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.
An alumnus of Harvard and Yale, Professor Jorge Dominguez is a retired Harvard University faculty member. A member of the Latin American Studies Association, Jorge Dominguez has authored numerous publications on Cuba’s foreign policy, one of which was published in Foreign Affairs. It discussed Cuba’s involvement in Africa in the 1970s.
In 1978, Cuba, a small country in the Americas, had as many as 35,000 troops in Africa, a huge number that caused significant tension between Havana, under President Fidel Castro, and Washington, under President Jimmy Carter. At the time, it was widely believed that Cuba’s foreign policy was an indirect hand played by the Soviet Union. However, this may have not been entirely the case.
In the early 1960s, Cuba’s communist leadership under President Castro generated a hostile reaction from the United States. Suspicions between the two ideologically opposite states were already rife, and disputes over serious issues only made the tensions worse. The Cuban regime’s survival, in the wake of such hostility, was critical, necessitating the administration’s dalliance with the Soviet Union. In fact, the Soviet Union’s financial assistance propped up Cuba’s economy and redistribution programs for a long time.
However, things changed when the United States’ economic embargoes went global. That’s when some foreign nations and multinationals restricted trade with Cuba. Foreign support from the USSR also waned in the late 1960s because of geographical distance, disagreements between them, and inefficiencies at both ends, prompting Cuba to look for partners elsewhere. It developed relations with China and Morocco, but it later sought new ties with African countries to change the anti-Cuba narrative that was quickly spreading. Cuba thus became a small country with a big foreign policy footprint, especially in Africa.
Retired Harvard University faculty member Jorge Dominguez has had a distinguished academic and scholarly career. A member of the American Political Science Association, Jorge Dominguez has served as the chair of Harvard University’s Academy for International and Area Studies.
The Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies was established to promote the study of foreign cultures, languages, societies, politics, economies, and their histories. In furtherance of this goal, it funds the Academy Scholars Program to identify and support the academic work of scholars whose work has a background in law or the social sciences and combines this with firm knowledge of the language or history and other issues regarding a foreign region. The scholarship of selected candidates may delve into issues either in the present or the past.
The program is only open to PhD recipients and doctoral candidates in the social sciences or law. Every year, hundreds of scholars apply for the program, with only about one percent being admitted. These scholars are selected for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in residence at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They receive financial assistance to carry out their research and to acquire additional training in their respective fields. They complement their research with active participation in the university’s academic life, advising graduate students on research projects as well as engaging with Harvard Academy Senior Scholars.