I’m not a total ignoramus about Cuba, but I didn’t know that for almost 50 years, people there have largely been forbidden to build houses for themselves (or anyone else), or buy and sell them, giving rise to bizarre and desperate efforts by the citizenry.*
It’s sad that it took a chronic and severe housing shortage and much misery before something was done, but Raul Castro is at least doing it now, after earlier steps to allow people to take possession of state-owned homes.
Along with finally allowing computers (!) and mobile phones (!!) to be purchased by individuals, liberalising (in minor ways) agriculture and transport and wages, some decentralisation, even a teensy relaxation of the policing of political criticism, it seems that Raul Castro is definitely taking steps in the right direction.
I doubt important things like freedom of speech, of movement, of association, democratic rights and the like will be forthcoming soon, however. More likely the leadership will attempt some China-esque reform of the economy, but not the polity.
Cubans have valiantly tried to make their revolution work, and have chalked some successes, but mostly failures. They know it’s time to give up on the socialist mirage. Looks like their leaders are finally, slowly, waking up too.
* It exemplifies a theme or pattern I see repeated in many ways and places – trying to stop or distort market forces just means people find a way around them, usually at huge social cost. I’ll return to that idea another time.