by Daniel Calingaert
Vice President for Policy and External Relations
President Raúl Castro introduced market reforms in Cuba earlier this year to preserve, not dismantle, the communist system. He retains a tight grip on power and seems intent on pursuing a Chinese model of market economics combined with political repression. The reforms have, however, brought about a significant change in attitudes in Cuba, according to a recent Freedom House survey. Optimism is growing, expectations are rising, and Cubans want more freedom. Will the Chinese model work in Cuba?
The government shows no intention of opening up the political system. At the Communist Party congress in April, when Castro welcomed a “new generation” of leaders, they were led by revolution-era geriatrics like himself. Political repression meanwhile remains intense. The heavy-handed response last week to a gathering of the dissident Ladies in White was typical. Twenty members of the group, which advocates on behalf of political prisoners, were detained on their way to a meeting to discuss the organization’s future following the death of its leader, Laura Pollán.