Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Have they taken that old Miami bumper sticker phrase and made it their own in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba?

For better or worse, maybe so.

Regarding the year that has now passed since Fidel Castro delegated executive authority, a few things stand out.

The rumors in late 2006 about Fidel being near death may have been true; in June he confirmed that he had “hovered between life and death.”

There has not been a single sign that the Cuban government’s control was diminished, much less at risk in any way – not at the moment of the July 31 announcement, not during the long absences and periods of uncertainty, not at any time in the year.

No disruptions: Cubans continued going to work, farmers continued delivering their produce to market, street demonstrations did not take place.

The number of political prisoners is down, but the human rights situation is fundamentally unchanged.

In Miami, the year began with street celebrations and ended back where things were on July 30, 2006.

Nobody – not the opposition, not the U.S. government, nobody – seized the moment.

Come to think of it, was there a moment to seize?

Outsiders discussed, strategized and debated about transition and succession and pressure points and the right posture for the European Union to adopt toward Cuba. The U.S. Secretary of State talked about what America would and would not “tolerate.” Meanwhile, in plain sight, the Cuban government carried off a succession, albeit without the final element of the head of government legally relinquishing his office – yet.

Right after the big announcement, the Bush Administration called for Cubans to effect change. Eleven months later, sights were lowered considerably. On June 29, 2007, President Bush said that when “the good Lord will take Fidel Castro away,” the United States will “call the world together to promote democracy as the alternative to the form of government they [the Cuban people] have been living with.”

“No problem” is not exactly right. Cuba has problems, big problems, and its government has problems. Some may only come into view when Fidel Castro definitively leaves office. Many have been identified by Raul Castro and others in government.

Apart from Fidel’s absence, the biggest new political fact in Cuba may be the expectations that Raul Castro has created, that he will tackle those problems. His moves so far seem to be those of a man with limited room for maneuver.

This has been a year without precedent. It has not been a year of crisis.

[News agency photos]


HavanaJournal.com said...

I don't think much will happen until Fidel is dead. After that, I am convinced that no one man (and certainly not Raul) will be able to hold back, let alone manage, the internal and external forces that will flood the island within days after Fidel's death. His funeral might be orderly but then again, it could be Tiananmen Square in the Plaza de la Revolucion.


leftside said...

From a Reuters report:

An economist working for the government said major reforms in agriculture are being drawn up and changes in property laws are also under study.

Anonymous said...

It is clear to me that while the perfect society Castro may (or may not have) created is dying a slow and painful economic driven death, The issue is not Castro, it is a socialistic society that no longer can operate and provide for the people that comprise it.

The CUC and Peso are at odds within the country. Currency for the haves and currency for the have nots. The Cuban people are not capitalists, at their core, they believe in community, country and their fellow man. The spirit of Cuba is what no sitting US President has been able to get their arms around.

Castro changed the country and moved it forward, keeping pace with the rest of the world with great disadvantages and obstacles placed before his leadership, intentionally and willfully by others Cuba and Fidel are not a threat to democracy or the world at large.

Democracy, with all the wonders it can bring, can also kill a country. The haves, often strangle democracy with their corruption.

Watch carefully, Fidel dying will not be the catalyst for democracy, nor the conclusion to the struggle of the island of Cuba and it people.

Look at other Democracies in the Caribbean (Jamaica), why are they not as floureshing as Cuba?

leftside said...

The question will become what does "commandante el jefe" really mean? Is it closer to a popular term of endearment or is it what the estalishment thinks - a description of Fidel's veto power over all the easy, obvious market reforms??

Having just watched Fidel's TV appearance on Mesa Redonda in june on CSPAN.com - I am struck again to comment on the Vietnam (obsessive) focus. I am surpised that is is not mentioned anywhere that I can tell. It seems Cuban watchers might start looking at things like the Vietmanese Land Law of 1993/98- and how they opened up, but planned and controlled who is able to profit from the openings (not those getting their cash from exiles or wrongdoing).

The concept of collectivization is not perfect in every industry and in every instance. That is what proper planning is for (spoken as a city planner). But anti-planning/socialist dogma will not drive anything we'll see Cuba. Vietnamese food production shot through the roof with their land reforms. As much as I back the broad notion of socialism, I agree that many times it will not win an efficiency contest.

Now that the Cuban Revolution has achieved its goals of democratizing land ownership, it can re-open things back up as long as it is regulated to prevent the "mistakes of the past." The Marabu reference might have been very important indeed...

Anonymous said...

Leftside said:
"As much as I back the broad notion of socialism, I agree that many times it will not win an efficiency contest."
That has got to be the understatement of the decade!
Where Mr. Leftside has it ever been efficient? Where indeed? In the old URSS? Let's see facts. 63 years after the October Revolution in 1980 the USSR had to buy 3 million tons of wheat from Argentina (a capitalist country) because their "efficient" kolhozes and sovhozes could not produce enough wheat to feed the Soviet people, is spite of having the greatest land mass in the world!. In Cuba? I don't think so either. They had to import sugar last year and this after 45 years of Revolution in a country that formerly used to export over 4 million tons to the whole world. Let's not mention North Korea that after 62 years of Communism, needs help from the UN to feed its people, although they have plenty of guns, while the other South Korea (capitalist) floods the world with countless market goods and has one of the worlds biggest booming economies. A socialist economy efficient? Please, don't make us laugh this early in the morning! You really must be joking.

leftside said...

I thought I made clear collectivization of agriculture is largely a losing proposition from an efficiency standpoint. But fairnessis another thing. Radical reforms were needed in many countries, where a few owned all the good land and were able to work tenant famers like slaves. If someone wants to support that system (where capitalism eventually leads to) go ahead and say so. Let us not also forget the extent to which the US and Europe goes to protect its socialist subsidies. We (like call countries) have a national interest in protecting certain markets, whereby they support whole communities and regions. Things are not so black and white...

I beleive socialism (nationalization) is efficient at meeting the public good in things like energy, infrastructure, telecom, health care, education, etc. Every industry needs regulating and some needs public ownership. Case by case basis, depending on the situation and goals. Efficiency is not always goal #1.