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Cuban revolution reloaded

In the last years, Cubans have seen how their communist style economy has started to open up. But people want more changes.
Last modified: 30 Jan 2012 03:14
People walk beside a mural in Havana, Cuba [Reuters]

“The Communist Party is the heir of the revolution”, said Raul Castro in his closing speech of the congress that took place in Havana this weekend.

The party is evaluating how to adapt to current times and its role in leading the country in times of economic reform. He said that these reforms are destined to strengthen the revolution and not to weaken it.

The Communist Party is the only legal political party in Cuba and the supreme guiding force of the society and the state, and that’s why this meeting was so important.

Castro defended the one-party system on Sunday, saying that is what keeps Cubans together.

To renounce the principle of a one-party system would be the equivalent of legalising a party, or parties, of imperialism on our soil," he said.

In the last years, Cubans have seen how their communist style economy has started to open up. They can now buy and sell cars and houses, own a business and even hire employees. The economic reforms are evident on the streets of Havana. New restaurants and new shops - among other things - are everywhere. Land is being distributed among those who want to work it and make extra profit.

But people want more changes. Some are calling for the end of the double currency system: one for Cubans and one for tourists. They blame the last one for increasing the prices on the island. They would also like to see a reform of the migration law that requests Cuban to ask for an “exit permit” to leave the country and those living in the US to request a permit to visit the island.

On Friday night, the stairs of the University of Havana were filled with thousands of young people carrying torches. They wanted to remember the birth of Jose Marti, Cuba’s national hero. I spoke to dozens of those gathered, who assured me that their plan is to continue with the revolution and defend many of the good things that the revolution has achieved. Healthcare and education for all is what they speak the most. None of them questioned their belief that this period needs to be handled by the historical leaders of the revolution.

But even Raul Castro has acknowledged the need for a generational change and lamented that there are few young leaders ready to step up. Officials I have spoken to say that the reforms have to be balanced. If they happen too quickly they could destabilise the country and if the pace is too slow it could disenchant large sectors of the population.

Overall this country is slowly changing, but many here say that its socialist based ideas will remain.