José Cárdenas (former a Latin American policy official in the Bush administration) tried to explain it on Foreign Policy by suggesting Raul Castro had failed and Fidel was stepping back up to the plate to right the ship:
The hapless Raul also displayed a marked incapacity to institute any meaningful economic reforms to save the Cuban economy from its current tailspin. In addition, the hoped-for salvation -- that the Obama administration would open the gates to U.S. tourist travel to Cuba -- shows no sign of happening anytime soon.
But then today, Cuba announced it would cut one million public sector jobs and that "those laid off will be encouraged to become self-employed or join new private enterprises, on which some of the current restrictions will be eased."
There are around 11 million Cubans in total and the state employs 85% of the workforce. So this is what you might call a major shift.
I have no insight into who makes decisions in Cuba, but assuming that Fidel is indeed more front and center and in charge now that he's healthy again, this strikes me as an attempt to shore up his legacy before he dies. Potentially, the father of the Cuban Revolution could now also go down as the one who opened the doors to a second fundamental change in the Cuban state.
There had been rumblings previously that Cuba, inspired by the success of China, would look to move towards more market-based reforms. The Obama admin will reaction shortly, but the most interesting changes will happen organically by Cubans moving into the private economy. The next few years in Cuba will likely be very interesting indeed.
Image Source: WNTH.com/AP
Online Sources: BBC News, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, CNN