Cuba Warns Foes That Recent Reforms Strengthen, Not Weaken, Socialism
By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 17, 2008; Page A17
MEXICO CITY, April 16 — Cuba's government said Wednesday that recent
reforms applauded by democracy advocates will actually strengthen
socialism on the island, rather than undermine it.
"There is no space for the dreams of adversaries," a strongly worded
editorial in the Communist Party daily Granma stated. "There will be a
more perfect socialism sustained and by a united people led by Fidel,
Raúl and the party's leadership."
Since being named president in February, Raúl Castro has legalized
ownership of cellphones and computers, lifted a ban on Cubans staying in
top tourist hotels and allowed farmers to buy some supplies from private
providers instead of the state. Castro, who succeeded his ailing older
brother Fidel, has also clarified property laws to ensure that Cubans
can live long-term in their state-owned apartments and pass along the
dwellings to their relatives after death.
The reforms have been widely hailed as possible signs of larger changes
to come, including private property ownership and even democratic
elections. But Wednesday's editorial asserted that "the genuine, and
only, strategic change took place in Cuba on the first of January in
1959 with the victory of an authentic revolution."
Manuel Cuesta, a Cuban dissident, said in a phone interview from Havana
that the editorial's message was clear: "It's a way of saying that
'We're still in charge even though there have been some changes.' "
The editorial seemed to have been provoked by the "Cuban Democracy
Roundtable," a day-long conference held April 8 in the exile stronghold
of Coral Gables, Fla., and hosted by U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.).
Martinez, the first Cuban U.S. senator, was quoted by the Miami Herald
as saying the international community should be prepared to react if
Cuban dissidents "take to the streets" in protest.
The Granma editorial scoffed at the conference as the work of "mafiosos"
and alleged it was an attempt to subvert the Cuban government. "The
Cuban Revolution is not a castle made of cards," the editorial stated,
"but an impregnable fortress."
As the Cuban and U.S. governments have traded barbs in recent days,
Cubans have seemed to be adapting quickly to some of their new freedoms.
Huge lines formed this week when cellphones and calling plans went on
sale for the first time, a development that Cuesta and other dissidents
say will "empower" the population.