In recent years, there has been a very slow-moving process of change in Cuba in which the state cautiously promotes private entrepreneurship and reduces its control over the economy. At the same time, inequality has increased, and many are moving from the public to the private sector because public employees experience that their purchasing power is declining. In contrast, those with access to foreign currency have more money to spend.
At the same time, the US blockade continues to strangle the country's economy. The easing of sanctions under Obama was withdrawn under Trump and is so far unchanged. The Corona pandemic has hit hard. The result is that the economic situation is the same as during the "hard years" of the 90s after the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, there is a shortage of medicines and basic goods such as milk, coffee, toilet paper, and soap. At the same time, Cuba showed its strength by developing its Covid vaccine.
The new constitution from 2019 recognizes the right of private individuals and collectives to property, that government structures should be decentralized, and citizens' rights strengthened in line with international agreements. The position of president and party leader is limited to two terms.
Food production remains low due to challenges related to organization, lack of technological equipment, and because the internal market is insufficient to stimulate local food production. More than 80% of food is imported. The country is vulnerable to climate change but has a sound emergency response system for natural disasters. Even though Cuba is the best at gender equality regarding access to education and employment in America, the proportion of women in the government is low. There is more public debate than before, especially in social media. However, state media is still one-dimensional, and there is no noticeable change in popular participation in consultations and decision-making.
On July 11, 2021, large demonstrations broke out in several cities in Cuba. Several thousand demonstrated in frustration over corona restrictions, political restrictions, and economic crises. The government's handling has been heavily criticized internationally. Thousands were arrested, and over 300 people have been convicted of participating in the protests - some for up to 25 years.
NPA in Cuba
Norwegian People's Aid has had a program in Cuba since 1994. Most organisations in Cuba are in some way affiliated with the state. This also applies, with some exceptions, to Norwegian People's Aid's partners. Our partners are organizations related to the agricultural sector, university faculty, local authorities, and non-governmental organizations.
Extreme centralisation leaves little room for civil society organisations to influence decision-making processes. Our partners, therefore, influence primarily by supporting decentralisation processes, promoting new methods of social participation, and publishing information material that stimulates reflection and discussion. Among other things, partners have been involved in making the internet more accessible to people, provided input to new communication legislation, and contributed to state actors using participatory methods in the training of state employees.
Partners are also working to increase food production and strengthen newly established cooperatives outside the agricultural sector, such as transport, care, textiles, and food production – established by urban neighborhood groups – and promote the use of alternative and sustainable technologies and methods of agricultural production both in urban and rural areas. The support also goes to replace disused or broken equipment.