Sunday, January 1, 2012

"It's over, we won!" or mere "lipstick on a corpse"?: Reflections on Cuba's "year of change"

Juan Tamayo, the clear-eyed Cuba-beat reporter at the Miami Herald, chronicles a momentous year of change (en español) in the Cuban economy, while observing that it "remains authoritarian as ever politically."

Tamayo quotes Joe Garcia, a South Florida Democrat who keeps tabs on developments in Cuba and has made two unsuccessful bids for the U.S. Congress, as saying, "Jorge Mas Canosa would immediately say, ‘It’s over. We won!’"

On the other hand, Tamayo points out that "Castro critics would portray the changes as nothing more than lipstick on the rotting corpse of a Soviet-styled economy."

Tamayo adds that Cuban president Raúl Castro has a different interpretation.  He "timidly calls the changes not “reforms” but “updates” and has vowed to keep central planning as the backbone of the island’s economy and prevent any accumulation of private wealth."

Go here for the full article.  Keep reading below for the lead in:

"The changes clearly reflect an ambitious effort to address the structural flaws of Cuba’s communist system, abandon its culture of paternalism and attack its parasitic bureaucracy — without risking the government’s power to repress dissent.
In a nutshell, Castro’s goal is to slash a bloated state sector that controls an estimated 80 percent of the economy, and to allow more space for small-scale enterprises that can produce more efficiently, pay taxes to the government and often can count on financial support from relatives or friends abroad.
It’s not been easy. Pushback from entrenched ideologues and bureaucrats appears to have undercut some of the changes, and cuts in the ration cards that provide basic food items at highly subsidized prices have pummeled Cuba’s neediest.
A Catholic church in Havana reported a hefty increase in the number of people at its free lunches in recent months. And the government reportedly stopped disability and other aid payments to about 3,000 people in the city of Santa Clara this year.
But many reforms are under way, and the pace of change increased after a congress of the ruling Communist Party of Cuba in April gave a broad endorsement to Castro’s 300-plus proposals for change."

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