Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mariela Castro: The New Face of Cuba?

A cool piece from the Scotsman introducing Fidel's niece (Raul's daughter), the government's leading sexologist and homosexual rights campaigner - Mariela Castro (above). While I don't buy the whole"dynasty" thing, Mariela certainly seems smart and capable of anything.

New face of Cuba's Castro dynasty
SHE may be the troublemaking, free-spirited rebel of the family, but Mariela Castro is seen by some as the future of Cuban socialism.

While her father, Raúl Castro, has become the de facto leader of the country, with her uncle, the ailing president, Fidel, too sick to wield power, people are already looking to the next generation.

Fidel Castro is 80 and his brother Raúl five years younger, whereas Ms Castro, a leading academic and campaigner for gay and lesbian rights, is among a group of more youthful political leaders, including Carlos Lage, the prime minister, and Abel Prieto, the culture minister, who are all in their forties.
Ms Castro, 43, brings an air of youthful passion, an expectation of change and glasnost, to a country in the process of saying a long farewell to its ageing revolutionaries. And, despite being well known as a passionate defender of a tolerant society
who is opposed to all kinds of dogma, she insists socialism will survive the death of the president.

In an interview with The Scotsman, she called for more open debate on economic problems. "I would like to hear more discussion. We need to experiment and to test what really works, to make the public ownership more effective, rather than simply adopting wholesale free-market reforms," she said.

"As a Cuban citizen, I think we have to explain, discuss and listen to people's questions and criticisms. I don't agree with closing the door on people's experiences."

She said that dealing with criticism of Cuba's human-rights record and its lack of political rights was "complicated because of the US threat".

Referring to the US trade embargo and other efforts to topple President Castro, she said: "We are a besieged country and, under these conditions, some puritans and authoritarians take advantage to impose their point of view. We have constant contradictions in Cuban society."
"My father is well aware of the economic hardships, that many things are not working."

However, Ms Castro said too many former Communists in the country now "think the market economy is the only alternative".

Evidently impatient with old orthodoxies herself, she hopes for an economic debate about decentralisation and community-run co-operatives which could provide a different answer to Cuba's problems.
The death of Fidel Castro will see Cuban socialism lose its charismatic leader, and Ms Castro accepts her father is never likely to dominate decision-making in the same way. But his legacy will remain, she believes.

"We will rely on our collective capacity," she said. "We have seen the country is working very well under a co-ordinated leadership. Cuban socialism has been based on Fidel's leadership, but there are other leaders. The process will change."


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