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Posted December 10, 2006 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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SHE may be the troublemaking, free-spirited rebel of the family, but Mariela Castro is seen by some as the future of Cuban socialism.

While her father, Ra�l Castro, has become the de facto leader of the country, with her uncle, the ailing president, Fidel, too sick to wield power, people are already looking to the next generation.

Fidel Castro is 80 and his brother Ra�l five years younger, whereas Ms Castro, a leading academic and campaigner for gay and lesbian rights, is among a group of more youthful political leaders, including Carlos Lage, the prime minister, and Abel Prieto, the culture minister, who are all in their forties.

Among the Castro faithful, it is hoped they may be able to reinvent and rejuvenate Cuban socialism to address the economic problems faced by the island.

Ms Castro, 43, brings an air of youthful passion, an expectation of change and glasnost, to a country in the process of saying a long farewell to its ageing revolutionaries. And, despite being well known as a passionate defender of a tolerant society

who is opposed to all kinds of dogma, she insists socialism will survive the death of the president.

In an interview with The Scotsman, she called for more open debate on economic problems. “I would like to hear more discussion. We need to experiment and to test what really works, to make the public ownership more effective, rather than simply adopting wholesale free-market reforms,” she said.

“As a Cuban citizen, I think we have to explain, discuss and listen to people’s questions and criticisms. I don’t agree with closing the door on people’s experiences.”

She said that dealing with criticism of Cuba’s human-rights record and its lack of political rights was “complicated because of the US threat”.

Referring to the US trade embargo and other efforts to topple President Castro, she said: “We are a besieged country and, under these conditions, some puritans and authoritarians take advantage to impose their point of view. We have constant contradictions in Cuban society.”

Cuba has a well developed education system and a health service on a par with western countries, but its command economy lags so far behind, analysts constantly term it dysfunctional.

Ra�l Castro is reported to be impressed by some economic reforms carried out in China, and his daughter confirmed: “My father is well aware of the economic hardships, that many things are not working.”

However, Ms Castro said too many former Communists in the country now “think the market economy is the only alternative”.

Evidently impatient with old orthodoxies herself, she hopes for an economic debate about decentralisation and community-run co-operatives which could provide a different answer to Cuba’s problems.

She has clashed with the authorities over human rights in the past, particularly in her role as a leading campaigner against homophobia. The island has had a reputation for rounding up sexual “deviants” and carting them off to work camps.

Ms Castro said although bad things had happened in years gone by, times had changed, and job discrimination and mass arrests were now a thing of the past. “Our work has been fruitful. We have exposure on TV and radio, and people are not hostile these days, although some institutions are still very puritanical. Still, some changes I feel are too slow - it’s like one drop today, one drop tomorrow, little by little,” she said. “Now society is more relaxed. There is no official repression of gays and lesbians.”

Does Ra�l Castro, described as an old-school Communist, support her ideas? “My father respects my views [but] he thinks I have to be a good strategist to achieve my goals,” she said.

The death of Fidel Castro will see Cuban socialism lose its charismatic leader, and Ms Castro accepts her father is never likely to dominate decision-making in the same way. But his legacy will remain, she believes.

“We will rely on our collective capacity,” she said. “We have seen the country is working very well under a co-ordinated leadership. Cuban socialism has been based on Fidel’s leadership, but there are other leaders. The process will change.”
Castro’s daughter could sway him

MARIELA Castro may prove to be a liberal influence on her father Ra�l, Cuba’s acting president.

Opinion is divided over which direction Ra�l will take Cuba once his brother Fidel dies.

Some believe he will adopt a more pragmatic, “softer” approach, allowing more market freedom and hoping for a Chinese-style economic boom.

But others point to a comment by Fidel in 1997 - when he said: “Behind me are others more radical than I” - as evidence he could be more revolutionary.

It was Ra�l who introduced Che Guevara to Fidel and he was a socialist several years before his elder brother. Ra�l was at least initially more militant than Fidel, a trait which saw him sidelined in the early days of the revolution as it was feared this would put off potential supporters.

However, he appears to plan a more collective style of leadership, bringing in other leading figures from the communist party.

And he is said to respect his daughter’s more liberal views. She is thought to have been a fan of Perestroika, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempt to turn the USSR’s command economy into a decentralised market-oriented one in the 1980s.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on December 11, 2006 by J. Perez

    It looks more and more that we might be heading in the right direction, younger leaders who are more in-touch with the hopes and aspirations of Cuba’s youth. I believe it is definitely possible to preserve the gains made by the revolution in the areas of education and health care and to bring about economic reforms that are surely needed. When it comes to political freedoms however, Mariela is right when she states tha Cuba is a besieged country, and although that in it of itself is not a justification for the lack of political freedoms, it is the historical background against which Cuban leaders have been making decisions for the last 45 years. Not a healthy climate if I may say so.

  2. Follow up post #2 added on December 11, 2006 by MiamiCuban

    I found this article to be very promising.  First, it seems to me that it’s the younger generation of Cubans who will have the most influence on Cuba’s future.  They’ve made many accomplishments over the course of 40 years, and by injecting the new, more liberal ideas of the younger generation, they’re definitely moving forward.  I have my doubts that this will appease any of the right-wing exiles in Florida because their vision for Cuba is much different, but then that base is steadily dwindling, which means that those on the island should find less resistance as they move forward with their new programs.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on December 12, 2006 by Pete Chavez

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

  4. Follow up post #4 added on December 12, 2006 by BERNIE

    Remember 50 year ago Fidel was a young 30 year old revolutionary.
    He is one tough hombre.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on December 12, 2006 by Pete Chavez

    It’s the Castro Kingdom.  They should list a bloodline of succession.  I have a Burger King Crown that my nephew brought home yesterday I’d be more than happy to donate it to the cause.  Ha ha ha ha.

  6. Follow up post #6 added on March 30, 2008 by Karen Brooks

    The next Castro in line - Mariela Castro?

    I just returned from Cuba, and I visited a school.  My hope is that Mariela Castro will improve the lives of the Cuban families. Their hardships and struggles are immense. My heart is with the mothers that try to keep their children fed, and going to school each day. I see the strain on the faces of the fathers.

    My hope is that Mariela Castra will bring hope to the families of Cuba.

    What can one Canadian do to help?

  7. Follow up post #7 added on April 02, 2008 by Humans Care Affairs

    Dear Mrs. Mariela Castro

    SOS Dr. Alfredo Pulido López - Cuba.

    Humans Care Affairs
    Kind Regards

  8. Follow up post #8 added on April 02, 2008 by Humans Care Affairs

    SOS Dr. Alfredo Pulido López - Cuba.

  9. Follow up post #9 added on May 30, 2009 by Give me a #$ Break

    If Ms. Castro is anything like her father, she be a great murderer.

  10. Follow up post #10 added on May 30, 2009 by grant with 48 total posts

    Murderers and torturers, tried and convicted in the early years of the human revolution deserve no sympathy.  Perhaps you could do something about the million killed in Irak by american troops?

  11. Follow up post #11 added on May 30, 2009 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    The future in Cuba should NOT be linked to anybody in particular but to DEMOCRACY.
    Free open and truly democratic elections and the president would be whoever is elected by the majority of the people.

    Grant, few murderers and torturers were killed during the early years of the revolution but also many good people were murdered without proper trials.

    BTW what do you understand for “tried and convicted”?

  12. Follow up post #12 added on May 31, 2009 by paul

    Military monarchy. She might have allowed for trannies to go wild, but it’ll just be a “softer” PR front, for a still oppressive society.


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