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: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

A happy ending for celebrity memoirs

Katy Guest
William Hague with his former special adviser, Christopher Myers  

Who needs special advisers? We all do

John Rentoul
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick