Castro keeps the lid on Cuban ‘capitalism’
The limited economic changes introduced by Gen. Raúl Castro in Cuba are encouraging some observers to proclaim the end of communism and the dismantling of the totalitarian system in the island.
Notwithstanding Raúl Castro’s own statements that he was not elected to restore capitalism, these observers insist on their belief that economic reforms will be deepened and Cuba will march merrily into capitalism or at least a Chinese-style capitalism.
If the objectives of the Castro government were truly to move toward a market economy, it would not limit economic enterprises to some 181 individual activities — i.e., barbershops, shoe shinning, pizza parlors; to lease vacant lands to individual farmers to produce mostly subsistence agriculture; or to liberalize the real estate and auto market. In addition, the onerous taxes, regulations, and license fees imposed on these activities are not conducive toward the development of free enterprise.
With Fidel alive, or even when he is dead, it would be difficult for Gen. Castro to reject his brother’s legacy of political and economic centralization. Raúl’s legitimacy is based on being Fidel’s heir. Any major move to reject Fidel’s “teachings” would create uncertainty among Cuba’s ruling elites — party and military. It could also increase instability as some would advocate rapid change, while others cling to more orthodox policies. Cubans could see this as an opportunity for mobilization, demanding faster reforms.
For Raúl, the uncertainties of uncorking the genie’s bottle in Cuba are greater than keeping the lid on and moving cautiously. For the past 53 years, political considerations have always dictated the economic decisions of the communist leadership in the island.
Raúl is no Deng Xiaoping, Mikhail Gorbachev or a pragmatist in military uniform.
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