The reform process launched in Cuba by the government of President Raúl Castro has made several changes to the country’s rigid social and economic structure, with the ultimate aim of bringing this island nation out of its economic lethargy and making production, which is sinking under the weight of restrictions, controls and contradictions, more efficient.
The Cuban National Assembly, the parliament, has just passed a historic milestone: the visible turning point when one momentous and complex phase in the life of the country begins to come to a close, and a door opens on a future that, however hard to predict, will in many ways be different.
Early this month, Cubans went to the polls to elect delegates nominated by municipal and provincial assemblies to the island's parliament, the highest government body where citizens' votes carry decisive weight. The turnout, as usual, was over 90 percent, and all the municipal candidates, as usual, were voted in.
A few days ago a small boat docked at the port of Havana. Flying the Bolivian flag, the "Ana Cecilia" had come from Miami and was loaded with electrical appliances, packages of food and medicine, clothing, and household items most of which were sent by Cuban exiles to their relatives on the island. It was the first of the numerous bimonthly deliveries that are expected.
While Europe reels from a crisis that is annihilating small businesses, shaking up large ones, and catapulting huge numbers of people into poverty, Cuba, which for the last twenty years has made a specialty out of living in crisis, seems to be on the verge of putting itself back together and even reclaiming part of the faded glamour that was once its hallmark.
What will the Pope's visit bring Cuba? This is the question that tenaciously preceded Benedict XVI on his way to this perennially polemical critical island, which remained apparently intact by the time he ended his intense three-day visit on March 28.
Festooned with lights and brightly painted, the sweet shop "La Caridad" just opened on the outskirts of Havana. One of the new breed of private businesses, the store is in the back of a modest home. A single glance at its appearance and offerings is enough to show that it has lofty aspirations.
HAVANA, Oct (IPS) Under the pounding Cuban August sun, three young graffiti artists are working on a wall along one of the central avenues. Passersby look over with curiosity and bewilderment, some perhaps bothered by what seems like a meaningless slathering of paint. A few people ask the meaning of these strange letters and the nonsensical word they spell. It happens to be the name of the founder of the movement of independent graffiti artists that these boys belong to, but written backwards.
Five years have passed since the announcement by Fidel Castro that because of health problems he was "provisionally" delegating his responsibilities in the Cuban government to a group of five officials headed by his brother Raul until he was well enough to return to office. It would soon become evident that this return was not imminent, and before long Castro announced his withdrawal from active political life, though not from politics.
Cuba may be the only country in the world whose citizens have, for half a century now, not been allowed to freely acquire a car or a home. Indeed the very words have a very different connotation on the island.
The plans and agreements approved at the recently-concluded Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party has left people with a wide range of reactions, from hope, to scepticism, to fear, to satisfaction, to the sense that old ideological principles have been renounced or that such certainties are no more than window dressing. But the Congress left no one with a feeling of indifference. Cuba's magnetism -sometimes morbid, sometimes admiring- prevents that from happening.
Havana is being reborn. I can't be sure whether this is taking the best form possible. The first elements of the "updating of the Cuban economic model" have been made official. At the meeting of the Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in mid- April, this model will be given a definitive form and plans. The effects of the new policy have begun to be felt in an accelerated fashion on the face of a city that for the last fifty years seems to have been stuck in time (and even slid backwards with intensifying deterioration).
From the time I was capable of reason I remember hearing this old refrain, full of optimism, commonly remarked in Cuba around Christmas: "A new year, a new life." The expression is charged with unfulfilled desires, postponed goals, and possible hopes for the life that will begin with the new year -as if thinking about mere possibility was a way of getting closer to this "new life", better and different.
After a long wait and numerous postponements, the Cuban Communist Party has decided to hold its sixth congress in April 2011. The last was held in 1997, more than 13 years ago, writes Leonardo Padura Fuentes, a Cuban writer and journalist whose novels have been translated into more than fifteen languages. His most recent work is The Man Who Loved Dogs.
After a long wait and numerous postponements, the Cuban Communist Party, which oversees and directs the politics of the island, has decided to hold its sixth congress, in April 2011. The last was held in 1997, more than 13 years ago.