NEW REPORT: Change in Post-Fidel Cuba: Economic Reform, Political Liberalization and Lessons for U.S. Policy

Published:   May 12, 2011

A new report  explores the unprecedented economic reform and political liberalization processes currently underway in Cuba and offers U.S. policy recommendations to help facilitate the move toward greater openness on the island. Released by the New America Foundation, the report offers an in-depth analysis of the historic Sixth Cuban Communist Party Congress and the domestic and international dynamics that combined to precipitate this critical juncture in Cuba’s history.

Arturo Lopez Levy, the paper’s author, said the significance of the April 2011 session of the Sixth Party Congress should not be underestimated. “The Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) placed Cuba in a road to economic reform and political liberalization. This new scenario opens new opportunities and challenges for U.S. policy towards the island.

“Market-oriented modernization and social pluralism would create powerful incentives for a more open political system in Cuba. The Obama Administration should eliminate all restrictions to trade and investment in Cuba's new non-state sector and promote as many international contacts with Cuban society and elites as possible,” said Lopez-Levy.

"This important report illuminates the reasons for and pathway to economic and even political reforms in Cuba.  This is the moment US policymakers have been looking for to better serve US interests and the interests of the Cuban people,” said Anya Landau French, Director of the U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative. “The question remains whether the United States can recognize the moment and either pursue policies that will reinforce such positive steps, or at least get out of the way."

Under the leadership of President Raul Castro, who took power from his ailing brother Fidel in 2006, Cuba has begun to introduce a number of pro-market reforms aimed at rescuing a beleaguered Cuban economy. As a part of this plan, the government has pledged to lay-off more than one million state workers.

At the same time, the Cuban government has publicly entered into an ongoing dialogue with the Cuban Catholic Church about the status of human rights in Cuba, among other issues. As a result of this new church-state relationship, the Cuban government released a significant number of political prisoners from July 2010-April 2011, including the remaining 52 individuals held as a result of the infamous “Black Spring” roundup of 2003.

Changes in Cuba’s political leadership have been far less sweeping, with relatively few public gestures of  change. The recent selection of 80-year-old Raul Ramon Machado, one of Cuba’s “historicos”, as First Vice-President led many to question the government’s commitment to a serious and comprehensive reform process.

The report finds that U.S. policy should respond by encouraging Cuba’s move toward greater openness through diplomacy, and removing all barriers to trade, international assistance and investment, and other avenues of support for an emerging Cuban private sector.

Read the full report here:

http://newamerica.net/publications/policy/change_in_post_fidel_cuba

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