Dr.C Juan Triana Cordoví

Dr.C Juan Triana Cordoví

Cheese. Macro

And then there’s cheese

For many years, when you left Havana and headed west or east, or when you came back from the west or east, it was very rare that at some point during that journey you didn’t run into “clandestine” vendors of “illegal cheese,” who half hidden by the roadside would check that the coast was clear of any car of the Cuban highway patrol and then they would quickly show and offer their product: fresh, rich, really tasty white cheese made from cow’s milk. I don’t know how many travelers in these last 30 years, along those roads, have resisted buying white cheese, the kind that was only possible to get in those places because in our official market, either in the still known today as grocery stores or later in the stores in foreign currency, then stores in CUC and now in both foreign currency and in CUC, it was practically impossible to find fresh white cheese. Or what is the same, the national state industry was never able to meet the demand for white cheese in the country, nor the demand for other types and qualities of cheese. It was and is illegal to produce cheese for sale outside...

Agricultural market in Santiago de las Vegas. Photo taken by the author, August 23, 2020.

Of empty stands and trucks that don’t come in

The images of the agricultural market in my town, Santiago de las Vegas, this Sunday, August 23, 2020 have nothing to do with those of just a year ago, when all the stands were in use and the variety of products, despite being summer, made it possible (as long as you had money) to leave more or less satisfied, although with a black hole in your pocket. My town is one of those peripheral municipalities of the province. It is located to the southwest of the bay and is like a bridge with the other two neighboring provinces, Mayabeque and Artemisa. Watch out, geography matters. In fact, part of the lands of my town and my municipality are among the most fertile in the country and have the privilege of an underground water reserve like few other territories in Cuba. Good land (of the best), water, and a special microclimate that in its time allowed it to have even strawberry crops. Added to this is the advantage of having one of the only two agricultural research institutions that Cuba had before 1959, the Agronomic Experimental Station of Santiago de las Vegas (today INIFAT), founded by Cuban scholar Juan Tomás Roig...

Port of Havana. Photo: Progreso Semanal

Exports, once again

Help us keep OnCuba alive There is much good news despite COVID-19 and the return of the capital to the epidemic phase. Almost every day we are surprised by a new measure to boost/recover/revitalize our economy. That good news is in the form of a group of long-awaited measures. It’s good, without a doubt, to note that this time it seems the boost being given to our reform/update, or however you want to describe this process that we have been dealing with in the last ten years, is not going to stop. But beware: the order in the sequence is important. https://oncubanews.com/en/cuba/cuba-accelerates-economic-reforms/ Although I will basically deal with exports again and I think I’ve done it in this column more than four or five times, I would like to point out that after the TV appearance of the minister of labor announcing that at last, and thanks in part to COVID-19, it has been decided to eliminate the positive list that authorizes a little more than a hundred trades that can be exercised by the self-employed and to create a negative list of jobs that cannot be exercised, and at the same time put an end to the “experiment” character...

Should Cuba promote introduction of genetically modified organisms in agriculture?

Help us keep OnCuba alive A few days ago, the national press published the news of the approval in Cuba of the regulations to carry out the work associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their use in the production of food in agriculture. Undoubtedly, having standards to regulate the investigation and use of these organisms is healthy for the present and the future of our country. According to the World Health Organization “genetically modified (GM) foods are foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that doesn’t occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism. The technology is often called ‘modern biotechnology’ or ‘gene technology,’ sometimes also ‘recombinant DNA technology’ or ‘genetic engineering.’” It allows the outcrossing of selected individual genes from one organism to another, also between unrelated species. Foods produced based on GM organisms or used are often called GM foods. Cuban scientists Fernando R. Funes-Monzote and Eduardo Freyre Roach in their book “Transgénicos, ¿qué se pierde? ¿qué se gana?” define it like this: A GMO is an organism whose genetic information has been manipulated in laboratories, in a deliberate way, in order to confer one...

Distribute the cake differently

Help us keep OnCuba alive Agriculture is today one of the activities that attracts the attention of Cubans. In the media, on the networks, on the agendas of almost all meetings of local governments and other institutions, the “food-producing sector” is always present. I believe that never before has so much been written and published on the agricultural sector, dozens of articles and hundreds of pages of comments, reports on “successful cases” and strategies implemented, on future plans and, logically, on all the difficulties facing the sector, associated with financial restrictions and the damage the U.S. blockade causes to food production in the country. There is not enough time to read it all. Magnificent press reports, informative scientific articles, many of them very well informed, in official media or not, which even contain proposals on “what to do.” They range from problems associated with the standards and regulations that “weigh” on the sector, problems associated with research, development and innovation (R+D+I) and their implementation, to proposals on how to improve quality and quantity of what is produced and the forms of marketing, the role of local production and marketing, the role of the different “means of production” and the importance...

Photo: Radio Habana Cuba

Under the tip of the iceberg

Help us keep OnCuba alive The death throes of El trigal concentrating market were also the labor pains of the relaunch of the state enterprise Acopio collection center, a kind of phoenix that has been the recurring attempt of solution by the MINAGRI (Ministry of Agriculture), or of who directs agriculture in Cuba, of the marketing problems (contracting, processing and distribution) of agricultural products since my friend Goyo and I, a long time ago, used to “steal mangoes” in Morejon’s farm, famous at that time in my town. We did it less to eat and much more for the adventure. Collecting has been with us for good or for bad since that remote time. I start from the supposition that all the Acopio workers are good people, aware of their work and imbued with its social value and I make it extensive to each and every worker in agriculture, including the Ministry. It isn’t a problem of women and men, even if it involves them. It is a problem of concepts. Acopio has been the formula, the mechanism, the organization that MINAGRI and decision-makers have created to “guarantee,” among other things, control over production and producers, over distribution and consumers...

Combo vs. consumers

Help us keep OnCuba alive here For many years, Cubans who live on the island have almost forgotten that at one or several times of the day, we metamorphose and become “customers.” By definition, a customer is a person who regularly uses the services of a professional or an enterprise or who, also with some regularity, buys some good in a commercial establishment, be it public or private. The service or the goods purchased are paid for. It is generally assumed that this act is voluntary, whoever decides to buy the good or service does so voluntarily. There is a certain degree of “freedom of choice,” although in reality it is not as free as it may seem. In our country, the word “customer” disappeared from common jargon for a long time, customers were turned into “users,” that is, people who use a device or object or who use a particular service. My whole family, including myself, although at that time I was a child, we were customers of Reinaldo, the grocer on the corner. Like mine, many other families in the neighborhood. But at some point in history, we stopped being customers and became “users” of the service that...

My kingdom for a sweet potato

An old formula is known in Cuba: Goat milk and sweet potato! A humble recipe for food for the poor, from the time of grandparents. Cornmeal with sweet potato was the dish of any of the poorest families in Cuba, although, at least for my taste, it is a dish of the gods, especially if we put a couple of fried eggs on it. Eggs! Fried! Sweet potato is one of the five main dishes of the Cuban diet. It is also the humblest of all. Sweet potatoes always knew they were very far from the inaccessible potato while the always wanted and sometimes little found taro appears as the most aristocratic of all, with scary prices. For its part, cassava has always been the preferred and most demanded in our celebrations, especially for that grace of accompanying so, but so well, the now disappeared national mammal (the pig). The green plantain, on the other hand, always ready for chips and which, turned into chatinos, goes wonderfully with a good steak of the meat from “the unmentionable.” Sweet potatoes, however, have remained there, unperturbed on their platform, knowing they are a last resort, seeing that their price has always been...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez

“Respond with different actions.” It wasn’t for lack of ideas

This pandemic has caused us to look again at the documents that, for more than 10 years now, have been built on, discussed and approved, as a guide for all the process of transformations that should lead to “the liberation of productive forces.” Those documents, public and known to all, were: Guidelines of the 6th Congress of the PCC Guidelines of the 7th Congress of the PCC Conceptualization of the Cuban Economic and Social model of socialist development Bases of the National Development Plan for 2030 and strategic focal points All of them were agreed from the highest leadership of the Party and the State to the very neighborhoods, all were discussed and approved by the deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power in its different sessions, some, like the guidelines, became mandatory reference in any report of any organization, political, mass, business. It was almost a ritual to report which guidelines were met when an enterprise or organization gave its annual or semi-annual balance report. Those documents were, moreover, built from science, with the participation of diverse scientists, political scientists, philosophers, sociologists and….even economists, because certainly the economy is something so serious and has such different impacts that...

Looking for the national mammal. What about swine production in Cuba?

I remember a news item that caught my eye a few years ago. In the press there was talk of a critical situation with swine production in one of the country’s provinces. The problem, it was said, was that the slaughter capacity was less than the production of standing swine. Thus producers were forced to extend the feeding of the animals for a longer time than was advisable, which caused losses and not only harmed producers, but also the entire production chain. However, that news item was encouraging for me, it meant that production was such that the “industrial” profit capacities in that province had fallen short. There are not many times that something like this happens in our country. It confirmed the wisdom of a successful productive development program implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) to encourage the production of such an important protein, which combined the strengths of the state organization responsible for promoting swine production and those of the non-state sector. This program was also based on agreements (contracts) in which the state party delivered pre-fattening (small swine between 10 and 12 kg) at a specified price and part of the feed to non-state producers,...

Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa/EFE.

Cuba: Lessons from this “induced coma” in the economy

The forecasts for the world economy, whether they are the most moderate or cautious, or the most catastrophic, all make it very clear that the next few months will be one of the most difficult that this new globalized world will have to face; using the phrase of an article by Krugman referring to the United States, the economies are in an induced coma. Getting out of this induced coma will probably cost much more than it costs to keep economies in that state. The weaker economies undoubtedly will probably suffer the most. Almost all governments today face the difficult situation of maintaining social isolation and at the same time semi-paralyzed economies with enormous present and future costs in economic terms or that of opening economies, to recover the dynamic loss, facing the risk of new waves of pollution and the loss of more lives. No matter what, it’s a tough decision. What are the limits that the economy of any country can support, no matter how powerful it is? How long can the induced coma last? Perhaps the sample is in the almost desperation of some countries to “return to normality” in economic terms within this pandemic’s abnormality. Our...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

From the furrow to the table: removing obstacles and obstacle-makers in food production in Cuba

In recent years, Cuba has had to face a group of unforeseen events that could exceed anyone’s imagination. The unfortunate fall of a Cubana de Aviación plane in May 2018 at takeoff with the consequent loss of life and the immense pain it caused; the assumption of an administration in the United States that has broken all records of persecution against Cuba; an accelerated right-wing process in Latin America and the tenacious effort of the Lima Group to return the continent to its worst years of submission to the interests of the United States. The coup d’état against Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, Lenín Moreno’s betrayal in Ecuador, the most recent coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia. Those three processes brought with them the end of the various medical missions in those three countries, with the consequent economic effects for Cuba. Let’s add to the above having inherited a bulky external debt, both the contracted and the one restructured with the Paris Club, as well as the other contracted with suppliers, a great deal of which has not been honored, decisive in supplying the Cuban market and that together with the persecution of OFAC increases the country’s risk and financial costs...

The area of Coppelia ice cream parlor in Havana's Vedado was empty after indications to stay home to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Photo: Naturaleza Secreta de Cuba.

Coronavirus: We’ll survive, but that’s not enough

Humanity will emerge from this pandemic. Previously, pandemics also occurred and humanity survived. It is true that in all of the above the world was less connected and that even poor mobility created physical barriers that delayed the spread of any contagion. Now that great mobility that we have all identified as one of the great strengths of the global economy, becomes a perfect ally of a virus that already has a high capacity for propagation. But human beings will succeed because throughout their short life on this Earth they have learned to adapt. It is true that this way out and the reduction of the damage of their ability to behave collectively, will have a lot to do with the seriousness with which each citizen of this world takes this situation, the respect and consideration that we all have towards our fellow citizens, with collective discipline but also with individual discipline and that each one exercises the duty to respect and the right to be respected. Nothing can be demanded of others if we are not able to demand it of ourselves. We’ll survive, but surviving is not enough. Experience should lead us to be better human beings, because...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Welcome Mr. Day Zero. Will the arrival of monetary unification work miracles in Cuba?

He stopped in front of everyone, stared at them and then spoke: Yes, I am Mr. Day Zero. Although it won’t be exactly that way, Day Zero of monetary and exchange rate unification will come and although we have all been waiting for it for a long time, some with a kind of expectations and others with others, some armed with technical knowledge and others with “street” knowledge, the truth is that Mr. Day Zero will always have a card up his sleeve to surprise us. No matter how much we’ve wanted to anticipate ourselves, there will be many unforeseen and other unexpected events. As a famous economist once said when asked about the predictability of economic science: the theory is always gray, but the tree of life is always green. What I am convinced of is that it will not be possible to foresee everything or anticipate a good part of the effects, in the same way that I am sure that neither the monetary and exchange rate unification will be the magic wand that will resolve or change such decisive issues for our country, namely: inefficiency, low productivity, increase in exports, adequate reduction of imports, short-term debt and...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Emigration’s role in the Cuban economy, beyond remittances

While one of Los Van Van songs fills the premises, a professional Cuban dancer, who emigrated several years ago to Warsaw, shows Polish women and men the elementary steps to follow Formell's music. She started these classes with a dozen “students” as a resource to survive in a country she barely knew, minus the language. Today she has more than 4,000 students, many have learned Cuban-style Spanish and many others have traveled to the island to learn about the in situ origin of the music and dance they like so much. In Warsaw, in the middle of winter, she spreads our culture, ways of speaking “Spanish,” customs and places of her homeland. It is perhaps one of the best promotion actions: face to face, word of mouth, body to body, because this is what dance demands. Thanks to these skills, she also manages to earn income, a part of which she sends to Cuba, to “help” her parents and for her little sister to realize her dreams of being a lawyer, and saves a little every month because she aspires to have her own business in her homeland As a worldwide phenomenon that marks this era, mass migration became...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Cuban state-run gastronomy and commerce: persistent headaches

Whoever spends time walking through the blocks that make up 23rd Street, I Street, 25th Street and F Street, will appreciate an interesting phenomenon. On the corner of 25 and G, a private restaurant is almost always full from 8:30 am and during lunch and dinner time it is difficult to get a table. Further down at 23 and G along the lane from Vedado to Marianao, another establishment, perhaps a cooperative, also manages to have clients quite frequently. But on the corner that makes the diagonal, stands the Castillo de Jagua, a restaurant with a lot of tradition, that received a strong investment from the budget (I don't know if local, provincial or national). Recently repaired and modernized, its tables remain in a lonely state without customers. Strange. There, the prices, because of the luck that it belongs to the state, are more within reach of average Cubans’ pockets than in the other two mentioned above. However, its level of occupation is far from that of those others. The same occurs at the corner of San Lázaro and Infanta. On one side El Vicky with its tables occupied and on the other the old oyster bar with its empty...

An abandoned corner of Santiago de las Vegas

Whoever takes Vedado’s Avenida de los Presidentes from Havana’s Malecón and keeps heading south for about forty minutes if there’s not much traffic, will come to my town, Santiago de las Vegas. If you continue heading south on Boyeros Avenue, you will see just to your left and before starting the climb of Cacahual hill, a restaurant almost in ruins whose name is La Tabernita. If you continue uphill, after passing the military unit (which by the way has lost its traditional stone walls that were part of the undeclared landscape heritage) the traveler will distinguish a thick foliage and within it, a kind of ruins that in its time was another restaurant, El Rincón Criollo, famous not only among the original inhabitants of the town, but also in the province of Havana, since it became a sort of paradigm of the country restaurants of the 1950s and first decade of the 1960s. El Rincón Criollo was also part of the popular and gastronomic culture of my town. Founded by Rudesindo Acosta, whom the residents of the town called Sindito, the place became very popular. Sindito’s roast pork and black beans were like a seal of quality....

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Employment and the future of Cuba

The resident Cuban population at the end of 2018 was 11,209,628 and its distribution by sex says that 5,575,988 were men while 5,633,640 were women. That year we were already less Cubans than in 2010, when the resident Cuban population was around 11,210,064. The demographic alarms about the behavioral trends of the homo sapiens cubanus have gone off for quite some time. These are generally long-term trends, so changing them is not a day's task. Of course, as for the decrease of residents in the country, there’s the option of choosing to stimulate the immigration of other inhabitants from other regions of the planet, although in my personal preference I choose to do the impossible to keep the Cubans in their land. Anyway, those 11,209,628, perhaps a little more, a little less, are the ones who are here and with whom we must push forward in that effort to make Cuba a prosperous, sustainable, independent and sovereign country. Thus, getting all of them properly employed is decisive for that purpose. In other words, without Cubans employed where they can perform more according to their abilities, that task will become much more difficult, almost impossible. That is why the meeting...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Businesspeople wanted in Cuba!

A phrase at the Mesa Redonda TV program on Thursday, January 9 has motivated this article: “We don’t need enterprise directors, we need businesspeople.” I wondered immediately. So all those thousands or millions of hours and resources dedicated in all these years to the training of enterprise directors, what happened to them? Homo sapiens share much of our genetic code (that combination of protein chains called DNA) with the rest of the planet's living beings, even with the most elemental single-celled beings. Only some of those protein combinations are specific. Similarly, in the homo sapiens universe the similarity of our genetic codes is impressive, just a few combinations differentiate us from each other. Scientific advances have allowed us to manipulate these codes and today we are very close to being able to “produce designer babies,” which has generated serious ethical questions. I don’t know if it’s possible to hope that one day that manipulation will produce babies born with the characteristics of businesspeople and/or entrepreneurs, which would represent a tremendous savings in university careers and training courses, as well as a rise in unemployment among those who make a living from it. Something not very good for someone...

Photo: Gervasio Cuervo Gómez / Trabajadores.

Science and enterprise: revving it up for 2020

For me, Havana’s Playa Municipality’s 25th Street begins when it intersects with 31st Street, crosses La Lisa Municipality and continues straight until it dissolves into what is still known as the San Antonio de la Baños thruway. The inhabitants of that city can say that they live at the end of 25th Street. 25th Street could also be known as the corridor of science and technology in Cuba. No other street, anywhere else in Cuba, concentrates in its surroundings so many science and technology institutions. Around it, the Alma Mater of all of today’s research centers known as the Scientific Hub of the West, the CNIC, was born many years ago. The Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the Molecular Engineering Research Center, pharmaceuticals factories, the Institute of Pharmacy and Food of the University of Havana are located today starting at the Quibú River to the west and, already entering the thruway, you can see the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine, the Center for Advanced Science Research and the University of Computer Science (UCI). But very nearby, just about seven kilometers to the east, is the José Antonio Echevarría Higher Polytechnic Institute. During these days when we are so...

Photo: Kaloian

The economy and hope

They had spent several months working hard on their project. They had been discussing the idea since before graduating from University. Each one came from different specialties: industrial engineering, economics, law, agricultural sciences, mechanics, automatics, all friends since before entering the University, all excited about the idea of ​​that project that promised, at least in their papers and minds, to be a good deal. The market showed it every day. A huge unsatisfied demand on the one hand, on the other the most important resources (land and labor), both almost without restrictions, and the very clear signs from the political leadership, “produce, supply the domestic market, export.” Their project fully met those demands and would surely be welcomed and supported. They had discussed the project over and over again, had asked for experiences, and they even tried out some business simulation exercise. Then, with enthusiasm, youth and their project, they tried to carry it out: to create an agricultural cooperative! where they could apply everything they had learned in their careers and in all the research they had done for their project. And the question arose: how can a group of young university students, almost recent graduates, with a project...

Photo: Kaloian

Cuban entrepreneurs and development

It was more than the whole paragraph under the headline of Granma that caught my attention. The headline said, “Toda la atención en cómo lograr que el empresariado cubano proyecte el desarrollo” (Full attention on how to get Cuban entrepreneurs to project development). Under the headline the subheading says: “We need less bureaucracy, more agility and more entrepreneurship. We must definitely strengthen the state enterprise and incorporate the private sector into export projects.” Strengthen the state enterprise.... I confess that I haven’t seen the list of the 28 measures that seek to strengthen the state enterprise. There has been talk about them, but I at least haven’t been able to see them all together, I even looked in the website of the Implementation Commission, Cubacrece, but I didn’t find them, perhaps because my analogical heritage is so strong that it doesn't allow me to achieve all the skill required today to search on the web. I asked other friends and they hadn't managed to find them either. Thanks to the Granma article mentioned this Monday, we know that work is underway on ten other measures on the distribution of state enterprises’ profits. It is always striking that measures that the...

Photo: Naturaleza Secreta.

Eusebio of Old Havana: putting soul into the stones

This will not be an article on economics, although it will inexorably be related to it. Cities have become one of the leading actresses of economic development in the world. I heard a colleague, Ricardo Núñez, say a long time ago (2010) that “cities are revitalizing entities of national and even regional economies.” Perhaps today, Singapore with 719 km2 of surface, is the most evident proof of this assertion. That small city state is decisive in an entire region, in one of the most dynamic markets in the world and its extension is less than that of Havana! As Havanans that we all Cubans are, since Havana is the capital of all, we have been partying because our city turned 500 and we have celebrated it as it should, among other things, because none of us will be present when the city’s millennium is celebrated. And if it has been possible, in addition to the passion and dedication of many men and women who devoted hours and hours to that purpose, it has also been possible because of the seed that was planted and that germinated since long before, ever since around 1925 when Don Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring was...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

The obstacles that hinder state enterprises in Cuba

Twice this week I’ve heard this idea in two different contexts, although always referring to the state enterprise. “Doing away with the mechanisms that tie down the autonomy of the state enterprise” was one of them; “Our duty is to do away with the mechanisms that hinder the efficiency of the state enterprise” was the other. They were not said in any particular context, which forces me to think that there is sufficient conviction among decision makers that there are “mechanisms”―institutional and organizational arrangements―that are, at least in part, responsible for state-owned enterprises not meeting expectations. In fact, we could say that there are institutional ―regulations and incentives― and organizational―administrative structures― arrangements which are part of all those obstacles that make our enterprises―not only the state ones, but also those other non-state―not as efficient as they should be. We can also say that many of these obstacles are not new, they date back many decades and even today, because of that fabulous ownership of bureaucracy so similar to that of matter (neither created nor destroyed, only transformed), they remain not only alive, but enjoy good health. Just a few months ago, in the Congress of the Association of Economists of...

Photo: HavanaClub.com

Those who sell serve, those who buy order

While this week almost all Cubans discussed this exciting matter of imagining how we are going to be able to buy (import) what we want, without having to go to any other country or depend on someone who does so (some “cubanicio”: Cuban with Phoenician). And as always with these measures, suddenly several groups are created that move within the space that exists between total detractors and outright defenders. But in recent days something else also happened of tremendous importance but which the press did not give, according to my opinion, the relevance it has, and it was President Díaz-Canel’s meeting where the issue of exports, which is one of those we depend on as a lifesaver, was once again dealt with. That meeting should be broadcast three or four times on television and should be studied in detail by the entire Cuban state business system and also, why not, that other one that we call non-state, but also Cuban and which also produces wealth. https://youtu.be/DACP1ejj5yI From what I could catch from this broadcast, some ideas stayed with me that I will try to reproduce and which President Díaz-Canel highlighted: The plan depends on what we export, and on those...

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