Raul Castro’s name may have being practically unknown to many for about 50 years but now he is the man in charge of the Cuban government. After some timid changes looking more like window dressing and that deal more with the very minor absurd prohibitions suffer by Cubans, like not being able to stay in a Hotel or not being able to legally have a cell phone. This past Monday we have witness a major tectonic shift(by Cuban standards), the removal of many cabinet member and substitution with new one and the unification of some ministries. Granma the official voice of the Cuban government inform us that this was done in order to have a leaner government.
We could have foretold that something was looming when a few days ago Ramiro Valdés was named vice presidents of government and also by Hugo Chavez quick visit to Cuba. This past Monday they have announced major changes for all the positions in the government. Replacing long time aides of his brother Fidel Castro by other people presumably more attuned with Raul’s ideas. Many of the new people are from the military, probably the people that Raul knows best from his prior post as Army Chief.
I believe some other changes are imminent after this. Raul seems to be very pragmatic and he has inherited from his brother a bankrupt economy and a system that lives from begging money to other countries and where a majority of Cubans are choosing exile instead of austerity.
What are those ideas and new actions that could potentially be taken by the new president of Cuba?
To find out about the future we need to quickly revisit the immediate past.
Raul’s government did about a year ago meetings where people could complain about the government and ask questions about many of the existing government prohibitions. We saw a bit of the tone of the questions ask with the video that circulated of Eliecer Avila and others asking questions to Alarcon.
Some of the questions there were about the existence of a dual currency the Cuban Peso and the popularly called chavito of 25 higher value and to get explanations about why the Cuban companies were selling all their product in chavitos and not in Cuban pesos the currency use to pay workers in Cuba. Eliecer mentioned there that a worker would have to work about 2 to 3 days just to pay for a tooth brush!
He continued criticizing the other government absurd prohibitions like not being allow in hotels or to travel freely outside the country etc.
So far we have seen the Raul Castro government responded by allowing Cubans to have personal computers, Cell phones and being allow to go into hotels in Cuba. Obviously these new found freedoms do not represent any tangible benefit for the great majority of Cubans since they do not have access to the hard currency needed to pay for these new found luxuries since their salaries are equivalent to 15 to 20 dollars per month.
In recent speeches Raul spoke of the past policies of milk only for children due to scarcity and of the many problems he is confronting like the aging of the Cuban population as a result of past government policies and the lack of teachers. His goverment also made a very modest increase on the retired people salaries.
Are all these heralding a new Raul’s era with more liberty and freedom for the average Cuban and more economic freedom? Is Cuba going on the Chinese style of communism?
I guess we have to wait and see but it seems clear that his government is getting ready for some major change of direction.
Fidel Castro has explained in his latest reflexion that the changes were consulted with him and that many of them were replace because of government corruption.
“La miel del poder por el cual no conocieron sacrificio alguno, despertó en ellos ambiciones que los condujeron a un papel indigno. El enemigo externo se llenó de ilusiones con ellos.”
That will be translated into
“The honey of power they had obtained without any sacrifices, wake up ambitions that lead them to an indignant role. The external enemy was full of hope with them”
We hope to see what charges they will be accuse of in Granma soon.