Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Castro steps down

Wise comments from Dave Osler, a British leftist who spent time in Cuba last year

Stay in one of the five star hotels, and Cuba is a fabulous place for a holiday. Sit down by that swimming pool and bask in the Caribbean sunshine, light up a cigar from beyond the wilder shores of Freudian symbolism and knock back cocktails blended from the finest rum on earth. And if it’s nightlife you want, there’s hot jazz and salsa clubs that stay open until four am. That’s on the weeknights. Convertible pesos only, of course.

But for most ordinary Cubans, life is pretty damn grim. I saw that for myself two years ago, when I spent four weeks in an ordinary home in Havana while studying Spanish. Even such basic foodstuffs as rice are rationed. Water supplies are sporadic, and power cuts regular occurrences. The housing stock is badly run down. Many everyday items are simply unobtainable.

Yes, of course the US blockade and the economic effects of the collapse of the USSR are part - although by no means all - of the explanation. But there is no getting away from the conclusion that Cuban society is deeply polarised.

Beyond a layer of older people who lived through the revolution in the late fifties, there are few strong supporters of the government. The younger a person is - and the darker the colour of their skin - the more likely they are to be hostile. Many of those at the sharp end of the multiple hardships would rather be living in Miami, and don’t think twice about saying that to a foreign journalist.


David Corn on the Mother Jones blog

Please, no tears for Comrade Castro, as he finally gives up power in Cuba. It's a good thing he's going. But his departure has taken far too long (in fact, decades too long) and, alas, in all that time he did little to ease the transition to the free society that Cuba will eventually be. His exit leaves Cuba a repressive state and a nation not prepared for the future.
Sam Farber, in an interview last year in Solidarity, detailed the indications that after Fidel Castro's death Cuba may follow the path towards the world capitalist market initiated by Deng Xiaoping in China.

Farber reported that Raul Castro (Fidel's presumed successor) has praised the "Chinese model", and notes "the role of the Cuban army, Raul's stronghold, as a big player in joint enterprises, including the tourist industry."

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