25 October, 2006

The End of the Beginning for the Cuban Revolution?

Washington Post - Cuba ponders how to fix socialist economy

Little Communist Cuba, the remaining protege of Big Communist USSR, has long been suffering many of the same problems that plagued its old economic role model.

"Cuba has begun debating how to correct rampant theft and inefficiency in state-run services, from pouring beer to shining shoes, that could signal a step toward economic reform under acting President Raul Castro.

In a scathing three-part series on graft in shops and bars entitled The Big Old Swindle, the Communist Youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde said on Sunday a team of university experts will investigate ways to improve services.

The articles uncovered bar employees stealing from the state by serving less beer than stipulated and taxis drivers overcharging passengers, but stopped short of recommending the privatization of such services."

Also of note...

"Since Raul Castro temporarily took over the government from his ailing brother on July 31, foreign and local experts have speculated that the younger Castro, aged 75, is more pragmatic and could move Cuba toward a more open Chinese economic model.

Cuban officials rule out following the example of China, which opened its economy to capitalist enterprise while retaining political power under the Communist Party."

On my gut feeling alone, I'd bet that that stated reluctance is due mainly to the lingering influence of Fidel, and the possibility (getting ever slimmer as weeks go by) that he could still fully return to power. The man has been the only leader most Cubans have ever known, and his ideology the only one they've been able to openly support for just as long. That sort of influence will take longer than his body to assume room temperature.

But, the important news here is that the debate, however limited, has been opened. In retrospect, the opening of the debate in the old USSR was tantamount to closing the lid of the coffin on it. Cuba, a more open society, a weaker political entity, and in closer proximity to its economic opposites than the USSR was, will certainly be no more immune to its fate.


What I wonder is when Cuban real estate and enterprises will be opened to American investment... It's never too early to start retirement planning. I can think of no more ironic a memorial to Fidel than for Cuba to become the new Switzerland of the Carribean.

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