Fidel Castro says his economic system is failing | Fidel Castro

It was a casual remark over a lunch of salad, fish, and red wine, but future historians are likely to analyze and ponder every word: “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”

Fidel Castro’s nine-word confession, in a conversation with a visiting American journalist and political analyst, undermines a half-century of thunderous revolutionary certainty about Cuban socialism.

That the island’s economy is a disaster is not news, but one that the “maximum leader” in micromanagement would recognize so easily that he has amazed observers.

Towards the end of a long, relaxed lunch in Havana, Atlantic magazine national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg asked Castro if Cuba’s economic system was still worth exporting. The answer left him stunned. “Did the leader of the revolution just say, in essence, “Whatever”?Goldberg wrote on his blog.

The 84-year-old retired president did not give details, but the implication, according to Julia Sweig, a Cuban expert from the Council on Foreign Relations who also attended the lunch, was that the state had too big a role. in the economy.

Raúl Castro has been saying the same thing in public and in private since taking over from his older brother two years ago. With the infrastructure collapse, acute food shortages and an average monthly salary of just $ 25 (£ 16), it has become evident that near total state control over the economy is not working.

But for Fidel to recognize the fact could be compared to Napoleon thinking that the march on Moscow was not, on reflection, a great success.

“Frankly, I was somewhat surprised by Fidel’s new franchise,” said Stephen Wilkinson, a Cuba expert at London Metropolitan University. “This is the latest in a series of recent statements which seem to me to indicate a change in the character of the old man. “

The remark, however, should not be interpreted as a condemnation of socialism, Wilkinson added. “Clearly that’s not what he means, but it’s a recognition that the way the Cuban system is organized has to change. time. We can now expect a lot more change and possibly faster changes as a result. “

Raúl said Cuba cannot blame the decades-old US embargo for all of its economic ills and that serious reforms are needed. Fidel’s statement could reinforce the president’s behind-the-scenes struggle with apparatchiks resisting change, Sweig said.

Agriculture has been a big disappointment. The lush Caribbean island of 11 million people could be a major food exporter, but central planning and state-run cooperatives have produced chronic shortages, sparking an old bitter joke that the three biggest failures of the revolution are breakfast, lunch and dinner. Raúl’s reforms are not going well: food production fell 7.5% in the first half of the year.

Once backed by the Soviet Union, Cuba’s lifeline is now cheap oil from Venezuela, where President Hugo Chávez sees Fidel as a mentor.

Chavez quickly followed up on another surprise statement by Castro – accusing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of anti-Semitism – by announcing that he would meet with Venezuelan Jewish leaders. The move was “a direct result of Fidel’s statement,” according to Goldberg.

This article was last modified on September 10th. The headlines of the original branded Fidel Castro as saying that communism didn’t work. This has been corrected.

Marxist reforms?

Remarks on Cuban economic policy are not the only surprise statements made recently by the former Cuban leader. Others include:

He feels responsible for the “great injustice” of the persecution of Cuban homosexuals in the 1970s.

He deplores the suffering of Jews over the centuries, defends Israel’s right to exist and accuses Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of anti-Semitism.

He seems to regret having urged the Soviet Union to atomize the United States in the 1962 Missile Crisis. “After seeing what I saw, and knowing what I know now, it was no good. not worth it. “

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