02 November 2007

Quejas for Cuba

The eventual death of Fidel Castro will likely mean that Raúl Castro, his brother, takes full and open control of the country. Most expect that Cuba might then enjoy some economic liberalization, without initial relaxation of dictatorial control over Cuba's politics. There are signs that the government may allow some of that economic change to occur even sooner than that, though rumblings do not a permanent change indicate. From last week's Economist:

“WE HAVE a system in which anything you do is either forbidden or compulsory,” complains Miguel, an academic and a member of Cuba's ruling Communist Party. “Perhaps we need to change that to become more efficient.” He notes angrily that what he earns in a month, a trainee waiter can pick up in tips in a day in the island's tourist hotels. It is a common complaint, and only one of many. But now it is Cuba's government that is encouraging everyone to grumble.
...How will Raúl Castro respond to all this? Unlike Fidel, he is thought to favour the course pursued by China and Vietnam, in which markets and private investment have been combined with Communist political control. Even before the debate began, government economists had been studying measures such as allowing more self-employment and private or co-operative ownership of small and medium-sized businesses, as well as reforming land tenure and freeing agricultural markets.

In both China and Vietnam, the relaxation of state economic control has led to to incremental improvements in political freedoms, though neither country is near to being called "free." This may be all we can hope for in the present. It's better than nothing.

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