Diaz Canel Denies Cuba is Implementing a Neoliberal Package

Screenshot from the Cuban government’s evening news show.

Diaz Canel Denies Cuba is Implementing a Neoliberal Package

5 / febrero / 2024

During a meeting of the Council of Ministers held on January 29, 2024, ostensibly to analyze new economic measures and their political communication, Miguel Díaz-Canel stated: “The measures are necessary and unavoidable, correcting deep distortions and structural deviations that weigh down the performance of the economy and are aimed at the benefit of the people.”

The designated Cuban president expressed concern about the efforts of the “enemy,” who, according to him, tried to sow discouragement among the people to promote unrest after the announcement of the measures. Díaz-Canel said that the “enemy’s” plan also included claiming that a “neoliberal package” was being implemented in Cuba.

To refute the information, Díaz-Canel asked those present to name a neoliberal package in the world that had started by increasing salaries in two basic sectors of society (Health and Education). The president referred to the recent salary increase for workers in Education and Public Health. Díaz-Canel used this measure to categorically state, “therefore, this is not a neoliberal package.”

Díaz-Canel’s assertion and the logic he defended before his ministers should be sufficient for the Cuban propaganda system to stop calling the measures being promoted by the recently inaugurated president of Argentina, Javier Milei, a “paquetazo.”

The island’s propaganda has repeatedly claimed that Milei’s measures are a significant economic “paquetazo” for the Argentine people. However, according to Diaz-Canel’s logic, the Argentine president’s initiative should be considered a series of measures to correct distortions inherited from the previous government.

Nevertheless, Milei’s announced measures have not been implemented because, unlike Cuba, in countries where democracy and state institutions are minimally functional, power has checks and balances that can delay the implementation of executive decisions.

Argentine courts have temporarily suspended the implementation of many provisions of the Urgency and Necessity Decree signed by Milei on December 20, 2023, which aimed to promote, among other things, labor reform to reduce the size of the state. Additionally, Milei’s other major legislative proposal, popularly known as the “Omnibus Law,” is still struggling to be approved in Congress.

Milei does not have a set of effective measures but rather aspirations. Despite this, and contrary to what the libertarian president once denied, after the announced cuts, salary increases have been implemented in Argentina for doctors, teachers, and public administration workers.

Since January 2024, collective bargaining agreements have been taking place in different Argentine provinces with teachers’ unions. These are negotiations between members and worker organizations with the government to manage or improve rights such as salary. Teachers in the Buenos Aires province concluded their negotiations, resulting in a 25% salary increase.

Then on January 26, 2024, Milei signed a decree formalizing an agreement with various unions related to public administration. The decree provides for a 16% increase in the salaries of workers in the sector and doctors working in hospital establishments and agencies under the Ministry of Health.

So why does Díaz-Canel get upset when his measures are labeled the same way Cuban propaganda does with Milei? What should the most recent measures promoted by the Cuban regime be called, which, no matter how unpopular, will not have — unlike in Argentina — an institutional, democratic, and independent system to stop or delay them?

No matter what the latest measures of the Cuban Government are called, neoliberal and socialist measures can share the same essence — cuts and increases in taxes and prices.

What matters is that Cubans do not have the possibilities that Argentines still retain. Namely: unions and associations fighting for salary increases with the government and employers. The trade union autonomy that neoliberalism retains — and which has allowed salary increases in Argentina amid announcements of radical cuts — paradoxically does not exist in the Cuban socialist paradise.

Unlike Argentines, Cuban teachers and doctors must silently accept the insufficient increase in their salaries. At the same time, they endure poor working conditions and face the risk of criminal sanctions for mistakes attributable to the lack of resources that the state, which is quick to punish them, should provide.

Cubans are currently suffering the impacts of a “paquetazo” or fiscal adjustment under the auspices of socialism. But unlike Argentines, they cannot appeal to the justice system to stop the measures.

Those who are promoting the new measures to eliminate “distortions” are the same ones who reorganized the economy and failed yesterday, and who now want to make people believe — with scant and deficient arguments — that it is not the same situation and are not neoliberal measures.

This article was translated into English from the original in Spanish.

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