<em>The Washington Note</em> and <em>The Havana Note</em> Soon to Have More Cuban Readers
Cuban President Raul Castro has started his reforms -- well, he did quite a while ago actually though few noticed. But the new news is that the Cuban government has removed restrictions on the sale of computers, DVDs, and video players inside Cuba.
Old story first. When I was doing research in Cuba last March, Fidel Castro was ill and Raul Castro had assumed the responsibilities of acting head of state. In the past during Fidel's tenure, ministers -- questioned by legislators in Cuba's National Assembly -- used to wait for the President to instruct them on how to respond to legislators and the public.
Raul Castro changed that -- and told the ministers that they needed to be accountable for the performance of the institutions for which they had responsibility. Competence was the signal he was sending -- accountability. And he was telegraphing that they ought not wait for dictates of political correctness from his office.
But what Raul Castro has done today is open the door for a new consumer appetite. He is allowing people to purchase -- completely unrestricted -- the vehicles for the consumption and transport of "culture." DVDs, computers, and video players are how American power and culture are really heard and seen around the world today -- not through Pentagon machinery.
But as things stand now, America won't allow its content into Cuba. As the embargo stands, we hope that Venezuela's Hugo Chavez fills the scarce bandwidth now available in Cuba and are giving him no competition.
Raul Castro is moving forward in a constructive direction. The U.S. needs to adopt a set of policies now that is less "self-destructive" of American interests.
-- Steve Clemons