Castro to step aside as president

HAVANA – Most of Camilo Condis’ family emigrated from Communist-run Cuba to the United States seeking a better life, but the 32-year-old decided to stay after Raul Castro became president a decade ago and promised change.

Seeking to make socialism sustainable, Mr Castro introduced some market reforms to the state-run economy and secured a historic detente with the United States.

He made it easier for Cubans to travel, allowed them to own property, cellphones and computers, and expanded internet access.

Mr Condis, who graduated university in 2011, the year Mr Castro announced most of the reforms, now makes a decent living in the capital, Havana, working for a restaurant in Cuba’s fledgling private sector, and renting out a flat. He surfs the web daily and has travelled outside the Caribbean island.

But even Mr Condis, who has benefited more than most from the changes, is worried about the future as Castro prepares to step down as president this week and hand off power to a younger generation of Communist leaders.

“I decided I could bet on a good future here,” Mr Condis said on a street buzzing with private cafes and shops, fruit of the changes. “But there is a lot of uncertainty.”

Like most Cubans, his biggest concern is the creaking economy, which remains one-third smaller than in 1985 when it was receiving subsidies from its ally the Soviet Union.

Mr Castro introduced some new social freedoms when he officially took power from his ailing older brother Fidel Castro in 2008, albeit maintaining the one-party system that has a monopoly on the media and little tolerance for public dissent.