“It seems [Raúl Castro] wants to erase this stain on his political image,” said Elizardo Sánchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation. “He wants to get rid of all these kinds of prisoners to reduce the international criticism and . . . obtain political and economic concessions.”
But any attempt to modernize the island’s moribund economy will inevitably be stunted without radical political change, writes José Azel, a senior scholar at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.
“One lesson to be learned from the transitions in the former Soviet bloc is that the success of reforms hinges on placing individual freedoms and empowerment front and center,” he contends:
The main reason is Cuba’s Stalinist political order, which remains unchanged by this announcement. In a system that denies basic freedoms, society is debilitated and corrupted by a miasma of fear. For five decades, fear has been an integral part of the everyday Cuban existence. This fear must be conquered if any national project of transition is to stand a chance of success.