The "updating" looks inconsequential at best. One must suffer from acute ideological stiffness to think that it is by decriminalizing the importation and commercialization of automobiles, encouraging self-employment or exporting physicians that Cuba can revive its moribund economy.
A feature that speaks volumes about the innocuousness of Raúl Castro's reforms relates to how little effect a credit policy instituted by Cuba's Central Bank in 2011 has had.
That policy was intended to provide finance to self-employed workers. Cuba's official press, however, recently recognized that out of a total of 218,400 loans granted since the policy entered into effect, only 550 (i.e., not even one percent) went to Cubans having applied for credit with the aim of running their own businesses.
A cornerstone of the "updating" exercise relates to the creationof a "special economic zone" in the west designed to host foreign firms and expected to operate according to criteria other than those applied in the rest of the country.
These kinds of special economic zones have been tested already in a country ruled by another staunch communist regime: the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea, where some 100 South Korean enterprises, staffed by 50,000 North Korean workers, are allowed to operate. The complex has not halted the continued decline of the North Korean economy, nor the recurrent famines. And there is no reason to believe that the Cuban version will perform any better.
And much like North Korea, the Cuban regime fails to realize that it is not by insulating several hundreds of square miles from the rest of the country -- so as to keep the bulk of the population immunized from the "virus" of capitalism -- that an economy can possibly take off.
Still more unfounded are the expectations that the Cuban regime is trying to nurture the political realm. While Raúl Castro proposes to President Obama to establish a "civilized relationship" between their two countries, the Cuban regime continues to repress members of the dissidence, denying them the right to express their views, beating them brutally and submitting them to recurrent arrests.
Arrests of dissidents have in fact been on the rise: 4,000 in 2011, 5,000 in 2012 and more than 5,300 in 2013. Some leading dissidents -- such as Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá -- lost their lives under strange circumstances.
Tellingly, the very day President Obama shook hands with Comrade Raúl Castro, more than one hundred dissidents were detained in Cuba. Their crime: to try to organize a gathering on the International Human Rights Day.
Did you say "civilized," Raúl?