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The Stogie Guys, USA, October 2, 2007

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The Stogie Guys

Stogie News: Market-Oriented Reforms for Cuba?

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

It has been well over a year since we first reported that Fidel Castro was relinquishing the reins of his communist regime to battle an “intestinal crisis” and cope with “imminent death.”

Fidel CastroNot unlike his track record of nearly 50 years of political stability, the embattled Cuban dictator has outlasted all our predictions and, as far as we know, is still breathing some 15 months later. Clearly, we here at StogieGuys.com are better at writing about cigars than prognosticating about intestine-related medical complications.

But just because Fidel is still alive doesn’t mean he’s ready – or ever will be again – to take back control of the island nation. El Presidente hasn’t made a public appearance in over a year, and the video released last week shows him frail and lacking that certain zest you expect from a totalitarian leader who’s responsible for countless human rights violations.

So we turn our attention to his brother, Raúl. In August, I wrote, “It’s true that we can’t expect major reform from Raúl – who has been at his brother’s side from the beginning – anytime soon, but many foreign policy experts believe he is more pragmatic than Fidel, and therefore more open to economic reforms.”

Castro’s death certainly will not instantaneously lift America’s decades-long trade embargo, but Cuban economic and political reforms will go a long way towards that end. In that spirit, here’s the recent buzz on Raúl from some major media outlets.

1. Latin Business Chronicle: “Cuba will initiate some degree of economic reform – including more space for private economic activity – during the coming year…[Raúl] stated a need to examine and expand the practices that work in the agriculture sector, which would imply an expansion of private farming, where productivity is highest. He called for increased foreign investment. He called for ‘structural changes’ which, in Marxist terms, could imply a change in property relations and a selective shift away from state ownership.”

2. Reuters: “Raúl Castro has repeatedly called for more debate and constructive criticism. He also demanded studies from experts on reform proposals to raise productivity, including on the state’s ownership of the economy, which exceeds 90 percent.

3. Houston Chronicle: “The younger Castro, 76, said last week that Cubans shouldn’t be afraid to speak their minds about economic reform, saying they should do so ‘with bravery, with sincerity, without many illusions that we are magicians and are going to resolve problems.’ Raúl Castro is said to be impressed by China’s market-oriented reforms.”

These encouraging market-oriented reforms, at this point, are only speculative in nature. Still, Americans who wish an end to our hypocritical trade embargo can’t help but feel optimistic.

-Patrick A

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