The former chair of Harvard University’s Academy for International and Area Studies, Jorge Dominguez retired from active teaching after more than 45 years at the University. Jorge Dominguez has written extensively about US relations with Cuba, specifically on the improved relations the two countries have had since former President Barrack Obama took office.
Obama was keen to improve relations between the United States and Cuba. He first made known his willingness to engage in dialogue with Cuba during the 2007 Democratic Primary Debate. After winning the party ticket and consequently the presidency, he made a concerted effort to engage with the island nation. He lifted restrictions on remittances and facilitated easier travel between the US and Cuba, slowly chipping away at an economic embargo that had been in place for decades.
However, it was not until his second term that he pushed to normalize relations between the two countries. Through a raft of bilateral agreements that began in 2014, former President Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro negotiated a historic prisoner swap and further eased restrictions on travel between the two countries. The new push for normalized relations saw the Cuban government open a bank account in the United States, US companies begin operating in Cuba, and postal services between the two countries resume. Cuba was removed from the US State Sponsors of Terrorism List in 2015, and, months later, Obama became the first sitting US president to set foot on Cuba in 88 years.
A former professor of government and international affairs, Jorge Dominguez retired from Harvard University in June 2018. In addition to editing more than a dozen books and writing a range of books and articles, Jorge Dominguez served as the senior editor of the Frontline special report, Crisis in Central America.
A four-part Frontline series that originally aired in the spring of 1985, Crisis in Central America is divided into the episodes “The Yankee Years,” “Castro’s Challenge,” “Revolution in Nicaragua,” and “Battle for El Salvador.” The makers of this comprehensive television project employed rare historical footage to examine the long history of American involvement in Cuba, taking viewers from the 1898 Spanish-American War to wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua through the mid 1980s. There is an in-depth analysis of circumstances in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Cuba, and the wider set of countries in Central America and the Caribbean, as well as a close examination, in visual splendor, of U.S. policies toward this region.
The Peabody Board honored the journalistic achievement of Crisis in Central America with Peabody Awards for both WGBH-TV and The Blackwell Corporation.
Having served as Harvard University’s first vice provost for international affairs, former professor Dr. Jorge Dominguez has undertaken extensive research on Latin American economies. Among Dr. Jorge Dominguez’s responsibilities was as the institution’s Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico.
A recent Forbes article drew attention to the potential of Mexico’s Paris Agreement pledge to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by as much as 36 percent by 2030, as having the potential for a significant economic impact as well. This reflects World Resources Institute (WRI) quantitative analysis that points to a strong decarbonization path as saving $5 billion in cumulative costs and helping prevent 26,000 premature deaths.
A majority of the proposed decarbonization efforts are centered on Mexico’s transportation, electricity, and industrial sectors. Unfortunately, there is at present no clear decarbonization plan, and emissions in the world’s 10th leading GHG emitter are forecast to rise by 75 percent over the next three decades under business-as-usual scenarios.
Within a WRI-recommended renewable portfolio standard, Mexico will need to increase distributed solar and wind energy sources exponentially to attain its goals. Fortunately, the installation and maintenance of such large scale systems will also be a significant economic driver.
Jorge I. Dominguez, PhD, is a retired Harvard University professor who has an extensive background as a Latin American scholar. As Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico, Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez has brought particular attention to the social and political issues impacting life in an emerging economy.
A recent MarketWatch article drew attention to the dangers inherent in President Donald Trump’s recent threats to close the US border with Mexico due to a surge in migrants from Central America.
A specific example is the popular Haas avocado, which jumped in price by more than 50 percent after the possibility of a complete border close became likely. Based on US Agricultural Department data, the wholesale prices of a carton of standard-sized avocados entering through Texas spiked to $44 in early April, from under $30. With the US importing some 90 percent of avocados from Mexico, the reliance on imports this year has been particularly acute, given a smaller-than-expected yield from Californian avocado crops.
Unfortunately for border protectionists, avocados are far from the most significant product entering the United States. The US auto industry is heavily reliant on parts made in Mexico for assembling vehicles, and many packaged food manufacturers source ingredients from Mexico. Other sectors with supply chains that would be adversely impacted by a border closure include technology, health care, and energy.
The bottom line is that many US business groups, facing what would be a major economic disruption, are arraying against a border closure that would impact commercial trade.
Interviewed on The Cuban Economy in a New Era: An Agenda for Change toward Durable Development, a work he co-edited, Harvard professor Jorge Dominguez in July 2018 brought focus to the economic underpinnings that impelled Cuba to expand its tourism and services export sectors over the past decade. Jorge Dominguez also explored the nation’s three-decades-long efforts to create a world-class biotechnology sector.
With Cuba’s applied science program operates at the highest level, the business side of its biotech endeavors has been underwhelming. For instance, there is not enough client-informed knowledge of how to accomplish tasks such as producing deliverables on time. With efforts underway to improve business practices, whether it will ultimately be successful is still unclear.
Another major thrust in Cuba’s strategy is obtaining needed capital through attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), which was not encouraged under former president Fidel Castro. With Castro’s son Raul, his successor, having made forays into FDI, it remains to be seen whether new president Miguel Díaz-Canel can make good on his promise to accelerate FDI. Areas in which the impact could be felt significantly include agriculture and biotech, with partnerships in the latter area potentially bringing about improvements to business practices.
Professor Jorge Dominguez is an accomplished academic and scholar from Harvard University. The author of several books and publications, Jorge Dominguez edited the book “Mexico’s Pivotal Democratic Election,” which analyzes Mexico’s 2000 presidential election.
Mexico’s 2000 presidential election was monumental because it marked the ouster of the dominant ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which had been in power for over 70 years. The election was won by Vicente Fox Quesada, a rough-spoken businessman who ran a robust grassroots campaign that galvanized the country.
Fox, the governor of a small state, ran on the National Action Party ticket. In his campaign, he pledged to fight corruption, improve the living standards of the country’s poor, reinvigorate the educational system, and boost the economy. Regarding the latter promise, he touted his background as a former Coca Cola regional executive as proof of his business savvy. But perhaps his most enduring message was summed up in his slogan “Ya!,” which translates to “enough already.” The message resonated with the thousands of Mexicans who were tired of PRI’s single party dominance.
PRI candidate Francisco Labastida, who was second in command during the immediate former presidency, came in second while veteran politician and Democratic Revolution Party candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas came in third. In his victory speech, Fox affirmed his commitment to uniting the country and respecting the country’s international responsibilities.