The decision of the Cuban Government to launch a significant plan to liberalize the labor market, allowing the private activity of small businessmen and self-employed workers in most economic areas, deserves a positive reception as it will serve to alleviate the situation of misery that Cubans have suffered for decades. The fact that Cubans are going to be able to exercise professions autonomously, in the economic sense, in about 2,000 activities – when until now there were only 127 – represents a leap of some importance towards a less outdated economic model than the one that has prevailed in the island for the past 60 years. Furthermore, it means ending, at least in theory, the operational discretion suffered by the small private sector.
But even if it is moving in the right direction and has some breadth, this economic opening comes late and is still insufficient. Late, because each day of hardship suffered by the Cuban population due to the failed Castro economic model is one more day. Insufficient, because, in the first place, the measure expressed at the political level will remain on paper if it is not accompanied by concrete aid to the self-employed, the existing and the new. And secondly – and more importantly – because what Cuba really needs and deserves is an economic and political system where its citizens live in full freedom.
In any case, it is a remarkable step taken by the regime and it is desirable that it be the first on the path of the long-awaited opening. In the absence of better options, it is necessary that other decisions of the same nature are not delayed for years, as has been the case, nor are they parked under any excuse.
The change in the US Administration may be a spur. The Cuban announcement comes just when the four years of the presidency of Donald Trump have ended, in which the thaw climate set in motion by Barack Obama and Raúl Castro was largely destroyed with the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between both countries, interrupted since 1961. Biden now has the opportunity to return to the Obama agenda – of whom he was vice president for eight years – to issue signals and accompany measures that help accelerate the internal changes on the island that culminate in the establishment of democracy. In this sense, the partial liberalization announced by Havana is a positive measure. Trump’s aggressiveness has only served to reaffirm the discourse of the most immobile sectors of the Castro regime.