Rafael Betancourt, visiting from Cuba, will be joined in a roundtable conversation by Raul Fernandez (Professor Emeritus of Chicano/Latino Studies and Executive Secretary of the UC-Cuba Academic Initiative) and Mrinalini Tankha (Postdoctoral Scholar, Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion) to respond to these questions. Discussion will be moderated by Taylor C. Nelms (Postdoctoral Researcher in Anthropology).

The United States flag is flying on Havana’s historic waterfront, and a new era in Cuba-US diplomatic relations has sparked new intellectual and public interest in everyday life in Cuba, especially with regards to what is being called the “new Cuban economic model.” Legal reforms governing real estate sales and small businesses, efforts to transform monetary and tax policy, new infrastructure development, loosening restrictions on the use of the Internet, and increasing hype about foreign investment and burgeoning tourism have all contributed to this surge in interest. But they have also led to new opportunities for private-sector businesses and self-employment and to new questions about access to such opportunities and resulting socioeconomic inequalities. In the midst of these changes, new models of economic practice and organization are emerging, including socially responsible enterprises and the so-called “solidarity economy.” What does this mean for Cubans’ everyday lives and livelihoods? How do these changes affect Cubans’ dependence on informal social networks to meet their basic consumption needs? More generally, what are the main obstacles for the process of change moving forward in terms of U.S.-Cuba relations? What is the potential for U.S. investments in Cuba given the current changes? What are some of the struggles and contradictions Cubans have and will encounter as their country becomes increasingly integrated into the global economy? And what are the promises and potential pitfalls of alternative economic models such as the solidarity economy?

Rafael J. Betancourt, PhD (ABD) in Economics (University of Florida, USA) and MSc in Urban & Regional Planning (ISPJAE, Cuba) is an economist with 30 years of employment and academic experience in international cooperation, business administration, local development, strategic urban and environmental planning, program development, project management and evaluation, and economic and social research. He is currently a consultant at Havanada Consulting Inc., a Canada-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting socially responsible entrepreneurship and social and solidary economy in Cuba; a professor at Colegio Universitario San Gerónimo de La Habana, Universidad de La Habana, and Instituto Superior Politécnico José Antonio Echevarría (CUJAE), where he teaches urban economics and project management; and Editor of Revista Temas. He has numerous published articles and is a frequent speaker in Cuba and the US on current economics, the social and solidarity economy, socially responsible entrepreneurship, and foreign investment in Cuba.

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