Leading article: Castro the younger's big step forward

Share
Related Topics

Cuba is holding its first Communist Party Congress for 14 years. But it is a measure of the frenetic pace of developments elsewhere in the world and the low expectations that attach to set-piece gatherings in one-party states that it was not more keenly awaited. In the event, Raoul Castro produced a potentially epoch-making surprise. On the 50th anniversary of the speech by Fidel Castro that set Cuba on its communist course, his younger brother effectively declared it over.

In an address that could be as significant for Cuba as Nikita Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin was for the Soviet Union, he said the party leadership needed renewal and that those in leading positions, himself included, should be limited to two five-year terms. He called on the party hierarchy to engage in severe self-criticism.

It will escape no one in Cuba that such change, if implemented, risks a period of turmoil that will filter down through every layer of power. It is also to be accompanied by a speeding-up of reforms in the economy, designed to reduce the role of the state and encourage small business. The tentative liberalisation announced last autumn seems to have been just the beginning. There is more to come, including the removal of state subsidies on many goods and a "rationalisation" of social spending. While President Castro insisted that Cuba would not deviate from its brand of socialism, one of the last hold-outs from the Cold War would appear to be on the brink of transformation.

A modernising, less inward-looking, Cuba should spell improvement – for its people's quality of life, as for the international atmosphere. But it will not be welcomed by all. Those with a stake in the system may resist reform, and some Cuban exiles in the US will be cynical about its feasibility, while fearing the loss of their own influence.

That it has taken Raoul Castro three years since assuming power to give this speech suggests the obstacles he may still face and the sensitivity of an eventual rapprochement with the US. In the end, the way the outside world can best speed change in Cuba is to avoid doing anything that might prompt its reversal.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
Amos Yee arrives with his father at the State courts in Singapore on March 31  

Singapore's arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew's legacy

Noah Sin
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat