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f_0010085_7832 - Cuba and Rals Reforms: Power Grab, Public...

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The Ambassadors REVIEW 37 Cuba and Raúl’s Reforms: Power Grab, Public Relations or Change? Christopher Sabatini, Ph.D. * Senior Director of Policy, Americas Society/Council of the Americas Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly ince formally acceding to the presidency on February 24, 2008, Cuban President Raúl Castro has launched a menu of reforms that, by their contrast to the stated positions of his brother, Fidel Castro, have sparked hope that a new era of change has begun in Cuba. Don’t hold your breath. The reforms—from the loosening of agricultural markets, to greater freedom to purchase electronic equipment (including cell phones)—represent little more than an effort to relieve some pressures inside Cuba and to stoke international pressure for a reevaluation of US policy. In terms of the structure of decision-making and economic realities (both of purchasing power of common Cubans and the real distribution of economic and political power in Cuba) these are not the beginnings of the political opening that many—except the most romantically inclined—were hoping for. Unfortunately, in the stale, traditional debate over Cuba, Raúl’s so-called reforms are getting wrapped around the traditional axel of policy toward Cuba: the US embargo. That is a profound mistake, both in terms of understanding what is actually occurring in Cuba and the realities (and constraints) of the embargo to promote constructive engagement in genuine democratic change. Tinkering Around the Edges In the seven months since Raúl was officially anointed by the National Assembly to succeed his big brother, the former Vice President and Defense Minister has launched a number of meager reforms intended to boost agricultural production and worker productivity. At least in their rhetoric, the reforms were intended to loosen state control over a number of areas and establish incentives to spark productivity. The first, and most anticipated of these changes, was in agriculture. In mid-July this year, the government granted private farmer cooperatives the right to cultivate up to 99 acres and individuals up to 33 acres of unused state land with the sale of the goods to be managed and controlled privately. The reform provides ten-year leases to the farmers, with an option to renew up to 25 years, and—in a break from the collectivist policies of the past—the right to determine what to sow and to retain the profits from its sale. It’s not hard to see why. At a time when global food prices have been on the rise, in 2007 Cuba imported almost 85 percent of its food and spent almost $1.5 billion for agricultural imports. Ironically the number-one source of those imports was the United States * The author wishes to thank Hannah O’Connell who conducted research for and reviewed earlier drafts of this article. All opinions and mistakes are the author’s. S
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This note was uploaded on 01/25/2012 for the course POLS 494 taught by Professor Garymoncrief during the Fall '11 term at Boise State.

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f_0010085_7832 - Cuba and Rals Reforms: Power Grab, Public...

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