Politik und Gesellschaft Online
International Politics and Society 1/1999

Dynamic stagnation in Cuba

Preliminary version

This island state is further away than ever from political reform, economic reform is stagnant and even the room for manoeuvre of the Church is hardly greater today than it was prior to the Papal visit at the start of the year. The call for democracy, freedom of opinion and debate is political dynamite. Mass organisations, committees and electoral processes provide numerous opportunities for political participation at the lower level, but all important decisions are taken by an elite which cannot be exchanged by elections. The US's policy of isolation has become obsolete. It no longer works even with the small Caribbean states. In the meantime, contacts with Cuba have become a routine foreign policy matter for almost all western states, a transformation which took place within a few months. As a rule, good political relations pay off for companies: Spanish, French and British economic delegations managed to conclude noteworthy contracts; Canada is constantly expanding its position as Cuba's largest investor and one of its most important trading partners. Many US companies consider the sanctions policy in general and the Cuba embargo in particular simply as damaging to business. They no longer want to have to watch how others divide the choicest Cuban morsels among themselves. Internal and external pressure on the US government to modify its Cuba policy is growing. In the meantime, the market elements in the Cuban economy, which were introduced in 1993 and 1994 and which prevented economic collapse, have come under fire. Economic reforms were slowed down because conservative forces in Cuba saw them as a threat to the regime. But even Cuban economists hold the view that the crisis can only be overcome by faster economic restructuring. This is also signalled by the macroeconomic indicators. The external financial squeeze has become tighter, due, above all, to the catastrophic sugar harvest of 1998. Cuba will no doubt continue to "muddle through" for the time being. But social welfare expenditure rises with each bad year and the patience of the population is not an inexhaustible resource.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition bb&ola | Februar 1999