Cuba turns the page of the Castro era


It’s not a Castro but it’s just like. Thursday, Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, will take over the presidency of the island, marking the end of 60 years of uninterrupted rule of the Castro brothers at the helm of the country. A strong symbol, which the Cubans relativize, however, very spontaneously. ” How is his name already? , asks the owner of a restaurant in central Havana, tapping on his mobile phone. I saw his name the other day, I do not know anymore … but no, there will be no change. The real change will be in 2021, when Raul will leave the party presidency “. Protected by Raul Castro, “Miguelito” Diaz-Canel, who headed the communist party in the provinces before becoming minister of education, has very rarely spoken in public despite his long political career. Cautious, he made sure not to take a stand in the current debate between conservative “loyalists” and reformist “raulists”. ” He did not give any interviews, nobody knows what he thinks or does , summarizes Richard Feinberg of the Brookings Institution. Will he walk in the steps of Raul Castro in terms of openness of the economy? He does not have a choice ! “.
Symbolic reforms More pragmatic than his brother Fidel, Raul Castro led during his ten years in power of the symbolic reforms, opening the country to the international investors, and allowing the emergence of a small private entrepreneurial sector. To attract foreign capital after the collapse of its main trading partner, Venezuela, he created the Mariel Free Zone (read below) and allowed Cubans to improve their living conditions by becoming self-entrepreneurs, hosting for example tourists, or by opening restaurants. This has favored the emergence of a small middle class: nearly 600,000 Cubans are registered as “Cuentas Propristas”. A development considered a little fast by the authorities, who suddenly froze the licenses a few months ago and imposed a new layer of regulation. The Cubans saw the sign of a recovery in hand by the “faithful”, a few months of the handover. An opening too slow “Raul” has also laid the foundation for a new market by allowing Cubans to buy and sell cars and real estate. And allowed the spread of cell phones to surf the Internet in some places in Havana. But the opening movement was disappointing from a macro-economic point of view and for the vast majority of Cubans. “The measures taken by Raul had the potential to transform the country, with the idea of ​​moving from a completely centralized economy to a Chinese-style market socialism. says William LeoGrande, professor at the American University of Washington. They constituted a real ideological break with the historical model. But the application was much too slow and partial, partly because of divergences between the two ideological lines that oppose the summit. . The government admitted last month that there were “mistakes” and delays in the projects announced in 2011 by Raul Castro. The dual currency system, which combines a dollar-denominated convertible currency with a local currency of less than 4 cents, is still in effect despite recurring promises of unification. Worse, in the public sector enterprises, not less than seven exchange rate different are used according to the sectors! Despite announced reforms in the agricultural sector, the country also remains dependent on exports for 80% of its food. ” Diaz Canel will have to make reforms in depths insists Richard Feinberg. Cuba will have to learn to swim, otherwise it will sink “. Elsa Conesa Special envoy to Havana


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