August 2, 2006


Low Fidelity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, 02 Aug 2006, Tech Central Station)

This leaves two possible transitions. One would be "Fidelismo" without Fidel. In other words, a military dictatorship under Raul Castro -- who at 75 is frail and suffers from cirrhosis due to alcoholism -- until he passes away or becomes incapacitated himself, at which time the real transition process would begin. His regime would survive, much like Fidel Castro's has survived in the new millennium, thanks to oil and cash from his pal, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

The other, more likely, scenario is a power struggle among various factions. Cuban General Jose Quevedo recently told a group of Cubans in Madrid that the degree of personal control by Fidel Castro has been such that no one with any kind of following has emerged these past few years in the armed forces or the Communist Party. Aside from Raul's limited legitimacy stemming from his long history as a revolutionary and his anointment by Fidel, no one is in a position to command respect. Considering Raul's age and health, this means a power struggle among factions is likely. Divisions will emerge between the old guard and the younger "apparatchiks," between those who have ties to Chavez and those who resent foreign meddling, and between those who favor maintaining things as they are and those who want to start a transition toward democracy and free markets.

We don't know at this stage whether that struggle will be violent or purely political. But we know that the most important thing that needed to happen -- that is, Fidel Castro's demise -- is happening right now. Now freedom at least has a fighting chance on the island.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 2, 2006 11:13 AM

I would expect the next generation to mimic China's post-Mao/ post-Gang of Four leadership -- continue to play up the rhetoric of the superiority of the socialist paradise of Cuba and the all-around greatness of Fidel, but start signing deals as fast as possible with U.S. companies to turn the place into a low-cost production center. That would allow them to keep their positions of power while trying to lower the pressure valve of the natives, since the new leadership would lack either Castro's charisma or his revolutionary history to keep people in line.

Posted by: John at August 2, 2006 11:30 AM


Wouldn't you think that the real "struggle" will be between all the ex-pat 'leaders' (now in Florida) who will be flooding the island once Fidel is dead? Who exactly is the leading advocate for a free Cuba? Will the Cuban people listen to the outsiders?

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 2, 2006 12:04 PM

The other question is if Hugo Chavez will try to fight for influence in post-Castro Cuba. What will the US do then?

Posted by: ratbert at August 2, 2006 12:22 PM

Doesn't this mean Canadians and Euros should start making those beachfront property deals now, or should they wait till after the tyrrant's death? 'Cause those Yanquis will only drive the price up once they get let in.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 2, 2006 12:38 PM

Jim --

There will be factional sturggles there, and no doubt many of those factions already have supporters in place in Cuba for when the actuary tables finally catch up with Fidel. Meanwhile, the ones who eventually do take over in Cuba from Castro will mouth their platitudes for their departed leader, but try to open up to business as fast as possible to keep the population on their side and stave off any takeover from Miami.

Castro's set the bar so low economically that it won't take much U.S. investment there that the new regime allows to start raising the living standards, and possibly gain wider public support that could stave off an outside takeover. While I'm sure the Cubans in Miami will want to maintain some sort of economic embargo against Cuba to choke off that option, unless Fiedel's successors completely renounce him, Washington will be hard pressed to follow that line if the new regime appears to be moderating in any way and American businsses see Cuba as a potential low-cost producer of goods only 90 miles offshore (and if Fidel hangs on until after '08 and we elect Hillary to office, her administration would drop the Miami Cubans faster than it took the SWAT team to grab Elian out of the closet).

The situation is a lot like the one 30 years ago with Taiwan after Mao died. The only difference is the Tiawanese couldn't vote in the 1976 U.S. general elections, while Cuba's Miami community has as big say in Florida and national politics. But it's more of a problem for a Republican administration than it would be for a Democratic one.

Posted by: John at August 2, 2006 12:41 PM

I read that Castro is stable. The same stability as Franco and Arafat. They're dividing up his billions before announcing the regime change

Posted by: erp at August 2, 2006 12:49 PM

On a semi-related level, combining two of this blog's passions:

"Red Sox third baseman Lowell says Castro killed my kin".

He also is hoping Fidel takes a dirt nap as quick as possible. No word on what the team owner's media friends or failed foul ball catcher Ben Affleck think about this dissing of the hero of the revolution.

Posted by: John at August 2, 2006 3:15 PM

I just won't be the same unless the obituary reads: killed by American laser guided bomb.

Posted by: lebeaux at August 2, 2006 10:19 PM