In a rare recent interview, aging Communist icon Fidel Castro confided to The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg that, economically speaking, "the Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore." While Castro subsequently claimed he had been misunderstood, Cuba's government — headed up by President Raul Castro, Fidel's brother and right-hand man — announced Monday that it will slash 500,000 public-sector jobs and encourage laid-off workers to find work in private industry. Five decades after the revolution, is Fidel finally abandoning Communism?
Fidel is helping his brother: By almost any measure, the country "is in tatters," say Arian Campo-Flores and Andrew Bast at Newsweek. Raul has been pushing various free-market reforms, but Cuba's internal politics are fractious and Fidel's comments seem designed to provide "political cover" to his brother against the objections of "hardline ideologues in the regime's upper rank."
"Castro tells the truth about Cuba"
This kind of reform isn't convincing: The reforms that Fidel may or may not be helping his brother enact are pitiably small-scale, says Jaime Suchlicki, a Cuba expert at University of Miami, as quoted in USA Today. Historically, meaningful overhauls of a centralized command economy — think, China — tend to begin with a big, radical leap. "These systems are not transformable little by little. Band-Aid solutions don't work."
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In old age, perhaps Fidel sees the world a bit differently: Castro has long been viewed as the main impediment to reform, says The Economist. But after four years recuperating from an unspecified illness, he seems to be "enjoying the attention" that has come with his recent spate of uncharacteristically frank comments. This latest episode at least offers legitimate hope that Castro is, at long last, ready to accept his past errors and loosen his iron grip on Cuba.
"Fidel Castro speaks: Oops"
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