"We should all begin using the preposition “with” to specify that it’s not investing “in” Cuba, but in partnership with the corrupt Cuban military."- José Azel


Cuban "cuentapropistas" do not have any legal recourse of protection. They are not business owners/entrepreneurs, instead they are merely given a fully revocable permit to perform a regime sanctioned activity. This permit can be taken away at the sole discretion of the regime.

Doing Business "with"  the Cuban Military

  • Foreign investors operating in Cuba may not establish contractual relationships with Cuban workers. The foreign firm must negotiate with the Labor Ministry a “Contract for the supply of its labor force,” indicating the quantity and qualifications of needed employees. The state staffing agency for foreign enterprises then sends its pre-screened personnel to the foreign firm. The foreign employer pays directly to the staffing agency in foreign currency, or equivalent Cuban convertible pesos (CUC). Cuban workers are then paid by the staffing agency in non-convertible Cuban pesos (CUP). Under this arrangement the state pockets over 90 percent of the worker’s purported salaries. This practice, of course, violates International Labor Organization conventions as slavery.
  • Foreign firms are also required to be a minority partner in a relationship where the Cuban government — the majority partner — is fiercely hostile to free enterprise and has a history of acting arbitrarily and capriciously against the interests of its minority partners.
  • In Cuba, foreign investors must partner with the Cuban government. The Cuban government expects foreign investments to generate revenue for the state on its terms. If the venture fails to meet the expectations of the state, the government may arbitrarily terminate the agreements and seek another naive investor for the project and there is no independent judicial system to adjudicate any investor claims. The Cuban judiciary is subordinate to the Council of State and to the Communist Party which, under the Cuban Constitution, is the “superior leading force.”
  • Investing “in” Cuba requires the investor to contend only with factors such as median income of US$20 per month, outdated internet, communication and information systems, an unfriendly business environment, violation of workers’ rights, widespread corruption, unreliable energy, outdated water and sewer systems, a crumbling infrastructure, a bankrupt economy, an awkward dual currency system, and much more.
  • Jose Azel Reference: Click Here


  • In 2011, the Cuban government announced that it would fire up to 1,300,000 workers from their government jobs -20 percent of the workforce – but would magnanimously allow them to become self-employed in 178 trades  that would then be permitted by the State. With a high degree of specificity the government outlined the sanctioned activities for example:

    Trade No. 23-purchase and sale of used books. Trade 29-attendant of public bathrooms (presumably for tips); 34-palm-tree pruner (apparently other tress will still be pruned by the state). Trade 49-covering buttons with fabric; 61-shinning shoes; 62-cleaning spark plugs; 110-repair of box springs (not to be confused with 116, the repair of mattresses). Trade 124 -umbrella repairs; 125 -refilling of disposable cigarette lighters; 150-fortune telling with tarot cards; 158-peeling fruit (separate from 142, selling fruit in kiosks).
  • The so-called self-employed (cuentapropistas) in Cuba are not equivalent to a private sector.
  • These are individuals whom the state has granted permission to operate in one of 201 highly specified domestic trade activities and under very restricted conditions.
  • They do not have legal standing as would a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation in the United States.
  • Jose Azel Reference: Click Here

    Jose Azel Reference(2): Click Here