Monday, November 7, 2016

Cuba's Economic Adjustments

A Work in Progress!!
       One of Cuba's rising female stars is Wendy Miranda. That's Wendy in the center in the above photo. She will play a large role in the island's economic adjustment to a Vietnamese or Chinese financial system that embraces key aspects and elements of...uh...CAPITALISM. The Mariel Port Economic Zone -- 28 miles southwest of Havana and 95 miles southwest of Key West, Florida -- has been carefully crafted to be a hub of Cuba's economic viability on the heels of President Obama's startling detente with the island and as a preamble to a post-Castro future for the island, a mortal reality brought about by the advanced age of the Castro brothers -- 85 for Raul and 90 for Fidel. In little more than a year Raul has announced he will turn the presidency over to the 56-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, which doesn't mean the Castro influence or legacy will end but, more realistically, just change gears. As long as right-wing Republicans in Miami and Congress largely dictate a U. S. Cuban policy that now gets a 191-to-0 disapproval rating in the United Nations, the Castro legacy will remain a powerful force on the island, whether or not the Republican right-wingers ever succeed in destroying Revolutionary Cuba and regaining control of the island. The Diaz-Canel rule, scheduled to begin early in 2018, will bring with it an array of young, bright, well-educated Wendy Miranda. Wendy is already the dynamo in charge of vital economic decisions related to the absolutely essential foreign investments in the Mariel Economic Zone, an ultra-modern, strategically located port recently the recipient of a billion-dollar upgrade before Cuban-supporter Dilma Rousseff's impeachment as President of Brazil, where she has been replaced in what she calls a "coup" engineered by "U.S.-and-Miami-friendly political patsies." Cuba today is known for such things as surviving the U.S.-backed Mafia rule of Cuba in the 1950s, the Bay of Pigs military attack in 1961 after the Cuban Revolution booted the Mafia to Miami, the U. S. embargo first imposed in 1962 to starve the island to enduce it to overthrow Fidel Castro, and the very brief 2002 coup in Venezuela that Latin Americans still blame on the Bush administration's prime, still viable anti-Cuban stalwarts Otto Reich and Roger Noriega. Wendy Miranda, as I will explain later in this essay, has emerged as a major force in Cuba's economic future. Americans are not supposed to know her, at least until the anti-Cuba propaganda machine can vilify her. That vilification has, in fact, started because she emerged as a prominent Cuban during the just-concluded 34th 4-day International Trade Fair in Havana attended by a record 73 countries and 3500 exhibitors hoping to do business in Cuba, including many mostly disappointed U. S. companies.
      The Business Enterprise Editor at the Miami Herald is Mimi Whitefield. She, of course, writes frequently about Cuban vilification. Her November 5th, 2016 article on Cuba's International Trade Fair was prefaced with this screaming headline: "CUBA SAYS NO TO OBAMA-PROMOTED PLANS TO ASSEMBLE SMALL TRACTORS ON THE ISLAND." Her first words in the article were: "When President Barack Obama visited Cuba in March he said that a small Alabama company that makes tractors would be the first U.S.-company to build a factory here {in Cuba} in more than 50 years. That was jumping the gun." Then Ms. Whitefield from Cuba proceeded to tell her readers, the choir in Miami and supposedly all across the United States, about how the terrible Cuban government had double-crossed both President Obama and the company in Alabama that thought it was going to build little tractors in its Mariel factory that Cuba badly needed. Because of the international effect of the U. S. embargo, in place since 1962, there are still Cuban farmers who use oxen to pull out-dated plows and other farm equipment. So, the tractor factory in Cuba was considered, by President Obama and other decent people, as an antidote to that draconian offshoot of the embargo, which a couple of weeks ago got a resounding 191-to-0 denunciation at the UN. But one revelation from the Trade Fair was that Cuba has denied permission for the Alabama company to build tractors in Cuba. Ms. Whitefield and other usually unchallenged anti-Cuban propagandists in the U. S. used that denial by Cuba to insinuate as usual that any negative related to Cuba is always Cuba's fault and never the fault of the powerful forces in Miami trying desperately, after all these decades, to recapture Cuba. 
        And that brings us back around to Wendy Miranda, the young Cuban who made the decision to keep Cleber, the Alabama factory, from building tractors in Cuba. The photo above shows Wendy explaining things a few days ago in front of a Muriel billboard at the Cuban Trade Fair. Working under Muriel's leader, Ana Teresa Igarza, such decisions, as it turns out, are Wendy's. And her decision regarding Cleber was a sound one as her rationale explains: "As a chief engineer at Mariel, I was excited about the tractor factory from Alabama building machines here that Cubans need. Then I discovered that the Alabama factory was using 1940s technology that they would use here. The 1940s preceded the Cuban Revolution and that is not the technology I want for Mariel. I want advanced technology, not 1940s technology. I have on my desk right now projects using modern technology in tractor building from Japan, China, Belarus and France. With such options, I believe Cleber's 1940s technology is not what I want for Mariel." Cleber itself admits it uses 1940s technology to build its tractors in Alabama. So, did Wendy Miranda make a good decision to deny it a factory at Mariel. Fair-minded Americans -- like Mr. Obama -- would probably agree that she did.
        This photo shows Saul Berenthal in front of his proud Cleber exhibit at the just-concluded 34th Cuban Trade Fair. Saul was born in Havana and came to the U. S. with his family in the 1960s. He understands Wendy Miranda's denial of the factory he planned to build at Mariel. He said, "Cuban-Americans like me still want to bridge the gap between our two countries. I have contracts from foreign countries for the tractors we build in Alabama and I still plan, hopefully, to sell them in Cuba because I believe they will help Cuban farmers. Our tractors are small but strong, cheap but effective. The 1940s technology that we use I will not deny but when the modernity is factored in as we have displayed here, they are good, affordable tractors for Cuba." 
YES, the Alabama-built Cleber tractors are exactly what Saul Berenthal says they are -- small, strong, good, and affordable. But they are built with 1940s technology using modern material and techniques. For her ultra-modern Mariel Port Economic Zone, Wendy Miranda wants both modern technology and modern material...and she says she has such offers from companies in France, China, Japan, and Belarus. So, should Wendy Miranda's decision to deny Cleber a factory at Mariel be mocked even by the Miami Herald?
        This photo shows Wendy Miranda being interviewed at the Cuban Trade Fair in the first week of November-2016 about the vitally important Mariel Economic Zone. In the interview she explained why she denied the U. S. company, Cleber, to build a tractor-making factory at Mariel. She also said she hoped Cuban farmers could replace their oxen with some of the Cleber tractors that she said are "good from what I have seen." She also explained that: "I welcome U. S. companies at Mariel if I think they are fair to us and can compete with other companies from nations that have always been our friends. For example, I want the great cancer institute based in Buffalo, New York to join us in a Mariel factory that will produce adequate quantities of the cheap, or free, life-saving cancer drug that Cuban scientists developed and that Buffalo's Roswell Cancer Institute wants to provide for Americans. I want Roswell to have its impact at Mariel. Unilever is a Dutch company that makes many consumer products sold in the United States and around the world -- like shampoos, toothpaste, and such. Unilever is already building a big factory at Mariel that will employ at least 300 Cubans. If Unilever was an American company with very similar proposals, I would have welcomed it just as readily."  
        In this photo the big guy in the white shirt  is Paul Polman, the CEO of the Dutch company Unilever that is currently building a $35 million factory at Cuba's Mariel Port. It will soon employ 300 Cubans to manufacture soaps, shampoos and other products. Wendy Miranda approved that deal because "it will help Cubans working there who will be making the products and Cubans who use them. About 300 Cubans will work there to start and more as the company expands, which I think it will." And, yes, Wendy Miranda would have approved the deal if it had been an American company and not a Dutch company. In regards to the Miami Herald berating Cuba for denying Alabama-based Cleber a factory to build its tractors at the Mariel Port, Wendy Miranda believes she now has much better offers from France, China, Japan and Belarus.
       A young Cuban hydraulic engineer, Yanelis Tellez, was born in Mariel and she longs for the day when "Cuba can be Cuba and unleash its potential free of U.S. foreign dictation." The Mariel potential, she says, "will help Cubans and the Caribbean so much if a few evil Cubans in America will not continue to dictate America's Cuban policy against the best interests of Cubans and Americans. The world representation at the UN understands this with a 191-to-zero support for Cuba against U. S. imperialism," Yanelis adds, "Cubans on this island and not the worst of the Miami Cubans need to decide what Cuba is now and will be in the future."  
       Cuba's overall boss at the Mariel Port is Ana Teresa Igarza. She says, "Wendy and I are anxious to do contracts with U. S. companies so close to us if they show respect for Cuba, which many of them are doing." 
       Mr. Obama's 8-years as the twice-elected U. S. President are almost up. He has been the only U. S. president since 1898 with both the guts and the ability to actively treat Cuba fairly, but he's only partially successful because of a hostile 535-member U. S. Congress where Cuban policy is dictated by a few self-serving Batistiano-Mafiosi loyalists now well into a second generation of trying to plunder Cuba while cowardly hiding behind the apathy and cowardice of U. S. citizens and the power of the U. S. military. 
        President Obama -- above at the Grand Theatre in Havana on March 22nd, 2016 -- bravely and honorably declared "a new day" for U.S.-Cuban relations that would benefit "most Cubans, most Americans and most citizens of the world." But back in the U. S. to close out his two-term presidency, Mr. Obama has realized that the U. S. democracy has become more money-driven than voter-driven, evidenced by two extremely unpopular presidential contenders -- Republican Trump and Democrat Clinton -- in a bought-and-paid-for two-party system that is sorely in need of a third or fourth alternative to the current bought-and-paid-for two-party system in which Americans must choose the lesser of two money-crazed evils.
           This photo shows U. S. President Barack Obama back in March on his historic visit to Cuba meeting very uncomfortably with anti-Castro Cuban dissidents. It is clear that his discomfort resulted from the generally accepted premise that much of the loud but relatively little dissidence on the island is lushly sponsored and eagerly encouraged by anti-revolutionary elements in the United States of America.
          President Obama's eight-year reign as U. S. President will soon end. His approval rating is currently an amazing 55%. His predecessor, pro-Batistiano stalwart George W. Bush, left with a typical 27% approval rating after spending 8 years in the White House trying to use American power and influence to regain control of Cuba. Obama's brave and positive overtures to Cuba have improved his approval rating as he prepares to leave office, but such things as the incredibly flawed U. S. Congress being able to maintain the embargo against Cuba into a 6th decade reveals to the world, as evidenced by the latest 191-to-zero vote in the United Nations, a weakening and money-crazed U. S. democracy in Washington, one that tomorrow -- Nov. 8th-- will elect an extremely flawed candidate -- Mrs. Clinton -- over the also flawed Mr. Trump.
         Meanwhile, this map shows the location of the Mariel Port 28 miles southwest of Havana. Its ultra-modern, deep-water renovation means it can handle far larger ships than Havana can and its economic zone is vital to Cuba's future. The coordinator of projects there, Wendy Miranda, told Sarah Marsh of REUTERS this week: "We have been growing gradually but surely. We have 19 firmly signed ventures at Mariel. Four are joint ventures while the rest are 100 percent foreign owned or Cuban owned." Ms. Miranda's goal is to finalize about $9 billion in initial contracts and then add about $2 billion in new deals each year. Asked about a Miami Herald headline that said "Cuba Says No to Obama-Promoted Plans to Assemble Small Tractors on the Island," Wendy Miranda said, "I am eager to work with U. S. companies that equal or exceed other offers. The Alabama owners of the Cleber tractor company admit its 1940s technology is not as good as four other nations are offering us for tractor-building at Mariel, but I am still interested in the small but good Cleber tractors built in Alabama. That's why Cleber had a good exhibit at our Trade Fair in Havana this week."   
Cuba's ultra-modern, deep-water Mariel Port.
Highways leading to Mariel are being widened and repaved.
 This gorgeous little Cuban girl is no one's enemy
She doesn't deserve punishment from the U. S. embargo.

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