Sunday, September 16, 2007

Implications of Raul Castro's July 26 Speech

I had a conversation with a knowledgeable Cuban friend at the LASA conference who said the Party and Government will call for public discussion of Raul Castro's July 26th speech.

The speech (see article) is worth reading carefully and between the lines. The decision to give it special national attention says much about how the process of internally defined change is going forward. (see complete text)

Governments, whether socialist or capitalist, seldom explicitly state that they are engaged in a systemic change since that creates confrontation with their own history and those leaders identified it.

In Cuba the issue is more sensitive due to the active engagement of the founding father who seems to have some discomfort with where things are going.

Without wanting to argue the situations are identical, my experience with Vietnam's self-transformation is that the last thing to change is the public vocabulary and ideological justification of actions. Words are even more carefully parsed when a country is under great pressure from outside forces.

Cubans will never publicly say that removal or amelioration of US hostility is a factor in the scope and pace of debate and reform, because that suggests compromised independence and sovereignty. Nevertheless, I think people in the US, whether they are sympathetic or antagonistic to Cuba as it exists today, should recognize that we do have the option of contributing positively to the process by simply backing off and eliminating or reducing the abnormal state of bilateral.relations.