Friday, June 25, 2010

Freedom and Exchange in Communist Cuba

Freedom and Exchange in Communist Cuba
by Yoani Sánchez
Yoani Sánchez is an independent blogger in Cuba, where she writes her
blog, Generación Y.
Published on June 16, 2010

Fidel Castro's socialist revolution promised to satisfy the basic needs
of the Cuban people, but the price demanded was the surrender of
freedoms. The unthinking enthusiasm that greeted the beginning of the
revolution helped pave the way for the disappearance of civil,
political, and economic rights within a short period of time. Instead of
a brighter future, misery in Cuba is widespread and the individual is

With the help of Soviet subsidies, state paternalism stripped citizens
of their individual and community responsibilities, and established a
sort of barter system between freedom and privileges. The state gave out
job promotions, electrical appliances, housing, vacations, and other
material goods and perks as rewards for obedience and in recognition of
support of the government's priorities — including participation in
political rallies, membership in the Communist Party, adherence to
atheism, and so on. Cuban socialism has produced frustrated idealists
and opportunists who support the system only out of a search for
personal gain.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the government has been buying
time with the introduction in the 1990s of limited and short-lived
reforms, whose reversals accelerated with the help of the Venezuelan
government of Hugo Chávez. Raúl Castro, who replaced his brother Fidel
as president, has only introduced cosmetic reform. An increasing number
of Cubans are disillusioned with socialism and are demanding change. One
of the tools that Cubans are now using to recover their freedom of
expression and association is the Internet, which has quickly given rise
to a community of cyber-dissidents, despite the Cuban government's
efforts to make Internet use difficult. Now that the state is out of
money and there are no more rights to exchange for benefits, the demand
for freedom is on the rise.

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