Cuban-Americans hope for reforms

Miguel Gomez Beruvides yells as he reacts to the news that Cuban President Fidel Castro announced he will not accept a new term in office in front of the Versailles restaurant in the Little Havana neighborhood February 19, 2008 in Miami, Florida.

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Kai Ryssdal: It's not like we didn't know it was coming. Castro's brother Raul has been in charge for most of the past 18 months. He's expected to get the top job officially sometime after Cuba's Nationals Assembly meets this weekend to nominate a successor.

Ever since he stepped into the spotlight there have been rumors Raul would be more agreeable to economic reform. Still there was no dancing in the streets of Cuba today. The powerful Cuban-American maybe relieved to see Fidel on his way out but they can't quite decide what to do now.

Fidel's brother Raul is the frontrunner. There is a dark horse: Carlos Lage, the country's economic czar, but naming Lage president would signal that Cuba may be ready to negotiate a better economic relationship with the US.

Marketplace's Dan Grech reports from the Americas Desk at WLRN in Miami.


Dan Grech: The first big wave of Cuban exiles came shortly after Fidel Castro took power in 1959. The second big wave started in 1980 with the Mariel boatlift -- and tens of thousands of new Cubans arrive in the US every year.

This second wave of Cuban Americans now outnumbers the first.

Joe Garcia is with the Cuban American National Foundation. He says this new generation is starting to have more influence on US-Cuba policy.

Joe Garcia: The same way that the Cuban revolution is coming to its biological end, the Cuban American community is coming to a generational shift.

Garcia says older Cubans have gotten their family off the island and they often take a hard line on the Fidel Castro. Younger Cubans still have family on the island, and their main focus is helping them.

Garcia: Their relationship to events in Cuba is much less rhetorical, much more pragmatic.

Newly arrived Cubans are at odds with the Bush Administration's hard line on Cuba, which limits family travel to the island and restricts the money immigrants can send back home.

Dario Moreno is with Florida International University. He says neither generation of Cuban Americans is expecting much to change with Castro's retirement.

Dario Moreno: Right now, everybody in Miami is kind of in a wait-and-see attitude. There have been many times in the past where people have expected significant change in Cuba and it hasn't happened, so the expectations are quite low.

Cuba's National Assembly will nominate its new leader on Sunday.

In Miami, I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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