Daniel W. Drezner

Raul Castro… reformer?

Anthony Boadle writes a story for Reuters suggesting that Cuba under Raul Castro is somewhat different than Cuba under Fidel: Six months after Cuba’s sick leader Fidel Castro handed over power provisionally to his brother Raul, signs of an opening in public debate are emerging in the communist-run country. Articles have appeared in the government-controlled ...

Anthony Boadle writes a story for Reuters suggesting that Cuba under Raul Castro is somewhat different than Cuba under Fidel:

Six months after Cuba’s sick leader Fidel Castro handed over power provisionally to his brother Raul, signs of an opening in public debate are emerging in the communist-run country. Articles have appeared in the government-controlled media since October uncovering theft in state enterprises and other previously unmentionable deficiencies in Cuba’s economy…. In unusual public statements, Cuban intellectuals have denounced the resurfacing of censors who were responsible for blacklisting writers and homosexuals 30 years ago. The state conceded it made a mistake and allowed 400 writers and artists to hold an unprecedented meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Stalinist-style cultural purges of the 1970s…. The acting president has taken credit for stirring some of the debate, saying he has prodded the uncritical Cuban media to play a greater role in identifying economic shortcomings. Raul surprised Cubans by encouraging greater discussion on government policies and more transparent state management. He said the country was tired of excuses and criticized delays in paying private farmers who provide 60 percent of its produce. “Raul has made a point of abandoning Fidel’s practice of scapegoating others. Instead, he is admitting that the revolution’s problems are serious and home grown,” said Brian Latell, a former CIA analyst and author of “After Fidel.” “The good thing about Raul is that he listens,” said a Cuban economist who asked not to be named. Raul has commissioned studies from think tanks on how to raise food production and stimulate the economy without ruling out private ownership of small business, he said…. “Each day there are more intellectuals speaking up, and that is new in Cuba,” said dissident Espinosa Chepe. But he said economic reforms wanted by most Cubans –the average monthly wage is $17– are too slow in coming and Cuba may face turmoil without a leader of Fidel Castro’s stature to contain it. “Cuba is stable for the moment, but there is a lot of discontent on the streets,” he said.

Calling for greater criticism of economic shortcoming might be a sign of greater openness — or it might be a clue for how Raul plans to consolidate his political position. Much as China’s central government highlights the daily demonstrations that take place within China as a motivation for greater government centralization, Raul might be highlighting economic difficulties to lay the groundwork for steps that consolidate his own political position. Mind you, Raul Castro might actually be going for perestroika rather than abertura. But I’m not holding my breath. Developing…..

 Twitter: @dandrezner
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