Cuba Debates its Future at Thousands of Local Meetings
Raul Castro, at the July 26th rally in Cienfuegos, where he criticized the island's economic problems and called for "structural reforms."
There have been a rash of articles in recent days waking up to the reality that Cubans are taking up the challenge of Raul Castro to "debate fearlessley" about issues related to "structural change." Probably the best piece is in Spanish, from El Pais. Mark Frank from Rueters, who wrote the piece below, also wrote somethingspecifically tied to changes in the agricultural sector, which has already begun.
Hard liners in Washington and Miami will never accept the results of these kinds of participatory processes because they occur within the system. Only change imposed from outside will meet their satisfaction. I beleive soe modest (to US eyes) economic changes will indeed come out of this process, however the more touchy political changes will wait until the US drops its aggressive attempts at regime change under the guise of some "transition." This will occur as a result of negotiation with the next democratic Administration. The timing and everything about this process, tells me this moment has been well planned and thought out.
Raul Castro launches Cuba-wide debate on future
Thu Sep 20, 2007 12:48pm EDT - Rueters
At workplaces and in neighborhoods across Cuba, people are complaining about the state of their country in a national debate on economic reform opened by acting President Raul Castro.
After years of economic crisis, Cubans are being asked to propose fixes in group discussions after Castro acknowledged in a keynote speech on July 26 that wages are too low and agriculture needs structural reforms to feed the country.
"People were expressing themselves like never before about all the problems in their lives," a Communist Party member said after attending a meeting. "Raul is raising everyone's expectations, so he better have some solutions."
Common complaints range from low wages, which average about $15 a month, and poor services to restrictions on killing your own cow, buying cars and booking rooms in hotels reserved for tourists.
"When the meeting started, nobody wanted to speak, but we were told to speak out frankly about the issues raised by Raul, and everything that affects us," said Lariza, who sells coffee to her fellow workers to supplement her salary.
Since "temporarily" taking charge of the Cuban government and the Communist Party from his ailing 81-year-old brother Fidel Castro a year ago, Raul Castro has repeatedly called for more debate and constructive criticism.
He also demanded studies from experts on reform proposals to raise productivity, including on the state's ownership of the economy, which exceeds 90 percent.
But it is not yet clear how far he plans to take reforms, and Fidel Castro pushed similar initiatives in the past.
"Grass-roots debate is not new in Cuba. There was a similar debate led by Fidel in the late 1980s and again in the mid-1990s," said Rafael Hernandez, editor of "Temas" (Issues), a magazine that for a decade has encouraged limited discussion of controversial issues from race relations to market economics.
The last issue focused on transitions in the former Soviet Union, China and other countries, and featured intellectuals, youth leaders and Cuban officials, many of whom said state control of the economy was not a prerequisite for socialism.
"What's new is that Fidel is less active and others need to build a new consensus as people are not responding to current policy," Hernandez said. "Cubans interpret Raul's call for structural change to mean deep changes in the model, not just a cosmetic change."
Continue reading the whole thing