08/29/13 - The Globe and Mail (Canada) - A business-friendly Cuba gets a hand from Canada [corrected]
Everything about Cuba is political - which is something I learned the hard
way before even moving here last summer.
After a decade of writing headlines at The Globe and Mail, I was suddenly
making them when a Sun News commentator took a swing at me. My move was
proof of left-wing bias in the media, Ezra Levant fumed, calling me a
hypocrite and accusing me of propping up the Castro regime.
Then Tony Clement weighed in. Fresh off unveiling a revamp of the museum
dedicated to Maoist physician Norman Bethune, the Treasury Board president
chastised me for choosing "to live in a communist country."
Cuba is often discussed in McCarthyist black and white, even if ministers
of the Crown prefer grey when portraying China. And though the United
States tightly controls and usually prohibits doing business with Cuba
(which it still considers a state sponsor of terrorism), Canada has
maintained a presence here since John Diefenbaker refused to join the
American embargo after the revolution swept to power in 1959.
This charged atmosphere affects everything in Canada's and Cuba's extensive
economic relationship - and even explains how I got to Havana. In July of
2012, I left my editing job and relocated with my wife, who took a posting
as head of CARE International's office. CARE U.S. manages most of the aid
agency's operations in Latin America, but it's CARE Canada that oversees
its work here.
The move has given me a front-row seat as the Revolution evolves and Cuba
re-engineers its creaking command economy. So when Report on Business
magazine asked last fall what the changes now under way mean for the
country, I applied for press accreditation, started reading (via
56-kilobyte-per-second dial-up) and made a few calls. Then, most important,
I hit the streets to find out.
We hadn't even gotten out of bed when I first heard the radio announcement
one October morning. Moments later, the phone rang: A Cuban friend was
calling, excitedly, to make sure we hadn't missed the news. When I passed
by vendors before 9 o'clock, the daily state newspapers - Granma and
Juventud Rebelde - were sold out. At the University of Havana, where I was
taking Spanish, students were poring over a 30-page edition of the Gaceta
Cubans, they learned, would at last be allowed to travel freely. Which is
no small thing for a country that has seen tens of thousands flee illicitly
over the years. Now, the state would no longer require citizens to obtain a
dreaded tarjeta blanca - a process that was always costly and bureaucratic,
and sometimes fruitless and humiliating. And the state was also making it
easier for Cubans to come back. The reform extended the time citizens can
spend off the island to a renewable period of two years, effectively
eliminating the salida definitiva (definitive departure) stamp that
required anyone leaving for the long term to surrender their property.
As the January implementation date approached, word came down that even
doctors - Cuba's most-prized professionals - would be able to come and go
as they please.
The country has seen a continual loosening of rules since Raúl Castro took
over from his ailing older brother, Fidel, in 2006. And in 2011, the
Communist Party approved a five-year plan to redefine Cuban socialism by
increasing food production; creating a robust (yet controlled) private
sector, complete with a tax system; and shrinking government - through
layoffs exceeding one million workers, or one-fifth of the workforce. All
so the state can sustainably continue to deliver free health care,
education, housing and other basic services.
But for all this, the scope of the travel change was surprising. "No one
expected the wide-open policy the government has taken," says Gregory
Biniowsky, a Canadian lawyer (with Heenan Blaikie) who has called Cuba home
for 20 years. "It's a huge leap of faith." Results were immediate. Urban
professionals rushed in large numbers to obtain passports (often to have
one just in case), which the government usually issued within days.
Philip Peters, head of the Cuba Research Center, suggests Havana's biggest
concern is the potential for brain drain. "One could imagine they would
have done migration reform last so they would be able to show they have
done a lot to create new sources of employment," he tells me by phone from
Washington. "That they took this step at the start clearly indicates
they're making a bet that a great many Cubans have a desire to leave Cuba
and come back."
If things go as planned, the state's jackpot will come in the form of
remittances. A study released in June concluded that cash sent home already
tallied $2.6 billion in 2012 - in other words, one of Cuba's biggest
revenue streams (all currency in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted).
Havana also hopes that allowing citizens to obtain education and business
experience abroad will put them in a better position to contribute to the
island's well-being upon their return. And, in one stroke, it removed an
irritant in its international relations by placing the onus on other
countries to issue visas and, therefore, allow Cubans to travel.
On top of migration reform, Cuba has taken steps to empower its citizens as
consumers. It legalized the sale of homes and automobiles; lifted
restrictions on ownership of computers and cellphones, and on domestic use
of tourist hotels; and modestly expanded Internet service, opening more
than 100 monitored access points this spring.
And in addition to overarching reforms that alter the economic landscape,
Raúl Castro has made some business-specific changes. He legalized
supplements paid by foreign companies to Cuban workers; extended the term
for leases of land to foreign firms to 99 years from 50 (a significant
sweetener for developers); and invigorated the small-business sector by
issuing licences - quickly and prolifically - to entrepreneurs in scores of
newly legalized trades.
Idle land was distributed to individual farmers and co-operatives, which
can now sell directly to hotels and restaurants that previously could only
buy from the state. Grassroots ownership was also encouraged by extending
the co-op model beyond the fields - to produce markets and urban services.
And, this summer, the government announced it would begin to deregulate its
That still leaves unresolved the crippling problem of two currencies. It's
much easier to navigate the changing economy if you're fortunate enough to
have CUCs, or Cuban convertibles, in your wallet. Pegged roughly to the
American dollar, they're worth about 25 times the value of the peso, the
currency in which most people are paid. That discrepancy distorts prices,
limits purchasing power and is a prime reason for disenchantment among
Cuba's professional class.
Doing away with the dual currency is high on the government's wish list.
But, like doing away with la libreta (the ration book that provides all
Cubans with subsidized food staples each month), it's not something that
can be done overnight. Making such radical change is highly contentious in
a country that's often described as frozen in time. Even what to call such
change is contentious.
"We are modernizing our economic model," says Joaquín Infante of the
National Association of Economists and Accountants, in an interview
arranged by the foreign-press office to give me the government line.
"Modernizing the model is not the same as reform, because we are not
questioning the political system."
But University of Havana economist Rafael Betancourt notes that the
revolution has carried out multiple reforms - in agrarian policy and
education, for instance. And he questions why the state refuses to use the
word in this case. "What is reform? It's modifying your model without
losing its basic principles and characteristics," he tells me over lunch.
"But you are admitting that you have things that have to change in order to
improve. You are admitting you made mistakes."
Cuba has also second-guessed some reforms - a decade ago, for instance,
when Fidel Castro clawed back the limited space he initially created for
private enterprise. In an e-mail conversation, however, a seasoned observer
tells me why that's unlikely to happen this time. "There have been phases
of experimentation and adaptation throughout the revolutionary period, but
these current ones are broader and more permanent," says Mark Entwistle,
who served as Canada's ambassador in Havana from 1993 to 1997 and now runs
a Cuba consultancy at Acasta Capital in Toronto. "This is because the
government has concluded that adjustments to their economic model are
simply necessary. The performance of the Cuban economy is a No. 1
Cuba prides itself on its medical system. But the entire country was
nervous about a December surgery performed at a hospital in Havana. The
operation was Hugo Chávez's fourth since June, 2011, and was preceded by a
grim announcement days earlier in Caracas that he was formally naming a
In addition to Chávez's health, at stake was how Cuba would fare without
the helping hand of Fidel Castro's political heir. For a decade, Caracas
supplied Havana with about 100,000 barrels of oil daily at cut-rate prices,
covering half the island's energy needs. Were that lifeline to die with the
Venezuelan president, Cuba would take a substantial hit - just as it did
when it lost its previous protector, the Soviet Union, in 1991.
It was then, during the stress of the periodo especial, that Ian Delaney
brought a dose of Canadian capitalism to Cuba. The deals struck by the Bay
Street executive - known as the "Smiling Barracuda" - resulted in a joint
venture between his firm, Sherritt International, and the state to mine
nickel and cobalt in the eastern province of Holguín for export worldwide.
Sherritt was later granted concessions in other sectors including oil and
gas, which it sells domestically. The Toronto-based company is one of
Cuba's largest private investors and represents a substantial chunk of
Canada's business dealings with the island (trade between the two countries
runs at about $1 billion Canadian annually).
It was also during the '90s that Cuba opened its beaches to herds of
foreign tourists, striking deals with international hotel chains like
Spain's Sol Meliá. Cuba now welcomes nearly three million tourists each
year - more than a third of them Canadian - and there are dozens of new
resorts planned, with the government expecting to add 20,000 hotel rooms by
2020, for a total of 85,000.
Having learned how perilous it is to rely on a single trading partner, Cuba
also sought investment from other friendly governments. In return for sugar
and nickel purchases, Beijing sells Havana goods such as the buses now
cruising the island's roadways. And Chinese Geely sedans are slowly
replacing Russian Ladas as police cars and in other state fleets.
Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, meanwhile, is the main player in a
$900-million revamp of the seaport at Mariel, west of the capital, that
will include a petroleum terminal and a free-trade zone for biotech and
light industry. The firm has been given access to Cuba's sugar industry,
and Brazil's development bank is also backing a $175-million overhaul of
the island's airports.
For Canadian business, Cuba "intrinsically has a lot of potential,"
Biniowsky says. "It's the biggest island in the Caribbean [with 11.2
million people]. It's got significant agricultural tracts. It's got a
highly educated population that could plug into the high-value-added global
To that list of assets, the 44-year-old Canadian lawyer adds the
natural-resource wealth that Sherritt and others are extracting; Cuba's
reasonable success in combatting corruption (by Latin American standards,
it fares very well in Transparency International rankings); and the fact
that, unlike other countries in the region, it's largely free of violent
Canada is not above leveraging the fact that it is, well, not the United
States. During a November trade-show speech in Havana, the CEO of the
Canadian Commercial Corp. (a Crown agency that promotes trade) highlighted
some commonality in adversarial relations by harkening back to the War of
1812. "They invaded us," Marc Whittingham joked, "and we got so mad we
actually went and burned the White House down."
Today, the American embargo is effectively a twofold opportunity for
Canadian firms - it significantly clears the field so long as it's in
force, and it makes Cuba far more profitable should it be lifted. Guessing
at when that might happen is a mug's game. Diplomats in Havana and
Washington report a dramatically improved tone in their dealings of late.
But incidents like the July seizure of a North Korean ship bearing Cuban
arms concealed in sugary cargo can easily reverse steps toward
One of the firms banking on Cuba's future is Montreal-based 360 Vox Corp.
The resort-development specialist has plans for three major projects on the
island. "They work in this environment, but if we do get the travel embargo
lifted, then it's a huge bonus," says Guy Chartier, CEO of the firm's Cuba
While firms from Europe, Latin America and Asia are also active here, the
present moment, Chartier adds, "is really a window of opportunity for
companies such as ours to bring unique expertise to a market where we're
not yet competing directly against our friendly U.S. neighbour."
Or, as Biniowsky puts it, "We're simply filling a space that if it weren't
for the U.S. embargo probably would be completely filled by U.S.
companies." Some firms, he adds, are not in for the long haul. "They're
saying, 'Okay, here's an opportunity. Let's set roots so that when,
inevitably, the embargo is lifted, we sell out to American interests.'
Definitely there are a lot of companies here just for positioning."
360 Vox hopes to break ground early next year on what will become the
five-star seafront Monte Barreto Hotel, beside the national aquarium on
Havana's western shore. Chartier expects its location, on the way to
Mariel, will attract foreign businessmen, technicians and professionals
descending on the capital once the expanded port and free-trade zone open.
"We're really building the product of the future," he tells me over coffee.
"It will be the first property of its kind in the country. It will meet
Florida construction code; it will meet the toughest U.S. and international
industry health and safety codes."
After Monte Barreto construction begins, the firm will turn its attention
to a plan to develop Jibacoa, a sleepy strip of beach halfway between
Havana and Varadero. The project includes a golf course, marina, hotels and
private villas. In the longer term, 360 Vox also has plans for a resort on
Cayo Largo, off Cuba's southern shore - near the key where Fidel Castro and
Pierre Trudeau speared fish together in 1976.
The company bears the imprint of a Bay Street legend - Ned Goodman of
Dundee Capital, who spearheaded a $20-million investment and serves as
chairman. The financier has made several trips to the island, including one
in 2011 during which he met with cabinet minister Ricardo Cabrisas. Goodman
deems Cuba "a unique country with extraordinary unexploited resources, the
most important of which are the Cuban people themselves."
When my wife and I first visited Cuba as backpackers a decade ago, we
naively hoped to self-cater. To our frustration, we found empty grocery
shelves and sparse produce stands.
But now, thanks to the modest success Cuba has achieved in the first goal
of its economic reform - increasing food production - we're able to keep
our pantry well-stocked. Sure, certain imported items disappear for weeks
on end - any pasta other than spaghetti, for example, or dog kibble, which
made feeding our 100-pound Bernese a challenge at one point in December.
But, in general, decent ingredients are readily available, particularly
Going out to eat, too, is not the grim experience one is told to expect -
in fact, Havana's bustling restaurant scene is the most visible sign of
Cuba's emerging small-business sector.
According to Betancourt, the culinary revival stems from two things. One,
there's "more demand and more income to satisfy it, whether it's from the
foreign or Cuban consumer." And two, there's "a greater availability and
variety of products that comes from the development of an agriculture that
is diverse and that isn't only focused on import substitution for basic
But there is little to no space for professionals to practise their craft -
and earn more than a paltry state salary of 450 pesos a month, or about $19
- within the existing approved categories of private employment.
"Although I really enjoyed the work I was doing before - at an information
centre in specialized health sciences - it wasn't possible to earn enough
to support my family," Gustavo Kourí tells me one afternoon during the
lunchtime rush at Rio Mar, his year-and-a-half-old restaurant that offers a
stunning view of the mouth of the Almendares River. "And then the state
opened more opportunities to develop private businesses, for cuenta
The term translates as "one's own account," and Cuba's new breed of
entrepreneurs are known as cuentapropistas. By the end of June, there were
429,000 of them - up from 143,000 in 2010. They are the front-line soldiers
in the country's economic battle.
Like Kourí, 44, José Colomé opted to leave a professional career in favour
of entrepreneurship. The 39-year-old lawyer is co-owner of Starbien
restaurant, which opened last December on a quiet street near Plaza de la
Revolución. Having gotten to know Starbucks during trips abroad, Colomé
crafted a similar brand - even registering it as a trademark in Cuba, just
in case the coffee chain expands here in future.
While neither he nor Kourí had experience in the industry, dining at
Starbien or Rio Mar is as delectable as sitting down to eat in Toronto or
Montreal. And both men expressed similar concerns when asked about the
challenges they face in Cuba's new private sector. "It's hard," Colomé
says. "Taxes are high, but that's the rule right now. We have to dance to
this music. And I'm happy to have the opportunity."
The wholesale food supply business is still a work in progress, and "it's
very difficult to get supplies and equipment," Kourí says, pointing to Rio
Mar's crystal glassware and modern furniture. "We have to import them. But
since there's no possibility of importing them in large quantities, it's
piece by piece."
Other newcomers to the restaurant business include artists and athletes.
Mireya Luis, for example, runs Las Tres Medallas, a pizza-and-pasta spot
named for the three Olympic gold medals her volleyball team won between
1992 and 2000.
Luis, 46, describes her 2012 decision to become an entrepreneur as a chance
to "realize a dream." "Being able to open a place - a restaurant, a bar, a
cafeteria, whatever - is a good opportunity for self-development, for
people to demonstrate a capacity for business, and for them to grow
personally," she tells me one summer night. "It's something incredible."
You hear similar sentiments from cuentapropistas in other lines of
Gilberto Valladares, who everyone calls Papito, started a hair salon in his
family's home in Old Havana in 1999. "Initially, it was a dream of
dignifying and recovering a certain degree of respect for the trade of
hairdresser and barber," he tells me, after tending to his last customer
one spring evening. "As my business grew, so did the dream."
Papito, 43, has made Arte Corte Studio into a "living museum." Its cabinets
are filled with haircutting tools of old and its high-ceilinged walls are
covered with paintings depicting different visions of the trade.
He employs a half-dozen people, nearly all from the surrounding
neighbourhood. And he closes early one day a week to teach tonsorial
skills, as well as marketing, business and personal development. His entire
stretch of cobblestone street is becoming a destination for hair care.
"In a spiritual way," Papito declares, "I already feel like a millionaire."
Three of 360 Vox's staff in Havana are lawyers whose first task with any
project is to pore over land-title records to find out who owned the site
before the Revolution. "If they were American, then it's off-limits because
we don't want to be in a position where we could be considered to be
trafficking in claimed property," Chartier says.
If the previous owners were Cuban, the firm finds out whether they stayed
or went - and if they went, where. It then investigates whether the owners
or their kin have since made claims to the land. Finally, 360 Vox takes its
findings to a U.S. law firm for an opinion before any project can proceed.
Otherwise, the company could run afoul of the Helms-Burton Act, which
punishes those who invest in Cuban assets seized from Americans decades
Though he can't argue with Sherritt's success and profitability, Chartier
notes that the firm "took a very different approach." A more daring one.
The challenge, as Betancourt puts it, is this: "How can you talk about Cuba
accessing international capital in the context of the blockade?" Because of
the U.S. embargo, joint ventures will only be established here "little by
little, piece by piece and always with companies that are willing to
challenge the wrath of the monster."
Sherritt is one of those. An American firm owned the mine it operates in
Moa before the Revolution, so in 1996 Delaney received a letter informing
him that he and other Sherritt officials were blacklisted from the United
States for violating Helms-Burton. Undaunted, Fidel Castro's "favourite
capitalist" - as he became known - framed the missive and kept it in his
office until his retirement last year.
El bloqueo is also why Cuba restricts foreign-investment opportunities to
strategic industries. "It's like a war economy," Betancourt says. "Don't
expect an opening up of the foreign sector until you have a different
international environment that will facilitate greater investment and
greater flows of capital."
Another - and somewhat counterintuitive - concern for investors is
Raúl Castro made cracking down on graft a priority when he took over from
his brother. In the process, he put executives at three foreign firms (one
British and two Canadian) behind bars. Toronto-area traders Sarkis
Yacoubian, head of Tri-Star Caribbean, and Cy Tokmakjian, president of
Tokmakjian Group, were detained in 2011 and held without charge for nearly
"The government might have thought initially that foreigners would like an
investment climate where there's less corruption, but that's not how it
plays," says Richard Feinberg, a Brookings Institution expert on Cuba. He
points to the perceived arbitrary nature of the arrests and the lack of due
process. "The net effect is that these one-off cases become a deterrent."
He is also critical of the single-minded nature of Cuba's crackdown. When
officials making humble state salaries oversee transactions involving huge
sums of money in a less-than-transparent environment, he explains, it's
hardly surprising that corruption occurs. "But repression alone doesn't
work. It may get you some results in the short run, but the incentive
structures are misaligned."
Once associates, Yacoubian and Tokmakjian became rivals in the lucrative
business of selling vehicles and heavy equipment to state-run Cuban firms
in the transport, construction and nickel industries. Tri-Star Caribbean
brought in about $30 million a year, while Tokmakjian Group's earnings
topped $80 million.
Behind bars, Yacoubian blew the whistle on what he saw as systemic
corruption. "If I didn't pay [bureaucrats and officials], at the end of the
day they would just create problems for me," the 53-year-old told the
Toronto Star from prison, adding he confessed everything he knew. "I gave
them names, people, how they do it, why, when, where, what."
Charges of bribery, tax evasion and damaging the economy were finally
brought against Yacoubian in May. His two-day trial was closed to reporters
but was attended by Canada's ambassador, Matthew Levin. In addition to
political concern over the extended detention of Canadian citizens,
taxpayer dollars were potentially at stake: The Canadian Commercial Corp.
has underwritten $650 million (Canadian) in transactions between exporters
and the Cuban state since 1991. While its client list is private, it is
probable that Tri-Star and Tokmakjian received CCC support.
In the end, despite his jailhouse co-operation, Yacoubian was sentenced to
nine years. At press time, Tokmakjian, 73, remained behind bars without
Sherritt - which saw its state-run partner at the Moa mine hit with
corruption convictions in a separate case last year - would not say whether
it purchased equipment from Tri-Star or Tokmakjian. But it did say its
outlook in Cuba remains bright.
The Canadian Commercial Corp. is equally undeterred. None of its
risk-assessment procedures or due-diligence checks have changed. And "in
over 22 years of business in Cuba, the Cuban authorities have never
approached the corporation to suggest any CCC-related contracts have been
inappropriately obtained or undertaken," government-relations manager
Joanne Lostracco says.
Given that the British firm ensnared in the crackdown, Coral Capital Group,
was best known for revamping Old Havana's swanky Saratoga Hotel, I asked
Chartier whether the resulting detentions were a deterrent to investors
such as himself.
"The easy answer is no. It sends a clear message to everybody that Cuba is
a place to do business on the up and up," he says. "I spent my teens in
Mexico, and there is no comparison. The only way to do business here is
When John Baird embarked on a Latin American tour in February, he made a
one-day stop in Cuba - the first visit by a Canadian foreign minister in
more than 15 years.
Stephen Harper's top diplomat met two relatively young members of the Cuban
government: Baird's counterpart, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, 54, and
Vice-President Marino Murillo, the 52-year-old architect and
implementer-in-chief of economic reform.
Both of them - along with Miguel Diaz-Canel, also 52, whom Raúl Castro
named first vice-president and his heir apparent a week after Baird's visit
- represent a new generation of leadership. Unlike their predecessors, they
were not among the bearded rebels who toppled Fulgencio Batista's regime in
1959. Assuming all goes as planned, they will inherit a markedly different
country when Castro retires - at age 86-in 2018.
"We can already see that it will be an economy with a much larger private
sector than before," says Peters of the Cuba Research Center, "and a
smaller government workforce than before, with many more actors operating
Perhaps most importantly, Diaz-Canel's last name is not Castro - which
increases the odds of reconciling with the United States. "Remove the
Castro brothers, or at least move them to the background, and that defangs
a lot of the hostility," says Feinberg, the Brookings Institution expert.
Moreover, if Cuba can retain people like Betancourt, the university
professor, its gamble will likely pay off. His family fled communism after
the Revolution. But by the late 1980s - degrees, jobs and marriage behind
him - he started to wonder what kind of future the U.S. could offer beyond
his being "one more professional economist working and making money and
consuming more and more." So he returned to the island and began putting
his skills to more fulfilling use. In addition to teaching economics, he
has partnered with Biniowsky, the lawyer, on Havanada Consulting, which
channels funds from social investors and philanthropists to nonprofit
development projects in Cuba.
And while Betancourt, 60, agrees that new travel rules will allow his
compatriots to follow a similar path, he offers a more succinct reason for
the change: "The intent is to return basic rights to the population and to
satisfy a very strong demand among our people."
The extent of those rights, however, will be tested. Dissidents like Yoani
Sánchez and Eliecer Avila took advantage of the reform and set out on
foreign tours last winter. They returned with plans to launch a news
organization and a political party, respectively - risky ventures, given
the state's history of reacting harshly to open political challenge.
Cuba also faces threats beyond its control. The government expects its
economy to grow by no more than 3 per cent this year, short of its
3.6-per-cent target, thanks in part to the havoc wrought by Hurricane
Then there are those systemic problems. The dual currency, meagre state
salaries, and limits on approved categories of private enterprise - you can
be a tarot card reader, but not a clinical psychologist - are "driving a
lot of young people out of the country or into a kind of underground
professional economy," Betancourt says. "It's totally illogical."
Credit is also only offered in pesos, meaning those looking for seed
capital need to know someone abroad who can supply hard currency. And
though the state is loath to admit it, Betancourt notes that this creates
significant inequality "because it is the white, urban professional and
middle-class person who has a family member that emigrated, who has a
foreigner that wants to start a business with him."
Not only that, simple purchases can be painfully bureaucratic. Buying a new
blender last winter, for example, took me more than an hour and required
three sets of forms.
It remains to be seen, too, whether the corruption crackdown has run its
course. In a blistering speech to the National Assembly in July, Raúl
Castro railed against his country's moral decline. "I have the bitter
sensation that we are a society ever more educated but not necessarily more
enlightened," he said, singling out both graft and theft by state workers -
but also a laundry list of poor public behaviour by everyday citizens.
Those negatives aside, even the modest space opened to free enterprise has
created an array of options for the emerging consumer class. Cubans with a
few CUCs can watch 3-D movies or play paintball in their spare time. Those
with a few more CUCs can splurge for their child's quinceañera, the
traditional prom-like 15th birthday party.
Like most people I talked to, Biniowsky believes Cuba is on the right
track. "The irony is those that will save the Revolution are the emerging
small- and medium-sized private businesses," he says. "And those that could
destroy it are those elements in the bureaucracy that resist these
Canada's former ambassador, meanwhile, cautions those expecting to see
capitalism embraced as Cuba's new guiding light. "One has to actually
listen carefully to what the Cubans say," explains Entwistle, who logged
more than 100 hours of face time with Fidel Castro. "These changes are
intended to make the particular Cuban socialist model work better, not to
One only has to look at Papito and his thriving salon to get the sense
that's already happening. "The most important thing is for the new private
sector to have a social conscience and a social commitment," he tells me,
beaming. "It's not all about profit; it's also about values."
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