Thursday, December 20, 2007

All change?

Nearly 18 months after Fidel Castro made his last public appearance, the question I get asked most often by people with a vague interest in Cuba and Cuban affairs is this: are things really changing on the island?

Tough question.

From where I am, it would appear that there have indeed been some minor changes. Very minor.

For instance, now that Castro is bed-ridden, his long-suffering subjects no longer have to listen to the dictator’s endless and increasingly erratic harangues about everything from the evil Americans to the correct use of rice cookers.

Defections by artists and others who were until recently untouchable are also up - a sign of a sinking ship. And the small group of dissidents that brave the regime thugs day in and day out appear to have become much bolder in their opposition to the Communist Party.

At a personal level, some of the people I regularly correspond with in Cuba via email seem to be much more open in their still-veiled criticism of “the system”.

As I said, minor changes.

Then again, perhaps I am missing something.

Here is a different perspective from Tom Fawthrop, a London-born journalist with a soft spot for “the Revolution”, who writes regularly on the “developing world” for left-leaning papers in Britain and Australia, such as The Guardian.

As you can read in this commentary, Fawthrop is of the view that things are changing in Cuba and changing pretty fast – that the country has entered its own period of glasnot, although he is not too sure whether perestroika will follow.

He provides a detailed argument for his assessment: from the arrival of new Chinese-made buses to more open debate in workplaces about low wages and appalling working conditions, to directions supposedly given to the official media by Raul Castro to start reporting "accurate" production figures.

Fawthrop's conclusion: Cuba is “on the brink of change”.

Time will tell.


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