps the greatest lesson of this most enlightening lecture: normalization between the United States will be impeded precisely by the principal medium that is essential to its realization; the inevitable imperative that drives each state to use its own inwardly quote well understood rhetorical tropes will almost guarantee that neither state will communicate its own views effectively to the other.  Each state is so busy assuring itself that it understands itself  that it has taken very little trouble to seek to ensure that it is understood by the other.  And therein lies the tragedy of an unnecessarily odd road to the sort of relations that would preserve the dignity and interests of each of the state parties.   


The workday ended with a stimulating visit to the Proyecto Muraleando de desarrollo comunitario (PMDC). For a discussion of its early years see Muraleando - Community Arts in a Havana Barrio - by Henri Ewaskio, I July 2004.

Muraleando no recibe financiación estatal. El esfuerzo de sus creadores, de los alumnos, los padres y de las donaciones de los visitantes (sobre todo, extranjeros) han sido las principales fuentes de ingresos para armar todo la estructura material que sostiene el proyecto. [Muraleando receives no financial support fro the state. The efforts of its creators, its students, parents and the donations of visitors (especially foreigners) has been the principal source of income that provides for the materials that sustain the project.] (Muraleando: Pa’ lante y sin miedo, Cubahora, March 22, 2015)

Our stop included a tour of the facilities, including the classroom and arts spaces, along with a nice lecture on its history and objectives, and the opportunity to add our contribution to the work of the center.  PMDC has been lauded by the authorities as a model civil society organ for the local community.  Without burdening he state, but with great fidelity to its leadership objectives, PMDC has brought substantial improvement and stability to a neighborhood that was struggling even by the standards of a nation where struggle is not uncommon.
El proyecto sociocultural “Muraleando” de una manera diferente ha desarrollado una conciencia por el cuidado de la obra y los valores que se crean. A partir de sus propias experiencias han podido erradicar la mayoría de los basureros existentes en la comunidad, limpiando áreas y colocando obras de arte, acciones donde la comunidad junto con sus artistas, han jugado un papel protagónico, contando con el apoyo del gobierno y la dirección de comunales del municipio de Diez de Octubre. Esta es la mejor muestra de preocupación por el cuidado de su barrio. [“The socio-cultural project "Muraleando" in a different way has developed an awareness for the protection of the work and of the values thereby created. From their own experiences they have been able to eradicate most of the existing garbage dumps in the community, cleaning up areas and placing works of art, actions where the community together with its artists have played a leading role, counting on the support of the government and Direction of communes of the municipality of Diez de Octubre. This is the best example of concern for the care of your neighborhood.”] (Proyecto Comunitario Muraleando, EcuRed).
It is for this work that PMDC has been recognized by the state, and its approach to community revitalization—with artists and local citizens coming together to clean their spaces and create joint projects for self improvement, that has now become a template for social improvement in neighborhoods throughout Cuba.

No comments: