Cuban leader Raúl Castro stepped down on 19 April to be succeeded as the country’s president by Miguel Díaz-Canel. What will this mean for the country’s co-operative sector?
While Mr Castro has stepped down as president, he will remain first secretary of the Communist Party until 2021, when Mr Díaz-Canel takes over that role.
Elected by the National Assembly, Díaz-Canel is a trained electrical engineer. A close ally of the Castro family, he served as bodyguard to Raúl Castro. and has has been involved in politics since 1987. A former minister of higher education, he has supported access to internet (albeit censored) and LGBT rights.
In his inauguration speech, Mr Díaz-Canel confirmed Mr Castro would continue to lead the country. He defines himself as a Raúlista economic reformer, which implies he will continue Mr Castro’s efforts to shrink the public sector and boost small private enterprises in a cautious manner.
Under Raúl Castro’s rule, nearly 600,000 small-service business people were licensed. Following reforms last year, co-ops in non-agricultural sectors can only operate in the province where they formed, and the distribution of income within them is regulated to avoid inequality.
Related: Reforms offer boost for Cuba’s co-ops
Furthermore, the pay gap between the owner and lowest paid employee cannot be greater than three times. Cuban people can also be a member of only one co-operative, or own only one private business. Since August, licences for self-employed businesses have been frozen to address alleged illegalities within the sector.
In another attempt to boost self-employed businesses, the government opened a wholesale market in March for non-agricultural co-ops in Havana. The market enables co-ops in the restaurant industry to buy directly from wholesales at prices that are 20% lower. This is the first wholesale market available for co-ops, but the authorities plan to open more. The government also intends to introduce similar access to lower petrol prices for co-ops in the transport industry.
In a speech after stepping down, Raúl Castro confirmed the reform of the economy would continue under Miguel Díaz-Canel, focused on developing the self-employed sector and continuing the experiment with non agricultural co-operatives.
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