Saturday, March 19, 2005


Nothing Strange about the Cuban Peso´s Revaluation

After four years at an exchange rate of 26 per dollar, the Cuban Peso (CUP) began to edge up as of Friday, March 18. It is now set at 24 for sale and 25 for buying to the Convertible Peso (CUC), whose value equals officially to the US dollar.

In that period of time, the country withstood the impact of world economic recession. According to the official website of the Central Bank of Cuba (BCC), the existence of a double circulation (of the US Dollar and the Cuban Peso until November, 2004 and since that date with the CUC, because USD circulation was suspended from all domestic transactions) makes monetary policy more difficult to conduct.

The goal of the BCC has always been to return to one currency, the CUP, in which salaries and most commercial transactions are carried out. A solution to this was offset by the world economic recession and its impact on the Cuban economy.

Over the last months, more exactly in the last quarter, several positive factors have developed to make the return to one-currency circulation possible. An oil deposit discovery, together with favorable agreements signed with China and Venezuela have given the island a more solvent financial situation.

In Central Bank´s terms, the money made available by the improved conditions in the countrys foreign finances can help to reduce the deficit in Cuba´s current account of the Balance of Payments, particularly in the middle and long terms, conveying a gradual increase in International Reserves to acceptable levels.

As this situation improves, so will the access to foreign credit. And contrary to what has been the experience through Latin America, it is the first time the value of national currency recovers after a nasty fall.

Double circulation was allowed in Cuba in 1993, when the country´s economy hit rock bottom in the worst crisis of its history. The US dollar had reached an informal exchange rate of 150 pesos to the dollar. As the country´s economy began edging up in 1994, so did the peso and by the end of the last decade it had stabilized at 20 pesos to the dollar.

Washington had banned Cuba from using the US currency in foreign transactions, but dollars kept coming into the country from family remittances and tourism. European banks and private companies doing business with Cuba accepted the US currency in payment, until the US Treasury Department fined the SBS of Switzerland for 100 million dollars for including Cuba in a dollar-bill exchange of the US Federal Reserve.

Persecution of Cuban exports and money transactions was heightened by the Bush administration and this determined the Cuban government to ban the dollar from circulating inside the country and to get rid gradually of its greenback reserves, which by the way, were losing its value by the day facing the euro, the yen and other hard currencies.

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Monday, March 07, 2005


What goes from Macho to Woman Power

International Women´s Day has taken roots in Cuba and not only because women, young and old, are given flowers or candy like on Valentine´s Day.
A lot of changes have taken place in the minds of men in this country and you can see them when a young father cleans his house, handles the family´s washing machine, or takes the baby for a walk around the block.
I come from Spanish families on both sides, one born in Spain and the other first-generation Cuban-born of Spanish origin. That may look the same, but it isn´t. Changes began slowly taking place since the wars for Independence in the 19th century. My mother´s family, for instance, was very dependent on one man. My grandfather worked at a tailor shop first and later put up his own business of shoe-making and repairs. He was tender with his grandchildren, which did not hide the fact that his three daughters were only allowed to work at home until they were married.
My mother took to sewing not because it was what she liked best, in fact what she really loved was teaching, but her contribution to the family´s income came from the dresses, bedspreads and lingerie she sewed. She and her sisters were allowed to study but then they had to work -at home. For example, my mother took shorthand and stenography lessons but could never work in an office. First, my grandfather forbid it and then, my father.
After my father´s premature death (36), however, she was confronted with a very hostile environment for a woman to work in. My dad had a retail store where animal feed and farm tools were sold for the small farms near the town of San Francisco de Paula, on the outskirts of Havana.
In 1959, everything began to change. A year later, to help my mother and younger sisters, I began to work before the authorized age of 18, for I was only 16, as a secretary. Reticent as she was to let me "out into the world", my mother gradually understood times were changing, for one could feel a new environment of respect for working people.
The sister following me volunteered for the Literacy campaign to teach farmers and their families to read and write. She was only 14. Then my younger sister chose a military career.
My own mother saw all her youth dreams of women taking their place in society come true. My father´s side of the family was more open to change and one of my aunts became my paradigm of women´s liberation. She taught us to defend our rights as women and demand respect to our beliefs.
Although Cuba had one of the more progressive constitutions in Latin America since the 1940´s, it was not until 1959 that it really began to mean something. Women could vote, could get divorced, which was not possible for our gender in most Latin American countries and became professionals.
Now, equality is a constitutional right, most of our scientists are women, there are women Ministers, Party officials, Members of Parliament. No barriers stand in the way of feminine ingenuity, on the contrary, it is stimulated.
Of course there are many vestiges of macho attitudes resisting change. Women are battered and harassed at home and at the workplace, but it becomes an ever less frequent reality.
Like a popular song goes, "we don´t live in a perfect society" but people in general are perfecting it every day.Image hosted by

Sandinista Congress Demands Release of Cuban Five

Havana, Mar 7. The Congress of the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN) approved a resolution of solidarity with Cuba, demanding the immediate release of five Cubans imprisoned in the US for trying to thwart terrorist actions against the island.
The text denounces the worsening the US blockade against the Caribbean island as of a group of measures adopted June 30, 2004 by the US government aimed to reduce the entry of dollars here, restricting Cuban-Americans from travel to their native land and reducing ways to send remittances and packages.
The document also alerts against the dangers of an aggression against Cuba as a result of that aggressive policy, and calls for the people of the world to redouble their solidarity with the largest of the Antilles.
Another aspect of the resolution is the collaboration benefits between Havana and Nicaragua in education and health fields, and the return to the homeland of the first 178 Nicaraguan physicians graduated in Cuba.
Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez, Ramon Laba¤ino and Rene Gonzalez were arrested in 1998 in the United States, charged with conspiracy and convicted by a Miami court to harsh sentences ranging from 15 years to double life imprisonment.
Their real crime was gathering information about terrorist plots by anti-Cuban organizations in Miami, Florida, in an effort to prevent the deaths of Cuban and even United States citizens.
The FSLN top meeting appointed Daniel Ortega as candidate of the FSLN and National Convergence Party to the presidential elections scheduled for November 2006.
For more information, visit the Prensa Latina English website at:

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