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FidelCastro The first legalised home computers have gone on sale in Cuba, but a ban remains on internet access.

This is the latest in a series of restrictions on daily life which President Raul Castro has lifted in recent weeks.


The desktop computers cost almost $800 (£400), in a country where the average wage is under $20 (£10) a month.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Cuba lifts ban on home computers

With its iconic revolutionary leader gone from power, well everyday power, its interesting to see how Raul Castro, the brother of the famous Fidel, is guiding the country.

The new tone is apparent in some respects. A gradual liberalisation, a trickle of freedoms. Most are consumer and consumption orientated, such as permitting the use of mobile phones and allowing Cubans to stay at the previously foreigner only resorts in Cuba.

One stands out for being more long term. This is allowing farmers to use fallow state land for crops, and to sell those crops on the market.

Since it seems unique, I wonder if food reform is a concession to the stratospheric world food prices rather than an experiment in the value of the Capitalist system.

I’m watching Cuba with interest because when Communist states liberalise the results tend to be interesting.

There was the dramatic near collapse of civil society in post USSR Russia due to rapid liberalisation. Energy prices prevented the threatened collapse of both the state and the market. Putin’s strong government helped as well.

In contrast there is the gradual transition combining authoritarian rule with market structures in China and Vietnam. Free markets feeding into developing middle classes, that seem on the whole politically inactive.

The other end of the scale, the short lived and quickly aborted free market dabbling that North Korea engaged in for a little while. Failed, probably because it was done at the wrong time, and without a coherent plan.

I suspect a strong tourist industry and remittances from expatriate Cubans will see Cuba a long way through any transition. They’re not as weak or isolated to anything like the degree that North Korea was when it began its ‘reforms’.

Also if things get to the stage where the US lifts sanctions, then Cuba is likely to get a real boost that should see it through the transition. That depends on the sanity and ability of the US administration, something that can’t be presumed nowadays.