Cubans Welcome Reforms That Support Entrepreneurs

Recent reforms have brought about visible changes in Cuba’s economy and public attitudes, according to a survey released by Freedom House today. A majority of Cubans (63 percent) view the reforms favorably, and more Cubans say that it is better to be self-employed than to work for the government.

“Cubans see real change taking place, and most of them welcome it,” said deputy director of programs at Freedom House, Daniel Calingaert. “There is a growing sense of optimism, which we didn’t find in previous surveys, and more Cubans are expressing the desire to express their views freely and to travel.”

Key findings of the survey:

– Almost four in five survey respondents (79 percent) noticed changes in Cuba over the last six months, particularly an increase in the number of self-employed or cuentapropistas.
– Forty-one percent of those surveyed believe the country is making progress, compared to 15 percent in December 2010.
– Expectations are rising. Thirty percent of Cubans expect their family’s economic situation to improve in the next 12 months, up from 17 percent in December 2010. Sixty-two percent of Cubans think their economic situation will remain the same.
– While many support the changes, some Cubans are discouraged by the uncertainties associated with self-employment or resentful at the growing gap in incomes.
– When asked what reforms they want in Cuba, the most frequent response among those surveyed was greater freedom of expression and freedom of travel. By contrast, improved economic conditions topped the list of desired reforms in the December 2010 survey.
– The vast majority of Cubans (92 percent) still get their news from government sources; only a small percentage (8 percent) get their news from independent sources. Those who obtain news from independent sources are better informed. While most Cubans are informed about major government decisions, they have only limited knowledge of major international events.

The survey is based on field research conducted in June 2011, several months after the Sixth Communist Party Congress.

Researchers conducted 190 in-depth interviews in six provinces in Cuba. Freedom House consistently places Cuba among the world’s most repressive societies.  Cuba is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House’s survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011. The island nation also received the third-lowest ranking in Freedom on the Net, a study of internet freedom in 37 countries released in 2011.

Source: Freedom House
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