A free Cuba?

2008-04-07 00:00

It was reported last week in this newspaper that in the month that’s have passed since Raul Castro succeeded his ailing brother Fidel as president of Cuba, a number of restrictions on Cuban citizens have been eased. Thus, now they’re allowed to hire cars and to buy computers, DVD players and cellphones. They’re also able to use facilities previously off limits, such as resort hotels and beaches formerly reserved for tourists. Even though this is probably a breath of fresh air and modernity for ordinary Cubans, it’s a jolt for us to discover that these simple things — things we’ve taken for granted for a long time — were for decades not available to them.

And it reminds us that although most of the world, including a number of formerly hard-line Communist states, has opted for a free-market system, there still remain isolated pockets — notably Cuba and North Korea — of this particularly harsh version of socialism. Raul’s easing of restrictions reveals just how limiting and oppressive things were during the Fidel years. It’s to be hoped that the new, more relaxed Cuba will soon discover that it’s perfectly possible to espouse the plight of the very poor and to work towards the provision of basic services for all without resorting ever again to this kind of totalitarianism.

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