Venezuelan Energy Subsidies to the Caribbean Dwindling 

According to a new report by the British investment bank Barclays, the Venezuelan government is scaling back it’s daily crude oil shipments to Caribbean nations involved in its Petrocaribe aid program. In 2012, the program supplied 400,000 barrels of crude oil a day to more than a dozen Caribbean countries; several years later, that figure has been halved, with Petrocaribe member nations now collectively receiving around 200,000 barrels per day. Since 2012, shipments to the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, the two largest beneficiaries of the program, have dropped 56 percent and 74 percent respectively.

Petrocaribe was initiated by the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez a decade ago. Through the program, Venezuela, Latin America’s largest oil producer, provides crude oil at cheap subsidized rates to Petrocaribe member counties throughout the Caribbean region. The Barclays report estimates that the program has cumulatively cost Venezuela around $50 billion. Still, many Caribbean nations have benefited significantly from Petrocaribe membership, utilizing the savings derived from Venezuela’s oil subsidies to balance their budgets, strengthen their education and social programs and promote small business domestically. 

Michael Shifter, president of the Washington D.C.-based Inter-American Dialogue, is less interested in Petrocaribe’s altruistic qualities: “This was part of his [Chavez’s] broader strategy to extend his influence, to consolidate support and also to curtail influence of the United States in the region.”

Venezuela, a country highly depended on oil exports, was hit hard by the recent plunge in the global oil prices. Couple that development with other serious internal economic problems, like soaring inflation and chronic shortages of basic goods, and it’s no surprise that the Venezuelan government felt compelled to limit regional energy aid in an effort to control costs.

“Venezuela is in desperate straits. The oil sector has been deteriorating, and now with the slumping oil prices, they needed cash desperately,” Shifter explained.

Thanks to the recent cuts to the Petrocaribe program, Barclays has reduced its 2015 deficit forecast for Venezuela from $30 billion to $22.6 billion.

Petrocaribe member nations throughout the Caribbean are shouldering the cost of the program’s cuts. Those governments that rely heavily on savings derived from Venezuelan oil subsidies as a source of public revenue will likely be the most impacted. According to Adrienne Cheasty, the Deputy Director in the Western Hemisphere Department of the International Monetary Fund, such governments “could be forced to discontinue social or investment programmes.”

Cheasty predicts that further cuts to the program will likely result in increased government deficits for Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, and Nicaragua. She argues that countries like Guyana and St Kitts, who have more access to alternative sources of financing that could offset the loss of Petrocaribe subsidies, will be less affected. 

The country that is undoubtedly the most threatened by shrinking Venezuelan oil aid is Cuba, Venezuela’s closest ally. Whereas other Petrocaribe member countries are required to cover at least a portion of the cost of the energy deliveries that they receive from Venezuela, Cuba is totally exempt from cash payment. In exchange, the Cuban government provides medical expertise and aid to Venezuela, along with cooperation and assistance from its state intelligence services. Already Cuba has seen its daily deliveries of free Venezuelan crude oil dwindle to 55,000, about half of what it was receiving in 2012; further reductions to the Petrocaribe program could be disastrous for the island nation. 




Slowdown in Negotiations Between the U.S. and Cuba

In an interview with Reuters on March 2, U.S. president Barack Obama expressed his desire to reopen an American embassy in Cuba before the April 10-11 Summit of the Americas in Panama City -this year marks the first time that the Cuban government has been invited to that particular summit.

“My hope is that we will be able to open an embassy, and that some of the initial groundwork will have been laid” by the time of the regional conference, the president optimistically explained.  

Several weeks later, and with the date of the summit fast approaching, neither the U.S. nor Cuba appear any closer to reestablishing official embassies in one another’s countries. On the contrary, the process of diplomatic normalization so recently initiated by the two formerly hostile governments has now apparently stalled. 

A third round of talks between the U.S. and Cuban governments, held in Havana on March 16, disappointed many when it failed to produce a target date for the reopening of embassies. Unlike after the previous two talks, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, Roberta Jacobson, and the director of U.S. affairs for the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal, -who each lead their respective delegations during the negotiations- did not speak publicly following the talks’ conclusion. Subsequent statements by both governments regarding the outcome of the talks were decidedly muted.

“At the end of the meeting, which took place in a professional environment, the two delegations agreed to maintain communication in the future as part of the process,” Ms. Vidal later told the press, failing to mention any concrete progress resulting from the talks. 

“We’re open to it,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki cryptically told reporters after the talks when asked whether the U.S. would open an embassy in Cuba ahead of the regional summit in mid-April, striking a much more cautious tone than the president’s earlier pronouncements.

Both governments maintained their commitment to holding further negotiations in the near future.

One critical stumbling-block slowing down diplomatic normalization efforts between the two countries is Cuba’s continued presence on the U.S. government’s list of state sponsors of terror. In the past, Cuban officials have cited Cuba’s removal from the list as a prerequisite for the full restoration of relations. 

Additionally, American and Cuban governments remain starkly at odds over developments in Cuba’s top ally Venezuela, a country which U.S. recently placed new sanctions on, and it may be this issue that undermined the seemingly fruitless recent talks in Havana. 

Not so, says Cuban academic and longtime diplomat Carlos Alzugaray however, who was quick to dismiss the notion that disagreements over Venezuela could seriously threaten the restoration of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba.

“It will always have some impact, but I don’t see any signal from Cuba that it is not interested in moving forward, nor do I see it from the United States.” Alzugaray told reporters. “For me, those are the accepted rules of the game.”


Tourism Boom in Cuba

According to pronouncements by the Cuban Tourism Ministry on Saturday, a record breaking one million foreign vacationers have already traveled to Cuba this year. The figure represents a 14-point spike in visitor rates for the first quarter of the year, easily overcoming similar tourism assessments by the Cuban government from March of 2014. An estimated three million foreign visitors reportedly vacationed in Cuba over the course of last year, and 2015’s early tourism surge promises to continue the boom.   

The $2.6 billion Cuban tourism sector accounts for a considerable, and growing, portion of the island nation’s overall economic activity. Employment in fields associated with the tourism, like the hotel and restaurant industries, generally offer relatively strong wages and are thus highly sought after by Cuban workers. 

The expansion of Cuba’s lucrative tourism industry has been a top priority of the government in Havana since current president Raúl Castro assumed office in 2008. In partnership with a Brazilian conglomerate, the Cuban government recently spent $207 million upgrading the country’s international airport. Significantly, tens of thousands visit Cuba annually through state-sanctioned, and often state-sponsored, cultural and educational exchange programs.

While European countries like Germany, France, the U.K. and Italy are reportedly major sources of foreign travel to Cuba, vacationers from the U.S. are increasingly getting in on the action. Cuban authorities approximated around 600,000 American visits to Cuba last year, though it’s difficult to establish a wholly accurate number considering the fact that so many American tourists travel to Cuba through third party countries like Canada in an attempt to circumvent longstanding travel restrictions between the U.S. and the island destination. 

If the U.S.’s ban on travel to Cuba were fully lifted, a likely outcome if diplomatic normalization efforts initiated by the U.S. and Cuban governments last December prove enduring, Cuban officials contend that annual American trips to Cuba would jump to 1.5 million, yielding an additional $2 billion in tourism profits.

Still, not everyone is thrilled by the news that more Americans could be visiting the caribbean nation in the near future. Some predict that Cuba’s already scare accommodations would be unable to keep pace with the influx of tourists from the U.S.

“[T]here won’t be enough hotels. There won’t be enough restaurants. There won’t be enough services to accommodate the Americans who will come like rats on a ship.” Canadian Rogelio Guavin complained to the Associated Press while on a trip to Cuba. 

Still others worry that Cuba’s traditional character and values could be undermined by American materialist influences.  

“Cuba has a very authentic atmosphere which you see nowhere else in the world,” tourist Gay Ben Aharon of Israel explained to the AP in Havana. “I wanted to see it before the American world … but also the modern Western world comes here.”

Cubans themselves, in most cases, appear much more optimistic.

“We’re very excited,” Yadiel Carmenate, a 26 year-old Cuban college student and part-time tour guide told reporters. “I think it’s going to be really hard for you to find a McDonald’s or a Starbucks right around the corner.”


The Perennial Hunt for Assata Shakur

Joanne Deborah Byron (married name – Chesimard) was born in Queens, New York in 1947, but was raised by her grandparents in the Jim Crow South. It wasn’t until she dropped out of high school and moved back to New York during the civil rights and anti-war struggles of the 1960s that Byron first became seriously politically aware. While in college, she joined a black cultural organization called the Golden Drums Society and became an activist. Later, she traveled to California and afterwards joined the radical Black Panther Party (BPP), eventually helping to found its spiritual successor the militant Black Liberation Army (BLA). 

By the early 1970s, Joanne, rechristened Assata Shakur, had become a leader of the black nationalist movement and was targeted for neutralization by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI’s formerly secret, and now infamous, COINTELPRO counterintelligence program. Authorities subsequently threw everything they had at Shakur; on six different occasions in just several years she was brought up on criminal charges ranging from armed robbery to the kidnapping and murder of a drug dealer. In each case, the charges were either dropped or Shakur was acquitted. Shakur’s resilience in the face of relentless police pursuit made her notorious in law enforcement circles. 

In the early morning hours of May 2, 1973, Shakur and two other BLA members, Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli, were pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike by state trooper Steven Harper, allegedly for a faulty rear light. Harper was immediately joined by Trooper Werner Foerster in a second patrol car, and some kind of altercation between the troopers and BLA group ensued. Gunfire was exchanged and Trooper Foerster and Zayd Malik Shakur were killed, while trooper Harper and Assata herself were shot and seriously wounded.

Shakur was immediately arrested and, according to her autobiography, kept in a room with Zayd Malik Shakur’s dead body for an extended period. She asserted that she was initially given no access to legal counsel and that her food was spat on. For four years, Shakur remained in custody awaiting trial, two of which were spent in solitary confinement in two separate men’s prisons.

Shakur finally had her day in court in 1977, but it was fairly clear from the onset that the deck was stacked against her. Despite overwhelming evidence supporting her innocence, none of which the prosecution was able to successfully refute, Shakur was ultimately convicted of Foerster’s murder, along with six assault charges, and was sentenced to life in prison. 

Several aspects of the controversial trial have been criticized by both Shakur’s supporters and independent parties:

-Cross examination of trooper Steven Harper during Shakur’s trial revealed that he lied repeatedly both in his official reports to investigators about the events of May 2, 1973 and in his grand jury testimony prior to the trial. Harper subsequently redacted his account of the altercation, admitting that he didn’t see Shakur handle a weapon that morning and that it wasn’t her that shot him. Harper’s faulty statements were the central feature of the prosecution’s case against Shakur.

-The FBI’s own forensic analysis established that Shakur didn’t handle any of the weapons found at the crime scene. Further ballistics evidence showed that Shakur was shot twice by trooper Harper, once with both of her arms raised and then once in her back.

-The jury that found Shakur guilty was composed of friends, relatives and partners of New Jersey state troopers.

Naturally, the legitimacy of Shakur’s trial, and its outcome, have been widely questioned. 

Shakur’s life sentence was cut short in 1979 when she escaped from prison with the help of several BLA members posing as visitors. She then fled to Cuba, where President Fidel Castro granted her political asylum. Shakur has been living in relative seclusion in Cuba under the protection of the Castro regime ever since. 

The FBI and New Jersey law enforcement did not take Shakur’s escape lightly. American authorities regularly call on the Cuban government to return Shakur to the U.S. There is currently a $2 million bounty on the now 67 year-old Assata Shakur’s head, and the FBI placed her on their top ten most-wanted terrorists list in 2013. 

Recent efforts at diplomatic normalization between the American and Cuban governments renewed hope among many in the U.S. that Shakur would finally be extradited back to America. Those hopes were summarily dashed, however, by firm statements from the Cuban government indicating that they still have no intention of returning Shakur.

“Every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted. … That’s a legitimate right,” Josefina Vidal, the Cuban government’s head of North American affairs, told the Associated Press in December of 2014. She went on to point out that the U.S. and Cuban governments do not maintain an extradition treaty. 

Earlier this month, Gustavo Machin, the deputy director for American affairs at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reportedly reaffirmed his government’s commitment to maintaining the Shakur’s asylum. 

“I can say that it is off the table,” Machin told Yahoo News when asked whether the Cuban government would finally return the retired revolutionary. Echoing Shakur’s U.S. based supporters, he went on to explain that the Cuban government has serious doubts about the validity of the convicted murder’s guilty verdict: “We consider that a politically motivated case against that lady.” 

Machin accused the U.S. government of harboring the true international terrorists, specifically the former CIA employee Luis Posada Carriles -who helped carry out an airline bombing in 1976 that killed 73 Cuban civilians. Posada currently resides in Miami, where he lives as a minor celebrity among the bitterly anti-Castro Cuban exile population. His latest terrorist attack, which he publicly admitted to having directed, was a hotel bombing in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist visiting Cuba. 

Reactions in the U.S. to the Cuban officials’ statements were swift and ferocious, with New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez deeming the Cuban government’s decision to continue harboring an American “cop killer” and fugitive “an intolerable insult to all those who long to see justice served,” in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

In a local TV interview that took place after Vidal’s pronouncements last December, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie harshly condemned the Cuban government and their refusal to turn over Shakur: “These thugs in Cuba have given her political asylum for 30 years. It’s unacceptable.” The governor added that the U.S. has “without question, the fairest and most just criminal-justice system in the world.”


Venezuelan Stumbling Block

American hostility toward socialist Venezuela -a longstanding Cuban ally- could seriously undermine the U.S. and Cuban governments’ fledgling diplomatic normalization efforts. In a strongly worded statement published in Cuba’s official media outlet Granma on Tuesday, the Cuban government offered “unconditional support” to struggling Venezuela and condemned the newest set of sanctions imposed by the U.S. on that country as “arbitrary and aggressive.”

The statement also derided the American government’s claim that Venezuela poses a national security threat to the United States and ultimately attributed the recent sanctions to “the interventionist nature of U.S. foreign policy.”

“Thousands of kilometers away, without strategic weapons and without employing resources nor officials to plot against US constitutional order, the [White House’s] statement is unbelievable, and lays bare the intentions of those who have come up with it,” the statement said.

The new sanctions -implemented through an executive order on March 8th- freeze the American assets of seven high-level Venezuelan security officials and ban them from doing future business in the U.S. The order cites ongoing human rights abuses by the Venezuelan government and Venezuela’s deteriorating civil society as having prompted the sanctions.

“This is an implementation of what we’ve been working on for months, which is cracking down on those who are violating human rights and abusers and those who are cracking down on civil society,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday. 

Last month, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro arrested and jailed Mayor Antonio Ledezma of Caracas -a prominent leader of Venezuela’s political opposition- for allegedly planning a U.S.-sponsored coup. U.S. officials denied accusations that Ledezma’s arrest precipitated this week’s new sanctions or that they were attempting to engineer a Venezuelan coup.

In 2002, the U.S. government supported and was involved with a short-lived coup in Venezuela that temporarily drove Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez from power. Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington D.C.-based Centre of Economic and Policy Research, argues that the U.S. government has cumulatively spent hundreds of millions of dollars on attempts to topple Venezuela’s socialist government throughout the past 15 years.

Despite its history of hostility, the U.S. is Venezuela’s largest trading partner. The U.S. relies on Venezuelan crude oil and can’t afford to implement the same kind of trade embargo on the country that it currently maintains on Cuba. Even so, the U.S. government remains highly critical of President Maduro’s regime, especially with regard to its apparent mismanagement of Venezuela’s economy in recent years.

President Maduro, in turn, maintains that the U.S. and its allies are conducting an economic war against Venezuela -and Russia- by flooding international energy markets with cheap oil in an effort to drive down global gas prices and cripple his country’s economy, which -along with Russia’s- is highly reliant on oil exports. He says that the effort is part of a larger conspiracy by the U.S. government to punish and oust the Venezuelan and Russian governments -both of which regularly buck Washington’s foreign agenda.

“It’s a strategically planned war … also aimed at Venezuela, to try and destroy our revolution and cause an economic collapse,” Maduro said on Venezuelan state TV.

The degree to which these developments will impact the U.S. and Cuba’s diplomatic reengagement is unclear at this point. The Castro government’s unflinching support for President Maduro’s regime may complicate future negotiations. 




Soccer Diplomacy

In a welcome respite from the tedious political machinations that have thus far characterized the recent process of diplomatic reengagement between the U.S. and Cuban governments, the New York Cosmos will reportedly be traveling to Havana in the coming months for an exhibition match on June 2nd against the Cuban national soccer team. The prospective game marks the first time in 16 years that an American pro-sports team will play on Cuban soil; the Baltimore Orioles beat Cuba’s national baseball team 3-2 in a similar exhibition match in 1999 -only to lose in a subsequent return game against the Cuban team in Baltimore a few weeks later. There is hope among many that the upcoming match in June -along with other cultural exchange initiatives like it- will help to establish links of friendship between the Cuban and American populations and encourage further diplomatic normalization efforts by the governments of both countries. 

The all-star Cuban team that the Cosmos will be facing-off against will feature players preparing for July’s Concacaf Gold Cup -an international soccer tournament held every other year featuring teams from the Caribbean and North/Central America.

The Cosmos may be a second tier American team, but their current rooster includes soccer titans Raúl and Marcos Senna -two former Spanish World Cup stars- along with a number of famous players from Central and South America. That line-up, along with a strong international brand, make the Cosmos a sensible pick for June’s groundbreaking match.

Though the Cosmos have frequently played the Cuban national soccer team in past international matches, June’s game will be the first time that they actually set foot in Cuba. Their most recent match with the Cuban team took place in Sandy, Utah during the 2013 Cocacaf Gold Cup and was a win for New York. The coming exhibition game will take place during a lull in the New York team’s regular North American Soccer League schedule.

Prior to the 1959 Cuban Revolution, visits from American teams were a regular feature of the Cuban sports scene. Throughout the 40s and 50s baseball teams like the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees frequently held their spring training in Cuba. All of that changed after the implementation of the U.S. embargo in 1960, which severely restricted American travel to and trade with Cuba for the next half century and into today. 

Cuba’s traditional national pastime is baseball, and the Cosmos allegedly had to beat-out the Boston Red Sox in their bid to be the first American sports team to play in Cuba in more than a decade. Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro is personally a baseball fanatic and the country maintains a system of official state-sanctioned baseball fan clubs. Even so, like in the U.S., soccer is growing increasingly popular there, and the choice of an American soccer team -as opposed to a baseball one- for June’s honor is further evidence -if only symbolic- of the changing nature of the U.S. and Cuba’s previously hostile relationship. 


Push for Increased U.S.-Cuba Agricultural Trade Intensifies 

Earlier this week, an agricultural delegation from the U.S. arrived in Cuba in search of potential business partners there. The trip occurred after several months of hard lobbying by American agribusiness urging the U.S. government to lift its longstanding trade embargo on the island nation. Though most of the embargo remains in place and can only be fully lifted through action by the Republican-controlled Congress, American farming interests are hopeful that that will soon change and are currently laying the groundwork for the future exploitation of Cuba’s $2 billion food-import market.

Besides emissaries from private agricultural conglomerates, the 95 member delegation included representatives from a variety state farm bureaus and a number of state officials. To add weight to the mission, several former agricultural secretaries, along with Georganne Nixon -the wife of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon-, joined the coalition.

The chairwoman of the delegation, a Cargill executive named Devry Boughner Vorwerk, told reporters, “The message we hope will get back to Washington is that we are a unifying voice that would like to see Congress act in 2015 and end the embargo.”

While the U.S. government did create a humanitarian exemption to the embargo in 2000 that formally permitted the sale of American food products in Cuba, a ban on Cuban credit persists and seriously undermines agricultural, and other, trade between the U.S. and the Caribbean country. According to estimates by the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, U.S. food sales to Cuba fell to $291 million last year, a drop of more than $400 million from a 2008 peak.

“We understand our competitors are here — Argentina, Brazil, the Europeans — and our hands are being tied behind our backs by our own government,” Vorwerk lamented.

Predictably absent from the delegation’s proclamations was any mention of the potentially harmful impact that increased agricultural trade would likely have on the Cuban agricultural sector -a significant source of employment in that country. A number of developing countries that have entered into trade agreements with the U.S. in the past have seen their domestic agricultural sectors and food sovereignty decimated by subsequent tidal waves of cheap imported American foodstuffs. It is unclear why Cuba’s experience would be any different.

These, and other, concerns were similarly out of sight when the State House Agriculture Finance Committee in Minnesota voted on Tuesday to begin Cuban trade promotion efforts. The resulting bipartisan bill allocates $100,000 of the state’s budget for the promotion of exports to Cuba. The bill still needs to pass Minnesota’s other legislative bodies to go into effect, but there is already widespread support for it.  

“I would like to see us get down there first and expand the markets,” a Democratic Minnesota representative told reporters after the vote. 

Lucrative opportunities for Minnesotan agricultural interests are central to the state’s push for increased trade. 

“It’s not a question of if Cuba is going to be a big market,” Cliff Kaehler -the son of a Minnesotan cattle rancher who visited Cuba during a 2002 trade mission- explained, “but how are we going to capitalize?”



The New Cooperative Economy in Cuba

In an effort to jump start Cuba’s sluggish economy, the administration of President Raul Castro initiated a series of largely market-oriented economic reforms several years ago. These changes -dubbed “The Guidelines on Economic and Social Policy for the Party and the Revolution” when they were first approved by the Cuban Sixth Communist Party Congress in 2011- are designed to gradually shrink Cuba’s extensive, but hard-pressed, public sector and promote the development of more dynamic private enterprise in its place.

Like the Chinese regime before it, the Cuban government is attempting to liberalize its country’s economy without abandoning the core socialism of Cuba’s official state ideology and the successful aspects of their country’s half-century revolutionary experiment -most notably their popular and internationally lauded healthcare and education systems. They’re wary of the experiences of post-Soviet states like Russia, where a wholehearted and hasty embrace of dislocating capitalist reforms in the 1990s gave rise to a sort of oligarchic gangsterism that experts have since dubbed a “kleptocracy.” 

“The model is different from China and Vietnam,” a Cuban economist said of the reforms. “We have the advantage of learning from their experience.”

At the center of Cuba’s model for reform is a dedication to the expansion of private cooperatives. Cooperative businesses are generally for-profit enterprises which are collectively owned and democratically managed by the workers who staff them. This arrangement differs from the hierarchical and largely external control and ownership of government bureaucrats (in the case of statist business models) and shareholders/managerial staff (in capitalist business models). Like other private firms, they succeed or fail largely based on the dictates of the market. Importantly, cooperative’s decentralized and direct internal management and ownership often yield enhanced productivity, wages and longevity and promote notions of solidarity and equity. In this way, cooperatives businesses form a viable middle path between the extremes of fully market and state-based economic models, a path that the Cuban government is currently attempting to chart.

Prior to the implementation of 2011’s reforms, Cuban cooperatives were relegated to the agricultural sector; last year, agricultural coops were responsible for 70 percent of Cuba’s farmed land. The Castro regime’s new liberalizing program opens up most of the rest of Cuba’s economy to private -though individually state approved and monitored- cooperative enterprises. Today, Cuba is home to nearly 500 non-agricultural cooperative businesses in a whole range of sectors -including restaurants, cafes, wholesale and retail produce markets, construction firms, manufacturers of clothing and furniture, bus companies and car washes, recycling operations, body shops, computing and accounting services, beauty salons, night clubs and other industries.

A new 21-member cooperative -a formerly state-owned Havana-based nightclub called Karabali- has seen its workers’ salaries triple since going private in late 2013.

“We have more of a sense that this belongs to us,” Heydell Alom, an employee-owner of Karabali told reporters. “Here no one steals. This place belongs to everyone. We earn depending on what we can accomplish without any problems from the government.”

Despite the success stories of new firms like Karabali, the burgeoning Cuban cooperative movement faces a number of serious challenges. Persistent state encroachment, uneven and inconsistent government policy and limited access to national and international markets -owing to political factors like the U.S.’s trade embargo- combine to stifle the growth of new Cuban cooperatives. These obstacles -and others- will need to be surmounted if the full potential of the Cuban cooperative movement is to be realized.