Sunday, August 5, 2007

Two women speak out

Last week I posted an item about the titles that the Cuban media attach to Carlos Valenciaga, Fidel Castro’s chief of staff. Today I’m noting statements by two Cuban women on the issues confronting Cuba. These are straws in the wind, and I think that at this time in Cuba’s history, things like this are worth a look, even though we don’t know how important or how predictive they are.

The first item is one that Cubans in and out of Cuba have already debated thoroughly: a critical essay by Soledad Cruz that bounced all over the Internet last week. I don’t know the author and I don’t know anything about her personal background or political ties; if you read Spanish and search, you’ll find plenty on that. But she’s a long-time journalist who writes for Juventud Rebelde and Granma, and once served as Cuban ambassador to UNESCO.

“Who tells the truth, better serves la patria,” she begins. She recalls Fidel Castro’s November 2005 speech and his warning that the revolution could be “reversible” due to “internal problems.”

And she goes on to cite quite a few problems: low salaries that drive people to black market activity to meet their basic needs; centralized economic policies that prevent Cubans from using individual initiative to improve their incomes; travel restrictions; property restrictions (“nothing is truly yours”); restrictions on contact with foreigners; and more.

As for Cuba’s current political moment:

“…if we want there to be 21st century socialism, we have to avoid the same errors that demonstrated its failure in the 20th century…Cuba must do away with all the formulas and methods borrowed from those who supposedly had greater experience, but who disappeared due to their own rigidity. [Cuba] also must ensure that its internal agenda is not set by the United States, with its provocations, much less by the desnaturalizados of Miami. And in this Fidel and Raul have a great responsibility as guarantors of the socialist changes that must be produced before they disappear as living leaders. In spite of corruption and other ills, there are millions of Cuban revolutionaries disposed to participate in the necessary transformations, who know that there is nothing that hurts the best ideas more than stagnation…”

And then there was an EFE interview with Mariela Castro, Raul’s daughter, who says that Cuba is prepared for “necessary transformations” in economic and social policy and in mechanisms of governance, looking toward the day when “the historic [first-generation] leaders are no longer there.”

Cuba is a country that needs permanent debate,” she says, “but the problem is that not all dirigentes know how to conduct participatory processes, and that is too bad.”

And regarding Fidel:

“We are learning to live with our leader getting old, and when people grow old they have to let themselves be cared for, something Fidel never permitted. Fidel always dedicated himself to caring for us. For the first time, the people are assimilating the process of his growing old, the process by which the revolution has to continue without him, be it with my father or with other leaders who may come…”

I will say this much: every week now, someone who counts is finding a way to indicate indirectly that Fidel Castro is not returning to office. This is not surprising in light of everyone’s collective intuition about Fidel’s medical condition. But somebody has to be president. And my hunch is that Raul Castro is more president today than he was one month ago. Only actions matter in the end, and since Raul has marked the economy as a priority, that’s what I’m watching.

[Reuters photo]

No comments: