Hope for change hot in Cuba while Raul Castro stays quiet

( dpa )- What's cooking in Cuba's political kitchens? A lot, according to analysts, politicians and people on the street.

However, a month into Raul Castro's presidency, the menu of reform remains uncertain, although some of the ingredients are starting to become known.

Rumour , leaks and vague comments on official media appeared to indicate the direction of possible changes - including the free sale of some agricultural products, and even of computers and home appliances, more flexible migration rules or the end of the veto of Cubans on the island's luxury resorts.

However, there has been no official confirmation of any of these possible moves.

Raul Castro himself encouraged expectations of change in his inaugural speech on February 24, when he said he would move to end an "excess in prohibitions and rules" within the "coming weeks." He also tackled other problems, like the double currency or the need to increase productivity and undertake "structural reform."

A high official said in recent days that authorities are contemplating the elimination of "all" prohibitions that have become "obsolete," to allow people to live "in a more natural and normal way." However, he gave no concrete details.

Indeed, one month into the new government - after the decades-long rule of Fidel Castro - the only thing that was clear was that reform, whatever it may be, will not be introduced through high-profile announcements.

Rather, it is likely to be implemented gradually and with discretion - like the sale of some tools for farmers, which has already started in some provinces after only a passing mention on state radio.

Such secrecy "does not make anything easier," dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe complained. He said that the new approach fits the new president's general attitude. "Raul Castro has always been very prone to working silently, in a discrete way."

"Not legalizing change entails a danger, because at any point they can backtrack, it builds no confidence," he told Deutsche Presse - Agentur dpa .

The problem is that many changes in the communist Cuba do not need specific legislation, because they would be reforms to measures undertaken "out of need" in the severe crisis of the 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet bloc. The prohibition of using luxury hotels is one such measure.

Diverse sources have confirmed the trend in the country in recent weeks.

"There is underground movement," a European diplomat said in Havana.

And even Washington has acknowledged tactical changes under Raul Castro.

The longing for reform is so great among the Cuban people that even official media have had to deal with it.

"I see with worry that some people are hoping that the announcement of certain measures will solve by itself, from one minute to the next, accumulated domestic, spiritual needs, or be reflected automatically on consumption," Granma chief editor Lazzaro Barredo said recently.

Cuban news agency AIN was forced to put a brake on rumour about an appreciation of the peso, linking it to "speculative considerations" and calling people not to fall for "unfounded rumour ."

For Espinosa Chepe , this popular involvement is perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of what is happening in Cuba.

"There is a very strong consciousness growing in all sectors, including the PCC (Cuban Communist Party) itself. It is this element, Cuban public opinion, which will finally guarantee change," he said.

One month into Cuba's new era, some tastes of change may be about ready, and there is clearly a hunger for change. However, it remained to be seen just how rich the complete menu of reform would be.

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