Friday, May 02, 2008

Raul's Cuba

Raul Castro has attended Cuba's traditional May Day celebrations in central Havana. As usual, lots of people turned up, but in a break with the tradition of his big brother and predecessor Fidel, Raul didn't make a four-hour speech about the glory of the revolution. It's just the latest in a series of subtle changes since Raul took power for good earlier this year.

Recently Raul's announced various measures making things in Cuba a bit more liberal, a bit more western if you like. The controversial ban on Cuban citizens staying in tourist hotels in resorts like Varadero has been lifted. He's also made it legal for ordinary Cubans to have mobile phones. It's now easier for state workers to own their homes and pass them on to their children. Even wage limits are being abolished to, wait for it, allow employers to offer more incentives.

If all this has the scent of capitalism about it, you'd be right. After years of 'defending the revolution' by keeping things strictly communist, Cuba's new leader knows the regime must change if it's going to survive. Change may be slight and gradual, but it's clear Raul has his eye on what his comrades in China have done. Retaining a one-party state while slowly feeding in limited free-market reforms to the economy, just like Beijing, is the path he's set out on. And as long as Cubans are satisfied by their new-found ability to own more and do more, and if that doesn't cause the pride they still feel in their revolution to fade, it'll probably work.

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