Cuba's "Self-Employment" is Not Private Enterprise

Thursday, August 14, 2014
Earlier this year, we had explained:
Cuba's military and intelligence services control and run the conglomerates of Cuba. The "self-employment" sector represents a very small part of the island's economy and it is important, in the debate over sanctions, to understand its nature and limits. During economic crises, the Castro regime typically authorizes a host of services that Cubans can be licensed to provide, keeping at least a portion of what they may be paid. The world's news media refers to these jobs as "private enterprise," which implies "private ownership." Yet Cuba's "self-employed" licensees have no ownership rights whatsoever - be it to their artistic or "intellectual" outputs, commodity they produce, or personal service they offer. Licensees have no legal entity (hence business) to transfer, sell or leverage. They don't even own the equipment essential to their self-employment. More to the point, licensees have no right to engage in foreign trade, seek or receive foreign investments. Effectually licensees continue to work for the state -- and when the state decides such jobs are no longer needed, licensees are shut down without recourse.
-- Mauricio Claver-Carone, "In Cuba Policy Debate, Theories Don't Cut It," The Huffington Post, 4/2/14

This week, it was recognized by a Cuban "cuenta-propista" being toured (along with four other "cuenta-propistas") through the United States that:
None of us around this table is actually a business. We don’t have yet legal status as companies. We are individuals authorized to be self-employed, por cuenta propia. Legally, Decoraz√≥n or Atelier [the restaurant] or D’Brujas [the soap manufacturing and sales business], don´t exist as companies.
-- Yamina Vicente, a Cuban event planning "cuenta-propista" (DeCorazon), Knight Foundation, 8/11/14