Cuba's Communist Party encourages people to focus on hard work rather
By Anita Snow | The Associated Press
March 15, 2008
Havana, Cuba – Cuba's leaders have a message for their people: Stop
dreaming and get to work.
Cubans are spending too much time waiting for reforms they hope will
bring luxuries such as electronics and trips, while what the country
needs to advance is the sweat of their brow, according to an editorial
in the ruling Communist Party newspaper Friday.
The editorial, penned by Granma newspaper director Lazaro Barredo,
appeared aimed at deflating expectations for change that have ballooned
since Raul Castro took over the presidency from his ailing brother Fidel
“I am worried that some people are waiting for the announcement of
specific measures that would immediately resolve household or spiritual
needs, or ones that would automatically lead to more consumption,''
Many Cubans have interpreted Raul Castro's speeches to suggest that the
government will give people the right to buy computers, microwave ovens
and other electronics. Many also hope he will change a two-currency
system that leaves most Cubans with little buying power, and end
restrictions that make many tourist resorts off-limits to Cubans.
But Barredo wrote that without an improved economy, such changes cannot
“We can't expect more needs to be resolved if people don't work more,
if they don't produce more,'' he wrote, adding: “Unfortunately, there
is a not-insignificant part of our society … that wants to live
The editorial implied that Cubans are unwilling to work to improve their
economic situation, said Cuba specialist Phil Peters of the Lexington
Institute, a pro-democracy think tank based outside Washington.
“I don't think the problem is that Cubans want to live better without
working for it,'' he said. “The problem is that even by working hard,
Cubans cannot live because they are not paid enough to make a decent
When he replaced the 81-year-old Fidel as president on Feb. 24, Raul
Castro told people to expect that some of the “excess of prohibitions
and regulations'' would be removed within weeks. He did not offer
specifics, but has said he wants to strengthen the peso, the currency
most Cubans earn.
Although Cubans buy subsidized goods and services with pesos, they need
convertible Cuban pesos– which have 24 times the value –to buy things
like powdered milk, toilet paper and personal-care items.
No changes have been announced yet, but a document circulating among
foreign journalists in Cuba suggests the government plans to open the
sale of some electronic items. Currently, only foreigners and companies
are allowed to buy computers and many other electronics.
Lifting the ban would be largely symbolic, since most Cubans cannot
afford such electronics anyway.
The document, whose origin is unclear because it is not signed, dated or
addressed to anyone, says three stores in Havana will begin selling
television sets, electric pressure cookers, rice cookers, computers,
electric bicycles, car alarms and microwave ovens.
The government's official gazette, which publishes new decrees, had not
mentioned such a plan Friday. Several officials from the Interior
Commerce Ministry, which oversees retail sales on the island, said they
were unfamiliar with the memo.
The document states that beginning in April 2009, electric stoves with
one burner, electric frying pans, hot-water heaters, air conditioners
and electric shower heads will go on sale. Other items such as toasters
and deep fryers will be available in mid-2010, according to the memo.