Under new president Raúl Castro, Cuba is changing in small but ideologically-significant ways.
The floodgates aren’t opening to capitalism in Cuba, but under Raúl Castro, Cubans are now allowed to buy cell phones, computers and DVD players. State workers can buy their own homes and bequeath them to their children. Cuba is handing over state-controlled land to private farmers. There’s some anticipation that this is just the beginning, and that soon people will be allowed to travel abroad and perhaps even purchase and sell their cars.
According to our guest, Michael Voss, Cubans are thrilled about their newfound access to phones and hotels — even if many can’t actually afford to buy any of these things.
Today, thousands of people will fill Revolution Square in Havana to celebrate May Day, or International Workers' Day. We talked to Voss about the tentative opening that Raúl Castro has created, and what might be ahead.
- Raul Castro was elected President of Cuba on February 24, 2008. He had temporarily assumed presidential duties on July 31, 2006 after brother Fidel Castro fell ill.
- Raul Castro has lifted several restrictions on Cuban life, allowing Cubans to stay in tourist hotels, rent cell phones and own DVD players and computers.
- Castro announced this week that he was commuting the death penalty for most prisoners in the country. In early March, he signed two United Nations human rights agreements that had been long opposed by Fidel Castro.
- Under Raul, private farmers are being actively encouraged to take over under-utilized state-owned land.
- This day in history: On May 1, 1961, Fidel Castro announced he was banning elections.
Guest: Michael Voss, BBC's Cuba correspondent