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The Cuba State Capitol in Havana. Photo: Wikipedia.
The Cuba State Capitol in Havana. Photo: Wikipedia.

Cuba Names Journalism, Music Production, Cultural Programming as Among Banned Private Professions

The Cuban government, which this past weekend announced the expansion of its private sector from 127 professions to more than two thousand, yesterday published a list of 124 professions that it has said must remain under government control. Among the fields that will not be allowed to privatize are journalism, publishing, cinematographic and audiovisual production, TV programming, and general cultural programming, meaning that art galleries and theaters will remain under state control.

With 85 percent of the communist country’s economy generated by the state and state-affiliated companies, Cuba saw its GDP shrink by 11 percent during the Covid-19 pandemic. The announcement of the private-sector expansion is the latest step in the country’s long, slow roll to privatization that began in the early 1990s, advanced further in 2010, and to some degree blossomed in 2014 as relations between Cuba and the United States warmed under the Obama administration.

The new restrictions, however, are likely to call to mind for some the so-called gray five years of the early 1970s, when artists were persecuted by the government over their lack of commitment to the revolution led by Fidel Castro. Also left out of the expansion are architects, doctors, engineers, and scientists. Speaking with the Miami Herald, economist Carmelo Meso-Lago shed light on the government’s reasons for prohibiting the privatization of certain sectors, noting that, for example, “if you allow architects to practice privately, they will leave the state sector.”

The news of the ban list is another stumbling block for artists, who in recent months have been protesting the enforcement of Decree 349, which was enacted in 2018 and requires artists to obtain government approval before presenting their work. Artists and journalists alike have been harassed and detained by government officials; just days ago, artist-activist group 27N filed legal documents calling for the removal of the country’s culture minister after he became physically aggressive with a journalist during a peaceful demonstration supporting free speech.