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Raúl Castro's legacy: thawing with the USA and timid economic reforms

The president of Cuba finishes a second mandate marked by relations with Washington

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Raúl Castro's legacy: thawing with the USA and timid economic reforms

Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz (Birán, 1931) finishes his second five-year term as president of Cuba on Thursday. At 86 years, general withdraws from political foreground but will remain until 2021 as first Secretary of Communist Party, defined by Constitution as "Superior force of Society and State". That is to say: Raúl Castro yields presidential helm, but remains at top of hierarchy.

He came to power in 2006, when his older bror, Fidel Castro, became ill. In 2008 he was officially appointed head of state and government. Raúl Castro had always been second of regime, responsible for directing armed forces and intelligence and counterintelligence services. His career had elapsed in shadow of his bror. From re he played political role, assuming in 2011 also head of Communist Party of Cuba, and start a process of reforms that prevented collapse of socialist state.

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"With him began changes of stage of Fidel Castro to anor historical stage", says in Havana historian Enrique Lopez Oliva. "It faced two challenges: avoiding collapse of system and generational rupture. And he did it with intelligence, even overlapping himself. It is paradoxical that being one of most communist of those who made revolution, end up starting to turn market. He had No choice. "

Raúl Castro's reforms started in 2008 with elimination of "absurd prohibitions," he said, as Cubans could not stay in ir country's hotels; That y could not have legal access to cellular telephony services; Or that y could not buy a computer or a DVD player. That year it also authorized delivery to peasants and cooperatives of idle lands in hands of state. In 2010, given evidence that state employment workforce was inflated in more than one million people, general decided to open economy to private initiative by expanding categories allowed for self-employment. In 2011 sale of cars and homes was authorized after half a century of prohibition, in line with "updating of economic model" that Castro advocated a few months earlier in 6th Congress of PC — "to end," he said, "to guarantee character of socialism in Cuba "—.

Pragmatic both by necessity and by his military character, Castro continued to untangle. In 2013 government began to install Wifi hotspots in public spaces and was no longer required to leave. Cubans were able to start travelling abroad freely. But most relevant milestone of his presidency was thaw: restoration of diplomatic relations with United States, which was announced in December 2014. The following summer United States and Cuba reopened ir respective embassies and in 2016 Barack Obama made a historic state visit to island, first of a US president since 1929. Its passage through Cuba was climax of raulism but also beginning of slowdown of process of reforms, already in itself timid. In his last political lash before he died, Fidel Castro reacted with an article in which he was wary of bilateral approach — "We don't need empire to give us anything" — and he reinvigorated hard-line sectors within regime, paralyzing until today Reformist step.

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