Freedom House releases detailed report about life in Cuba and opinions on the future
Posted: 18 September 2008 08:56 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Change in Cuba: How Citizens View Their Country’s Future

This report is based on in-depth interviews conducted in April 2008 with nearly 180 Cubans in five provinces. These interviews sought to assess how Cubans are coping with the recent transfer of presidential power and subsequent dynamics on the island.

The study indicates that recent reforms in Cuba have done little to improve the lives of ordinary citizens. Cubans still struggle to survive day to day-to feed their families and to find adequate housing. Moreover, recent reforms announced by Raul Castro have generated little enthusiasm or hope for structural change in Cuba.

Cubans see little prospect for change, and even the prospect for change seems to give them more anxiety than hope. There is widespread fear that political change will bring crime and insecurity to Cuba. What little change Cubans have experienced, during the Periodo Especial in the 1990s, was for the worse. Despite Raul Castro’s launch of the debate critico, inviting open dialogue about the failures of the Revolution, many Cubans doubt that the government will effectively address public concerns.

Cubans say they feel incapable of organizing a popular response to government oppression. They are uninformed or misinformed about Cuba’s democracy movement. The Catholic Church provides a small space for some cultural and social activities, but respondents did not see the Church stretching beyond this into a civil or political role. Young Cubans, while particularly disillusioned, are usually apathetic. The most common response to government injustice is to complain and conform.

The bleak outlook expressed by respondents has taken root over decades of government intimidation and propaganda. Despite the moribund environment, however, there is an indication that Cubans do desire deeper political freedoms. Respondents frequently named three reforms they say they want most, and two of those three are freedom of movement-not only outside the country but within the country as well-and freedom of expression. Still, most respondents in Freedom House’s study expect that change - when it occurs - will come from within the Communist Party. Even then, Cubans anticipate that some officials may be reluctant to give up their current privileges by inviting further reform.

Even with the economic hardships and low expectations for positive change, not all Cubans are eager to leave the island. Many would like to travel abroad, but they are afraid that if they go away even for a short period of time, their homes will be taken away before they return. Though many plan to live in Cuba for the rest of their lives, the fear of change and the daily struggle to survive discourage most Cubans from trying to influence their country’s future course.

To give Cubans greater confidence in political and economic change, they must see a compelling vision for Cuba’s future, with opportunities for improvement in their daily lives. The findings of this study suggest a need for Cuba’s democracy movement and other civil society actors to expand their outreach, to present a compelling vision for change, and to engage citizens to participate in civic life. Participation in civic activity can begin to give Cubans some sense of empowerment, to move them beyond their fatalistic attitudes, and to make them think of themselves as citizens, who can contribute to a better future for Cuba.

Click HERE to visit the site for links to the following chapters

Research Findings: Daily Concerns
Restrictions on Society
Cuba’‘s New Leadership
Structural Changes
State Institutions
The Catholic Church
Dissident and Human Rights Groups
Response to Abuses
The Future
Appendix 1 - The Provinces
Appendix 2 - The Questionnaire


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