Raul’s Reforms as Strategy for Survival / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

 Cart vendor in Havana (14ymedio)
Cart vendor in Havana (14ymedio)

Six years since General-President Raúl Castro assumed power in Cuba; it could be argued that almost as many legal changes have been implemented as were introduced during the early days of the revolution and, without a doubt, a lot more than in the four decades preceding “Raulismo”

Viewed in perspective, Raúl’s reforms are significant and are -at least in appearance- a break from Fidel’s directive, marked by immobility, by such measures as:

  • Distribution of land in usufruct to private farmers and cooperatives
  • Approval of “non-state forms of production” or “self-employment” (private business), which eliminates State monopoly on employment
  • Approval of sales and purchases of real estate, cars, and other goods , as well as lodging for Cuban nationals in hard currency hotels and tourist facilities
  • Authorization for free contract of cellular telephony and internet connections; sales of computers, printers and other hardware in stores accepting only dollars
  • Comprehensive migration reform act, one of the most radical transformations, conditionally eliminating “authorizations” for exit and entry and extending stays abroad up to 24 months
  • And more recently, the new Foreign Investment Law, which relaxes some limitations of previous legislation established in the 90’s, though it retains others

Such measures should be a substantial turn-around in a society subjected to a centralism which previously invalidated all vestiges of autonomy. In fact, some foreign media exaggerate the process, multiplying, to the point of fable, the effects of government measures as if this were an effective socioeconomic change. Unfortunately, such changes have been more nominal than real for Cubans. There have been no benefits at the macroeconomic level that indicate a positive trend towards ending the crisis.

In addition, the past few years denote a regression, not only in the economic indicators, but also in social benefits, such as health and education, the former severely affected by the exportation of professionals under contract, involving substantial hard currency income for the regime –particularly through physicians and technical staff tied to that field- and the latter, by the shortage and/or disqualification of teachers due to low wages, among other reasons.

The reforms are significant and constitute a break with Fidel’s directives.

It is not a secret, even to the most optimistic mouthpieces of the mercantile post-Castro era that “Raulist changes” are just the best survival strategy of the Castrocracy, because no change in Cuba will be real unless it is accompanied by political change.

European and other economic powerhouses put their expectations in a kind of quasi-race to access untapped markets before the United States and economically powerful sectors of the Cuban exile community assume prominence on the Island, while native citizens [living in Cuba] are just hostages of those interests and of the government which, nevertheless, continues to dominate life and property. Of course, nobody cares; as if the uncertain fate of 11 million Cubans was a deserved punishment or simply that the exclusion was a matter of “collateral damage” in the battle for the market.

For the powerful, it is not about empathy any more, with the “beautiful people” with smiling faces peeking out of tourist postcards, wielding either rifles or maracas indistinctively, according to the occasion, or –as demonstrated recently- marching, submissive and happy, before the official podium every May Day. It’s about an opportunity to be first and to arrive on time, capital in hand. Cubans, sadly, don’t have a goddamn way of defending themselves against that other power that far exceeds the one that has dominated them for over half a century. It turns out that the Cuban revolution was a waste of time. At the end, capital always wins.  And long live Raulismo!