EoC's first steps in Cuba

Interview with the author of the first thesis about the EoC in Cuba.

By Isaias Hernando

yosniel-cristina-ernesto-luisfernandoWithout much fuss, the Economy of Communion has overcome geographic, cultural and political borders. The project was sowed in Cuba some years ago and it has already set its first fruits. Read below the interview with Ernesto Antonio Figueredo Castellanos, the author of the first EoC thesis in Cuba. He is a researcher in environmental economics, sustainable development and social and solidarity economy at the Camagüey Environmental Research Center (CIMAC).

How does the Cuban context fit to the Economy of Communion?

It is a contradictory context. In our socialist system the economy is majorly run by the State (the State owned companies prevail over private large corporations). Nevertheless, here too the capitalist business rules are applied. On a broad perspective the economy is social. Profit is reinvested in social activities linked to public health, schools, culture, sports, housing, infrastructure... However, in the non people-centered economy in Cuba individuals and the society serve the State.

How did you get to know the Economy of Communion?

In 2010, during the X Catholic Social Week in Havana, the Economy of Communion was introduced as a part of the reform of the “Cuban economic model”. In the event the Argentine member of the International Commission of the EoC, Cristina Calvo spoke about the world's crisis and the proposal of a people-centered and ethics-based economy, the Social and Solidarity Economy (ESS). Some students, including Yosniel García and me, were impressed by this new economic approach. It would later guide our future working activities.

Cuba Camarguey02 ridHow far has the EoC gone up to now? Can it be considered a beacon of hope for the Cuban economy?

Luis Fernando Vélez – from the Focolare Movement – and Cristina Calvo helped us to develop in various cities an ESS and EoC based project, the “School of brotherhood: Promoting Small Businesses and Sociocultural Initiatives”. Through art and culture one can evangelize in Cuba. We wish to use these tools to promote brotherhood, which is particularly absent in Cuba; create social and economic development programs to assist families in need; and stimulate people towards mutual trust, teamwork and respect for nature. We also wish to start up an EoC business soon. Meanwhile this educational project allows us to tackle and change the instrumentalist and economy-centered mentality. This mindset rules the economic activities regardless of the political system in force.

You recently submitted the thesis “A social cooperative management approach for a sustainable local development.”. It was the first one about the EoC in Cuba. Did you receive any feedback?

 

Ernesto Tesis The thesis consists of the case study of two agricultural cooperatives in Sierra di Cubitas, Camagüey province. Based on an analysis of their environmental, social and economic activities – core aspects of the local sustainable development – I proposed a new management approach within the guidelines of the Economy of Communion. Since cooperatives are democratically self-run collective properties, it suits both the EoC and the Cuban productive system. The examining committee praised the following aspects of the project: The commitment to provide for human needs and to offer a broad-spectrum training program to every stakeholder in the business, and the focus on the locally oriented common good, particularly the environment.

Ernesto, you have already confirmed your participation in the International Summer School in Madrid on September 11-15. What do you expect from it?

I expect to meet with EoC entrepreneurs and workers and learn about their activities. So far we have only studied the project theory here in Cuba. We wish to get to know the daily activity within the companies and with all their external stakeholders. Above all, we hope to enrich this beautiful project by sharing our life and professional experience.

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