Raul Castro in His Year 11

Handout picture of Cuban official website www.cubadebate.cu, showing President Raul Castro giving a speech during the opening
Handout picture of Cuban official website www.cubadebate.cu, showing President Raul Castro giving a speech during the opening of VII Congress of Cuban Communist Party (PCC) at Convention Palace in Havana, on April 16, 2016. President Raul Castro vowed Saturday never to pursue 'privatizing formulas' or 'shock therapy,' setting the tone for a Communist Party congress convened to review progress in revamping the island's Soviet-style economy. / AFP / Cuba Debate / ISMAEL FRANCISCO / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MARKETING, NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - MANDATORY CREDIT: AFP PHOTO/CUBA DEBATE/ISMAEL FRANCISCO - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - XGTY (Photo credit should read ISMAEL FRANCISCO/AFP/Getty Images)

Raul Castro has made changes in 10 years. Paradoxically, the most fruitful turn has been the approach to the United States that created a relaxed and hopeful environment in Cuba, with Obama as the most admired by the people. But he began his year 11 amidst economic turbulence and social concerns. His slow changes in the State-controlled economy have been too limited, in agriculture too tight and in self-employment too short. Foreign investment hasn't flown as needed. Oil from Venezuela shrunk. Individuals are not motivated to work hard following absurd regulations and receiving ridiculous salaries. Scores of officials and bosses at all levels are reluctant to give way to changes afraid of losing their privileges and political command. The revolution created corruption and destroyed moral values that will take a long time to restore.

The president hasn't granted the rights to express different opinions, partake in decision making, and independent civil society is repressed, accused of being counterrevolutionary acting on behalf of the United States.

In 2016, the Gross Domestic Product is expected to grow only by 1%, and in 2017 probably will decline. Blackouts started and stores are even more poorly supplied, although the government and scholars consider that difficulties won't be as harsh as during the peak of the Special Period in the 1990s. Cubans are hoping hurricanes won't strike this season, destroying infrastructure, harvests, and shabby homes dwelled by several generations.

Cuba is not the same Fidel Castro provisionally delegated on July 31st 2006, when he was forced to do so at death's door 13 days before tuning 80. Then, Raul controlled Cubans with silk gloves to maintain social calm, mend the economy and gain international acceptance. A year later he acknowledged the need of changes, perhaps certain that Fidel wouldn't be back. In February 2008 he was invested president by the National Assembly, started changes by allowing Cubans rent rooms and use Internet in hotels, selling cell phones, granting land in usufruct to diminish food shortage and imports, and increasing permissions for self-employment. His military took over the economy. In 2009 he swept Fidel's principal men in the government. In 2011 the VI Congress confirmed him as first secretary of the Communist Party, the most important post in Cuba; his appointees in the politburo and the secretariat, and their economic program (Lineamientos) prevailed. In 2013 by the Migration Law permitted Cubans to travel abroad and return, and in 2014 the new Investment Law encouraged foreign flow of desperate needed money to recapitalize the infrastructure and develop tourist facilities and others. In the meantime State owned taxis, barbershops, beauty parlors, restaurants and cafeterias were rented to their employees, most of them forcefully to become nonagricultural cooperatives. On December 17th 2014 with Barack Obama he entered into history by reestablishing diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. In April 2016, the VII Congress of the Communist Party reelected Raul Castro for a 5 years term (he turned 85 in June), renewed the central committee, and limited ages and to two terms in ruling positions.

The president has promised to step down from the Councils of State and Government in 2018, so he will have two complicated years. Export of doctors, remittances and growing tourism will continue as the main sources of net income. Debts forgiven and would be foreign investment might be lifesavers. But reduced fuel, electricity and loans could have a negative impact on agriculture, industry and tourism. Increasing work and productivity are essential, as much as human motivation to achieve them.

Raul Castro might leave a great mess in 2018, although he dismantled most of Fidel's webs, quoting Fidel's words in old speeches. Yet as first secretary of the Communist Party he will be guiding fake at least until 2021.

Miriam Leiva

Cuban Independent Journalist

Havana, August 3rd, 2016