In a country that is in the process of bidding a long farewell to
its ageing revolutionaries, Mariela Castro brings an expectation of
change along with an air of youthful passion. As the director of
Cenesex (the National Sex Education Center) Ms. Castro is eager to
consider where Cuba should go in a postrevolutionary era.
"We have many contradictions in Cuba," says Castro, the daughter
of Raul Castro, Cuba's de facto leader and brother of ailing
President Fidel Castro. A Spanish doctor arrived in Cuba last week,
reenergizing speculation about the health of the Cuban leader, who
has not been seen in public since undergoing surgery in July. "We
need to experiment and to test what really works, to make public
ownership more effective, rather than simply adopting wholesale free-
market reforms," Ms. Castro says.
Leaders like Ms. Castro may indicate the extent to which a post-
Castro Cuba may be willing to liberalize, both economically and
socially. As Cuba's old-guard leadership fades, this new generation -
made up primarily of the sons and daughters of those who fought in
the 1959 Communist revolution - is perhaps more sympathetic to
economic reforms and more-liberal social policies.
Nevertheless, Cuba-watchers and experts have ruled out any
dramatic lurch toward a liberal market economy that might undermine
the island nation's heritage as the persistent holdout of
traditional Communist policies. More relaxed social attitudes may
also evolve gradually.
Still, no one doubts that change is afoot.
"The transition in Cuba has already taken place" and this new
generation has a key role to play, says Richard Gott, a Latin
American analyst and former foreign correspondent for the London-
based The Guardian newspaper. "Carlos Lage will be the brains behind
the new government. He, together with Julio Soberon at the central
bank, will seek to chart a new economic course."
Now Raul Castro has started to echo some of his daughter's
sentiments. Addressing university students, he urged that they
should ''fearlessly engage in public debate and analysis," according
to Granma, the Communist Party newspaper.
Cuba is one of several Latin American countries that once
harassed homosexuals as a matter of policy. But Mariela Castro, who
is also an executive member of the World Association for Sexual
Health, insists that job discrimination and mass arrests are a thing
of the past.
"[Homosexuals] still sometimes face arrest by bigoted police"
says Castro, adding that she has sometimes clashed with the
authorities in her efforts to release gay men and women from prison.
"Now, society is more relaxed. There is no official repression of
gays and lesbians," she argues confidently.
A writer turned politico
Cuban writer and culture minister Abel Prieto has also emerged as
an influential power broker in a changing Cuba. Since joining the
state bureaucracy and the politburo, the long-haired, middle-aged
minister still exudes a passion for culture and a common touch.
In response to a question about the conflict of interest between
writers and the state, Mr. Prieto laughs, saying that, "sometimes I
feel like Dr. …