Commentary: Cuba and the free market

As Cuba's failed economy struggles after a half century of quashing individual creativity and entrepreneurship, the regime has come up with a plan to lay off a half-million workers — 10 percent of its workforce. They are being encouraged to open small businesses, instead.

Sounds like "capitalism-lite" to us.

Not so, says Fidel Castro, who has been making speeches to university students. The octogenarian says he was misunderstood when he told a reporter for The Atlantic magazine recently that the Fidelista economic model no longer works. It's capitalism that doesn't work, he corrected. Whatever.

It's no secret that Cuba is broke and has been for years, even before the Soviet Union's subsidies ended two decades ago.

Raul Castro has been hinting about changes since his brother Fidel became sick, and Raúl was put in charge. "We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where one can live without working," Raul told Cuba's National Assembly recently.

And no wonder many Cubans don't seem to want to work. They long ago lost hope that a college education or specialized training would reward them with better earnings, much less let them move to a better home or buy a used car. Cuban youth have grown weary of a dictatorship that seeks to monitor their music, limit their use of the Internet and keep them focused on their next meal by standing in line with their ration cards for steadily declining goods.

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