I'll begin part 2 by adressing the claims made in the Executive Summary section of the Freedom House report.
The report was created by compiling the results of 120 interviews on the island of Cuba which has a population over 11 million. By sending 5 researchers to the island in its attempt to make generalized assumptions about the feelings and opinions of the Cuban people. Just the idea that 120 people could accurately reflect the will of an entire nation is a bit of a stretch. But even among those 120, some of the responses were enough to demonstrate that the line of propaganda that spews from Miami is not accurate. Much of the context of the report is based on the reforms outlined by the Cuban government in recent months. The reforms expect to update the systems in Cuba so that it is more able to perform independently and productively in the world as it is today.
The Cuban government announced the elimination of redundant and unnecessary workers on the government's payroll of around 1 million jobs. This would cut the public workforce by about 20%. I can't find any reason why the Republicans in Miami would have an ideological dispute with Cuba having a smaller government since they preach the same thing over here. The Miami media has done its best to evoke sympathy for the people left without jobs, a point quite silly coming from people who support the policy of causing hardship for the people in Cuba. The Cuban government has stated that these jobs will not be eliminated at a fast pace so that the "private" sector will be able to absorb these workers. It has made it quite clear that it does not intend to leave people lost in limbo to starve or lose their homes or anything else for that matter during this process. One of the aims is to create a culture of work which to a certain extent has been lost due to the existence of redundancies at state controlled workplaces.
The Freedom House study would try to suggest that "despite hopes" people don't expect personal benefits from the reforms. Given the fact that Cubans, just like much of the world is suffering from the downturn in the global economy, the high hopes of the Cuban people are no different than the rest of the world. The question arises in my mind if they included in their 120 people any who have started their own businesses and are actually already seeing a difference in their personal situations. Many people have taken advantage of the new situation and began to increase their incomes drastically and have been able to do so without the risks of losing their access to housing or healthcare, things that certainly people risk in our own country in their entrpreneurial pursuits. In their attempts to portray a dire situation on the island they point out the fact that many surveyed describe their situation as "tight". In all fairness they are not comparing Cuba to the U.S., but it would be a good if they would have some sort of admittance that this is a sentiment not unique in Cuba. Presenting facts that private businesses are subject to hefty taxes and fines for violations suggests that inspectors may be doing their jobs as are inspectors in our own country. Here too there are fines for violations and business are also expected to pay taxes which according to the business community are also to high. The one time argument that Cubans didn't have access to the same places and things that foreigners do is blown out of the water as the study admits that these restrictions were eliminated already. The complaint that prices are too high for people's incomes is in many cases true, but as people find work in the growing private sector their incomes will undoubtedly grow. More people will have the ability to spend money in these places just as have the taxi drivers and others who have been earning money and going to these places in the past years. Is there an outcry in our media about the fact that many people don't earn enough money to afford a family vacation at Disney World or any of the hotels that more well off people con stay in? Not really, so why if everyone on the island has equal rights to pay for types of things but not all can afford it be a concern for the people that write this report?
Several respondants spoke of their efforts to leave the country with exit permits. Did they speak of the countless denials for visas by the American Interests Section in Havana? Without a visa what good is an exit permit? Just days ago the mother of the hunger striker who died last year arrived in the United States. How many people did she skip in line for the single reason of being able to make a show out of her for the Miami audience? I bring this up only because the report mentions the prisoner release last year in which most but not all were moved to Spain only to find themselves complaining about life there too!
The rport is honest enough to include one person's opinion that the government will implement them correctly. This can easily be construed as people having confidence in the competence of the Cuban government. Quickly to battle this idea of confidence though, the report then cites a woman who fears a loss of the ration books that all Cubans rely on and rising prices they will be thrown into a life in which she will no longer survive. I'll once again point out the fact that the government is aware of this situation and has reaffirmed that along with the gradual phasing out of the ration book there will necessarily be an increase of the purchasing power of the currency so that the change will not cause these worries she expressed to become a reality. Then they rely on a former prostitute to provide us with someone who believes that as long as a Castro is in power, changes are not possible. This is obviously ignoring the reality that though a Castro is still in the leadership these reforms are already taking place.
At the time of this report being released, the blog Generation Y by Yoani Sanchez is not blocked and hasn't been so for at least a year. So why is a woman who got the chance to see the blog on the internet included in the report wondering why the blog is blocked? It must be an attempt to consistantly perpetuate the idea that only what the government allows is assessible by the people. If the report is created to give a better understanding of what is happening on the island then it shouldn't include thes types of inaccuracies. "Internet and email along with cell phone use remains low" states the report. Of course internet remains at low levels since the infrastructure is only now beginning to take shape as a cable was just a few months ago connected to the island. Cell phone use is flourishing on the island and it is obvious to anyone who has been there. Text messages are prefered to calls since they are much cheaper than the call minutes on the phone cards that charge the phones for usage.
The report seems complimentary to the seemingly progressive social values of the Cuban people. Although it does characterize Cubans as being isolated from each other which makes no sense since people know their neighbors very well and come to rely on each other in many instances. The study attemps to suggest that Cubans are different than other Latin Americans in this respect which actually seems to suggest that despite being "isolated", they have managed to form progressive ideas. It also ignores the fact that many of the Latin American countries have elected governments, that we accuse all the time of being Cuba-like, rejecting the conservative politics that they have endured for decades if not longer.
To be continued (with pleasure!).....