Continuity and change in Cuban policy making during the 21st century

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Since 2007 far-reaching socio-economic reforms have been implemented in Cuba, which seem to indicate a transformation away from direct state intervention towards a more free-market attitude in areas like agriculture, housing and the financial sector. Several scholars have suggested that these reforms need to be understood as a ‘socialist transition’, a transition in which the Cuban government tries to maintain (economic) stability by granting more liberties to the Cuban citizens, while at the same time ensuring the continuity of a socialist model in Cuba. Policies aimed at the development of sustainable agriculture in the 1990s have marked a starting point of these changes. Land reforms in 2008 and 2012 suggest a radical shift in this domain; usufruct laws allowed for individual farming opportunities and more market-based production and distribution of agricultural products. Whether this shift represents a gradual and thus incremental institutional change within the existing system, or whether it marks the ascendancy of a complete turnaround, with a commitment to capitalist organization of the economic realm remains to be seen in the future. This thesis explains the political processes that have led to the shift from state regulation to a system with more liberties in the agricultural sector, as embodied in the policy reforms 2011 Lineamientos – guidelines – adopted by Cuba’s Sixth Party Congress. It sets out to explain this by assessing two models of institutional change, aiming to extend the institutionalist debate on the discussion about endogenous and exogenous influences on policy change.
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