Notes on the History of The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy
By Joaquín P. Pujol (ASCE’s Secretary 1990-1997, Member of the Board of Directors 2002-2004, 2004-2006) and Lorenzo Pérez (ASCE’s Secretary 2006-2009)
The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) was born from the collapse of the Soviet Union. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the disintegration of the communist regimes in the former Soviet Union and in Central and Eastern Europe raised the prospect that economic changes might take place in Cuba. At the beginning of 1990 a group of Cuban American economists, concerned with the implications of these economic and political developments might have for Cuba, decided to establish a professional association that would serve as a forum for discussion and study of the Cuban economy. The intention was to form a non-political, non-profit, professional organization, which would welcome individuals who were interested in fostering the objectives of the organization, regardless of their national origin, citizenship or place of residence.
ESTABLISHMENT AND PURPOSE
On August 3, 1990 the Association was incorporated under the laws of the State of Maryland. In a meeting at Roger Betancourt’s home the articles of incorporation were agreed to and signed. The articles of incorporation identify the following individuals as Directors of the organization to act until its first annual meeting: Roger R. Betancourt, Armando M. Lago, Ernesto Hernández-Catá, George Plinio Montalván, Jorge Sanguinetty, Jorge Salazar, and Lorenzo Pérez. Joaquín P. Pujol was named as Secretary of ASCE and Dr. Felipe Pazos, founder and former President of the Banco Nacional de Cuba, agreed to serve as President Ex-Officio of the Organization. For a complete listing of Officers and Members of the Board of Directors of ASCE since its inception see Annex 2 to the History of ASCE.
The articles of incorporation indicate that the main purpose of the organization would be “to encourage professional, high quality scholarship on economic issues by Cuban-Americans of all political persuasions”; and “to promote professional high quality scholarship on economic issues of interest to the Cuban society by anyone willing and able to contribute to such scholarship.” They also indicate that the organization would not take partisan attitudes, nor would it commit its members to any particular position on economic questions.
On December 29, 1990, at the behest of Roger Betancourt, ASCE became an affiliated organization of the Allied Social Sciences Association (ASSA) under the sponsorship of the American Economic Association (AEA). As a member of ASSA, ASCE has participated actively in organizing sessions on Cuban issues at the Annual Meetings of the AEA and other societies that are members of the group. It also has sought to broaden its contacts with economic associations in other parts of the World and to encourage economists and other social scientists and scholars from outside the United States to participate in its annual meetings. ASCE has co-sponsored a number of workshops and conferences on Cuban economic issues organized by other professional organizations, academic institutions, and legal firms.
In order to encourage university students to engage in research on the Cuban economy, at the suggestion of Freddie Sanchez, ASCE established an annual award that includes a small financial stipend for the best papers prepared by an undergraduate and a graduate university student on a subject related to the Cuban economy. The winner of this award is allowed to present their work at the Annual Meeting of ASCE and may have the paper published in the Papers and Proceedings of ASCE. (For a listing of winners of the student award see Previous Recipients.
On September 24,1991 the organization was registered under section 509 (a) 2 of the US Internal Revenue Code and was granted exemption from Federal Income Tax under section 501 (a) of the Internal Revenue Code as a 501(c) (3) organization.
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EARLY ORGANIZATIONAL ACTIVITIES
The organization had its first formal membership meeting in the fall of 1990 in Washington, DC, when its first By-laws were adopted and the first set of officers was elected (footnote 1) (For a listing of the officers of ASCE see Annex 2 to the History of ASCE. The original charter established that the Board of Directors would consist of a President and six members elected for a period of two years, and that the outgoing President would also be a member of the Board and act as President ex-officio in the subsequent term—with full voting rights. Elected members of the Board of Directors could be eligible for re-election for one consecutive term. (In practice, following a precedent established by Roger Betancourt—the first President, all Presidents of ASCE have served only for one term, serving as ex-officio Vice-Presidents to assist the following President and thereby promote the rotation of that office among members of the organization.) The Board of Directors was empowered to appoint, as additional members of the Board, a Secretary and a Treasurer. (This provision was later modified by a reform of the By-laws of ASCE adopted in 1997 whereby the Secretary and the Treasurer of ASCE were to be nominated from among the elected members of a larger Board of Directors. In 2004 it was decided to go back to the original provision that the Secretary and Treasurer need not be elected members of the Board but could be named by the Board from the membership at large).
The By-laws established that the general body of the membership would hold annual business meetings, at which time the Board of Directors would discuss the conduct of the business of ASCE with its members, report on current and future activities, and submit the budget for approval by the membership. ASCE’s fiscal year runs from July 1 of one calendar year to June 30 of the next, and the annual business meetings of the membership are held in conjunction with the Annual Conference on the first week of August of each year.
The annual meeting is also the main venue for the presentation of research papers and other studies, as well as for the organization of round table discussions on various subjects of interest to the membership. The annual meetings, which have traditionally spanned over a three-day period, normally start with a panel presentation on the latest developments in Cuba. Individual sessions then take place on various topics. These sessions are chaired by a member who coordinates the discussions and each presenter is assigned a discussant to comment on his or her presentation, after these comments are presented the floor is open for the audience at large to question or discuss the arguments presented. The topics covered at these conferences have varied, ranging from macroeconomic and microeconomic issues to developments in various sectors of the economy, the process of transition, sociological developments, social security and social safety nets, labor relations, legal and constitutional issues, property rights, the political evolution, governance issues, lessons to be learned from the experiences of other countries in transition, international relations, etc.
So far ASCE has published tweenty three volumes of the Papers and Proceedings of its annual conferences in a series titled Cuba in Transition. For a listing of the names and affiliation of the persons who have contributed papers to the various volumes in this series see Annex 1 to Annual Proceedings. Annex 2 to Annual Proceedings presents an Index of the Papers published in the volumes of Cuba in Transition organized by topic. Most of the papers presented at ASCE’s conferences also can be found through at the Annual Proceedings section of the website. Annex 1 to the History of ASCE contains biographical notes on ASCE’s members and other individuals who have participated in the activities of the Association.
From its inception ASCE has sought to run its financial affairs independently of any other organization and free from political influence. Thus, it has relied for the most part on the annual dues paid by members, the sale of its publications and the proceeds of the receipts generated by its own activities to cover most of its expenditures. ASCE has also received donations and grants from universities, individual sponsors, private corporations and some other institutions, mostly to support ASCE’s publications and/or specific events, including the annual conference. These donors are acknowledged in the volumes published by ASCE. Moreover, some of the activities organized by ASCE have been co-sponsored by universities or other organizations to help defray the costs.
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All members of the Board serve in a pro-bono, voluntary basis, without any compensation. Since ASCE’s inception, Board positions have been occupied by individuals from academia, government service, law firms, multilateral international organizations and private business enterprises.
There are five categories of members: Regular members, Student (who pay a reduced fee), Individual Sponsors (who contribute between $120 and $300 annually), Institutional members ($120 and over), Benefactors (those contributing over $300 annually).
The membership of ASCE has a wide participation by academicians, scholars, university students, private individuals, businessmen, government officials and personnel from international organizations.
In March 1995, the Board of Directors decided that the application for membership to ASCE should include the following statement: “ASCE is a professional non-political and non-partisan Association whose objective is the study of the Cuban economy and society .Of special interest to the current Board of Directors of ASCE is the study of economic and business development issues, legal reform and environmental problems associated with the transition of Cuba to a free market democracy.”
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FIRST PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES 1990
The first lecture organized by ASCE was in the fall of 1990 at Georgetown University. On that occasion Jorge Pérez-López presented a paper titled ” Sugar and the Cuban Economy: Implications after Thirty Years.” This was followed, on December 1990, by the first “Carlos Díaz Alejandro Lecture” delivered by Felipe Pazos at the Salón de las Américas of the Inter-American Development Bank on “The Economic Problems of Cuba in the Period of Transition.” At that time the organization already had 80 members. (For a listing of the entire “Carlos Díaz Alejandro Lectures” see Lecture Series at ASCE’s web site).
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ACTIVITIES DURING 1991
A lecture on “Constitutional Reform in Eastern Europe and Its Implications” was given on March 1991 at Georgetown University by Dennis Mueller, Professor of Economics at the University of Maryland. Also in that month, the first issue of ASCE’s Newsletter was published. Joaquín P. Pujol and Ana Aizcorbe were the first co-editors of the Newsletter. In its early days ASCE’s newsletter served not only to inform members about the activities of the Association, but it also reproduced abstracts of the presentations made at its conferences and other activities as well as other papers that were thought of interest to the membership, identified new books and articles published on Cuba’s economy, and published book reviews and abstracts. The Newsletter has been published two to four times a year since 1991. With the more timely publication of the papers presented at the Annual Meeting in the series Cuba in Transition, and their availability through ASCE’s web site, the newsletters stopped publishing abstracts of papers presented at the meetings and concentrated on alerting members about forthcoming events and reporting on the activities of the association.
The First Annual Meeting of ASCE took place at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Florida, in August 1991. The Cuban Research Institute and the Latin American and Caribbean Center of Florida International University co-sponsored this conference. Professor Modesto Maidique, President of Florida International University, addressed the gathering. In preparation for this meeting, study groups had been established in the areas of the Cuban Sugar Industry, Economic and Legal Issues and Transition Studies. At this time the organization counted with 115 members spread over 13 states of the United States and six different countries. The meeting was very successful; there were 18 main presentations which provoked active discussions and there was significant media coverage of the event; 94 persons attended. A special recognition was given at this meeting to Dr. Justo Carrillo for his contributions to the Cuban economy. The proceedings of this conference, as well as the “Carlos Díaz Alejandro Lecture” delivered by Felipe Pazos the previous December, were reproduced in Volume I of the series Cuba in Transition, which was published by ASCE in collaboration with Florida International University.
During the business meeting of the membership that took place at this conference, the possibility of establishing a permanent chapter of the Association in Miami was raised. It was pointed out, however, that while nothing in the charter of the association prohibited the establishment of such a chapter, its establishment would depend on the willingness of local members to generate sufficient local activities to justify it. A Nominating Committee was named at that meeting to develop the procedures for the election of a new set of officers for the association to be installed at the time of the Second Annual Meeting in August 1992. The Committee consisted of: José Alvarez, University of Florida; Raúl Asón, Consultant, Puerto Rico; Joseph Perry, University of North Florida; Carmen Reinhart, International Monetary Fund; and Roger Betancourt, University of Maryland.
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ACTIVITIES IN 1992
During 1992, ASCE organized a session at the ASSA/ AEA January Annual Meeting in New Orleans where three papers on Cuban issues were presented: “Commodity-linked Transactions and the Cuban Sugar Industry” by Fernando Alvarez; “Cuba’s Transition to Market-Based Energy Prices” by Jorge Pérez López; and “Difficulties of a Transition Toward a Market Economy” by Jorge Sanguinetty. ASCE also sponsored in January 1992 a lecture by Rolando H. Castañeda, Senior Economist of the Inter-American Development Bank, on “Cuba: Esbozo de una Propuesta para la Transformación de la Economía Socialista a Una Economía de Mercado” at Georgetown University.
A new Board of Directors was elected in time for the Second Annual Meeting, which took place in August 1992, again at Florida International University (FIU). By then the association’s membership had reached 130, spread over 12 countries. Twenty-two papers were presented at the conference, which were published in Volume II of Cuba in Transition. In addition, this conference had a number of panel discussions loosely centered on the issues raised by economic transition. Papers were also presented on the topics of ethics, safety nets, and legal issues involved in a transformation to a market economy. Throughout the conference, much concern was expressed over the potential size of layoffs that would inevitably result from a restructuring program in Cuba, and for the need of safety nets and social policies as an integral part of any adjustment program. The issue of the deterioration of environmental conditions in Cuba also was discussed.
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ACTIVITIES DURING 1993
In January 1993, ASCE co-sponsored with the AEA a session on “Selected Aspects of an Involuntary Transition” at the Annual Meetings of the ASSA/AEA in Anaheim, California. Papers were presented on: “Rationing and Labor Supply in Cuba” by Jorge Sanguinetty; “A Political Model of a Socialist Regime” by Carlos Seiglie; and “The Distribution System in a Centrally Planned Economy” byRoger Betancourt. Ana Aizcorbe, Willard Radell and Joaquín P. Pujol commented on the presentations.At that conference, the second “Carlos Díaz Alejandro Lecture” was delivered by Professor Guillermo Calvo on “Capital Inflows and Real Exchange Rate Appreciation.”
In March, members of ASCE organized one session on “The Relevance of Economic Analysis for Policy” at the Annual Meetings of the Eastern Economic Association in Washington, DC. Papers were presented on: “The Adjustment Effects on the Poor: A Literature Review” by Juan J. Butari; “In Search for a Way Out for Cuba: Reconciliation, Stabilization, and Structural Reform” by Rolando H. Castañeda and George P. Montalván; and “Transition from One Economic System to Another: A Survey of Some Recent Experiences on Three Continents” by James A. M. Elliot. Néstor Cruz, Jorge Lamas and Clarence Zuvekas commented on the presentations.
In April, ASCE co-sponsored with the Washington-based law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts and Trowbridge a seminar on “Requirements for the Re-entry of US-Based Business into Cuba.” US Senator Robert Graham (D-Florida) was the Luncheon Speaker. Several ASCE members participated in the seminar either presenting papers, as discussants, or as moderators, including Matías Travieso-Díaz, Teo Babún Jr., Roger Betancourt, Rolando H. Castañeda, Efren Córdova, Ernesto Hernández-Catá, Jorge Pérez-López, Ambassador Ernest Preeg, Joaquín Pujol, and Nicolás Rivero. This seminar, which received ample coverage by the press, was attended by over 100 participants representing a wide gama of the Washington business, legal and political community.
At the time of ASCE’s Third Annual Meeting, held at Florida International University in August 1993, the association had over 170 members and attendance at the meeting reached 143. The meetings took place against the backdrop of tentative efforts in the island to adopt some economic reforms. The introduction of the dollar as a means of legal exchange for certain transactions in Cuba attracted particular attention, but doubts were expressed about the likelihood that economic reforms would go far enough under the existing political regime in the island. Twenty-nine presentations were made in topics ranging from transition issues and current developments in the Cuban economy, to legal issues, privatization and restitution of properties, trade issues, the US embargo, and the role of financial intermediation in a post-Castro Cuba. At that conference, José Alonso and Armando Lago presented a paper attempting to estimate the foreign assistance requirements of a post-Castro democratic Cuba, and Ambassador Ernest Preeg made projections for the behavior of the Cuban economy under the assumptions of a change to a market-oriented economy and a lifting of the US trade embargo. Domingo Moreira summarized a report prepared by a Blue Ribbon Commission established by the Cuban-American National Foundation dealing with the Cuban transition and Sergio Díaz Briquets did the same with regard to the conclusions and policy options identified by the “Cuba in Transition Project” undertaken by Florida International University at the behest of the US Agency for International Development. Professor Carmelo Mesa Lago, Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Pittsburgh, delivered the Luncheon Address on “A Perspective for Social Safety Nets in Cuba.” The implications for Cuba of the experiences of other countries, including Russia, and of different transition strategies were discussed also (the papers of the conference can be found in Volume III of Cuba in Transition.) During that meeting the prize for best paper by an undergraduate student was awarded for the first time. The recipient was Joshua Himes, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, for his paper in “Cuban Development and the Sugar Economy.”
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ACTIVITIES IN 1994
In January 1994, ASCE sponsored a session at the ASSA/AEA Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, where three papers were presented: ” The Implications of the Privatization Movement for Post Transition Cuba” by Joseph Perry and Jeffrey Steagall; ” Monetary Dualism as an Instrument Towards a Market Economy: The Cuban Case” by Jorge Sanguinetty; and ” Growth Capabilities and Development: Implications for Transition Processes in Cuba” by Roger Betancourt. Fernando Alvarez, Jorge Salazar-Carrillo and Joaquín P. Pujol commented on the presentations.
ASCE also co-sponsored the workshop “Strategies for the First Year of Cuba’s Transition” organized at the Washington-based law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts and Trowbridge by Matías Travieso-Díaz. US Congressman Robert Menéndez (D-New Jersey), main sponsor of the “Free and Independent Cuba Assistance Act,” was the luncheon keynote speaker. ASCE members that participated in the workshop included: José Alonso, Teo Babún, Sergio Díaz-Briquets, Jorge Domínguez, Ernesto Hernández-Catá, Antonio Gayoso, Jorge Pérez-López, Carlos Quijano, Nicolás Rivero, Jorge Sanguinetty, and Matías Travieso-Díaz.
Among the papers presented at this conference, in addition to the usual topics on the Cuban economy and the socio-political climate, were the experiences of Russia and other countries in their transition to a free market economy, an analysis of the implications of the introduction of monetary dualism, a proposal for banking reform, proposals for the design of a social safety net, and an overview of the changes required in Cuba’s laws and legal institutions during its transition to a free-market democracy. Ernesto F. Betancourt, former Director of Radio Marti, gave the luncheon address on “Castro’s Finale.” The papers and proceeding of this conference were published in Volume IV of Cuba in Transition. The prize for best paper on the Cuban economy to an undergraduate student was awarded to Ivette Barbeite from the University of Miami for her essay “Economic Outlook for Cuba After Castro: Emphasis on the Sugar and Tourism Industries.” The Virginia Bar approved participation in ASCE’s 1993 and 1994 Annual Meetings as qualifying for ” Virginia’s mandatory continuing education for lawyers practicing in the Commonwealth of Virginia.” By the time of the Annual Meeting the membership of ASCE had reached 202; the number increased to 250 by the end of the calendar year.
In April 1994 ASCE received a communication from La Habana announcing the establishment of a National Association of Independent Economists ( Asociación Nacional de Economistas Independientes) and a report prepared by members of that organization on unemployment in Cuba. The Committee of the new organization was composed of Gustavo Cano Escobar, Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, Nicolás Díaz Yánez, Elsa Rojas, Norma Felicia Santos and Rodolfo López Rodríguez. This would be the first of many interchanges of information between this new organization and ASCE. In the fall of 1994, ASCE extended an invitation to Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, Vice President of the National Association of Independent Economists of Cuba, to come to Washington for a workshop. Unfortunately, the Cuban Government did not allow her to leave the island to attend this event.
In December 1994 ASCE reproduced and circulated to its members (in Spanish and in English) a monograph on ” Economic Transition in Cuba and its Implications for its Relations with Spain” by Dr. Carlos Solchaga, ex-Minister of Economics and Finance of Spain. Dr. Solchaga had visited Cuba on several occasions to provide economic advice to the Cuban Government and in that context had proposed a number of economic policy reforms.
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ACTIVITIES DURING 1995
In January 1995, ASCE sponsored a session on ” Cuba: A Reluctant Transition” at the ASSA/AEA Annual Meeting in Washington. D.C. Three papers were presented at that session: “The Political Economy of Trade Embargos” by Carlos Seiglie; “Country Risk Ranking and Investor Risk: Lessons for Monetary Policy in a Post Embargo Cuba” by Fernando Alvarez; and “Economic Education for a Market Economy” by Jorge Sanguinetty. The session was chaired by Roger Betancourt and Luis Locay, Jorge Pérez-López and Joaquín P. Pujol commented on the presentations. The third “Carlos Díaz Alejandro Lecture” on “Regional and Multilateral Pacts in the World Economy” was given at that meeting by Professor Anne Krueger, from Stanford University. At that time, Dr. Krueger was the President-elect of the American Economic Association.
Members of ASCE participated in January 1995 in a one-day workshop on “Resolution of Property Claims in Cuba’s Transition” organized by the law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts and Trowbridge. The workshop featured presentations by experts on the legal and economic issues that will arise in attempting to settle the outstanding claims by U.S and Cuban nationals for the expropriation of their assets by the Cuban Government.
In March 1995 members of ASCE organized a session on Cuban economic and legal issues at the meetings of the Eastern Economic Association in New York City. Papers were presented on: “Some Legal and Practical Issues in the Resolution of Cuban National’s Expropriation Claims Against Cuba” by Matías Travieso-Díaz, and “Privatization Initiatives in Latin America: Lessons for Cuba” by José Fernández, Esq. A third paper, on “Privatization Initiatives in Socialist Cuba,” scheduled for this occasion could not be delivered due to the death of its author, Professor Sergio Roca. The session was chaired by Carlos Seiglie and Luis Locay served as the discussant.
A workshop on “The Future of Economic Reform in Cuba” was organized by the law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts and Trowbridge in April 1995, with extensive participation by ASCE members in this event. This occasion provided a forum for a thorough discussion of the new economic policy initiatives being considered and implemented by the Cuban government at that time and for an assessment of the results obtained. The workshop included presentations by two economists from Havana’s Center for the Study of the Americas (CEA), Julio Carranza and Pedro Monreal, who were proponents of reforms and discussed the then ongoing process of economic change in Cuba. These policies were commented on by five Cuban-American economist—Roger Betancourt, Ernesto Hernández-Catá, Luis Locay, Jorge Pérez-López and Jorge Sanguinetty—who identified what they perceived as flaws in both the changes implemented by Cuba at that time and in the reform proposals espoused by their Cuban colleagues. These critics concluded that the reforms were timid and shallow, and that it was not clear that they would result in a move to a market economy. (A summary of the presentations at that workshop can be found in ” Perspectives on Cuban Economic Reforms,” Special Studies No.30 of the Center for Latin American Studies Press, edited by Jorge F. Pérez-López and Matías F. Travieso-Díaz (Arizona State University).
ASCE members also participated actively on the discussions leading to a report on “A Road Map for Restructuring Future US Relations with Cuba” prepared by The Atlantic Council of the United States (a non-profit, non-partisan public policy center). The purpose of this project was to provide guidelines for US government officials and the US Congress for dealing with the many issues that may need to be addressed when and if decisions were made to restructure bilateral relations between the US and Cuba once Cuban leaders became committed to establishing a fully democratic system of government. As part of this project a compendium was collected of all US laws, regulations and policies that govern bilateral relations between the US and Cuba. The final report included proposed legislative guidelines for the US Congress once a process of restructuring normal relations is under way. Reports on these meetings and activities were conveyed to ASCE’s membership through the Newsletter.
The Fifth Annual Meeting of ASCE was held in August 1995 at the James L. Knight Center of the University of Miami. It was co-sponsored by the North-South Center of the University of Miami, and the papers of this conference were published in Volume V of Cuba in Transition. By then the membership of ASCE was close to 260. During this annual meeting the practice of having round table discussions on multi-disciplinary topics was introduced. This change made it possible to have discussions on other topics of importance in a process of transition—beyond purely economic issues—and to encourage a wider participation of the membership in the discussions of the association. However, the expansion of the agenda resulted in requiring the organization of concurrent sessions in order to keep the timetable of the Annual Meetings within a reasonable length (no more than two and a half days). About fifty presentations on a wide variety of topics were made. In addition, C. Richard Nelson, Director of the International Security Program at the Atlantic Council of the United States made a presentation on the conclusions of the report prepared by the Council on “A Road Map for Restructuring Future U.S. Relations with Cuba.” A lively discussion also took place on the legislation being proposed at the time by US members of Congress Helms and Burton, known as the “Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act of 1995.” Mr. Xavier L. Suárez, Esq., former Mayor of the City of Miami, was the luncheon speaker.
WHO CAN PRESENT PAPERS AT ASCE MEETINGS?
An issue that came to the fore again just prior to the Fifth Annual Meeting was to what extent, and under what conditions, economists residing in Cuba could participate in round tables and present papers at ASCE conferences. (This issue had arisen during 1993-94 but had remained unresolved.) Also, given the larger number of members and the growing interest in making presentations at ASCE meetings, the Board of Directors became concerned about maintaining the high quality of the presentations. Accordingly, in February of 1995—after much debate—the Board took a decision to establish general guidelines for the presentation of papers and participation in round tables at ASCE’s 1995 meetings. This decision stipulated that “only submissions by ASCE members, and non-members specially invited by the Board of Directors of ASCE, would be considered for presentation as papers or in round-table discussions at ASCE meetings;” ASCE members would be required to submit an abstract outlining the paper, to be subjected to review and approval by the Board of Directors, not later than June 1, 1995. Non-members would be required to submit the complete paper (not merely an outline) by the same date, to be reviewed and approved by the Board in time for the annual conference. Joint papers—those prepared by ASCE members with non-members—also would be required to be submitted in complete form (not merely an abstract) not later than June 1, 1995, to be reviewed and approved by the Board of Directors.
The Board of Directors also established an Annual Meeting Committee to manage the preparation of the program and to review and rate the proposed presentations in accordance with a rating system, which would emphasize the quality of the presentation, and whether new data (not otherwise available from other sources) was being made available to ASCE members. It was also decided that, presenters should not function also as moderators in the same session, and that attention be placed to ensure that in round table discussions balance would be given to alternative viewpoints, and that rebuttal capacity be specifically built-in through the selection of the participants and the moderator. In case of joint panels and seminars with other organizations, ASCE would reserve itself the choice of reviewers and moderators to ensure such balance. Moreover, the Committee reserved itself the right to select the papers to be included in ASCE’s publications and to appoint a Publications Committee to oversee the preparation of the annual publication.
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ACTIVITIES IN 1996
In January 1996, ASCE organized a session at the Annual Meetings of the ASSA/AEA in San Francisco, California. Three papers were presented at that session: “The Constraints on the Speed of Transition in Cuba” by Carlos Seiglie, “Restitution versus Compensation: Their Effects on the Pace of Privatization” by Luis Locay, and “Planning for a Free market Labor Force in Post-transition Cuba” by Joseph M. Perry, Louis A. Woods and Jeffrey W. Steagall. Armando Lago chaired the session and Joaquín Pujol and Nicolás Sanchez commented on the presentations. Also, in January, ASCE co-sponsored a workshop organized by the Law Firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts and Trowbridge on “Foreign Investment in Cuba.” In June, it co-sponsored a one-day workshop organized by the US-Cuba Business Council and the Council of the Americas in New York City on “Potential Opportunities and Development in a Free Market Cuba.”
In August 1996, the Sixth Annual Meeting of ASCE was held at the Knight Center of the University of Miami. This conference was co-sponsored by the North-South Center of the University of Miami. The welcoming remarks were given by Ambassador Ambler Moss, Director of the North-South Center. By that time ASCE’s membership had surpassed 300. During this meeting, in addition to the presentation of fifty (50) papers on a large variety of subjects, round-tables were organized to discuss various topics of interest to the membership. The papers and proceeding of this conference were published in Volume VI of Cuba in Transition (Starting at about this time, the Papers and Proceeding of ASCE were made available through the Internet at the site of the University of Texas at Austin’s Latin American Network Information Service, see reference of web site above. All published volumes are currently available at that site).
During the Sixth Annual Meeting special recognition was given to Dr. Felipe Pazos for his life-long achievements on economic analysis and policy and his defense of democratic principles. A paper on “La Seguridad Social: Un `Logro’ que tiende a Desboronarse”was presented at the conference—in-absentia—by Marta Beatriz Roque, from the Instituto Nacional de Economistas Independientes de Cuba. The luncheon speaker was Alberto Ibarguen, Editor of El Nuevo Herald of Miami. The undergraduate student prize was awarded to Félix B. Godínez, from Drew University, for his thesis on “The Cuban Revolution: A socio-economic and political analysis of the system.” At the business meeting of the association a decision was adopted to institute an “ASCE Recognition Award” which could be conferred annually to an individual who has attained distinction in the fields of study encompassed by ASCE. The determination as to whom to confer this award was to be made by the Board of Directors of ASCE.
OBJECTIVES OF THE ORGANIZATION, THE ELECTORAL PROCESS AND AMENDMENT TO THE BY-LAWS
During 1996 the Board of ASCE dedicated a considerable amount of time to proposals for amendments to the By-Laws of the organization. Some of these proposals involved attempts to restrict the criteria for membership in ASCE and to change the objectives of the organization and the functions of the Board of Directors. Two issues dominated the discussions: (1) whether Cuban economists from the island should be allowed to participate in ASCE’s activities; and (2) whether the activities of ASCE should be centered exclusively on the subject of a transition to a market economy. These were contentious issues on which opinions differed widely among members. In the end, the membership decided by a large majority to reject the proposed amendments.
Another contentious issue arose in the context of the elections for the new Board of Directors held prior to the 1996 Annual Meeting. There were three candidates for President and the results of the voting were very close between the two top candidates; no one obtained an absolute majority and the results of the election were challenged. In the end, a consultation was made to the membership at large to ratify the election results before the new Board of Directors was allowed to take office. In response to these problems a special “Commission on the Reform of ASCE’s Electoral Rules and Procedures” was set up to review and propose changes to the existing electoral rules and procedures with the view of making the process as fair and transparent as possible. This Commission was composed of Agustín Goytisolo (Chair), José Acosta, Beatriz Casals, Alberto Luzarraga, Carlos Montoulieu, Ricardo Puerta and Jorge Sanguinetty. As a result of the work of this Commission, amendments were proposed to ASCE’s By-Laws which were ratified by the membership at large and adopted during the 1997 Annual Meeting.
In addition, some members requested the publication of a full list of the phones and addresses of ASCE members. Since the creation of the organization a list of members had been published periodically in the Newsletter identifying the names and affiliations of members, but a many members had indicated their reluctance to have their addresses and telephones publicly disclosed and therefore these were not included. ASCE also had received frequent requests from other organizations for a list of addresses of its members but, because of privacy considerations, the Board repeatedly declined to make available this information. This appeared to be a reasonable concern in view of the political situation that has prevailed in Cuba. Moreover, to prevent the leakage of this information the Board had adopted the policy of restricting full access to the detailed information to only the officers of ASCE with a need to know in order to carry out their functions (i.e., the President, the Secretary and the Treasurer of the organization).
In view of this new request for publication of the information, the decision was taken to canvas the membership as to what specific information they were prepared to make available for inclusion in a Directory of Members to be distributed to all members of ASCE. A questionnaire was sent to all members asking them to identify the information that they were willing to have published, but large number of members did not respond. Among those who responded, many identified a limited amount of information that they were willing to have published. Taking into account these responses, a copy of a Directory of Members was prepared in June 1966 and distributed during the 1996 Annual Meeting to those attending. This Directory included a list of members by type of membership which identified their main professional activity and the city, state and country where they were located, the addresses and office telephone numbers for those members that had agreed to make them public, and biographical notes that had been provided by a number of members. Since, ASCE has made available in its website biographical notes on all participants in ASCE activities that are willing to provide that information (See “Who is Who” in ASCE in Annex 1 to the History of ASCE).
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ACTIVITIES DURING 1997
In January 1997, ASCE organized a session at the ASSA/AEA Annual Meetings in New Orleans, on “Issues of Cuban Economic Transition” where four papers were presented: “Cuba’s Reforms: A New Institutional Perspective” by Roger Betancourt; “Assessing Cuba’s Economic and Social Performance in the 1990’s” by Carmelo Mesa-Lago; “The Optimal Size of the Military in a Post-Castro Cuba” by Carlos Seiglie; and ” The Effects of Socialism on the Entrepreneurial Abilities of Cuban Americans” by Luis Locay and Jorge Sanguinetty. Ernesto Hernández-Catá and Juan Carlos Dalmau Liso commented on the presentations. In addition, the Fourth “Carlos Diaz Alejandro Lecture,” was delivered by Professor Ronald Findlay, Chairman of the Economics Department, Columbia University, on “The Political Economy of Trade and Development.”
In August 1997, the Seventh Annual Meeting of ASCE took place at the James Knight Center of the University of Miami. It came at a time when the Cuban Government had decided to end some of the timid steps toward economic liberalization that had been taken in the past few years. This turned out to be a most successful meeting in terms of attendance and number of presentations. Close to 200 individuals attended (including some 20 journalists) and 20 sessions were organized at which over 100 members actively participated. During the reception, special recognitions were bestowed on Armando Lago and Carmelo Mesa-Lago for their work on Cuban issues and their contributions to ASCE. Professor Luís Aguilar León was the luncheon speaker; he spoke on an outlook for the Cuban economy and the political situation. The undergraduate student prize went to Yosem Companys, of Yale University, for his essay on ” Institution Building: A Regulatory and Supervisory Framework for Cuba’s Financial Sector Reform.” The papers of this conference were published in Volume VII of Cuba in Transition.
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ACTIVITIES IN 1998
In January 1998, ASCE organized a session on “Issues of Cuba in Transition” at the ASSA/AEA Annual Meetings in Chicago, Illinois. Four papers were presented: “Liberalization and the Behavior of Output During the Transition from Plan to Market” by Ernesto Hernández-Catá; “The Cuban Self-Employed: Who Are They?” by Ana Julia Jatar-Hausmann; “Economic Policies, Human Capital, Growth, and Technological Change in Cuba” by Manuel Madrid-Aris; and “Foreign Investment in Cuba: An Update” by María C. Werlau. The session was chaired by Roger Betancourt with Luis Locay, Juan López, and Carlos Seiglie serving as discussants.
The Eighth Annual Meeting of ASCE was held on August 1998 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. Elections had been held just prior to the Eighth Annual Meeting and, at that time, the size of the Board was expanded to 12 members. The number of attendees at the Eighth Annual Meeting exceeded 200 per day. The program covered a wide variety of topics, with about half of the sessions devoted strictly to economic topics and the other half dedicated to legal, sociological, and political science topics. A highlight of the meeting was the keynote address by Professor Irving Louis Horowitz, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Political Science at Rutgers University. He spoke about lessons that can be learned from Cuban communism, drawing on his own long experience in studying the Cuban revolution. At the reception, awards were presented to Jorge Pérez-López and Joaquín Pujol for their contributions to the Association. The papers of the Eighth Annual conference were published in Volume VIII of Cuba in Transition.
In September 1998, the Board voted to award “honorary membership in ASCE” to Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, Félix Bonne Carcasses, René Gómez Manzano and Vladimiro Roca in recognition of their work and participation in ASCE. The Board also called for public condemnation of their conviction on charges of sedition by the Cuban Government because of their publication of “La Patria es de Todos” (“The Fatherland Belongs to All”), a pamphlet calling for free elections and the return of democracy to Cuba. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Pax Christi, among other international human rights organizations, declared them “prisoners of conscience” and the Norwegian Parliament passed a resolution condemning the Cuban government for imprisoning the four. In addition, the Board created a committee, composed of Antonio Gayoso (chair), Ernesto Betancourt and Lorenzo Pérez to review the status of professional economists in Cuba and determine whether any of them should be recommended for honorary membership in ASCE.
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ACTIVITIES DURING 1999
In January 1999, ASCE organized two events at the ASSA/AEA Annual Meeting in New York. One was a session on “Social Security: Health Care and Working Conditions in Cuba,” where the following papers were presented: “The Implications of Pension Reform Experiences for the Social Security System of Cuba” by Lorenzo Pérez; “Labor Market Aspects of Foreign Investment in Cuba” by J. Marzo Fernández and Jorge Sanguinetty; and “The Effects of the US Embargo on the Prices Cuba Pays for Pharmaceuticals” by María C. Werlau. This session was chaired by Luis Locay; José Alonso, Nicolás Sánchez and Carlos Seiglie served as discussants. The other event was the Fifth “Carlos Díaz Alejandro Lecture.” The speaker was Professor Jagdish Bhagwati, Arthur Lehman Professor of Economics at Columbia University, who spoke on “Free Trade and Social Programs: Complements or Substitutes.” In February, ASCE co-sponsored a workshop organized by the law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts and Trowbridge in Washington, DC on “Internal and External Factors in Cuba’s Economic Transition.”
In April 1999, Lorenzo Pérez—who was then President of ASCE—was appointed Resident Representative for the International Monetary Fund in Brazil. As his new commitments would not allow him to devote the time needed to fulfill the obligations of the Presidency of ASCE, he resigned his post as President. In compliance with the organization’s by-laws, the Board appointed Sergio Díaz-Briquets (a member of the Board) to serve for the remainder of Lorenzo Pérez’s term. Jorge Pérez-López was appointed to the Board to complete Díaz-Briquets’ term in the Board. (ASCE’s by-laws indicate that “any vacancy, however occurring, in any office may be filled by the Board of Directors…”.)
In March 1999, ASCE co-sponsored a one-day workshop in Washington with the law firm of Shaw Pittman on “Internal and External Factors in Cuba’s Economic Transition” to conduct a dialogue over the initiatives of reform initiated by the Cuban Government and identify areas where additional research was needed. Participants from ASCE included: Lorenzo Pérez, Matías Travieso-Díaz, Jorge Pérez-López, Roger Betancourt, Armando Linde, Ernesto Hernández-Catá, and Juán J. López. Gary Maybarduck, Political and Economic Counselor at the U.S. Interest Section in La Habana, and Michael E. Rannenberger, Coordinator for Cuban Affairs at the U.S. State Department in Washington, also participated. Two economists from research institutes in La Habana, Cuba, had been invited but the Cuban Government did not permit them to attend.
Another significant development around this time was the establishment of a formal web site for ASCE ( www.ascecuba.org) and of a new e-mail address email@example.com. Although some of the papers published in Cuba in Transition had been available for some time at the web site of the University of Texas Latin American Information Service, ASCE did not have its own web page. This new site contains information about membership, calls for papers, the Association By-laws, lecture series, publications and other information. In addition, ASCE obtained a Post Office Box to centralize the reception of mail for the Association.
The Ninth Annual Meeting was held on August 1999 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. It was co-sponsored by the School of International Studies and the School of Business Administration of the University of Miami. The program for this conference reflected the increased interdisciplinary character of the issues being addressed by ASCE’s members within the context of the socio-economic and political developments of Cuba. There were about eighty main presentations in 23 sessions dealing with a variety of issues connected with the process of transition from a communist to a democratic market economy and other subjects. The proceedings from this conference have been published in Volume IX of Cuba in Transition.
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ACTIVITIES IN 2000
In January 2000, ASCE organized a session at the ASSA/AEA Annual Meeting in Boston. Papers were presented on ” Globalization, Transition and the Outlook for the Cuban Economy” by Ernesto Hernández-Catá; “Agricultural Productivity in the Caribbean: A Comparison of Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Puerto Rico” by Roberto and Rodrigo Seda; and “The Decline in Cuba’s Total Factor Productivity” by Luís Locay. Discussants were Roger Betancourt, Nicolás Sánchez and Carlos Seiglie.
In April 2000 the Board voted to amend ASCE’s By-Laws to improve and simplify the election process: making it possible to submit nominations by electronic mail or fax, reducing the number of members required to endorse a nomination from 15 to 5, and establishing that ballots be numbered rather than having to be countersigned by the President and the Secretary of the Association.
In the summer of 2000 the Board announced the establishment of a new award to encourage economic research by Cubans residing on the island. To that end, a US$1,000 prize was established for the best essay on the Cuban economy presented by an economist, or professional in a related field, residing in Cuba who does not work for the Cuban government agencies, ministries or state banks. Besides the cash prize, ASCE would assume responsibility for publication of the essay both in English and Spanish. A three-member Award Committee, chaired by Roger Betancourt, with the participation of Joseph Perry and Jorge Sanguinetty, was made responsible for reviewing submissions and selecting the winner. Essays were to be evaluated according to the following criteria: scope of its application to the Cuban economy, originality, quality and methodological soundness of the analysis, relevance of the statistical and other documentation supporting the analysis, contribution to broaden knowledge and the study of the Cuban economy in its broader sense, and presentation. In the end this prize remained unawarded.
Elections for a new Board were held prior to the Tenth Annual Meeting, which was held on August 2000 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. The conference, whose main theme was “Ten Years of the Special Period: Retrospective and Perspectives,” was co-sponsored by the University of Miami School of International Studies, the University of Miami School of Business and the Cuban Studies Association. This meeting took place on the tenth anniversary of the Cuban Government’s announcement of the establishment of a “Special Period in Time of Peace” in response to the economic impact of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Thus, the unifying theme of the conference was what had transpired in Cuba over the preceding decade and how Cuba and other countries had fared since the momentous historical events that accompanied the global collapse of communism.
About 20 sessions were held dealing with a range of economic, social, legal and political issues, and nearly 100 panelists and discussants from the United States, Puerto Rico, and a number of countries of the Americas and Europe participated in the program. The keynote speaker was Dr. Sidney Weintraub, formerly with the University of Texas and at the time William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who spoke on “The Role of Trade in Cuba’s Economic Transition.” Carlos Alberto Montaner, well-known writer and syndicated columnist, was guest speaker at the reception. The meeting opened with a greeting delivered over the telephone from La Habana by Marta Beatriz Roque, from the ” Asociación Nacional de Economístas Independientes,” who had recently been released from prison after serving several years because of her authorship of a document (” La Patria es de Todos”) calling for free elections and the reestablishment of democracy in Cuba. It also benefited from a special plenary session with presentations by Antonio Elorza, from the Universidad Complutense of Madrid, Spain, and Independent Cuban Economists Manuel David Orrio and Oscar Espinosa Chepe, who participated by telephone from La Habana.
An innovation of the Tenth Annual Meeting was a special session designed to give undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to present their research and receive feedback from association members; this session was very well received. There were a total of eight papers submitted for the award for best student papers and the prize was given to two students on this occasion: Charles Trumbull, Darmouth College, for his essay on “Social Contradictions in Cuba,” and Feliza Medrano, University of New Mexico, for her essay on “Ni chicha ni limonada: Depictions of the Mulatto Woman in Cuban Tobacco Art.” The proceedings from this conference have been published in Volume X of Cuba in Transition.
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ACTIVITIES DURING 2001
In January 2001, ASCE organized a session at the ASSA/AEA Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. Three papers were presented at this session: “The International Diffusion of the Cuban Cigar Industry and Property Rights Issues” by Joseph Perry and Louis Woods; ” Cuba’s Road to Serfdom” by Carlos Seiglie; and “The Fall and Recovery of the Cuban Economy in the 1990’s: Mirage or Reality” by Ernesto Hernández-Catá. The session was chaired by Luís Locay and Roger Betancourt served as discussant.
In June 2001, ASCE started a new service for those members who have e-mail consisting of a Cuban Economic News Clipping Service that offers periodic e-mail updates of selected news that become available on economic developments in Cuba usually not carried in the mainstream media publications. This service, in addition to making available on a timely basis information about Cuba, allows members to keep up-to-date on developments and answer questions that may arise about what is going on in the island, providing another mean to keep the ASCE’s Board in touch with many of its members.
The Eleventh Annual Meeting of ASCE took place at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida in August 2001. At this conference there were two special luncheon speakers, Professor Arnold Harberger of the University of California, Los Angeles, who spoke on “Exchange Rate Policies and the Transition in Latin America and Russia,” and Professor Antonio Jorge of Florida International University and the University of Miami, who spoke on “Nación, Sociedad y Economía en la Cuba Post-revolucionaria.” In addition to the presentation of a wide variety of papers, several special sessions were organized. One of them, on “Lessons from Russia” had the participation of Marcelo Selowsky, Chief Economist for Europe and Central Asia Region of the World Bank; Ricardo Lago, Deputy Chief Economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; Vladimir Mau, Director of the Working Center for Economic Reform in Moscow, and Ernesto Hernández-Catá, former head of mission to Russia from the International Monetary Fund. A second one, on Professor Carmelo Mesa-Lago’s newly-published book Market, Socialist, and Mixed Economies: Chile, Cuba and Costa Rica. A third one was in memory of Dr. Felipe Pazos, who had passed away recently, where several papers related to Dr. Pazos’ work were presented. The papers of this conference have been published in Volume XI of Cuba in Transition.
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ACTIVITIES IN 2002
In January 2002 ASCE organized one session at the ASSA/AEA meetings held in Atlanta. Two papers were presented on ” International Trade between the United States and Cuba: Lessons from the Past” by Myriam Quispe-Agnoli of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and ” Family Remittances” by Luís Locay of the Department of Economics of the University of Miami. Scheduled to appear but unable to attend were Joseph Perry and Louis A. Woods of the Department of Economics at the University of North Florida who were going to speak on ” Globalization and National Sovereignty: The Ongoing Dispute between the United States and Cuba.” The chair of the session was Luís Locay and the discussants were Roger Betancourt and William N. Trumbull from the Department of Economics, University of Maryland-College Park, and West Virginia University, respectively.
The Twelfth Annual Meeting of ASCE took take place in Miami, Florida, on August 1-3, 2002 at the Omni Colonnade Hotel, in Coral Gables. In light of the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Republic of Cuba, the theme of the conference was “The State, Institutions and the Market Economy.” The meeting placed special emphasis on the issue of how the rule of law and well functioning institutions contribute to a nation’s wealth and its rate of economic growth. Over seventy presentations were made in some 21 sessions, covering a variety of topics, including the current situation in Cuba, macroeconomic policy prescriptions, developments in the external sector, tourism, perspectives of US-Cuban agricultural trade issues, legal and educational issues, corruption, intellectual property regime, political order and transition, and constitutional issues. There were presentations involving independent economists from the island; Marta Beatriz Roque and Oscar Espinosa Chepe. In addition, eight student papers had been presented for consideration for the student award and three of them were discussed at the conference. The award for best student paper went to Ted Henken, of Tulane University, for his paper on “A Taste of Capitalism: The Rise and Fall of Havana’s Private Restaurants (Paladares).” The plenary session held on Saturday morning was open to the general public. It involved presentations by historian Rafael Rojas, journalist and author Carlos Alberto Montaner, Professor Néstor Carbonell Cortina, and columnist and Professor Luis Aguilar León on the bases for possible transition to democracy in Cuba in the future and the challenges that lay ahead. The Guest Speaker at the Luncheon was Dr. Ramón Díaz, former President of the Central Bank of Uruguay and past President of the Mont Pelerien Society. He spoke on “Economic Criterion for a Constitution that Would Sustain a Market Economy.” The papers of this conference were published in Volume XII of Cuba in Transition.
Elections for a new Board had taken place before the Annual Meeting and the new Board, as usual, took office during the Business Meeting. At that business meeting it was decided that for future years two separate awards would be given for student papers presented, one for undergraduates and another for graduate students.
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ACTIVITIES IN 2003
In January 2003 ASCE organized one session at the ASSA/AEA meetings held in Washington, DC. Papers were presented by Jorge Pérez- López (US Department of Labor) on “The Restructuring of the Cuban Sugar Industry: Issues and Challenges;” Carlos Seiglie (Rutgers University-Newark) on “Emigration, Racial strife and Crime in a Post-Castro Cuba;” and Pere Gomis-Porqueras and Luis Locay (from the University of Miami) on “Cuba’s Informal Sector Since the Fall of the Soviet Union;” Nicolás Sánchez (College of the Holy Cross) and Jorge Sanguinetty (Devtech Systems, Inc.) were the discussants of these papers.
The Thirteen Annual Meeting of ASCE took take place in Miami, Florida, on August 7-9, 2003 at the Omni Colonnade Hotel, in Coral Gables. The general theme of this Conference was “The External Sector of the Cuban Economy,” but a wide range of economic and political subjects was discussed also, including human rights, truth and reconciliation and ethics. Among the attendees were experts from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Center for Economic Reform in Moscow, and Universities from the United States, Latin America and Spain. More that 50 papers were presented at the meeting. These papers, along with the meeting’s plenary sessions and roundtables discussions, focused on Cuba’s political and economic situation, including prospects for a peaceful transition to a free-market economy and a democratic society. In particular, a special session was held to address proposals made within Cuba to establish a democratic society and a market economy in the island. A session was held on Hemispheric Economic Integration with the participation of an expert from the Inter-American Development Bank and a round table on “Reflections on the Constitutional Future of Cuba.” The keynote speaker was Philippe Dimitrov, former Bulgarian Ambassador to the United States. A cultural event was organized to hear a presentation by Roberto González Echevarría, Sterling Professor at Yale University, on his book on the history of Cuban Baseball “The Pride of Havana.” The papers were published in Volume XIII of Cuba in Transition. In addition, three special monographs were published on some of the topics covered during the Conference: the first on ” Felipe Pazos y sus contribuciones a Cuba y a America Latina,” the second on “Renovaciones o Reincidencias: La Democracia Cubana en el Nuevo Siglo,” and the third on “Propuestas para La Democracia desde Cuba.”
A total of 14 students presented papers to the competition for ASCE’s Student Award. The winner for the 2003 undergraduate student prize was Sarah Kleiner of Barnard College, for her essay “Economics and Desire: Sex and Power in Cuba”; First Honorary Mention was given to Robin Ghertner, of Wesleyan University, for his paper on “Rumba and the International Music and Tourist Industry”; a Second Honorary Mention was given to Eric C. Lincoln, of Georgetown University, for “Observations on Direct Investment in Cuba, 1994-2003.” The graduate student prize winner was Catherine Caouette, of University of Virginia, for her essay “The Politicization of Cuban Healthcare”; First Honorary Mention was given to Gisela Fosado, of the University of Michigan, for her essay “A Women’s Journey into the World of Male Sex in Cuba,” and a Second Honorary Mention to Kristin Sorensen, from Indiana University, for her paper on “Post Revolutionary Cuban Cinema: A Historical Analysis.”
On June 10, 2003, ASCE’s Board of Directors agreed to publish a statement protesting the action taken by the Cuban Government to condemn to long prison terms a number of peaceful dissidents in the island, among them were several members of ASCE, solely for trying to exercise their profession as economists and journalists with independence from the government and in violation of the International Convention of Human Rights subscribed by Cuba. These individuals have been declared “Prisoners of Conscience” by Amnesty International.
During 2003, thanks to the efforts of Miguel García Gonzávez from Casals and Associates, ASCE’s website ( www.ascecuba.org ) hosted by the University of Texas Latin American Information Service was significantly expanded and the e-mail address of ASCE firstname.lastname@example.org became fully functional. The website now includes, in addition to the papers published in Cuba in Transition, recent press release, the most recent Newsletters, samples of the Newsclippins, the Program for the Annual Meeting, Application forms for Membership, the History of ASCE, Who is Who in ASCE, and an Index of the papers published in Cuba in Transition classified by topics.
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ACTIVITIES IN 2004
In January 2004 ASCE organized one session at the ASSA/AEA meetings held in San Diego, California. Papers were presented by Roger Betancourt (University of Maryland) on “The Role of the State in a Democratic Transition;” Myriam Quispe-Agnoli (Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta) on “International Trade Flows and Cuba: Estimations using a Gravity Model;” and Pere Gomis-Porqueras and Luis Locay (from the University of Miami) on “Informality, Remittances and Dollar Stores in Cuba’s Dual Economy.” Bryan Roberts (Bearing Point Consulting) Carlos Seiglie ( Rutgers University) and John Devereux ( Queens College) served as discussants on these presentations.
During 2004 ASCE organized, in collaboration with the Cuba Research Institute of Florida International University, a series of public lectures and discussions on topics related to Cuba at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. The first of these sessions involved a presentation by Dr. Carmelo Mesa Lago, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics and Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburg, on ” Cuba’s Economy and Social Welfare in the 21st Century.” A second session involved a presentation by Ernesto Hernández-Catá, Adjunct Professor at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University, on “Towards a Second Generation of Reforms in Cuba: Macroeconomic Policy and Enterprise Reform.”
In March 2004 ASCE’s Board addressed a public communication to several human rights organizations in support of Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a Cuban member of ASCE, who was imprisoned by the Cuban Government –together with 75 other dissidents- and condemned to a long prison sentence (20 years) for publicly expressing his disagreement with the economic analysis and policies being implemented by the Cuban government and calling for a peaceful change in such policies. Mr. Chepe has been determined to be a “Prisoner of Conscience”by Amnesty International.
The Fourteen Annual Meeting of ASCE took take place in Miami, Florida, on August 5-6, 2004 at the Wyndham Grand Bay Hotel, in Coconut Grove. The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies of the University of Miami provide Secretariat support for this Conference. This conference took place on the tenth anniversary of the announcement of certain economic reforms adopted by the Cuban authorities in response to the collapse of the Soviet empire and the discontinuation of the economic subsidies that were granted to Cuba by the former Soviet Union. These initiatives, implemented in the early 1990’s, included depenalization of the use of foreign currencies, the creation of agricultural cooperatives, expansion of self-employment, stimulation of foreign investment, and so on. Therefore, a main theme of this conference became an assessment of Cuba’s policies and performance during the so-called “special period” under these reforms. Over 70 presentations were made on a variety of topics that included: the exchange rate system, foreign investment, foreign trade, tourism, the agricultural sector, self-employment, poverty and social issues, the environment, transition issues and strategies, legal issues, civil society, migration, politics and government, and the Cuban military. The keynote speaker was Stephen Johnson, from the heritage Foundation, who spoke on “Supporting Cuban Democrats.” In addition, there were special presentations by Adolfo Franco, from the US Agency for International Development, Walter Bastian, from the US Department of Commerce, and Dan Fisk, from the US Department of State, on issues of US-Cuba relations. A cultural event was held to present “La Fabri-K,” a short film about current trends of music in Cuba by Lisandro Pérez-Rey. The papers of this conference have been published in Volume XIV of Cuba in Transition.
As in previous years, ASCE offered Student Prize Awards for the best papers on interdisciplinary research dealing with Cuban issues prepared by a graduate and an undergraduate student. A total of 12 papers were entered into the competition, 6 undergraduates and 6 graduates. Because of the high quality of the papers received it was decided to award two first prize papers for the graduate papers and to add a first honors selection among the undergraduate papers. The Awards for 2004 were, (a) for the Graduate students: First Prize, David Penny, Oxford University, UK, “Castro’s Cuba: Ideological Themes in Rhetoric” and Andrea Colantonio, University of Readings, UK, “Tourism in Havana during the Special Period: Impacts, Resident’s Perceptions and Planning Issues,” and (b) for the Undergraduate students: First Prize, Kezia McKeague, Wake Forest University, “Institutional Continuity in Cuba: Predicting the Legacy of Communist Institutions in a Democratic Transition.” A First Honors prize was also awarded to Cynthia Romero, an undergraduate student at Princeton University, for her paper on “The Communist Reformation: Retrospective Views of Gorbachev and the fall of the Soviet Union.”
Following the Conference ASCE announced the establishment of a Special competition for the best scholarly paper on the topic of “Privatization of State Owned Enterprises in Cuba.” Such paper should propose and describe the principles and process that should be utilized by the Cuban government to privatize the country’s state-owned enterprises. The paper should also illustrate the recommended approach with a detailed discussion of how it would apply to enterprises in an important sector of the Cuban economy (a full description of the specifications for this competition can be found in ASCE’s website). The winning paper would carry an award of $10,000 and an invitation to present the paper in ASCE’s Annual Conference in August 2006. ASCE may publish the paper.
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ACTIVITIES IN 2005
In January 2005 ASCE organized one session at the ASSA/AEA meetings held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Three papers were presented on: “Markets, Institutions, and Economic Performance” by Roger Betancourt of the University of Maryland; “Institutions to Accompany the Market in Cuba’s Future Transition” by Ernesto Hernández-Catá; and “Declining Growth in Centrally Planned Economies with an Application to Cuba” by Luis Locay and Claustre Bajona, from the University of Miami. Manuel Amador, of Stanford University, commented on Hernández-Catá’s paper.
A session of the Cuba Forum on “International Dimensions of Continuity and Change in Cuba” was organized by ASCE, and co-sponsored by the Cuban Research Institute of Florida International University, in January 2005. Presentations were made by a panel composed of Juan José Buitrago (Spanish Embassy), Daniel Erikson (Inter-American Dialogue), Damián Fernández (Cuban Research Institute), Jorge Pérez-López (ASCE), and Kevin Whitaker (Office of Cuban Affairs, US Department of State). Another session of the Cuba Forum was held in March 2005 with Dr. Frank Mora, from the National War College, speaking on “Will the Cuban Military Support Democracy.”
The Sixth “Carlos F. Diaz Alejandro Lecture” took place at the Inter-American Development Bank on March 7, 2005. Dr. José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations for Economic and Social Affairs (ECESOC), former Secretary General of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and former Finance Minister of Colombia, spoke on “Latin American Reforms in a Historical Perspective.” Dr. Ocampo was introduced by the president of the Inter-American Development Bank, Dr. Enrique Iglesias and Ernesto Hernández-Catá, President of ASCE. Rr. Guillermo Calvo, Director of Research of the Inter-American Development Bank summed up the very lively discussion that followed Dr. Ocampo’s presentation.
The Fifteen Annual Meeting was held on August 4-6 in Miami Florida at the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus located in Miami, Florida. The Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus was the principal institutional sponsor of this Conference and the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies of the University of Miami served as ASCE’s Conference Secretariat. Presentations were made by over 60 scholars and experts on transition economies from the United States and abroad. The papers focused on policies for a future transition, international economic relations, agriculture, the sugar industry, energy issues, regulatory concerns, trade, tourism, remittances, and civil-military relations. U.S. policy towards Cuba was also discussed. A special session was devoted on Cuba–Venezuela relations, and the economic, political and social impact on both of these countries and on the United States. The keynote speaker at the conference was Dr. Egor Gaydar, former Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, who was the primary architect of the dismantling of the Communist regime and the transition toward a market economy in Russia under the presidency of Boris Yeltsin. He shared with us the lessons learned in that process and discussed possible implications for a transition in Cuba.
Prior to this Conference, the Board of ASCE decided to improve the awards offered under the Annual Student Research Awards for the best papers prepared by a graduate and undergraduate students on interdisciplinary research dealing with Cuba’s domestic issues, its foreign relations, or Cuba in a comparative perspective. These awards were made possible by a grant received from the Lunsford Padilla Fund of the Triangle Community Foundation. By June 2005 14 student papers had been submitted; the papers were evenly split 7 graduate and 7 undergraduate students. The Board agreed to use the previous mentioned grant to offer more prizes in 2005; three for graduate students and three for undergraduate students. The Student Prize Committee, chaired by Prof. Enrique Pumar, awarded the following prizes for 2005. Graduate Awards, First Prize: Lindsey Frank; First Honor: G. Derrick Hodge; and Second Honor: Roberto Portada. Undergraduate Awards: First Prize: Enrique Romero; First Honor: Tami Kneese; and Second Honor: Daniel Alvarez. Also, the Board reiterated its previous decision that every student who submitted a paper would receive some recognition as an incentive to foster our student membership numbers; thus, the Board approved a free one-year student membership to all those students who participate in the Student Award Contest, a free registration at the annual conference and a luncheon invitation to those that attend the conference.
With the generous support of Carlos Padial, ASCE is also sponsoring a competition for best scholarly paper on the topic of ” Privatization of State Owned Enterprises in Cuba,” which should propose and describe the process and principles that should be utilized by the Cuban government to privatize the country’s state-owned enterprises. The paper should illustrate the recommended approach with a detailed discussion of how it would apply to enterprises in an important sector of the Cuban economy (for full specifications see ASCE’s website). The winning paper will carry an award of $10,000 and an invitation to present the paper in ASCE’s Annual Conference. ASCE may publish the paper. Three papers were presented to this competition, but in the view of the judges none met fully the conditions established for the award. The period for eligibility to this competition has been extended and the new deadline for submissions is now April 30, 2007.
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ACTIVITIES IN 2006
In January 2006 ASCE organized one session on Cuba at the ASSA/AEA meetings held in Boston, Massachusetts. Four papers were presented: “The Destruction of Cuba’s Social Capital” by Jorge Sanguinetty; “Survival Strategies and Economic Illegalities in Cuba” by Archibald Ritter; “Economic Sanctions on Cuba and the Role of the Southeastern States” by Semoon Chang; and “Labor Market Distortions and Speed of Transition in Eastern Europe: Implications for Cuba” by Luis Locay. Discussants were: Roger Betancourt, Ted Henken, Manuel Amador, and Carlos Seiglie.
Two events were organized in March, 2006 in San Juan, Puerto Rico: (1) a one day Conference at the Hotel “El Convento;” and (2) a workshop on transition policies at the Hotel Caribe Hilton in the context of the By-Annual Conference of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA). It should be noted that the one day Conference at “El Convento” would not have been possible without the generous support of Federico Sánchez Febles and José Joaquín Villamil and the organizational skills of Roberto Orro.
At the one day conference on ” Cuba: Current Situation and Perspectives for the Future,” some fifteen speakers spoke on various topics to an audience of about 70 people. The first session included a summary on the current situation in the island prepared by Oscar Espinosa Chepe and presented by Joaquín P. Pujol. Espinosa Chepe was not allowed to attend the conference because the Cuban government would not authorize him to leave the island. This was followed by a presentation by Roberto Orro on developments with respect to the dollarization in Cuba and the implications of the multiplicity of currencies circulating in the island. Next was a presentation by María Werlau on the secret accounts and investments of Fidel Castro and other government officials abroad. Antonio Gayoso commented on these papers.
A second session covered policies for an economic transition. Ernesto Hernández-Catá presented an analysis of the roles of the private and public sector in the economic performance of the former soviet republics in the post communist period and the implications for Cuba; Armando Linde explored the policy of Central Banks to use pre-established rules of inflation targeting as a guide to monetary policy and its implications for a transition in Cuba to a free market economy; and Jorge Sanguinetty explored the kinds of decisions that a government may have to face in the early days of a transition to a market economy.
During the luncheon we had two presentations. The first, by Adolfo Franco Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean of USAID, covered US policy plans to assist Cuba in a transition to democracy and a free market economy. The second was a very interesting presentation by Rafael Rojas about the history of Cuba since the start of the republic and the role that “caudillismo,” regionalism, and racism has played in it. The first afternoon session covered the impact of various sectors and special groups on the Cuban economy. Gerardo González covered tourism, with insightful comments from María Dolores Espino. Luis Locay, the impact of labor market distortions in Eastern Europe on the speed of transition and its implications for Cuba. Antonio Gayoso, the importance of financial services and how they could help in the development of small and medium sized enterprises in a process of transition. Carlos Seiglie discussed income inequality between the races in Cuba and made an interesting analysis of the US Census data that showed that Cuban Black exiles achieved a higher average income than US Blacks, and even than average US Whites, after a number of years of their arrival to the US.
The final afternoon session covered the Diaspora and its impact and relationship with the Cuban society. Jorge Duany reviewed recent tendencies on Cuban emigration and the possible implications for the immediate future, and Silvia Pedraza presented her findings on the reasons for Cubans to emigrate obtained from her interviews of recent arrivals. María Werlau made some incisive comments on the issues raised by the Cuban exodus, including about the legal and human rights implications of the current situation.
The second activity in Puerto Rico was a panel on Policies for a Transition in Cuba that took place in the context of the Conference organized by the Latin American Studies Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In this panel participated Ernesto Hernández-Catá, Jorge Sanguinetty, Antonio Gayoso, Luis Locay, Armando Linde, and Joaquín P. Pujol. In addition, other members of ASCE made presentations on matters related to Cuba at other sessions of the LASA Conference.
ASCE and the Center for Latin American Studies of Georgetown University co-sponsored a lecture on “The Cuban Economy and Social Welfare after 15 Years of the Special Period.” by Carmelo Mesa Lago, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics and Latin American Studies at The University of Pittsburgh, on May 1, 2006 in Washington, DC. There was also a book party at the end of the conference to introduce the book ” Cuba’s Aborted Reforms” that Professor Mesa Lago has co-authored with Dr. Jorge Pérez López. The book was published in November 2005 by the University Press of Florida.
The Sixteenth Annual Meeting was held on August 3-5, 2006 at the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus in Miami, Florida. Over 60 experts made presentations on various topics about the situation in Cuba and the outlook for the future. Special guests at this conference include Ricardo López Murphy, former Minister of the Economy and Defense of Argentina and candidate to the Presidency of that country, and César Vidal Manzanares, a well known Spanish historian, writer and journalist.
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ACTIVITIES IN 2007
ASCE organized a panel at the American Economic Association Meetings on January 5, 2007 in Chicago. Roger Betancourt was the chairman of the session. Mario Gonzalez-Corso with Scott Larson presented a paper on Cuba’s Unique Remittance Landscape: A Comparative Perspective; Ernesto Hernández-Catá presented a paper on A Theory of Transition: The Case of the Former Soviet Union; and Carlos Seigle discussed his paper on Socioeconomic Differences between the Races in Cuba and their Implications for a Transition.
The Seventeenth Annual Meeting was held in Miami, Florida on August 2-4, 2007 under the leadership of the 2006-2008 Board of Directors presided by Armando Linde. The focus of this meeting was on lessons learned from other countries in transition. Experts on a wide array of transition issues participated and presented papers on subjects such as diverse as infrastructure, labor, economy and finance, demographics, legal concerns, and socioeconomic and cultural aspects of Cuba and Cuban society. Mr. Carlos Albert Montaner gave a very moving keynote address on Cuba and Mr. Horacio Aguirre, director of the Diario de las Americas, spoke at the reception on the importance of free press in promoting good governance and democratic freedoms.
As part of its efforts to expand research and knowledge on Cuba beyond the economic and social sciences, there was a presentation on Havana and its Landscapes describing the sad conditions of Havana’s infrastructure and the resources needed to restore the city to its pre-Revolutionary eminence. This is a project being done by Florida International University School of Architect under the guidance of Architect Nicolás Quintana. To continue our dialogue with the economists in Cuba, a session of the Meetings was devoted to comment on a document prepared by the Centro de Formación Cívica y Religiosa de la Diócesis de Pinar del Río on the future of Cuba. The volume of the meetings includes comments by Jorge Sanguinetty, Carmelo Mesa Lago, Rolando H. Castañeda, and Lorenzo Pérez.
A significant amount of the Board meetings during 2007 was devoted to plan for an ASCE sponsored seminar in Madrid. This effort was led by Ricardo Lago and Carlos Quijano. At the end the event did not take place in Spain until 2008. In 2007, an agreement was reached with the magazine Herencia for ASCE to contribute economic articles for this magazine.
An important achievement of 2007 was the creation of the Cuban Studies Project to finance research on Cuba by students of Tulane University and the Universidad de Granada in Spain. This project was made possible by a grant by Mr. Carlos Padial. Enrique Pumar led a committee to draft the eligibility criteria for selecting the research projects. It was agreed that Ted Henken will lead the group judging the requests from Tulane University and Enrique Pumar the one considering the proposals from the Universidad de Granada.
Finally, Joaquín Pujol took over from Ernesto Betancourt the responsibility for the circulation of ASCE Newsclippings, a weekly compilation of news about Cuba published in Cuba and outside Cuba, which is e-mailed to members of ASCE. This has become a must read for people interested on following Cuban events.
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ACTIVITIES IN 2008
As in previous years, ASCE organized a session on Cuba for the American Economic Association in January 2008 in New Orleans . Carlos Seigle chaired the session and papers were presented by Roger Betancourt, of the University of Maryland, “Human Rights and Economic Growth: Implications for a Cuban Transition.” Rodolfo Gonzalez, California State University and Luis Locay, University of Miami, “The Impact of the Revolution on Cuba’s Health and Education Indices,” and Nicolas Sanchez, College of the Holy Cross, “Cuban Transitions and U.S. Interests: When Would the Benefits Converge;” discussants were John Devereux, Queens College, Arthur Diamond, University of Nebraska-Omaha, and Bryan Roberts, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
During 2008 two events on Cuba were sponsored by ASCE in Washington, D.C. Architect Nicolás Quintana of Florida International University presented the FIU project on Havana and its Landscapes at the Woodrow Wilson Center in May. Jorge Sanguinetty and other international experts offered a commentary on the economic implications and on the urban planning perspective of the project. In addition, ASCE and the Inter-American Dialogue together sponsored a seminar at the Inter-American Dialogue chaired by Dan Erikson and Armando Linde on the report of the Creighton University Law School on the Resolution of Outstanding Property Claims between Cuba and the United States. Both events were very well attended.
During the spring of 2008, the biannual elections were held for the Board of Directors of ASCE. Jorge Sanguinetty was elected president and Dan Erikson and Lorenzo Pérez, who were reelected to the Board were reappointed Treasurer and Secretary respectively. Other eligible former members of the previous board were reelected and Roberto Orro, Marifeli Pérez Stable and Rafael Romeu, Jr. were elected for the first time.
The Eighteen Annual Meetings were held in Miami in early August. The meetings included papers representing a mix of new topics and approaches with traditional ones. For example, there was a panel dealing with the Cuban Blogs, and another on infrastructure where engineers discussed along with economists power and water/wastewater sectors current issues in Cuba. More traditional papers covered issues of monetary duality, legal and transition issues, property claims and US/Cuba relations. A special activity involved the presentation by José Alvarez of his book Principio y Fin del Mito Fidelista and also a presentation by Rolando Castaneda of a paper of Karina Gavez Chiu from Cuba on the current and future roles of microcredit in the Cuban economy. The key note address was delivered by Mary Anastasia O’Grady from the Wall Street Journal and Alberto Mueller addressed the reception participants.
In November, 2008, ASCE was able to hold events in Spain for the first time. Several panels on economic issues were prepared for the IV International Congress on “Con Cuba en la Distancia” held in Valencia, Spain in November. Armando Linde delivered the key note address at the beginning of the conference. Pedro Pablo Álvarez Ramos, Elías Amor, Roger Betancourt, Tomás Bilbao, Rolando Castañeda, Gabriel Di Bella, Manuel García Díaz, Antonio Gayoso, Armando Linde, Tania Mastrapa, Paul Meo, Jesús Mercader Unguina, Fernando Navarrete Rojas, Lorenzo Pérez, Joaquín Pujol, Jorge Luis Romeu Sr., Rafael Romeu, Jorge Sanguinetty, Carlos Seiglie, Osvaldo Tapia Ruano and Andrew Wolfe participated in various seminars.
Among the topics presented in Valencia were: “La situación económica, social y política en Cuba en la actualidad”, “Principales retos de política económica que enfrentan las autoridades cubanas en la actualidad”, “Relaciones económicas internacionales de Cuba”, “De callejones sin salida a vías amplias: recorriendo el camino hacia la liberación económica de Cuba”, “¿Qué podemos esperar del proceso de reformas en Cuba?”, “Transiciones relevantes y sus enseñanzas para el caso cubano”, “Fin de las vacaciones: implicaciones para el Caribe de una apertura en el sector turismo cubano-EEUU”, “Un examen de la situación económica de cubanos de la raza negra”, “Memorias de Intenciones para un Plan General de Ordenación Urbana para la Habana”, “Unificación de las monedas y política cambiaria: primeros principios”, “Brecha fiscal potencial durante la transición en Cuba”, Legislación laboral, la inversión extranjera y el desarrollo económico de Cuba”, “Los derechos laborales, la inversión extranjera y la responsabilidad social corporativa en Cuba”, “Distorsiones económicas creadas por la legislación laboral vigente para la inversión extranjera en Cuba”, “La situación de los sindicatos independientes dentro de la Isla”, “Dónde esta la voluntad política para la democratización de Cuba?”, “El destino de las propiedades confiscadas”, and “La sociedad civil y el desarrollo sostenible”.
The following week, Joaquín Pujol and Matias Jove organized a one-day seminar on Cuba at the Casa de Américas in Madrid where some of the papers presented in Valencia were also discussed and received very good press coverage. In addition to presentations by many of the participants from Valencia, in Madrid we counted with the participation of several Spanish personalities, among them: Guillermo de la Dehesa, Alberto Recarte, and Javier Rupérez.
It should be noted that the event in Valencia was made possible by the support of the organizers of the Congress “Con Cuba en la Distancia”, in particular the President of the Asociación Cultural Con Cuba en la Distancia, Grace Pinay Roche, and the coordination provided by Armando Linde. Similarly, the event in Madrid would not have been possible without the organizational initiatives of Matías Jove and the support provided by the Comunidad de Madrid and its President, Esperanza Aguirre.
Finally, in 2008 the first two grants of the Cuban Studies Program were given to two Tulane University students.
(footnote 1) Jose Antonio Font and Armando Lago have brought to our attention that in September 1989 the “Council for Cuban Democracy,” now known as the “Cuban Democratic Alliance,” was created in Washington, DC and that an “Economic Strategic Planning Committee for Cuba” was set up by the Council, with Armando Lago Giberga as Chairman.The first working meeting of that committee was held at Armando’s home. Discussions were going on as to the best way to proceed but, because the Council was more of a political organization, some individuals suggested the establishment of a professional association, separate from the Council, so that there would be no political “tainting.”
Some of these individuals became early members of ASCE. For more information about the process of the birth of ASCE see the essay by Roger Betancourt.