They have begun allowing citizens to take private-sector jobs and own property. This spring, Cuba’s National Assembly passed a law to encourage foreign investment in the country. With Brazilian capital, Cuba is building a seaport, a major project that will be economically viable only if American sanctions are lifted. And in April, Cuban diplomats began negotiating a cooperation agreement with the European Union. They have shown up at the initial meetings prepared, eager and mindful that the Europeans will insist on greater reforms and freedoms.
The authoritarian government still harasses and detains dissidents. It has yet to explain the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the political activist Oswaldo Payá. But in recent years officials have released political prisoners who had been held for years. Travel restrictions were relaxed last year, enabling prominent dissidents to travel abroad. There is slightly more tolerance for criticism of the leadership, though many fear speaking openly and demanding greater rights.
The pace of reforms has been slow and there has been backsliding. Still, these changes show Cuba is positioning itself for a post-embargo era. The government has said it would welcome renewed diplomatic relations with the United States and would not set preconditions.