Questions, but no answers yet
BY PAUL WEBSTER HARE
Cubans are hearing about big changes in their country but not from their
leaders -- the revolution has gone silent. Why is Raúl Castro not
explaining the changes? Why is Fidel Castro not talking about Cuba at all?
Here are 10 major issues that Cubans are learning about through
statements of trade unions and in the government media -- and the
questions that go unanswered.
1. Cuban workers have been told that a million of them -- the same
number as the entire Cuban Communist Party -- are surplus to
requirements. They can now run licensed private businesses in 178
activities, employ nonfamily members and earn profits if they pay taxes.
Fidel Castro's eldest son, touring Japan this month, is saying Cubans
should learn from Japanese entrepreneurs.
Q1. What will be the limits of the Cuban public sector where more than
80 percent will still work? Will these licenses be revoked in the
future, as has happened in the past? Will the businesses be able to
finance their equipment and their vehicles? What buildings will they use?
2. Cuba hopes to discover new oil reserves offshore. The government says
there is vast potential for Cuba.
Q2. What is the plan for using these resources? Will Cuban private
businesses be able to win business in the oil sector?
3. Foreigners are now allowed to buy and sell property in Cuba. Leases
of up to 99 years have been authorized. Foreigners will play golf on new
courses to enjoy along with their condos.
Q3. When will Cubans be given the same rights to invest as foreigners?
And will Cubans be able to benefit from the market value of their homes?
4. The Cuban revolution is releasing and sending into exile dozens of
political prisoners. The government has long claimed they were justly
convicted for crimes against the state.
Q4. Is exile now the only route for Cubans with different opinions? What
will happen to discussion within Cuba on ideas about political and
economic openness -- the new entrepreneurs? Will the jails be the
ultimate deterrent again, when even Raúl Castro now favors some of the
economic ideas of the opposition?
5. The Cuban government continues to pay the millions who work for the
state in one currency -- the old peso -- but many products are only
available in CUCs (Cuban currency tied to the U.S. dollar).
Q5. How will Cubans survive long term, when an average salary is worth
15 CUCs a month and a bottle of cooking oil is only available at 3 CUCs?
6. Raúl Castro is not antagonizing the United Sates, saying little at
all. Meanwhile, Fidel Castro is calling President Obama ``the little
gentleman who's there in the presidency'' and thinks former President
Harry Truman ``must be in some place in hell.''
Q6. What is the Castros' policy toward the United States, where more
that one million Cubans live and which is one of its major food suppliers?
7. After 51 years of revolution, with their leaders all well over 70
years old, Cubans see their country is dependent on Venezuela with more
than $5 billion of annual subsidies. Yet in the September 2010
elections, the opposition to President Hugo Chávez won a majority of votes.
Q7. What is Plan B if Chávez loses power in 2012? Will Cubans suffer
again, just like after the collapse of the Soviet Union?
8. The Castros welcome political contacts with China. But they say
nothing about the implications of following China's economic policies.
Q8. Is Cuba still communist? Does Raúl Castro believe now that ``to get
rich is glorious''? Does he believe, like the Chinese, that prosperity
for all is the aim of government? And if the cat catches the mouse, who
cares about its color?
9. The Cuban national institute of statistics reports that less than 3
percent of Cubans access the Internet.
Q9. Is there really a bandwidth-technology issue, or is the government
determined to hide something?
10. The president of Cuba is not explaining the country's future to the
people. Cuba's youth are apathetic. Raúl Castro did not even speak at
the sacred Moncada festival on July 26.
Q10. What plans does Raúl Castro have for the future of Cuba?
Paul Webster Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba, teaches at