Political survival beats economic logic as Cuba’s ‘reform drive hits the sand’


The anniversary of the Russian Revolution is a timely reminder that Marxist ideology, once entrenched in countries that controlled a third of the world’s population, survives today as an operable system only in small tyrannies such as Cuba and North Korea, notes Boston University professor Michael Kort.

Cuban president Raúl Castro is preparing to step down next year, while Venezuela has cut millions of dollars in aid, The Financial Times reports:

Unnerved by the changes, Havana has allowed its domestic reform drive to grind to a halt as the Communist party battens down the hatches. Marino Murillo, the senior official leading Cuba’s reforms, has not been heard in public for almost a year. His absence has mystified Cubans and dented the high expectations Mr Castro’s liberalizing drive once fomented, both at home and abroad. …

[T]ensions became clear at a party congress in April 2016, which admitted that reforms had failed to meet popular expectations in terms of economic growth, supplies of goods and higher wages. At the same time, a debate on state television showed party delegates fuming over a private onion farmer who had earned enough money to buy a car and fix his house.

“In a way, the reforms have not gone far enough but at the same time too far,” says Bert Hoffman, a Cuba expert at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies. “Not far enough to . . . lift up growth [but] too far in that social inequalities are widening, the cost of living is rising and the Communist party fears the discontent this produces.”

The next year will determine Castro’s economic legacy, The Miami Herald adds:

Analysts say Cuba seems to favor the path of slow economic reforms because it doesn’t want to do anything that could potentially be destabilizing and cause a weakening of political control.

“The political logic is predominant over the economic logic,” said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh. “Still, the Cuban government can sometimes act in unpredictable ways. I don’t think Raúl Castro will do anything significant in the time he has left, but he will support Díaz-Canel in carrying out reforms in the future.”

Despite scarcity at home, the country’s human resources are being squandered overseas in supposed gestures of ‘international solidarity.’ Cuban medics dispatched to Venezuela have revealed that they were deceived and forced to fabricate statistics, PanAm Post’s Karina Martin reports.

Human rights groups are calling for the release of Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción (left), leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, MCL) since 2014, who was sentenced to three years in prison on 20 March. He was arrested in Holguín on 30 November 2016, five days after the death of the former leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro. He has since been held in the provisional prison (prisión provisional) of Holguín and will remain there while he carries out the appeals. Eduardo Cardet was charged with attacking an official of the state (atentado) after he publicly criticized Fidel Castro a few days after his death.

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