Tuesday, August 7, 2007

More reaction to July 26 speech

Many of the reactions to Raul Castro’s July 26 speech were based on well founded caution about leaping to conclusions about mere signals that seem to point to policy changes. Oswaldo Paya’s reaction is here, Martha Beatriz Roque’s is here (pdf) to and a wire story rounding up opinions of several dissidents is here.

I’ll highlight two that appeared in Spanish only.

Rafael del Pino, a general in the Cuban air force who defected in 1986, wrote an article in El Nuevo Herald in which he called Raul “general” and “compañero ministro,” and urged him to undertake reforms that would improve Cuba’s economy without abandoning socialist principles or threatening Cuban sovereignty. He tells his former superior that those around him will not deliver frank advice. “All the economic problems” that Raul cited in his speech, he says, “can be resolved by lifting the blockade on Cubans on the island, giving them the right of property over the means of production.” “Be a revolutionary again,” he says; “Apply the pragmatism that has always characterized you.”

Dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe said that the past year has produced no reforms, but has brought the “minimal steps” of “relatively less political mobilization” and “greater respect for television schedules,” by which he must mean a reduction in political oratory. But he called it a “concrete speech” that could create expectations for economic reform, and that offered a “series of criticisms that for a long time have been put forward by the peaceful Cuban opposition and received a response of repression and jail from the regime.” Many of Raul’s concepts are “realistic,” Chepe says, but he takes a wait-and-see attitude: “In the next months one will see if [the speech] truly constitutes the beginning of economic changes that lead to a process of reconciliation…[and] could permit a soft landing for Cuban society toward democracy, after so much time of confrontations and hate.”

[News agency photos]

14 comments:

Tomás Estrada-Palma said...

Let's cut to the chase... What kind of idiot would bring his fortune to Cuba as long as it is owned by pirates? People and capital always attempt to flow to the freest areas where profit and personal control are the highest. It's like a universal law of physics which cannot be successfully violated. I could install an economic system that in five years would make all Cubans so wealthy that all this talk of the need for all this socialist crap like all the free health care that does not actually exist in reality would be a moot argument. In case it is not obvious, rich people don't ever wait in line for anything, except possible for a very popular restaurant table. Under the noble tenets of the "revolution" Raul gets rich and is unlikely to do anything to change that. When the rest of the Cubans are allowed to become rich the problems stop.

Phil Peters said...

Mr Estrada Palma, I don't expect free-marketeers like you, or me for that matter, to get overly excited about these and other things being said in the discussion of Cuba's future right now.

I'm trying to highlight some of the more interesting things being said, and to the extent I can I'm translating parts of items that appear in Spanish only for the benefit of English-only readers. As I have said before, it remains to be seen how important and how predictive any of these writings are.

I do believe -- and this is no great feat of analysis -- that the possibilities of policy change in Cuba are greater than before. My bet is that if change comes, it will be gradual rather than radical. And that it will come from Cuba's current political system rather than from a political upheaval.

So I'll continue to look at the opinions and indicators out there, and I hope you and other readers will point out items that you think shed light on Cuba's future direction -- the direction you think it should take, or the direction it is likely to take.

leftside said...

This "law of physics" regarding capital is not so clear cut. As a simple example, captial is "freer" in Mississippi than California and New York, but capital and rich people do not flow there.

Same goes for the Pre-Revolution Cuban countryside, which was in the hands of a very few for so long. Not "all" were "rich" in those days, by a long shot. Sure, many neighborhoods in Havana would probably do materially better under unfettered capitalism - it would become a Key West south full of empty vacation homes and rentals. But what about those poor Cubans who live in Vedado or Viejo Habana today, who would be kicked out as soon as real estate was "free?" What about the outlying neigborhoods? Who would invest there? (Older) Cubans understand the free market and that it would mean paying 1/2 your income to rent a home or tract of land. They also want to retain the Cuban-ness of Cuba. Could this be achieved with some openings sure, but lets put to rest this notion that Cubans are fellow free marketeers just waiting to be liberated by the free hands of Adam Smith. Today Moscow is the most expensive real estate in the world - the result of massive speculation and dislocation of the poor and elderly from the central city. The result is the backlash against capilism you see today, where a majority says even Stalin was a good leader....

leftside said...

I know you check out a broader array of voices than these Phil. What is the Cuban intelligenstia saying?? The Cuban masses, the few who get quoted in the Western press, seem to have a positive view - if prudently cautious.

Fantomas said...

Phil and company must realize ...regardless what is said... the death of fidel will accelerate change towards anything but communisn... Fidel se lo dijo a Raul once...si abres se desmorona todo...

Enough of handouts phil.... we want TOTAL FREEDOM for Cuba AS OF YESTERDAY NOW

PLEASE CUT THE BULLSHIT...No queremos ninguna reforma economica con los culpables en el poder,,,, y menos mal que Bush no negociara

Hillary I doubt it too

Freedom For Oscar Elias and the 300 primero y despues hablamos of lifting the embargo.... gradually

48 years of chantage phil... oye habemos cubanos capaces todavia ..no somos fools anymore..se acabo el chantage y el blackmail del ramo de olivo de la china

Omar said...

Phil, keep going on with your blog in the same way you have done so far! I think that you are certainly biased, because if there is some it is being biased the only unbreakable "physical law" in sociology. However, I consider your bias a healthy one even when I disagree with some of the few opinions you use to post. What Sr. Estrada Palma and others consider as unchallengable is not so. There are not magic solutions. Ideologies are just road maps that when taken without a dialectic spirit produce the worst outcomes. In this regard there is no difference between communism and free-market. Besides, how to trust a meat-driven solution decorated with statements such as a the need of just 5 years to bring wealth to all Cubans? That sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Phil Peters said...

Don Fantomas, espero que sea evidente que cuando examino la situation actual y cuando cito las declaraciones que tal vez nos ayuden a medir las posibilidades de cambio, todo esto no tiene nada que ver con mis preferencias. Puedo explicarte como los Yankees pueden ganar la American League East, no es decir que quiero que esto suceda.

Tal vez seria interesante que todos declararamos lo que hariamos en Cuba si fueramos rey. Seria divertido pero poco relevante, creo.

Phil Peters said...

Omar, thanks very much.

Lefty, from here I'm not really in a position to know what the "intelligentsia" is saying. But I'll keep the radar on.

Agustin Farinas said...

Leftside probably wasn't even born when the "robolution" triumphed and yet he repeats these lies that the countryside was in the hands of just a few people. I lived in the countryside for 18 years of my life before the "robolution" Mr. Leftside, and I can tell you this is totally bullshit!! There were many thousands of small and middle size farmers and cattlemen in Cuba before 1959. How do I know? because my father was one, that is how! And the cattlemen association had thousands of members throughout Cuba. Yes, there were big ranches and big holdings but the majority of the land was in the hands of small and middle size farmers. The "robolution" came in and disinfranchised and robbed the majority of these middle size and small farmers and created these disasters called cooperatives which are a total failure. In fact, it is these small famers which are left today who are supplying the majority of the products found in the farmer's markets because the cooperatives are an abysmal failure just like they were in the old Soviet Union. These small farmers in their minute plots can grow more vegetables and fruits that the biggest cooperative the inefficient Govt. runs. Their copperatives and state farms are overgrown with weed and marabu as a result of these stupid policies implemented since 1959. These idiots planted rice where they were growing cane before and cane where cattle was grazing. They slaughtered prize bulls without any regard for future breeding and these policies have resulted in the shortages of meat and milk Cubans are experiencing every day. They were told they were wrong by those who knew, but they knew better and the results are there for all to see. Total failure in agriculture everywhere and shortages of fruits and vegetables along the whole island. And this in a country with perfect weather to grow 4 crops and land so fertile that needs very little care or fertilizing. They could not be more inept or more stupid if they tried. No vegetables, no milk (Raul even admits it), no meat, no fruits and what is even more amzing, no sugar, that they have to import it for domestic consumption. How much more inept and stupid can these idiots be?

leftside said...

Obviously, more than "a few" owned land in pre-Revolution Cuba - and not all were rich latifundas. But here are the facts:

In 1958, more than 9 in 10 peasants who worked the land did not own anything. Nearly half of all the land was in farms over 402 hectares.

The 1959 agarian revolution did not "rob" anyone of anything. Large latifundas (more than 402 hectares) were the only one's stripped of ownership and were paid off with interest. All the rest was done with incentives and assistance to assure all peasants gained title to the land they worked. The reforms were actually considered quite mild, compared to other land reform programs.

I've addressed most of your other substantive issues elsewhere. For example, the Cuban agarian reform was the only one to NOT result in a loss of productivity. Today, after the dissolution of its main customer (USSR) and fall of sugar cane prices, things are not so good. The entire orientation of the system has to be re-organized. Since then, amazing strides have been made at implementing more sustainable practices. Though, as Raul seems intent on proving, there is much room for improvement.

Anonymous said...

I see that Fantomas continues to be as paranoid as always. Enriquito Rubio, no one is going to hurt you. Continue with your cartelito of abajo Fidel. Soon Havana, Eh?

Anonymous said...

Leftside,
again you continue to repeat the same old lies the communists have spread as gospel. You are absolutely wrong in your assertions that you want to pass them as truths. Lots of people were robbed of their land and they were not large holdings,sir. Our neighbours owned much less that the 402 hectareas you seem to be hung up on and they were dispossed of their land same as us. And please sir you do not know anything about Cuba and all you do is repeat what you have read in communist propaganda. We lost our jeep and our 1953 Chevrolet, what the hell does that has to do with any land holdings? That is nothing but thievery and pure robbery, dear man! Our 3 horses were consfiscated also along with a few goats and a few miserable cows. What do you call that? I called it robbery as defined by the dictionary. Your ignorance of Cuban affairs and history is appaling and you see everything through the typical communist prism. It makes my blood boil. To have to seat here and read all these lies and untruths is too much for anyone to bear. My advise to you is to move the hell to Cuba and leave the USA since you seem to find life under communism so good and fair. Luckily for us sir, your beloved regime is the end of its rope and I would not be surprised if you wake up tomorrow and find it all gone to pieces and go the same way way the old and decrepit and despised USSR. Good riddance I say. Communism is the most evil, inhuman and abusive system ever divised my man and that is why is an abysmal failure everywhere it had the bad luck of being implemented by the force of arms. Nowhere in the world it has come to power by votes in a free election. Cuba is no different and in the end democrcay will triumph and Communism will be eradicated from my country forever. We have had enough sufferings imposed on us by terror never to forget what has been done in the name of the people. In a future Cuba communsits will be,lucky if the ever be elected to dog catcher. That is if they survive the just wrath of the people once they decide to cast them off as the miserable scum bags they are.

leftside said...

As I am so misinformed, perhaps you can enlighten me then under what law or authority did the Government take your cars and livestock?? Were these "ill gotten" gains as defiend by law? And your neighbor, was he a foreigner or counter-revolutionary, or were his lands rented by peasants? That is the only way less than 402 acre properties could have been confiscated under the agaraian reforms as far as I can tell. I honestly want to know what happened, but anecdotes do little for us all.

Here are my two sources.

Agustin Farinas said...

My father's "ill gotten gains" as you defined were the results of working like a dog for over 30 years in Cuba, Sir. And it may come as a surprise to you that the regime does not need any laws to confiscate whatever the hell they wanted, including 3 miserable horses and a 6 year old 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air.Thye just showed up one fine day in Feb of 1960 and "requested" ownership of them. My father was lucky enough to get his wedding pictures out of his office before they took possesion of it. Mine are not anecdotes they are my family's history. Thievery and robbery is my experience from your famous revolution. With every single written word you post here your absolut ignorance is displayed for all to see. It is easy from the comforts of the USA to defend what is indefensible, but your are welcome to try if you wish. But I don't have to believe you because I have proof in my own flesh that what you have written here is nothing but propaganda and bullshit in a grand scale.