Government-controlled media coverage of Sunday’s nationwide May Day celebrations in Cuba this week cites the massive annual demonstrations as clear evidence that ordinary Cubans support the economic changes that were approved during last month’s Communist Party Congress in Havana. The reforms, which include major layoffs of state workers, an expansion of self-employment and a reduction in state subsidies for food and other basic goods, represent the first major shift in Cuba’s national economic policy in decades.
The viability of these reforms—specifically whether they will spur economic growth in Cuba—is the topic of the Spring 2011 Americas Quarterly’s Hard Talk Forum. Omar Everleny Peréz, an economist at the University of Havana’s Centro de Estudios de la Economía Cubana, argues that the proposed package of changes will likely be sufficient to revitalize Cuba’s ailing economy. However, Columbia University professor José Antonio Ocampo makes the claim that the proposed reforms fall short of what is necessary to create opportunities for the more than one million state employees who will lose their jobs over the next few years.
Although official details about the final draft of the reforms are not yet public, Cuban leadership has maintained that most Cubans wholeheartedly support the measures. Salvador Valdes Mesa, who heads Cuba's only government-approved trade union, was the only official to speak at the May Day parade in Havana, says the event demonstrated people’s support for the “economic and social policy of the revolution.”
José Ramón Machado Ventura, the newly appointed second secretary of the Communist Party, led Sunday’s march in Havana while President Raúl Castro did the same in Santiago de Cuba.
Five months after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake, the Chilean Ministry of Health reports that the demand for antidepressants like Diazepam, Alprazolam and Clonazepam has increased by 33 percent compared to pre-earthquake levels. At the same time, according to the Unidad de Trauma, Estrés y Desastres de la Universidad Católica, 7.5 percent of the Chilean population is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the disaster.
Clearly, the earthquake is testing a system that Philip Musgrove describes in the newly released AQ as being increasingly “more complete and more equitable through reforms that are also politically acceptable.”
Besides, placing tremendous pressure on the system, the earthquake and resulting spike in antidepressant consumption also leads to problems of self-prescription and counterfeit medicine. According to Marv Shepherd, “Latin America currently rank second behind Asia as having the highest number of counterfeit drugs ‘incidents.’” If this trend continues, Chilean authorities will face the added challenge of cracking down on a growing black medicine market.
A Canadian member of parliament, a gay rights activist from Jamaica, an Argentine National Deputy, and a dental entrepreneur from Mexico are among the young leaders who lend their voices to the Winter edition of Americas Quarterly, released today. The essayists’ views are as diverse as they are, representing new political and social ideas that defy old divisions in the hemisphere.
“For many years I’ve been told that youth is the future,” writes Julio Rank Wright, director for Municipal Affairs of the Executive National Council of Arena in El Salvador. “I disagree. We are the here and now. Unless we decide to fill the void created by the previous generation in Latin America, we won’t have anything left worth fighting for.”
The up-and-coming leaders are not content with the changes that have already occurred in the hemisphere—rather they express the challenges that their generation still must confront.
“If Brazil hopes to be a leader among emerging nations, we must overcome serious internal problems such as inadequate income distribution, low investment in education, institutional racism, and digital apartheid,” writes Paulo Rogério, founder of the Instituto Mídia Étnica in Brazil.
Many of these young leaders have come together this week in New York to discuss their essays and the region’s future at an Americas Quarterly and AS/COA conference.
Downpours that began on Monday in the province of Iquique—located in Chile’s extreme-north desert region of Tarapacá—has damaged 4,800 homes, closed schools for 48 hours and led to power outages affecting more than 20,000 people. The storms eventually dumped 15-times the average monthly rainfall for the month of July and prompted Chile’s national emergency office to mobilize resources for roof repairs and the prevention of landslides.
While Chile’s government has thus far viewed this rain event simply as an “unusual climatic phenomenon,” climate change experts see an overall trend toward extreme weather events and changing rainfall patterns in Latin America, displacing hundreds of thousands of people in recent years. Sasha Chavkin in a policy update for the newly released Americas Quarterly looks at preparations that Chile and other countries have taken to be ready for extreme future rainfall and drought events, focusing on work to develop procedures for declaring states of emergency and for responding to disasters.