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    Raúl's nightmare

    Posted on Sunday, 01.03.10

    Raúl's nightmare

    Cuba's problems can't be addressed under the leadership's passé
    reformism. Raúl Castro is neither Gorbachev nor Deng Xiaoping, both of
    whom thought outside the box while in power. He is stuck in the old mold
    of market socialism: a tinker here, a nudge there, even though Europe's
    1989 should serve as warning. It's a dead end.

    As a child I would often ask my maternal grandfather — a gallego who
    emigrated to Cuba and did well on all counts — for a peso (it was real
    money then). He'd hand it to me saying: “Mari, remember, money must be
    respected.'' Turning the phrase differently, I pass his wisdom to my
    students: “Remember, markets must be respected.''

    Of course, I don't mean that markets should always be left alone. But,
    politicians — dictators and democrats alike — who don't respect the
    market don't respect the people either.

    Ordinary men and women have the right to their dreams, especially giving
    their children the best future possible. Politicians who won't give
    markets their due have their sights set on their own glory, which ends
    up costing the people dearly. For that alone, history almost never
    absolves them.

    On Dec. 20, Raúl Castro told the National Assembly: “In updating Cuba's
    economic model, we cannot run the risk of improvisation and haste. We
    simply do not have the right to make mistakes.'' So spoke a cautious man
    well aware of what was better left unsaid: that too many mistakes had
    been made over decades, and this time everything was on the line.

    Raúl goes on to detail all sorts of absurdities that can only happen
    when markets aren't respected. For example, he boasts about a success
    story: In 66 municipalities (out of 169 islandwide), local delivery of
    fresh milk reaches grocery stores in a timely manner, which saves fuel.
    Presidents of normal countries don't have to worry about distributing
    fresh milk. The private sector takes care of it.

    In the past few months, high-ranking officials and the media have been
    pounding the “paternalistic state.'' Since the same men have been in
    power for more than half a century, I wonder who's responsible for
    creating such a state and the mentality that flows from it? In Cuba,
    work and earnings are largely divorced: Cubans pretend to work, the
    state pretends to pay them. So it goes when people have their dignity
    taken away, when they are denied the right to make an honest living.

    Still, human beings do not live by bread alone. According to a Gallup
    poll taken in Havana and Santiago a few years ago, only a quarter of
    respondents thought they had the to decide what to do with their
    lives. When asked if they had laughed or smiled the day before the
    survey, only 62 percent said yes. On these and other subjective measures
    of well-being, Cubans rank much lower than the average Latin American.

    Freedom is as important as social justice. Courageous Cubans on the
    island have stepped forward and claimed their rights. Whether a ,
    the , a man on a hunger strike, a rapper singing truth to
    power or a young woman reading a banned book, ordinary people are taking
    their country back, bit by bit. Threats, beatings, detentions, mock
    trials aside, some step back out of fear but others always take steps
    forward. An unending nightmare for the regime!

    Lately new headaches have developed.

    • A group of prominent African Americans couldn't keep quiet anymore and
    denounced the regime's “callous disregard'' for Cubans of color. Blacks
    and mixed-race Cubans on the island are giving renewed testament of
    their mistreatment.

    • Twenty-one intellectuals and five cultural organizations signed a
    statement denouncing the “rise of bureaucratic-authoritarian control''
    to smash autonomous cultural projects.

    • The leadership can't set the party congress date. Militants clamor for
    change like everyone else. Being a Communist doesn't necessarily mean
    you're trustworthy.

    Everything is on the line. For those at the head of the “line'' means
    their own power. Everyone else has their dignity at stake, their rights
    as citizens, their freedom. May 2010 be a year when ever more and
    diverse Cubans find their voices, their smiles, with their heads held high.

    Marifeli Pérez-Stable is a professor at Florida International
    and Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.

    Raúl's nightmare – Other Views – (3 January 2010)

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