Over half a century later and a Castro is still in charge. Yet is Raúl cut from a different cloth? And could his tenure in power put an end to the island’s Communist regime? His commitment to reducing the state’s economic influence is most definitely a promising start, and with more and more Cuban’s getting a taste of the capitalist lifestyle, could the end be nigh?
According to recent reports, the already 140,000 self-employed members of Cuban society will almost treble in the coming year, thereby radically paving the way for swathes and swathes of formerly stifled entrepreneurs. Cubans will now be able to take to both the housing and automotive markets too, an unprecedented move that compliments the abolition of basic food subsidies. But why? Why now are Cuba’s formerly fervent Communist leaders relaxing their once equally radical economic policies? The answer is simple – money.
…to sell their produce directly to tourist hotels instead of going through government officials…
After decades of embargoes and isolation from Western powers, Cuba is suffering. With a reduction of Chinese and Venezuelan sponsorship, the days of Soviet backed support for Castro’s regime seem a far cry away. It is clear that Cuba’s economic and, most importantly, ideological vulnerability is starting to show. Such reforms, therefore, are acts of desperation rather than desire.
An 8% reduction of the peso can only be seen as a hopeful attempt to bolster the country’s levels of tourism. A formerly burgeoning industry and arguably Cuba’s most valuable source of revenue, it is now rapidly losing customers to the Caribbean’s more attractive destinations, such as the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Even agricultural laws have been amended, thus allowing farmers to sell their produce directly to tourist hotels instead of going through government officials first. Once a mire of Soviet-inspired bureaucracy, Cuba’s recent economic regulations have clearly afforded a myriad of new professional and personal opportunities to the country’s citizens.
The Communist party celebrated its 46th year in power this October…
But have things really changed? Economically perhaps, yet the events of Black Spring will still resonate in the hearts of many Cubans: a 2003 government crackdown in which 75 dissidents were unlawfully imprisoned. Such censorship and oppression will no doubt echo the days of La Cabaña, highlighting that contemporary Cuban society has not been subject to an ideological catharsis of any sort. Most pertinently, however, the state’s domineering vice grip over education still permeates the nation’s schools, thereby infringing upon the right to learn freely and without bias.
Internet access is also limited, as is any opportunity to seek out non-censored information, and emails are frequently monitored too. Thus, it is evident, that while Raúl Castro is willing to turn around the ailing Cuban economy, his political convictions are still radically fervent as ever. The Communist party celebrated its 46th year in power this October, and Havana still remains the last true bastion of left-wing politics in the Western Hemisphere. Marxism in Cuba, therefore, is far from over.
Image courtesy of Fidel and Raúl Castro