I’m not sure if anybody else would have had the prestige and influence to go against the grain and usher in a period of reforms of Cuba’s economy and society. He challenged some of the outdated thinking and practices in the party as well. In doing so he breathed new life into the Cuban Revolution. It’s ironic that many of the economic reforms that Gorbachev introduced in the mid-1980s and met such derision within the communist movement were not that much different than what Cuba and other socialist countries have done since in their economic reformation process.
What made Gorbachev’s reforms different was his readiness to give up the party’s monopoly on political power and its control over civil society too, including the media and other means of communication.