Hugo Chávez Calls Cuban Reforms 'Refreshing'

Over the past decade, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has become the Cuban government's number one supporter. His oil subsidies help keep the embargoed island afloat and, in return, he welcomes Cuban doctors to Caracas's poor, inner-city barrios.

So his latest praise for the economic changes approved by this week's Sixth Cuban Communist Party Congress isn't surprising.

But to call the reforms "refreshing" just makes the Castros seem like a brand of diet soda that nobody really wants to drink.

"It's a process that has just begun, a stage, as (Cuban President) Raúl (Castro) has described it, or refreshing, as I have said," he told said in a telephone interview, according to AFP.

In his introductory speech to the party he now heads, Castro announced his government was considering allowing Cubans to buy and sell homes and automobiles for the first time in half a decade.

But after a long speech on the need to appoint younger party leaders, Raúl then announced that 80-year-old José Ramón Machado would be the next in line. Fidel Castro, 84, officially revealed his retirement as party leader earlier this year.

So, is the current Cuban regime a modern-day Crystal Pepsi, destined to quickly fade from our memories save for those sad, nostalgic eBay vendors who buy old bottles for $15 each?

Or is Raúl Castro's Cuba more akin to that gross Materva soda that somehow manages to persevere on the shelves even though no one really likes it?

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