Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Within one year"

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to be on Maria Elvira Live, the MegaTV public affairs program in Miami hosted by Maria Elvira Salazar.

The interview is on the MegaTV website in two parts.

The first clip includes the program introduction and the beginning of the interview where we discuss the prospects of economic policy change under Raul Castro.

The second clip continues on that topic, including footage of Raul Castro’s 26th of July speech, and a discussion of U.S. policy toward Cuba.

The key issue was the prospect of reform. Given that I was saying that change is likely under Raul, Maria Elvira naturally asked me to state when the reforms are coming. My answer: within one year. Given the expectations Raul has raised, and the amount of discussion that the system is generating within Cuba, I have come around to the opinion that Raul will act sooner rather than later, and that he will do so with or without Fidel.

We’ll see how things turn out.

As in any interview, there are things I wish I hadn’t left unsaid. In this case, these are the following.

Regarding reform, Cuba has lots of productive energy that could be unleashed if Cuban policies were changed. The way I see it, there are two kinds of policy change that could produce results. One is administrative change: decentralization and greater flexibility for state enterprises. The other would be liberalization in the way we usually conceive it, i.e. granting more space for private economic activity. The issues for us to watch are whether Cuba policy changes, and how it changes along either or both of those lines.

Second, with regard to travel policy, I would add that if we have affection and concern for the Cuban people, I can’t square those sentiments with a policy that builds barriers to contact with them. And given our urgent interest in influencing post-Castro Cuba, I don’t understand why, as a pragmatic matter, we don’t open up to unregulated contact now with the people who live in Cuba now, who are the actors that will shape post-Castro Cuba.

Enough of all that; you can go to the tape if you wish.


HavanaJournal.com said...

I don't know. I think you give Raul too much credit. He's probably like Fidel, all talk and no action.

I don't think Raul has the ability or even desire to have a legacy of "reformer".

He's 76 and mostly likely sick himself. Reforms will put pressure on himself and make all kinds of waves.

I see all talk and no action or a VERY short reign after the announcement of Fidel's death.

Anonymous said...

Phil, que guapo es usted mi compadre! You dare to make such an specific prediction for changes in the economical policy of Cuba! You are also very optimistic because 1 year is very little in the time scale where things use to change in Cuba. In the interview you didn't specify the extent of the changes although you have given some details in the text. The most important metric to judge the validity of your prediction is based on the consequences of any policy changes, no matter how deep they are. Anita Snow should go to Cuba in a year and validate your prediction by comparing to her previous experience. The point is to improve the life of people, of all the people.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Phil.

I see reforms as of the kind you mention. I predict that no regime change for next 5 to 10 years. poco a poco.

From all of my experiences with real cubans on la isla (those who live on the island not the babalu type), I would say that most cubans don't want big change. They want the kind of change the Phil discusses.

There is reason, I believe, why Phil's analysis on the future of Cuba varies with the kind of perspective voiced over there at blogs like Babalu. Its b/c Phil has REAL experience in Cuba and speaking with common cubans. He knows both sides of the issue and sees it with a more analytical (rather than ideological) eye. He has experienced (like I) first hand conversations with normal cubans living on the island. As a result, his analysis is more tempered, practical, and I would argue correct than the "fantasy" predictions by los politicos de calle ocho (most of whom haven't been back to Cuba for decades - therefore have little grounding in the reality there). Thanks Phil for your grounded analysis , there aren't many like you in the US.

leftside said...

I think that while Raul would not have made the speach he did in July if he did not have something in the works, do not expact big political or economic reforms - unless there is a breakthru with the US. I would look for gradual, seemingly unrelated announcements throughout this year - building up from what we have seen already in agriculture, for example. But there will be no one action that says "reform is here." Any big political reforms must be accomponied by a normalization of relations with the US - and reciprecation.

The latest Rueters story i just pulled up contains this nuggett:

Raul's aides are hard at work on a (agricultural reform) plan with a year-end deadline, Communist party sources report.

From that article we find out that state payments to cattle, milk and other farm produts have recently increased 3x. Three times!!? Being a co-op manager today may be one of the best paid jobs in Cuba, We'll see if that leads to more food on Cuban's plates? Doesn't sound to me like they are planning to sell off state land to private farmers to me... but we should be in for an interesting year.

Anonymous said...

Si le fuera posible transcribir la entrevista y llevarla a formato PDF, pudieramos los que tenemos conexiones que no se prestan para ver videos leerla en su totalidad, creo que valdría la pena.

Phil Peters said...

Karamchand, lamento que no hay una version escrita, y como es de media hora no es posible que lo haga yo. Le aseguro que estare escribiendo precisamente sobre el tema de la posibilidad de cambios en Cuba, y agrego que sus comentarios seran bienvenidos.

Anonymous said...


I find interesting your description of a real Cuban. When my mother visits her brothers and sisters in Cuba from Florida, I suppose they're greeting a "fake" Cuban at the airport, or conversing for hours with a "phantasmal" Cuban in the living room. They touch her once in awhile to make sure she's really there.
Since your definition states that only real Cubans live on the island, does this mean that when Jose Martí lived in the U.S., he wasn't a real Cuban?

I always find your intelligent comments so refreshing. Such astute observations from someone who thinks that anyone can speak outside of ideology.