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The Network of Global Leaders’ Inter-American Dialogue

An expert in Latin American political science, democratic development, and Cold War history, Jorge I. Dominguez is a writer, publisher, and former Harvard professor who served as an active member of many professional organizations during his career. From 1983 to 2018, Jorge I. Dominguez was a member of the Inter-American Dialogue, a nonprofit funded by the Network of Global Leaders program grants, and other sources.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Inter-American Dialogue has over 60 years of experience in creating methods to better integrate Latin American countries into world affairs. Its initiatives and programs pertain to global political and economic systems as well as social and cultural movements, alongside tracking its target area’s progress in adopting reforms in these subjects. Its 100 members comprise leading experts with global representation, more than half from Latin American countries, in fields including but not limited to politics, academia, and media. The group’s area of focus encompasses over 35 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Internet Increasingly Drives Cuba’s Informal Economy

Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez is a US academic who taught international relations as a Harvard University professor for many years. Born in Havana and the author of several books on the subject of Cuba, Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez has a particular expertise in the area of market reforms in what is still a state-run economy.

A November 2022 Associated Press article brought attention to the growing role of the Internet in bolstering Cuba’s informal economy, which is often used to procure scarce and expensive items. An example is a Telegram group chat that reaches 170,000 people and enables the sale of everything from medicine to cleaning products.

For many years the Internet remained challenging to access in Cuba, and the black market existed largely among neighbors locally. However, in recent years the use of messaging and e-commerce sites has exploded. Revolico and other sites that mimic Craigslist offer items that range from sought-after “capitalist” apartments in Havana to electric bicycles.

In addition, high traffic WhatsApp groups allow discussions on topics such as the current informal exchange rate, which help consumers make educated financial decisions. This has to do with a situation in which many lower priced items sell in pesos, while higher ticket items are priced in dollars and require cash or international bank transfers. One unresolved issue involves “revendedores,” or people who purchase items abroad and resell them in Cuba for a profit. In October, President Miguel Diaz-Canel branded such entrepreneurs as criminals who “break the concepts of socialism,” and whether they will be allowed to flourish in the long term remains to be seen.

US-Cuba Economic and Political Relationship still a Work in Progress

Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez was a longtime Harvard University professor who served as chair of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. Among the textbooks Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez has edited is “Cuban Economic and Social Development: Policy Reforms and Challenges in the 21st Century,” and he maintains a focus on trends in this area.

A May 2022 World Politics Review article brought focus to Miguel Diaz-Canel’s emergence as president in 2018. This culminated in his being named Cuban Communist Party chief in 2021. Between these milestones, Diaz-Canel favored a number of institutional reforms that included the creation of a new prime minister position, while working to implement a limited number of market economic reforms within an essentially static state-run system.

At the same time, the byword of Diaz-Canel’s leadership has been “continuity,” which has disappointed those in search of even more systemic reforms that would unlock Cuba’s entrepreneurial potential. In addition, the faltering US-Cuba relations during the term of President Trump placed even Havana’s limited efforts to privatize portions of the economy at risk. While many expected the normalization process begun under President Obama to gain traction under Joe Biden, Trump-era rules remained in place during a 15-month policy review process. This underlined the back-burner status of Cuba in current US political calculations.

The review did finally wind up with the most extreme sanctions being lifted, including those impacting the ability of Americans to study in Cuba, and restrictions on cash remittances were lifted. This did not mark a shift toward normalization, however, and mass protests have occurred since then, reflecting an often desperate population with few good economic options.

Book Explores the Challenges of Party Building in Latin America

A writer and publisher, Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez served in a variety of roles during his time at Harvard University, from professor of undergraduate and graduate students to 14 years as chair of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez has also edited a number of books through the Harvard University Press. Cambridge University Press published his co-edited Challenges of Party-Building in Latin America.

Published in 2016, Challenges of Party-Building in Latin America serves as an in-depth analysis of the overall weakness of political parties throughout Latin America. In addition to the collapse of parties in several countries, a number of new party-building efforts have ended in failure. The text, which Dr. Dominguez co-edited with Steven Levitsky, James Loxton, and Brandon Van Dyck, examines why party building is so challenging in Latin America, while also exploring why certain parties manage to succeed and sustain support.

The book questions whether the introduction of democratic elections naturally supports the development of strong, durable political parties. At the same time, writers propose the idea that intense political and cultural conflict may provide better conditions for forging a strong party, as opposed to periods of routine democracy. The book holds this belief up against numerous civil wars, revolutions, and other events defining Latin America’s recent history.

Many of the book’s chapters are formatted as case studies that examine the formation of existing political parties, as well as failed political movements.