12/21/13, "Raul Castro issues stern warning to entrepreneurs," AP
"President Raul Castro issued a stern warning to entrepreneurs pushing the boundaries of Cuba's economic reform, telling parliament on Saturday that "those pressuring us to move faster are moving us toward failure."
Castro has legalized small-scale, private businesses in nearly 200 fields since 2010, but has issued tighter regulations on businesses seen as going too far or competing excessively with state enterprises. In recent months, the government has banned the resale of imported hardware and clothing and cracked down on unlicensed private videogame and movie salons.
Castro threw his full weight behind such measures in an address to the biannual meeting of the communist legislature, saying "every step we take must be accompanied by the establishment of a sense of order."...
He told lawmakers that Cuba wants better relations with the U.S. but will never give in to demands for changes to Cuba's government and economy, saying "we don't demand that the U.S. change its political or social system and we don't accept negotiations over ours."
"If we really want to move our bilateral relations forward, we'll have to learn to respect our differences," Castro said. "If not, we're ready to take another 55 years in the same situation."
Cuba blames a half-century-old U.S. embargo for strangling its economy but Castro's government has also acknowledged that it must reform the state-run economy with a gradual opening to private enterprise. Many Cubans have enthusiastically seized opportunities to make more money with their own businesses, but new entrepreneurs and outside experts alike complain that the government has been sending mixed messages about its openness to private enterprise.
The conflicting signals were apparent in Cuba's handling of the dozens of private home cinemas and video game salons that sprung up around the country this year, drawing crowds of young people willing to spend a few dollars for access to the latest home entertainment technology imported, purportedly for private use, by Cubans returning from the U.S., Canada or other countries.
The government denounced the cinemas as spreading uncultured drivel to the young, and ordered them closed last month for stretching the boundaries on the kinds of private businesses allowed under reforms instituted by Castro. Then came the backlash, with entrepreneurs bemoaning thousands of dollars in lost investment and moviegoers saying they were exasperated by heavy-handedness toward a harmless diversion. The official reaction was swift, and unprecedented.
An article in the Communist Party newspaper Granma on last month acknowledged there was wide disapproval of the ban, and hinted it was being rethought. The same Granma article also offered a full-throated defense of the ban on the reselling of imported hardware and clothes.
Castro appeared to justify all of the recent moves to clamp down on private enterprise....
Castro praised the Cold War ties between Cuba and South Africa's anti-apartheid movement but did not mention his handshake with President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela's funeral this month. He lamented that growth would come in at 2.7 percent for 2013, nearly a full percentage below the predicted 3.6 percent. He said growth for 2014 was expected to be 2.2 percent.
It is nearly impossible to know on the true size of Cuba's economy because Cuba uses two currencies, a convertible peso for tourists that's pegged to the U.S. dollar and a Cuban peso worth about 4 cents, and the government doesn't clearly distinguish between them in economic statistics." via Free Republic