The Miami Herald
Feb. 21, 2002
UM receives grant to study a post-Castro Cuba

                      BY ELAINE DE VALLE

                      When Fidel Castro loses his hold of power on Cuba, there will be a lot of questions.

                      How to begin the privatization of businesses? How to rebuild the infrastructure? How to change institutions left
                      over from the Castro regime? Foreign investment? Cuban Americans?

                      Among the thorniest: What to do with confiscated properties?

                      Some of those questions will now be studied by renowned Cuba experts thanks to a $1 million grant from the
                      United States Agency for International Development to the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban
                      American Studies.

                      The funds will go to the Cuba Transition Project, a pioneer academic program which will examine the issues that
                      would affect the communist-ruled island's transition to democracy. It is the first time the federal agency has
                      funded a program outside Cuba, said USAID spokesman Luigi Crespo:

                      ``Our aid has traditionally been directed toward [non government organizations] to promote democracy in Cuba
                      but we think we think helping a smooth transition to democracy is very important right now.''

                      ICCAS director Jaime Suchlicki said the goal is to provide a post-Castro government alternative
                      recommendations drawing on academic studies and the lessons learned in Eastern Europe and Nicaragua.

                      ''The overriding concept of this project is that this would lead to a democratic, open market economy. The idea is
                      not to perpetuate the system that exists in Cuba,'' Suchlicki said. ``The people in a free Cuba can accept our
                      recommendations, reject them or ignore them. But there is going to be a body of studies, both in English and
                      Spanish, for anybody who is interested in Cuba's transition in the future.''

                      To that end, the project hopes to include independent organizations and dissident groups on the island. ''We want
                      them to have an input into this process,'' Suchlicki said.

                      But first, the questions: 19 research studies are the first step in the Cuba Transition Project. One will examine the
                      telecommunications industry. Another will look at the culture of corruption in Cuba and yet another will study the
                      growing economic disparities among islanders.

                      ''These are practical, analytical papers,'' said Suchlicki, drawing a distinction between the Cuba Transition Project
                      and so-called ''post-Castro Cuba plans'' of U.S. and local governments and organizations.

                      A second component of the project is the creation of four comprehensive databases, expected to go online by
                      next spring to be available as a free resource to the public.

                      ''The first one is in general about Cuba and its infrastructure,'' Suchlicki said. ``The type of ports there are, the
                      hotels and infrastructure in tourism, economic demographics.''

                      A second database will list foreign investment and a third will collect all the major laws that exist on the island.

                      The fourth is a full-text bibliographical database on studies done on the transitions in Nicaragua and countries of
                      Eastern Europe -- though Suchlicki says Cuba's change in power will not necessarily mirror those.

                      ``It may be slow and more difficult. So it is important that we have a set of ideas, recommendations, analyses,
                      to see how we accelerate the process once the transition begins.''

                      Even after it begins, the transition project will continue to help Cubans on the island with an interactive center
                      that can facilitate long-distance learning.

                      ``So 100 people can sit in a room in Havana and listen to a professor at the University of Miami talk about how
                      to start a business. Or faculty at the medical school in Havana can sit down with our medical school staff and
                      have conferences.''

                      The project -- made possible by the efforts of U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Bob Graham and U.S.
                      Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart -- will bring together nationally and internationally
                      renowned Cuba scholars from Harvard, UCLA and Florida International University, among others, as well as
                      experts from the private industry and government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Labor.

                      Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, the principal officer at the U.S. Interest Section in Havana, says a blueprint will
                      make things easier in any change of tide.

                      ''The more we know what our options are and the more the Cuban people know what their options are, the better
                      the chance we have and they have to see a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy,'' said Huddleston, who will
                      speak at the campus ceremony this morning when the grant is presented.

                      ``If you plan for things, they usually turn out better.''