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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz