Cosmetic Changes Will Not Save the Castro Regime
August 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm
Today, Cubans are reportedly being allowed to listen to Gloria Estefan.
She and about 50 other artists were, until this week, blacklisted and
banned. However, it's not just the airwaves that are getting a facelift:
Earlier this month, the aged Castro regime adopted a new tax code said
to simplify government funding, legalize the sale of certain items, and
allow Cubans working in cooperatives to divide profits without
government oversight. This policy forms part of this year's land
privatization reforms known as the 313 guidelines.
But let's not pop the champagne just yet. Raul Castro is pretty clear
about making socialism "sustainable and irreversible." Immediate
necessity, not a fundamental shift toward freedom, is driving policy on
the island. Real democracy and genuine economic freedom are still taboo.
Cuba's miserable human rights record was recently on display with the
death of Oswaldo Payá, a prominent anti-Castro dissident who spawned the
bold Varela Project. Payá died in a suspicious car accident on July 23.
Authorities released an official story pockmarked with gaping holes and
diverted attention from the death to "foreign funding" of Payá's
political activity. Payá's grieving widow was denied access to details
about the incident, and the two surviving passengers were held in tight
custody for a week after the wreck. The regime responded to calls for an
impartial investigation with insults and threats.
According to the U.N., 2011 saw 2,400 government critics arrested or
otherwise silenced in Cuba. Political prisoners have died under
mysterious circumstances, and it is not uncommon for some to attempt
suicide. The "Ladies in White," a Cuban activist group demanding the
release of Cuba's political prisoners, are regularly detained and
threatened with violence or prison sentences.
The economic devastation of Castro's policies continues apace. Tepid
reforms will not spur foreign investment or rejuvenate economic
activity. Disrespect of property rights, a history of government
seizures, and a narrow list of authorized non-public-sector jobs
discourages entrepreneurship. Although a third of Cuba's land is devoted
to agricultural production, Cuba imports roughly 80 percent of its food
thanks to gross government mismanagement.
The watchword for Raul Castro and company: "Socialism and the
revolutionary political and social system…are irrevocable; and Cuba will
never again return to capitalism."
Listening to Gloria Estefan may pass the time. It may make some Cubans
feel a little less restricted. But only the drastic surgery of real
democracy and market freedoms—not cosmetic embellishments—will truly
make their lives better.
Yonathan Amselem is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at
The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage,
please visit http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm.
Posted in American Leadership