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.

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