Pope Benedict XVI’s call for 'authentic freedom' during his recent visit to Cuba is unlikely to spur democracy. But other factors suggest economic changes are under way, patterned after the Chinese example, namely creating a market economy under an authoritarian, communist political system.
Pope Benedict XVI’s call for “authentic freedom” during his recent visit to Cuba is unlikely to result in any early conversion to democracy. Communism will remain an excuse for authoritarian, one-party rule in that benighted island. A Cuban “spring,” modeled on events in the Arab world, is not about to blossom.
But if party rulers were quick to rule out any prospect of political reform, other factors suggest economic changes are under way. They are patterned after the Chinese example, namely creating a market economy under a communist political system. The Cuban regime has been closely following China’s course.
Raúl Castro, who succeeded his ailing brother Fidel in the presidency, announced last year that half a million government workers would be laid off and that the creation of small private businesses would be encouraged.
That has not happened as speedily as projected, but there is substantial progress in shifting from an all-government-employed workforce to a newly created private sector of small businesses.
Cuba’s many small farmers now can lease unused state lands for up to 25 years to expand their production. For the first time, Cubans can now buy and sell cars and houses. They can own mobile phones and computers, although the government continues to restrict their access to information from outside Cuba. Access to the Internet is difficult and expensive.