Sunday, October 3, 2010

Scholar: U.S. government "nearly immobilized" as Cuba evolves

Raul Castro

Julia Sweig wrote a great piece in the New York Times on Oct. 1. Here are key excerpts:
  • A radical new phase in Cuban history is unfolding in plain sight. Under President Raúl Castro, preserving the Revolution is now about evolution: land reform, property rights, real estate investment, progressive taxation, small businesses, privatization and government lay-offs — a half-million will start next month, with more to come.
  • In practical terms, this means ending the system where everyone is paid but almost no one works, and where the state doles out a long list of freebies but has little productive tax base to finance its expenditures.
  • At the core of the reforms is a new relationship between the individual and the state and a bold political bet that Cuban society can — and out of sheer financial necessity must — endure the adjustment pains these measures will surely cause.
  • No one can say for sure what kind of model is emerging in Cuba, and political reform remains distant. But a hybrid of market, state, local and foreign capital has the potential to unleash the resourcefulness and entrepreneurial energy of Cuba’s talented and well-educated citizens.
  • As it was after the near-total release of Cuba’s political prisoners this year, the Obama White House seems nearly immobilized in the face of these reforms...Yes, Cuban-Americans — one-half of one percent of the U.S. population — can now visit relatives and send them remittances. And the two governments do talk to one another with some degree of civility... But domestic politics and campaign contributions, not national interest or foreign policy considerations, still carry the day in Washington when it comes to Cuba.
  • The perverse and decidedly un-American effect of the administration’s political timidity is that only Cuban-Americans, most of whom don’t even vote for Democrats, can now participate in the changes afoot in Cuba.
  • It’s no wonder that domestic politics now fill the foreign policy breach: Washington hasn’t really set out to define its own interests and craft a policy that flows from them since 1959.
Sweig is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. She met with Fidel Castro during a trip to Cuba in September.
Some analysts question whether Cuba's economic system is undergoing "radical" change. They remember that Cuban officials opened up some sectors of the economy in the '90s only to shut them down a few years later.
That's a point worth considering. Cuban officials are making changes to bring in revenue to help keep the government afloat. They are moving ahead cautiously while trying to maintain absolute political control.

No comments: