Formerly the chair of Harvard University’s Academy for International and Area Studies, Dr. Jorge Dominguez earned a PhD and an MA in political science from Harvard University and a BA in history from Yale. With a sharp focus on Latin American studies, Dr. Jorge Dominguez has been featured several times as one of the Marquis Who’s Who Top Educators.
In November 2018, Dr. Dominguez was presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes individuals who have appeared in Marquis Who’s Who multiple times and have excelled in their professions for more than 20 years. Honorees of the award have raised the bar across diverse fields, including architecture, business, communications, engineering, mathematics, and technology.
In receiving the Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, Dr. Dominguez joins the ranks of celebrated educators such as Maureen Teresa Massie Bales of Bonne Terre, Missouri; Jacquelyn Annette Cattaneo of Gallup, New Mexico; and Walter Phillip Falcon of Stanford, California.
Dr. Jorge Dominguez was Harvard University’s first vice provost for international affairs. A regular contributor to news organizations on Latin American matters, Dr. Jorge Dominguez penned an article in the Boston Globe that highlighted some of the notable achievements and failures of the regime of longtime Cuban president Fidel Castro.
In 1959, Castro came to power in Cuba after he led an armed resistance. In April 1961, Castro declared Cuba a socialist state and set out to help other revolutionary causes around the world.
A longtime ally of the Soviet Union, Castro allowed the country to position its nuclear missiles in the island nation, which drew fervent criticism from Washington under President John F. Kennedy. This open access to Soviet Union nuclear weaponry led to the infamous 1962 Cuban blockade that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
In 1963, Castro sent Cuban troops to fight in Algeria against Morocco. He followed by sending combatants to fight in the Congo in 1965 and in Bolivia in 1967.
By the end of the 1980s, Castro had deployed more than 300,000 Cuban military and civilians around the world, helping countries stave off attacks from foreign invaders. Back home, Castro made several investments in the country’s health and education systems and leveraged the unifying power of sports to inspire nationality.
Castro was known to crack down on dissent at home, where he imprisoned thousands of his critics and opponents. He also resisted economic reforms that would have improved Cuba’s economy, which led to the mass immigration of hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised Cubans into the United States. Until his death, Castro remained a polarizing figure - loved by some, hated in equal measure by others.
Knowledgeable about Mexico and Cuba, Jorge Dominguez recently retired from his position as professor emeritus at Harvard University and focuses on regional as well as internal political issues. In his edited work The Cuban Economy in a New Era: An Agenda for Change Toward Durable Development, Jorge Dominguez brings to light persistent, systemic shortcomings that impact the nation's ability to build a new, market-based economy.
With Cuba extremely close to another island nation, the Dominican Republic, an example has been taken from its neighbor, which has successfully set up special economic zones (SEZ) with the intent of encouraging trade and investment. With Cuba having implemented its own limited version of the SEZ, these zones have failed to attract comparable levels of investment.
One issue is that the Cuban leadership is "fearful of its own success." In setting up a free zone in Mariel Harbor in 2013, the government partnered with a Brazilian construction firm known for its corruption and opened to international commerce. Unfortunately, a "bewildering array" of regulations was quickly implemented that made operating within the free zone extremely challenging.
With some 43 companies authorized, only 17 actually operate in free zone activities, that is, an average of only three starting to work per year. In addition, there are hundreds of companies that initially tendered applications or expressed interest in operating in the port, but that have been effectively locked out or are still waiting for authorization.
Jorge Dominguez is a retired Harvard University professor emeritus who focuses on international and domestic politics across Latin America. Speaking with Readara on his book The Cuban Economy in a New Era: An Agenda for Change Toward Durable Development, Jorge Dominguez drew attention to the reason why, despite the emergence of a vibrant underground imported goods sector that supports hospitality and tourism, the Cuban government is reluctant to further open itself up to imports.
A major reason has to do with a deeply ingrained sense that doing so might make the country vulnerable to pressure from the U.S. government. Raul Castro, who recently stepped down from the presidency, is 87 years old and still has a mindset forged in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War. Even with Miguel Diaz-Canel at the helm, a leader more receptive to foreign direct investment, several members of the Council of State still are in their 70s and 80s.
Afraid to loosen their grip, these leaders have not made enough systemic changes to bring Cuba's economy into the 21st century. The rest of the country has been waiting patiently for the past two decades for them to eventually retire from office, such that new ideas can be implemented that will boost one of the world's poorest economies and allow substantial investment and an inflow of imports.