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12/22/13 - The Saratogian (New York) - Cuba warns it will move slowly in allowing private business 

HAVANA - President Raul Castro issued a stern warning to entrepreneurs
pushing the boundaries of Cuba's economic reform, telling parliament on
Saturday that "those pressuring us to move faster are moving us toward
failure."

Castro has legalized small-scale, private businesses in nearly 200 fields
since 2010, but has issued tighter regulations on businesses seen as going
too far or competing excessively with state enterprises. In recent months,
the government has banned the resale of imported hardware and clothing and
cracked down on unlicensed private videogame and movie salons.

Castro threw his full weight behind such measures in an address to the
biannual meeting of the communist legislature, saying "every step we take
must be accompanied by the establishment of a sense of order."

"Inadequate controls by government institutions in the face of illegal
activities by private businesspeople weren't resolved in a timely fashion,
creating an environment of impunity and stimulating the accelerated growth
of activities that were never authorized for certain occupations," Castro
said.

He told lawmakers that Cuba wants better relations with the U.S. but will
never give in to demands for changes to Cuba's government and economy,
saying "we don't demand that the U.S. change its political or social system
and we don't accept negotiations over ours."

"If we really want to move our bilateral relations forward, we'll have to
learn to respect our differences," Castro said. "If not, we're ready to
take another 55 years in the same situation."

Cuba blames a half-century-old U.S. embargo for strangling its economy but
Castro's government has also acknowledged that it must reform the state-run
economy with a gradual opening to private enterprise. Many Cubans have
enthusiastically seized opportunities to make more money with their own
businesses, but new entrepreneurs and outside experts alike complain that
the government has been sending mixed messages about its openness to
private enterprise.

The conflicting signals were apparent in Cuba's handling of the dozens of
private home cinemas and video game salons that sprung up around the
country this year, drawing crowds of young people willing to spend a few
dollars for access to the latest home entertainment technology imported,
purportedly for private use, by Cubans returning from the U.S., Canada or
other countries.

The government denounced the cinemas as spreading uncultured drivel to the
young, and ordered them closed last month for stretching the boundaries on
the kinds of private businesses allowed under reforms instituted by Castro.
Then came the backlash, with entrepreneurs bemoaning thousands of dollars
in lost investment and moviegoers saying they were exasperated by
heavy-handedness toward a harmless diversion. The official reaction was
swift, and unprecedented.

An article in the Communist Party newspaper Granma on last month
acknowledged there was wide disapproval of the ban, and hinted it was being
rethought. The same Granma article also offered a full-throated defense of
the ban on the reselling of imported hardware and clothes.

Castro appeared to justify all of the recent moves to clamp down on private
enterprise.

"We're not ignorant of the fact that those pressuring to move faster are
moving us toward failure, toward disunity, and are damaging the people's
confidence and support for the construction of socialism and the
independence and sovereignty of Cuba."

Several Cubans interviewed on the streets of Havana on Saturday said they
generally approved of Castro's speech but wanted more details on economic
reforms, and a softer line toward the U.S.

"I would have liked to know exactly what pace of reform we're going to
follow," said Daniel Mora, a 72-year-old retired state worker. "And he told
the United States that we're ready for another 55 years of blockade, but
I'm not ready for that. I'm 72 and I'd like to see the light at the end of
the tunnel before I die."

Castro praised the Cold War ties between Cuba and South Africa's
anti-apartheid movement but did not mention his handshake with President
Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela's funeral this month.

He lamented that growth would come in at 2.7 percent for 2013, nearly a
full percentage below the predicted 3.6 percent. He said growth for 2014
was expected to be 2.2 percent.

It is nearly impossible to know on the true size of Cuba's economy because
Cuba uses two currencies, a convertible peso for tourists that's pegged to
the U.S. dollar and a Cuban peso worth about 4 cents, and the government
doesn't clearly distinguish between them in economic statistics.


Original Source / Fuente Original:
http://www.saratogian.com/general-news/20131221/cuba-warns-it-will-move-slowly-in-allowing-private-business


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