Tourists visit Old Havana, after the US government softened restrictions on traveling to Cuba. Joe Raedle Getty Images

Cuba will not reach the growth target of the Gross Domestic Product at the end of this year, Foreign Minister and Foreign Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca admitted on Monday when opening the International Fair of Havana (Fihav 2016).

“The economy may not even grow one percent”, Malmierca said.

The official blamed the failure on several factors: the global economic crisis, the difficulty of doing business with companies from other countries and, above all, the “tightening of the blockade”, that is to say, the embargo that the United States has maintained against Cuba since More than five decades ago.

But the US government has not hardened any “blockade.” In fact President Barack Obama has undermined the embargo by allowing more travel and facilitating economic exchange than previously, only a few years ago this was unthinkable. Among those facilities: US executives can go to Cuba and discuss business that is currently banned under the embargo, with a view to the time the United States eliminates that law. And since mid-October, travelers returning from the island can bring all Cuban alcohol and tobacco products they want for their personal use.

The Cuban regime has used the US embargo as an alibi to justify its failures. And continues to use the worn out formula.

Meanwhile, in spite of the opportunities associated in relations with the United States generates, the regime continues to cling to a rhetoric that seems more appropriate for the Cold War era and the painful construction of socialism, a work as unfinished as it is full of defects.

While US businessmen and politicians frequently visit Cuba in search of investment opportunities and possible collaborations in commercial projects, the Castro regime is responding with refusals to important business proposals.

The case of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship company, which has been waiting for months for the Cuban government to authorize it to operate a route to the island, is one example among many others of Havana’s reluctance to open doors to US companies which would lead to economic relief.

Meanwhile, at the domestic level, the regime imposes suffocating controls on small private companies. Last month, for example, the government announced that it would not grant permits to open new palates, private-sector restaurants whose reputation transcends the island’s limits, while tacking on more restrictions to existing ones. “Owners of 129 paladares or cafes received warnings, says an article “The Cuban economy stagnates, while the government closes doors to business with the US”, by Nora Gámez Torres, published in the Nuevo Herald on 1 of November.

The Cuban government refuses to permit Cubans to buy products through the Internet. These obstacles to private activity are obstacles to development.

Cuba will not achieve the planned growth target, as Malmierca admitted. But not because of the embargo, but because of the inability of his government to recognize that it is time to change this outdated economic system and implement genuine reforms. The Cuban regime must admit that its model failed.


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