April 29, 2008


Cuba walks tightrope of reforms: By lifting bans on cellphones and personal computers, Raul Castro is paving the way for open communications, but the regime is intent on avoiding the fate of the Soviet Union (Carol J. Williams, 4/29/08, Los Angeles Times)

The top-down decisions granting citizens the ability to communicate with one another and to brainstorm solutions have been a hallmark of Castro's leadership since he took the reins of a nation in crisis 21 months ago from his older brother Fidel.

Cuban intellectuals and common folk are embracing the straight-talk notion, as did Russians 20 years ago. But here, as in the Soviet Union, the leadership is walking a tightrope, risking the collapse of a struggling, authoritarian system by granting long-denied freedoms.

"Raul Castro's government will eventually need to confront the million-dollar question: Once it releases the genie of public opinion from the bottle, does it risk permanently reducing its control over Cuban society?" says Daniel P. Erikson, Caribbean analyst for the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington.

Mindful of the Soviet collapse, Cuban officials are loath to allow any kind of political opening that would be perceived as diminishing the legitimacy of the Communist Party, Erikson said.

When Gorbachev introduced glasnost, it was with the idea that people would finally get to cleanse themselves of their justifiable anger at Stalin and company and then the Politburo could get on with the rest of the Revolution. The Party was stunned when the dissidents instead (or, in addition) went after Lenin with hammer and tongs and described how the Revolution had been evil from its inception and the regime illegitimate from Jump Street. What was supposed to be some pruning around the edges instead turned into clear-cutting.

A peculiarity of Cuba's decades of one man rule is that there's no one to blame but Fidel. What exists in Cuba is Castroism, so every criticism undermines Castro and the Revolution entire.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 29, 2008 7:16 AM
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