Developments in Cuba
Author: Julia E. Sweig, Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for
Latin America Studies and Director for Latin America Studies
June 19, 2013
Folha de Sao Paulo
Originally published in Portuguese on Folha de Sao Paulo:
In 2010 I participated in a conversation with Fidel Castro, when, in
reply to a question about whether Cuba was still 'exporting' its 'model'
to Latin America, he inadvertently caused an international media
firestorm by replying—"the Cuban model doesn't even work for us
anymore." A statement of the obvious for most Cubans, and an affirmation
that real change was afoot.
Here are some still undigested takeaways from conversations with dozens
of Cubans in and out of government about how they see that change.
1-) The death of Hugo Chavez and uncertainty in Venezuela reinforces a
pre-existing rationale and time frame for Cuba to deepen trade,
investment, and diplomatic ties with a variety of partners. Brazil is a
prime example. Add the rest of Latin America, China, Russia, Angola, the
EU and eventually the United States to that strategy.
2-) Remittances and material support from Cubans in the diaspora play a
growing role in the micro-economy of the island, and help launch small
family businesses. But Cubans trying to prosper in the private sector
are still waiting for expanded access to bank credit and for wholesale
markets to open, and for tax rates to stabilize. That may sound like a
bland statement, but it suggests that major social change is afoot.
3-) The major macroeconomic step, eliminating the dual currency, will be
painful and necessary. The state can't afford to subsidize everything
for everyone and no longer does so. But substantially cutting subsidies
and devaluing the currency at the same time would amount to more shock
therapy than the society can take at this stage.
4-) The digital age is finally arriving. This month's opening of
internet cafes is the leading edge of a policy decision to substantially
increase investment in and access to the digital infrastructure the rest
of us now take for granted. Cubans are already crazy about social
media—and I'm not just talking about Brazil's idol Yoani Sanchez. Watch
this space: it is likely to grow.
5-) Its still unclear how the official Cuban press will adapt. Next
month a congress of journalists will debate their guild's future.
Hopefully we will see more space for the values of transparency and
accountability promoted elsewhere by the Raul Castro government. But for
an idea of the real debates in Cuba, see www.espaciolaical.org or
6-) Speaking of transparency, a big push to penalize corruption is now
underway. Foreign companies are on notice to play by the rules. Soon the
corruption on which the black market relies will come under legal
scrutiny. Cubans seem to understand that the rule of law is essential to
a well functioning market economy and more foreign investment and that
cleaning up corruption is a necessary precondition.
7-) Political parties? Not yet, but no longer inconceivable.
8-) Also in the category of no longer inconceivable: a woman president.
Source: "Developments in Cuba - Council on Foreign Relations" -