Saturday, November 14, 2009

Canada in Cuba

This is a blog focussed in opinions about Cuba and its issues from a Cuban-Canadian perspective and I want to remark that, but today, I would rather let facts and numbers speak for me. I will leave to you to crunch those numbers, all the data I compiled through web pages, documents, reports and news. canadian fidel

There is no doubt that Canada is the country from which the most tourists visit Cuba and, according to Peter Kent, Canadian Minister of State for the Americas, the commercial exchange between Cuba and Canada registered a 15% growth in the first nine months on 2009.

In numbers that means: $ 1 423 million of dollars in commerce, especially in tourism; and also, 729 860 Canadians visitors in the present year until September.

But before I go mor further, I would like to share what the government of Canada shows in its web site about the bilateral relations, and I am quoting:
Canada supports a future for Cuba that fully embraces the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Canada’s approach is to engage with all elements of Cuban society, including both government and civil society, with the objective of advancing democratic values and a liberalization of the economy.
What concerns about economic approach with Cuba, we have a lot to talk about and not precisely as “a liberalization of the economy”, as it was said.

Cuba was the third overseas destinations for Canadians after UK and France, and without any doubt it was the source of Canada’s biggest culture goods trade surplus in 2002. That surplus arose due to a $ 1.4 billion in exports, of this $ 1.2 billion can be accounted in publishing and printing exports, traced to a project to provide textbooks to Cuban students funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Statistics Canada provides a truthful and detailed list in how Canada had been involved with Cuba. For instance, another prominent cultural export include DVDs and Compact discs, especially Cuban music labels such as EGREM have used Canadian disc-pressing plants to mass-produce the works of popular musicians.

Overall, according to Statistics Canada, our fellows Canadians spend an estimated $ 103 a day in Cuba. Moreover, there is an increase of Canadians travelling to the island if we compare same time frames: 607 thousands in the first quarter of 2009 against 504 in 2008, what means an increase of 20.4 percent. And Cuba has been the second most important destination for Canadians in the current year 2009.

But the partnership between both nations doesn’t stop there. According to CIDA:
Since the renewal of Cuba’s official development assistance (ODA) eligibility in 1994, CIDA has provided more than 136 million in ODA to Cuba by way of bilateral, multilateral and partnership initiatives.
If you want to dig more in these numbers, I would recommend you to visit CIDA website, it could be of great interest.

But, there are more to crunch especially in the private sector, boomed by the official policy of the government of Canada toward Cuba. Canadians companies have been investing and making business, taking serious advantage of their American competitors thanks to the embargo.

Based on what Maclean’s Magazine published not too long ago, roughly 40 Canadians companies have opened offices in Cuba since 1991, being Sherritt Inc the first of them. The Canadian Embassy in Havana has counted more than 17 joint ventures signed, and more than 20 under negotiations.

I can mention a few of them: York Medical, who was a pioneer in this business with Sherritt; Wilton Properties Ltd signed joint-venture with Grand Caribe (a Cuban hotel developer) to build 11 hotels throughout the Caribbean country.

Other companies like Pizza Nova, a Torontonian franchise and Delta Hotels and Resorts of Toronto, mining companies like Holmer Gold Mines Ltd., MacDonald Mines Exploration Ltd., and Caribbean Resources Inc signed joint-ventures with the government of Castro.

By its own, Sherrit invested $ 1.5 billion in Cuba’s nickel industry and in coastal oil and gas production. I would like to submit you to Sherritt’s website and you will find that only in gas and oil, the Canadian company had spent until September an amount of 31 million and has a projection of 59 million until the end of this year.

As you can see, and these are basic numbers, the most visible and I could say the tip of the iceberg in Canadian investment in Cuba, the numbers are escalating higher and higher every year. I just invite you to do the same little research on your own.

Of course, I am not questioning the legality and morality of any investment in Cuba, but said that I argue that it has to be accompanied with an effort to push Cuba toward the establishment of a democratic and transparent government.

My question is:

Is the government of Canada doing something in that direction?

Again, I would go back what the website of the government of Canada is claiming:
Canada takes every opportunity to make clear to the Cuban regime our serious concerns about human rights practices on the island. We consistently call on the Cuban government to release all political prisoners and to dismantle the limits on freedom of expression.
Is that true? And how can we know our Prime Minister is pushing in that direction?

As Cuban, I would appreciate a little more of attention in that matter, Mr. Harper. I command you.