The former chair of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Jorge I. Dominguez is an expert on Latin American relations. Jorge Dominguez has written many articles in that field, such as one covering the changing proportion of Mexican residents who are entering the United States illegally.
Although Mexicans are often associated with illegal immigration, their proportion of undocumented arrivals is actually decreasing. In fiscal year 2019, 62 percent of undocumented immigrants came from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, as opposed to only 25 percent from Mexico. This is a sharp drop from 2004, when as many as 92 percent of undocumented arrivals were Mexican.
This change is also reflected in the overall tally of Mexicans living illegally in the United States. In 2017, 4.9 million Mexicans were in this category, compared to 10.5 million unauthorized residents from all countries, placing Mexicans in the minority for the first time in 50 years.
Why this change in the 21st century? Various explanations have been offered, such as border walls, fewer interdictions, and improvement in the Mexican economy. However, demography is likely the most valid reason. The Mexican birth rate has fallen from 29.1 per 1,000 in 1990 to 16.6 per 1,000 in 2022, paralleling a rise in contraception among Mexican women.
An expert in US-Cuban relations, retired Harvard professor Jorge I. Dominguez is the author of six books on the subject. Jorge I. Dominguez has also published many articles on Cuban-American foreign policy, such as one that summarizes policy changes over the years and anticipates new diplomatic initiatives from the Biden Administration.
Tensions between the two nations have waxed and waned for decades as the Cuban Government has instituted economic and political reforms (often in response to changes in American foreign policy), only to reverse them later.
The years 2014 to 2016 saw a thaw in relations, as the Obama Administration renewed cooperation between the nations on issues such as drug trafficking and immigration. The Trump Administration reversed course by reducing international law enforcement ties and cutting the number of visas granted. Observers have claimed these latter decisions have strengthened authoritarian tendencies in Cuba.
The inauguration of President Biden signaled yet another policy shift. Cuban-Americans can once again apply for permission for family members to move to America. Restrictions on remittances (payments sent by Cuban-Americans to their families in Cuba) have been liberalized. In addition, money transfers between American and Cuban banks have been facilitated, and entrepreneurs now enjoy increased Internet access. Finally, flights to cities other than Havana have been added, making intercultural and educational visits easier to arrange.
Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez is a longtime academic who taught at Harvard University and held a position as Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico. With a focus on trade and economic policy, Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez particularly focuses on bilateral relations between countries such as the United States and Mexico.
A late 2021 Reuters article brought focus to the implications of the US Trade Representative’s commitment to bolstering its domestic electric vehicle (EV) industry. The proposal at hand involves a $12,500 tax credit that would encompass $4,500 reserved for EVs manufactured in the United States by union employees. It is included within wide-ranging legislation spanning areas such as social spending and climate change.
Popular among certain domestic industries, such a move is seen by other nations as a protectionist policy in violation of various trade agreements. In October, Mexico, alongside Canada, EU members, Japan, and South Korea, wrote to American lawmakers claiming that the tax credit went against international trade rules.
Mexico went even further, calling the proposed credit potentially more harmful to its export-focused auto industry than former President Trump’s threatened tariff of 25 percent. In particular, country-of-origin conditions tied to the incentive are characterized as an "undue subsidy.” Mexico’s undersecretary for foreign trade tempered this adversarial stance by acknowledging the legitimacy of a transition toward electromobility and climate-friendly electric vehicles.
Between Change and Rigidity, Reform and Repression
Can Cuba’s ruling Communist Party undertake reforms? A reform agenda may start with a slogan made popular elsewhere in Latin America (¡Que se vayan todos!) – out with everyone in national leadership posts. In fact, the April 2021 Party Congress approximated that goal. All members of the Party’s national Secretariat were replaced, as were half of the members of the Political Bureau and half of the key provincial officials (the First Party Secretaries). Eleven of the thirteen active-duty Generals serving on the Central Committee also departed, as did three out of five of all Central Committee members.
Leaving the Party’s Political Bureau were President Raúl Castro, former Interior Minister Ramiro Valdés, and long-time Party Organization Secretary José Ramón Machado, among other notables who had ruled for decades. More typical had been the outcome of the 2016 Party Congress, when none such notables left, only one in ten of the “political” Generals was new to the Central Committee, and the majority of the Secretariat held on.
A reform agenda would also require greater leadership pluralism to prevent a small clique from undertaking all decisions. This, too, has been happening. In 2016, about a quarter of the ministers had also served on the Council of State, hence approving their own proposals. The 2019 Constitution brought to zero the overlap between the Council of Ministers and the Council of State. The 2021 Party Congress also reduced the overlap between the two Councils, on the one hand, and, on the other, the Party’s Political Bureau and Central Committee.
In this century, greater demographic inclusion has been the rule as well, doubling the proportion of Afrodescendants in Council of State posts and bringing their share and that of
women on this Council closer to their respective shares of the population. The median age in elite institutions has fallen; new Central Committee members must be below age sixty. So, why the unprecedented nationwide protests in July 2021 – thousands of people protesting on the streets of three dozen cities across the provinces – and what was new in 2021? Cuba’s economic stagnation, in effect near zero growth for a decade, does not explain the July protests. Nor do U.S. economic sanctions in place for decades, notwithstanding Trump administration enhancements. Nor does the equally long authoritarian regime. Nor do the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. If so, the protests would have occurred well before. In 2021, much changed. The economy stopped stagnating: It nosedived. Access to food became a severe problem. In January, the top leadership adopted a dramatic monetary and exchange rate reform. Inadequate planning unleashed a remarkably high inflation rate, followed by frequent policy “fixes” for specific problems, which contributed to renewed and ongoing policy uncertainties. A frightening Covid-19 spike in June vaulted Cuba from one of the more successful pandemic managers to one of the world’s worst-afflicted countries. As the very hot Caribbean summer approached, in late June the electric power system broke down, propelling people out of their homes. Too much time following the April 2021 Party Congress focused on building new relationships and bonds of authority between the top leaders – career veterans but new to being at the top – and intermediate Party and government ranks. Decision making processes, never speedy, slowed.
How did the nation’s leaders respond? The top leaders were surprised by, and unprepared for, the July protests. Their initial response was confused and contradictory. Early steps of conciliation and police restraint were followed by Special Troops and police repression (beatings, arrests, summary trials) across the nation. Following explanations of practical
problems, especially by the prime minister, the official blame for the protests soon fell on “outside agitators,” such as U.S. agencies and Cuban diaspora members.
Following the July protests, which made significant use of social media, the government also enacted new rules to criminalize actions through the Internet that may have an adverse “impact on Cuba’s prestige,” criticize the content of the authoritarian Constitution, seek to “compel public authorities to act or to fail to act” while performing their duties, or “damage the reputation” of government officials. The 2019 Constitution promised improvements in its charter of rights, but their implementation has been deferred, as these responses to the July protests make clear.
Moreover, the government has failed to make effective use of its own noncompetitive national elections. For example, at the last national single-party election in 2018, three quarters of the members of the Council of State would have been ineligible to serve on the Council if the electoral law had required having been the top vote getter in a municipality; more than half would have been ineligible to serve on the Council if the electoral law had mandated having finished in the top half of vote receivers in their respective provinces. The government has not made effective use of its own authoritarian-regime electoral law to promote its more popular politicians into key national posts.
Thus, can Cuba’s Communist Party undertake reforms beyond renewing and widening its top leadership circles? Its most positive response following the July 2021 protests has been the formal and final approval of reforms to permit the freer growth of small- and medium-sized private sector businesses and cooperatives. Such reforms had been under consideration since the Fall 2010! The leadership may need a “win” before it adopts wider reforms and does so more quickly. The government chose to develop Cuba’s own vaccines against Covid-19. It claims to
have succeeded with two, not yet approved by the World Health Organization and pending independent peer review. Success with these vaccines could permit the reactivation of international tourism, announced for mid-November 2021, even if not from the United States yet, reactivating the economy while also addressing the public health crisis. With such new breathing room, the pace of economic reform may accelerate. The near-term challenge is simpler. Do government and Party leaders believe their own propaganda that the causes of the protests all lie outside the nation’s boundaries? Shakespeare’s Cassius, in Julius Caesar (I:2, 145) provides good advice: “The fault, Dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…” The fault, dear President Miguel Díaz-Canel, lies not in the U.S. government or in southern Florida but in a leadership and policy regime in Cuba, both in desperate need of bold and swifter change.
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Jorge I. Dominguez is an alumnus and longtime professor at Harvard University, where he most recently served as chair of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. A successful writer and publisher, Jorge I. Dominguez is best known for his work in the areas of Latin America and Cuba that include “Social Policies and Decentralization in Cuba” and “The Cuban Economy in a New Era.”
Over 182 pages, The Cuban Economy in a New Era analyzes challenges and potential solutions as they relate to Cuba’s stagnant economy. The book, which includes commentary from professors Omar Everleny Perez Villanueva and Lorena Barberia, was published in 2018 by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies and distributed by Harvard University Press.
The Cuban Economy in a New Era pinpoints a number of ills burdening the Cuban economy, ranging from a decaying infrastructure to stagnant agriculture and a bankrupt sugar industry. Moreover, the book explores policy changes that could lead to improvements in seven economic areas. These are new macroeconomic policy, private enterprise, non-agricultural cooperatives, central planning, private sector financing, state enterprise management, and relations with international financial institutions.
For additional information on The Cuban Economy in a New Era, visit https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674980358.
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A New Hampshire resident, Jorge I. Dominguez graduated from Harvard University and holds a Ph.D. in political science. Jorge Dominguez served in the past as a professor and chair of international and area studies at Harvard. Jorge I. Dominguez is also an author and published The Cuban Economy in a New Era.
Cuba is undergoing huge economic changes in 2021 due to the pandemic and coronavirus. The state seems to have hit a new low with people being discontent about the rising of prices and the decrease of wages once adjusted for high inflation increases. After shrinking the economy by 11 percent in 2020, the crisis has extended to 2021. Cuba has a command economy, which means the government mainly decides and determines the prices of goods, as well as the production and availability of goods.
Cuba lacks private ownership of large-scale industries, properties, and resources due to the command economy. Command economy is a feature of communism, which has been present in Cuba since 1959. Recent command economy policies and the economy in general have frustrated citizens, as the fact that the production of goods is controlled by the government can lead to shortages of goods and high prices.
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A graduate of Harvard University, Jorge I. Dominguez has a Ph.D. in political science and a BA in history. Jorge Dominguez occupied many positions for Harvard University and served as a professor, center director, and chair. Additionally, Jorge I. Dominguez publishes articles and books on diverse subjects such as decentralization.
Decentralization is a form of organizational structure in which the head of a department or top management relies on subordinates and leaves daily operations entirely and decision-making entirely up to them. In this way, both the top management and the subordinates can benefit from decentralization as top management has the chance to make important decisions with more time and subordinates can develop themselves into better workers and businessmen. Decentralization can boost the morale of employees and increase their productivity as they can feel like they matter and are in charge of the operations.
Decentralization can result in growth and diversification as each division and department has autonomy and can put creativity and innovation into practice. It can increase communication as there is less focus put on the hierarchies in a firm and more focus on productivity and success.