Speaking Friday at a congress of leftist economists, Rodriguez said Cuba had transformed its economy since the collapse of the Soviet Union, once its chief supporter and trade partner.
An economy whose exports were 90 percent goods and only 10 percent services in 1989 now leans toward services, he said. Services now account for 76 percent of Cuba’s overall economy while primary goods, such as crops, amount to only 4 percent.
Rodriguez said growth in Cuba’s GDP "should reach more than 10 percent this 2007" despite high prices for imported food and fuel. Cuba has been aided by steadily rising domestic oil production as well as by significant fuel aid from Venezuela.
He said that if social services and commerce were dropped from the count, Cuba still would have shown 9.5 percent growth last year.
Cuba was aided last year by high prices for nickel and cobalt and by a continuing flow of tourists.
Rodriguez put the number of tourists for 2006 at 2.22 million – a slight drop from the 2.3 million Cuba reported for 2005 to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
And it is far safer as a tourist resort than Mexico.
Cuba ranks among Canadians' top three holiday destinations, Smith noted, adding that Air Canada flies to the Caribbean island 27 times per week.
And Canada's economic and political relationship with Cuba not only includes the tourist industry, but Sherritt and its unique bilateral trade agreement with Cuba for production of coal, oil, nickel and cobalt. Despite American attempts to apply their laws against Sherritt and other Canadian companies doing business in Cuba.
The U.S. government also appears to be stepping up its enforcement of the best known of its extra-territorial measures - laws enforcing its 45-year-old Cuban embargo.
One law prevents foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies from having virtually any dealings with or in Cuba, while another allows U.S. entry to be refused to executives and directors of any company found to be "trafficking" assets confiscated by Cuba after the 1959 revolution.
Under the latter legislation, executives and directors of the Toronto resource company Sherritt International have been barred from the U.S. because the company has interests in a nickel mine and oil-and-gas ventures in Cuba.
And thankfully Canada continues to exert its sovereignty when dealing with Cuba.
Canadians continue to visit Cuba by the millions each year. Canadian businesses pursue mining, tourism and other interests on the island. And the Canadian government maintains normal diplomatic relations with Havana, normal being the operative word, says longtime Cuba observer John Kirk.
Both Kirk and Ritter, who visit the island regularly, emphasize that nothing is likely to shift in Cuba for many years, with or without Castro. They note that Cuba's economy has been getting progressively stronger over the past decade, with higher nickel prices, cheap oil from Venezuelan ally Hugo Chavez and more tourists - all developments that point away from civil unrest in the country.
That cheap oil from Chavez is payment for one of the service industry exchanges that Cuba is exporting; Docs-for-oil trade shows Cuba's flairThe OAS is now looking at its position on Cuba, and Canada as a member of the OAS is in the position of offsetting the United States, which opposes any rapprochement with Cuba.
And thanks to Canada you have a further extension of civil liberties in Cuba
Cuba was a diocese of the U.S. church until 1967, when it was forced to break away because hostility between the U.S. and Cuban governments made contacts difficult. Cuba's communist leaders were embracing official atheism at the time, a stance abandoned in the early 1990s.
It has operated under a Metropolitan Council now chaired by the archbishop of Canada, Andrew Hutchison. It also includes Jefferts Schori and the archbishop of the West Indies.
And Cuba's export Rum; Havana Club is number two in world sales, which included Canada and Europe but not the United States. Their loss.
I particularly like the Havana Club seven year old amber, which is has a smoky chocolate flavour and is so smooth you can drink straight or on the rocks, no mix. It is like a fine brandy or cognac.
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