The supposed reforms of Raul Castro aren't stemming the flow of citizens attempting to flee the island, reports the London Times. Cubans are still "voting with their feet, and those who succeed in reaching Miami have raised serious doubts about Raul Castro's intentions as he tries to defuse mounting public criticism."
"It's just a big facade to impress the people," claimed Yhosvany Carmona, a popular young Cuban television actor who fled Havana via the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and arrived in Miami last week. "Who are these people who can now afford to buy computers, cellphones and DVDs? They are the same people who could afford to buy them on the black market before." In one sense, Castro, 77, has had little choice but to embark on a radical restructuring of a Caribbean economy that has been struggling to rebuild itself since the collapse of the Soviet Union robbed it of its principal banker.
Yet other analysts have noted that the reforms announced so far have been more about style than substance. Cuban citizens are now allowed to stay at beach hotels that were previously reserved for foreign tourists, but there has scarcely been a flood of local pleasure-seeking. The average salary of Cuba's 11.4m citizens is £8.70 a month, and hotel rooms cost up to £100 a night.
The government has also removed a ceiling on wages. Originally intended to prevent social inequalities from emerging, the low salaries paid to Cuban professionals have driven thousands of them from the island. While the Castros are proud of the reputation of Cuban doctors, who staff hospitals across South America, sources in Havana say many of the doctors are forced to work abroad because they can barely feed their families at home.
I wrote about Obama's ever-shifting position on the embargo here, the media's reaction to Castro's resignation here, and a documentary recounting Cuba's shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue planes here.