September 16, 2007

LOW FIDELITY:

Raul Castro focuses on small steps: Quality of Cubans' lives tops agenda (Anita Snow, 9/16/07, Associated Press)

With Raúl Castro in charge, Cuba has raised payments to milk and meat producers, is paying off its debts to farmers, and has stopped blocking the import of parts needed to keep vintage cars rumbling along.

Travelers can even bring in DVD players and game consoles, highly coveted by Cubans starved for high-tech entertainment.

Raúl's ailing brother, Fidel, is still showing leadership behind the scenes, and as provisional president, he has only taken small steps. But he's already giving clues to how he might govern once he takes full control - paying special attention to quality-of-life problems, publicly scolding state managers, and acknowledging that salaries don't cover basic needs.

The new Chinese buses on intercity routes are evidence of the Raúl effect. They were in the planning before Fidel got sick, but they have become much more visible since Raúl said in a speech last year that he was sick of hearing bureaucrats' excuses and he wanted results.

To boost food production, lawmakers agreed in June to pay producers 2.5 times more for milk and meat included in the island's heavily subsidized ration program and in meals provided at similarly low-cost workplace cafeterias, schools, hospitals, and community centers. The prices consumers pay will remain the same.

At the same gathering National Assembly members were told that the state had just paid off debts worth $23 million to the small farmers and cooperatives that grow two-thirds of the island's fruits and vegetables, and renegotiated $35 million in other debts.

The change is evident in style, too. Where a Fidel speech could devote hours to communism, his brother's oratory is much more short and direct, and Cubans love his public attacks on government failures.


Et tu, brother?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 16, 2007 1:43 PM
Comments

I bet he loves jazz, too.

Posted by: Ibid at September 16, 2007 5:35 PM

Raul, wishing doesn't make it so. Remember that.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 16, 2007 6:50 PM

Raul seems doomed to be the Gorbachev of the regime, trying to save the unsaveable through superficial reforms.

Posted by: PapayaSF at September 16, 2007 7:02 PM

He'd probably rather be the Gorbachev than the Ceausescu

Posted by: Bryan at September 17, 2007 6:58 AM
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