Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Raul's Reforms May Strengthen Communism

Raul Castro has started to blaze his own path as leader of Cuba, including launching some initiatives that his older brother Fidel opposed for decades.

Restrictions on the ownership of personal electronic goods like computers, DVD players and cell phones have been lifted, as have bans that kept average Cubans out of the countries' resort spas and hotels that are so popular with foreign tourists. The government also is letting private corporations have access to some state-held farmland. All were moves that Fidel resisted taking because he feared they would lead to the development of social classes within Cuba and undermine his vision of a socialist state based on equality. Raul’s reforms are similar to ones put in place by the communist governments in China and Vietnam that helped to spur the growth of the economies in both nations.

The reforms boosted Raul's popularity and could in the long run strengthen Cuba's communist government. Cubans of course know about the DVD players and cell phones that the were previously prevented from owning. Giving them access to these goods is a symbolic way of showing that the country is moving forward. And the idea of providing the people with food and entertainment as a way of gaining their loyalty is a strategy that goes back to the time of the Roman Empire.

Critics of Cuba's communist government though point out that even though people can now buy more goods, low salaries will still keep them out of the hands of most Cubans, and that this could just make people more frustrated at their government and prompt them to call for even more changes.
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