Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cuban Democracy|Part Two

This is a continuation and hopefully a more dynamic post on Cuba from the title link. And first I want to look more throughly on point number 1 (all numbered points come from Five reasons why the people rule):
1. The system responds to the people’s demands
Right of legislative proposals Article #88(h) of the | Cuban constitution, adopted in 1976, provides for citizen proposals of law, prerequisite that the proposal be made by at least 10 000 citizens who are eligible to vote. In 2002 supporters of a movement known as the Varela Project submitted a citizen proposal of law with 11,000 signatures calling for a national referendum on political and economic reforms.The Cuban National Assembly Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee tabled the Varela Project citizens' initiative and responded with a counter initiative, the petition for which collected 8.1 million signatures, to request that Cuba's National Assembly amend the constitution to state "Socialism and the revolutionary political and social system...are irrevocable; and Cuba will never again return to capitalism."[4] The National Assembly vote was preceded by a massive march.[5] Critics argue that the alleged signatures of 99.5 percent of Cuba's eligible voters were collected by Castro's neighborhood watch committees, whose evaluations of each citizen's political behavior can make or break people's lives in a country where the government controls virtually all jobs.[6]Cuban Elections

So much for allowing the people to voice their demands. This also brings into question whether "5. Civil society is engaged in the process" is true. And now let us look into this Varela Project.
The Varela Project (Proyecto Varela in Spanish) was a project initiated by Cuban based dissidents in 1998. The project was led by Oswaldo Payá of the Christian Liberation Movement, reaching national and international recognition during 2002 and 2003.

The main objective of the project was to circulate a citizens' proposal of law advocating for liberal democratic political reforms within Cuba, such as the establishment of freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free elections, freedom of religion, freedom to start private businesses, and amnesty for political prisoners.

The citizens' proposal relied on Article #88(h) in the constitution, adopted in 1976, which provides for citizens' proposals of law, prerequisite that the proposal be made by at least 10,000 citizens who are eligible to vote.

As you read about Cuba you will notice that its form of government is nearly opposite of what we would consider a Liberal Democracy. Which is basically what was asked for in their list of reforms. But instead of listening to and sending up for a vote (as required by the constitution) they implemented their own referendum that was basically the opposite in tone. And if you have read my blog much you should recognize that I believe in democracy and the flavor I think is best is Liberal Democracy.
A BBC reporter noted that many Cubans said they felt pressured into signing the government's petition.[3] According to the United States State Department, "activists reported increased harassment by State Security agents. Authorities arrested and detained Varela activists, confiscated signatures, fined and threatened activists and signers, and forced signers to rescind signatures. State Security impersonated canvassing volunteers and increasingly infiltrated the ranks of activists. In May and June, Oswaldo Paya reported State Security agents visited and pressured more than 50 Varela Project signatories to retract their signatures and denounce the Varela Project activists who had collected their signatures."[4]

This does not sound like they are trying "4. Consensus and unity rather than contest and division is the basis of the system" to me. Is that where some consensus and unity is better that other c&u? And where some people are more equal than other people? (Yes that is a reference to Animal Farm.)
Oswaldo Payá, a long-time opponent of the Cuban government, remains free, but the resulting crackdown by the authorities has resulted in the incarceration of 75 political prisoners with terms from 6 to 28 years, after being charged and convicted of "acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the State." Many of those arrested had no knowledge of the charges against them or access to attorneys until moments before a one-day trial, which was by a judge subordinate to the Communist Party.[12]TheUnited Nations High Commissioner for Human Rightsexpressed concern regarding the arrests and summary trials, as did many governments, international organizations, and public[13]

Sounds like a nice place to live to me...NOT. While yes, this is not a gulag, it does show that it is a totalitarian regime.
Next I want to bring up the Cotonou Agreement which was brought up in the last post as something discussed in 2002 during the National Assembly December 16-20.
The Cotonou Agreement is a treaty between the European Union and the group of African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP countries). It was signed in June 2000 in Cotonou , the capital of Benin, by 77 ACP countries and the then fifteen Member States of the European Union. It entered into force in 2002 and is the latest agreement in the history of ACP-EU Development Cooperation.

The Cotonou Agreement is aimed at the reduction and eventual eradication of poverty while contributing to sustainable development and to the gradual integration of ACP countries into the world economy.

Very noble.
Furthermore, the element of good governance has been included as a 'fundamental element' of the Cotonou Agreement, the violation of which may lead to the partial or complete suspension of development cooperation between the EU and the country in violation. It was furthermore agreed that serious cases of corruption, including acts of bribery, could trigger a consultation process and possibly lead to a suspension of aid.

I passed over the Main Points (which are very important) and wanted to touch on some specific points as in the paragraph above. Yes aid has too often ended up hurting the people it was meant to help. And just like the World Bank and the IMF good governance can have a dramatic impact on people's wellbeing whether with aid or not.
The Cotonou Agreement focuses especially on the private sector as an instrument for sustainable economic development. A new comprehensive programme has been introduced in Cotonou in order to support the private sectors of the ACP countries with new tools such as access to funding via the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Do you notice anything ironic about this? That was one of the things that the Varela Project asked for (freedom to start private businesses).
Trade Cooperation
Probably the most radical change introduced by the Cotonou Agreement concerns trade cooperation. Since the First Lomé Convention in 1975, the EU has granted non-reciprocal trade preferences to their ACP partners. Under the Cotonou Agreement, however, this system will be replaced by a new scheme which is to take effect in 2008: the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). These new arrangement provide for reciprocal trade agreements, meaning that not only the EU provides duty-free access to its markets for ACP exports, but ACP countries also provide duty-free access to their own markets for EU exports.

True to the Cotonou principle of differentiation, however, not all ACP countries have to open their markets to EU products after 2008. The group of least developed countries is able to either continue cooperation under the arrangements made in Lomé or the "Everything But Arms" regulation.

That's GREAT! This is exactly what I have advocated (on Thom's forum) the USA do in regard to most of the "Third World" or LDCs. Although I would not time it to have it reciprocate in any specific time frame. And if we want to have the reciprocation it should be based on per capita GDP (PPP) or some other gauge as to when their economy is stable enough. AND even then under a gradual change.

Every time I read more about the EU, it looks more like an empire. But does anyone else see this? Why is it only the USA is the evil empire?

And the next link is complements of Loganthor: Allegations of tourist apartheid in Cuba.
Allegations that Cuban policies towards its citizens are comparable to those of apartheid era South Africa are captured in the popular terms [1] tourist apartheid, tourism apartheid, and sometimes economic apartheid. [2] Human Rights Watch states "Cuban nationals are routinely barred from enjoying amenities open to foreigners. In a phenomenon popularly known as 'tourist apartheid,' the best hotels, resorts, beaches, and restaurants are off limits to most Cubans, as are certain government health institutions," and contrasts this practise with the Constitution of Cuba, which "bars discrimination based on 'race, skin color, sex, national origin, religious creeds, and any other type [of discrimination] offending human dignity.'" [3] Dr. Gillian Gunn, former fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies goes further, stating "The exclusion also flatly contradicts Article 43 of the Cuban constitution, which guarantees all Cubans, 'without regard to race, skin color, religious belief, or national origin,' the right to 'lodge themselves in any hotel,' 'be attended in all restaurants and establishments serving the public,' and 'enjoy the same spas, beaches, social clubs, and other centers of sport, recreation, and leisure'." [4]

In response, Cuban president Fidel Castro has described Cuba's tourism policies as an economic necessity and such analysis as a "perfidious, perverse, cynical" campaign to present the current situation as "a case of discrimination." [5]

So for all the high ideals of "Continuous Revolution" when cash comes to cash those ideals are swept aside. So how is this discrimination explained:
In 1992, as Cuba entered the period of severe economic austerity, Cuban President Fidel Castro defended the newly instituted policies in a speech to the Cuban National Assembly. He described the moves as an economic necessity that would need to be maintained for as long as the country had a need for foreign currency. According to Castro, the government was "pondering formulas" that would allow Cubans to use some of the tourist facilities as a reward for outstanding work, but believed that giving Cubans access to amenities at the expense of paying foreign tourists would ultimately be a counterproductive move for the economy; "For every five Cubans staying two or three days in one of those hotels, the country would have one less ton of meat to distribute to the people,"

Oh so foreign currency is more important. It is interesting to note that Castro believes in trade also. Let us see how 1. The system responds to the people’s demands...
Cuba's swing to tourism is bringing in vital hard currency, but the accompanying bitterness among Cubans denied access to the lures laid out for foreigners has grown to the point that President Fidel Castro is on the stump in defense. The resentment, coming as Cuba's economic crisis deepens and the standard of living drops sharply, has given rise to a new phrase here to describe the gulf that exists between tourists and Cubans -- "tourism apartheid." [20]

Complaints of a tourist apartheid are not unfounded as Cubans are moved off tourist beaches, refused entrance to tourist hotels, and asked to wait in queues while tourists are ushered to the front – even walking the streets with foreign visitors is likely to get a young Cuban pulled over by the police. The health service itself has become an instrument of tourism, luring foreign patients with some of its specialist treatments, whilst transport services deteriorate for Cubans and improve for tourists. With such large numbers of relatively wealthy tourists travelling in and out of the country, Cubans have become more acutely aware of the restrictions on their freedom of movement and material wealth. Interestingly, these frustrations are not vented at tourists but at the government, though almost always behind closed doors. [21]

They rubbed their chins, a common reference to the bearded Castro, and ran a finger across their throats: They are waiting for Castro to die... The cousin and his friends talked about the places they cannot go, the hotels and beaches, the discos that now require dollars. "It's like South Africa," the cousin's friend said. "It's apartheid," the cousin said.

I understand the need for the Cuban government for following this trade policy as well as its putting aside assets for the accumulation of foreign capital. And to be honest many LDCs resorts places become too expensive for native populations. But nothing prevents natives from paying for the services and using the facilities as anyone else. Now if all assets are controlled by the state then to set aside assets for a certain class flies in the face of the rhetoric (Cuban constitution and in a supposedly pure egalitarian nation). Tourist apartheid also seems to violate #3. The delegates are answerable to their constituents
and #5. Civil society is engaged in the process.

PS: What Determines
Long-Run Macroeconomic Stability? Democratic Institutions
is a great article from the IMF that shows that democratic institutions have a large and significant aspect in Macroeconomic Stability.


Anonymous Roosevelt said...

As a visitor to Cuba in the past, i.e. up to 1990, there are some similarities with western styled "so called" liberal democracies and the very Governmnet of Cuba which comes under your criticism.

For example, you speak of amenities in the holtels and laid a case for apartheid tourism. Well it is common practice in every hotel I have ever been to that only guests are allowed in rooms.

Secondly, while I was in Cuba many Cubans came to the holtel to see me and just as in any hotel, they waited in the lobby until I came down.

Thirdly, they could have gone to the bar, washroom, etc., except the casino; and that is no different where I have seen them. Even in the Bahamas, locals going into the casino is a no-no.

fourthly, the only thing that stops a Cuban from purchasing a drink or items in the hotel is foreign exchange. You can only purchase in US from hotels and restaurants in the tourist circuit.

One of the problems I had with the old propoganda campaigns was the talk of the long lines for food. Well I saw long lines waiting to get into shops on certain days such as Friday evenings and Saturdays, but you know what? I see the same long lines at cashiers even in our mega-stores which may have as much as twenty cashiers and every cashier has a long line.

Therefore one would expect that with an underdeveloped distribution system with only one cashier that the lines will definitely be long.

2/04/2007 9:07 AM  

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