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Volume 65 / Social Sciences


JUAN M. DEL AGUILA, Associate Professor of Political Science, Emory University

Several books on Cuban Politics and Government make important contributions to the vast literature on Cuban studies, specifically studies on corruption, a possible transition after the Castro brothers are gone, and one study on gender and political representation. A highly recommended and well documented study on Corruption in Cuba: Castro And Beyond by Sergio Díaz and Jorge Pérez-López looks at public corruption from a historical perspective, including new material on sources of institutional corruption in socialist Cuba (item #bi2007001691#). One of the more impressive findings is how and why corruption flourishes as more and more state enterprises are organized to do business with foreign investors and entrepreneurs.

Ilja Luciak looks at Gender and Democracy in Cuba from a feminist standpoint (item #bi2007005472#), examining female representation in state and Communist Party organs to support her argument. She also provides data comparing the percentage of men and women in professional occupations and decision-making positions. Luciak interviewed women from different generations and generally found younger cohorts more discontented with their lives than older women, mainly due to permanent material hardships and poor access to goods and services. When asked about changes in the medium term, those she interviewed offered guarded and often contradictory opinions on what is both probable and desirable.

In Changes in Cuban Society since the Nineties, editor Joseph Tulchin and several scholars from Cuba and the US provide a credible work on the development of civil society in Cuba since the collapse of the Berlin Wall (item #bi2009000741#). The book includes fine chapters on religion and Church-state relations, on sources of "new thinking" regarding prospects for liberalization, on an evolving concept of rights, and on the limits faced even by those "working for change from within" by the intransigent response of a one-party state. Still, it is a good contribution to the study of civil society in late-totalitarian regimes like Cuba's.

Amado Rodríguez's Cuba: clamor del silencio is a reliable account of political imprisonment in Cuba under the revolutionary regime (item #bi2009000735#). The book offers evidence of how the penal system is run and organized, of the horrible abuses committed against political prisoners and common criminals alike well into this decade, and on how the Cuban government continues to hide such practices from the outside world. Former political prisoners provide first-hand accounts of what they went through, and prominent dissidents like Marta Roque and Gerardo Fariña denounce the systematic mistreatment they suffered at the hands of penal authorities. This is still another primary source of information for anyone interested in revealing and denouncing the systematic violations of human rights carried out on defenseless prisoners by agents of the Cuban government.

Finally, Hans Dieterich asks the proverbial rhetorical question in Cuba después de Fidel: ¿podrá sobrevivir la revolución? (item #bi2009000734#). The short text includes Fidel Castro's perspective on how the successor generation will behave after its founders are gone. One striking observation from the leader is his warning that the Revolution cannot be destroyed from the outside, but that it could indeed collapse from its own blunders and "lack of revolutionary conscience." Former Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque contributed to the book, and in a profoundly hypocritical statement argued "the people need to know that their leaders do not have privileges except a strong sense of service and sacrifice." In another instance of the regime turning on its own "disloyal" members, Pérez Roque would subsequently be summarily dismissed from all governmental and Communist party responsibilities in 2009, in a major purge affected by the Castro brothers precisely against corrupt leaders who "enjoy the honeys of power."

Three books focusing on important issues in regional politics add to a growing, formal literature on the politics and government of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Angel Ortiz edited Hacia la libre asociación: el futuro, a comprehensive volume where the three alternatives facing Puerto Rico are discussed: nationhood, continued association with the US, and statehood (item #bi2009000740#). Data from opinion surveys and plebiscites regarding these alternatives is included, as are brief accounts of the intellectual legacy of Luis Muñoz Marín. This is an indispensable text for anyone interested in Puerto Rican political and governmental affairs. A second book on Puerto Rico, offering a broad historical account of parties and elections, is Fernando Toro's Historia de las elecciones y los partidos políticos de Puerto Rico (item #bi2009000736#). As a seventh edition, it is with little doubt one of the most comprehensive sources of political information, political party behavior, and electoral results available.

The pressing issue of decentralization is the main subject of Descentralización y poder local en el desarrollo humano, a short publication from the Foro Sobre Desarrollo Humano (item #bi2009000737#). This report focuses on local and regional development as an effective means of enhancing human development and inhibiting the growth and expansion of national bureaucracies that institutionalize inefficiencies and stunt growth.

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