Following the Arab springs, recent reforms proposed following the much anticipated Communist Party Congress in Cuba may appear inconsiderable; certainly less worthy of front page headlines. Yet these proposed reforms, specifically that top political positions should be subject to term limits and that private property will finally be permitted after 52 years in the wilderness, must be embraced for the incremental improvements that they are.
These politico-economic adjustments mark a rational step in the right direction.
The concept of private property, fundamental in promoting the rights of the individual and prosperity, is a necessary component of liberal democracy. While Cuba appears less than ripe for an over-night democratic revolution (indeed, the party is still committed to the endurance of communism) this belated acknowledgment of individual rights can provide a foundation for a future middle-class to build upon. It will surely provide the impetus for further reform.
Moreover, the introduction of term limits, while a vaguely defined concept within this current context, ought to underline the growing consciousness apparent in Havana regarding the serious limitations of communism. Totalitarian demagogues, of whom Fidel Castro has been no exception, have failed consistently throughout history to deliver political projects that bring prosperity, freedom and human rights to its citizens. Such top-down models are outdated and even the most formative steps away from them must be fostered by the West in order to encourage the adoption of liberal traditions everywhere.
Considering the kinship between Cuba’s Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, these proposed reforms must also be supported for the role they might play in demonstrating the ills of 21st century socialism to peoples beyond Cuba’s own sovereign borders.
Latin America is a region with historical, linguistic, cultural, political and religious ties to the West. It is therefore imperative that the West endeavours to maintain this affinity, supporting democracy throughout the region.
Cuba remains a disquieting case in point for its human rights record and these proposed reforms are far from the democratic revolution we might desire, yet should Cuba’s formative steps gather momentum and turn into purposeful strides, the West must be well positioned to lend its support.