A new Cuba
A new Cuba
Is Cuba finally becoming capitalist? Or are they changing into something quite different? Vanessa Baird begins her investigation of Cuba – the changing country.
Behind the old taxi is one of Havana’s new Japanese co-operative buses. And behind that is the Capitolio, also being renovated. (© Vanessa Baird)
If you say ‘Cuba’ to people, they have many different responses. Even people who have never been there.
This tropical island country now symbolizes so much – depending on what you think about it.
But everyone agrees that it has an amazing story of survival. Not many people thought that the country’s communist government, led by Fidel Castro, would continue for long after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
But 23 years later, the Communist Party is still in charge. They now have a younger, smaller Castro as leader.
But Cuba is changing. The government of 83-year-old Raúl Castro, who took over from brother Fidel when the Fidel became ill in 2006, is in the middle of a 311-point plan of changes. This could change the country a lot. People say it could be a ‘life or death plan to save the revolution’.
Outside Cuba, people call the changes ‘reforms’; inside, the official term is ‘updates’. It’s a small difference, but it is important in politics. The government says it is not turning to capitalism, but adapting Cuban socialism. They need to change it because of changes in the world, and to make sure it survives.
They did not think they needed to change for a long time. For years, ordinary Cubans have had many problems every day – queues, not enough of things in the shops, too much paperwork, too many rules, corruption and many promises of a better life that they never saw. Almost nine million people talked about their problems in the public consultations in 2011.
Raúl Castro speaks directly about this. This is the last chance, he says, for the ‘historic generation’ to correct errors of the past and make sure of the future of the revolution’s socialist development. They must say no to the ‘dogmas’ and failures of the past. They will no longer accept inefficiency and politicians or managers misusing their power. He has sacked ministers who people thought were his friends. He has even said he does not like the communist love of ‘pomposity’ and ‘empty slogans’.
People say that Fidel Castro, now 88, supports his brother’s process of change. Fidel said to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, ‘the Cuban model does not even work for us any more’, when someone asked him if he still wanted to export it.
The complete change has started and will continue in the next few years.
You can see a lot of change already. There is more personal freedom. Cubans can travel to other countries, open small businesses, buy or sell their homes or cars, and can even buy new foreign cars (if they have $120,000 for a car that costs $30,000 in Europe).
They are breaking up state companies that do not work well, ending the jobs that are not needed, and giving land (owned by the state) to thousands of small farmers. In April this year the government changed the rules to make foreign investors want to invest in Cuba.
So how are the changes – reforms? updates? – affecting this rare communist country? Is Cuba becoming capitalist? Will they lose everything they won for society in the revolution –free healthcare and education for everyone? Will they start to have several parties in government? Are their relations with the US changing? And, most important, what do ordinary Cubans think of it all?
We went to Cuba to try to find out.
NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/features/2014/10/01/a-new-cuba/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).