By CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER | Firma Press
What is Raúl Castro doing nowadays? It’s important to keep track of him. Everybody, including Cuba’s ruling nomenklatura, knows that communism is condemned to disappear from the island. It is the unfinished chapter of the Cold War, and the system, as happened everywhere, will eventually be replaced by a more rational, humane, pluralistic and efficient way to do things.
The problem lies in how we get to that point. On a recent trip to Brazil, one of the most prominent Cubans in government confessed it, in private and away from microphones: ``We know that this has come to an end. What we wish is to transform the regime ourselves, a little at a time, to prevent major upheavals and to keep the Americans from hijacking the process.’‘
The Brazilian who told me that (the same man who assured me, when nobody believed or knew, that Fidel Castro had incurable intestinal cancer), added an important bit of information: The rapprochement with Brazil is designed for precisely that purpose. Raúl is seeking alternatives for Venezuela’s huge but unreliable support, in an effort to steer a smooth change of course in stages.
A little later, however, Raúl addressed the Cuban Parliament. In Cuba, expectations were huge. It was a very disappointing speech, even for the Castroites themselves, who expected bolder announcements.
From what he said, the only really important statement was that he decreed the death of egalitarianism and finally admitted that, because all human beings are different and create wealth in accordance with their particular attitudes and aptitudes, they deserve rewards that match their labor.
In other words, after half a century, Raúl discovered the ethical basis for the market economy: a system based on the existence of legitimately obtained private property, even if that leads to the creation of social classes defined by different standards of living.
Why such timidity in launching reforms when the government itself keeps issuing data about the enormous material disaster afflicting the country? Eighty-five percent of the buildings are falling apart, and more than half of the fertile land is covered by a useless bush called marabú, suitable only for firewood. Cubans have to import almost all the food they eat—and the United States is their leading food supplier.
Cuba’s per-capita GDP is on a par with Bolivia’s, the poorest country in South America. The volume of exports is ridiculous. The Cubans have no money to pay off their debts to businessmen who made the mistake of giving them credit.
In sum: Cuba is a nation in absolute bankruptcy, which produces very little (half of what Dominicans produce) and whose economic and political system is believable only to Fidel, the doddering and stubborn comandante fossilized in his rantings and willing to die clinging to his mistakes.
The clue that explains why Raúl does not dare to institute the changes the country needs, even though he knows that the people clamor for them, lies in his emotional relationship with Fidel. That could be seen clearly in the above-mentioned speech. After reading it, he added proudly that he had sent the text to his brother for his approval and that Fidel returned it without a single correction. Raúl, radiantly joyful, sent a half-humorous, half-obsequious message to Fidel: ``Do you know why I am so intelligent? Because all I know I learned from you.’‘
Raúl is governing to please Fidel, not to solve the country’s never-ending woes. His overburdened psychological biography can be summed thus: a whole life trying to get his admired older brother to value and praise him. Ever since childhood, and especially since adolescence, when his parents placed him under Fidel’s tutelage, Raúl has tried to gain Fidel’s appreciation.
But Fidel is narcissistic, the kind of person emotionally incapable of admiring other human beings. Other people exist only to applaud, not to be applauded. In addition, Fidel knows that Raúl’s psychic subordination guarantees that his work, even if it is a monstrous failure, will not be dismantled as long as he lives. The invisible rope he placed around his younger brother’s neck, a rope Fidel will never loosen, is a guarantee of the prolongation (albeit temporary) of a regime that no one believes in any longer.
What will happen when Fidel dies? Will Raúl continue to please his brother’s corpse, or will he manage to throw off the yoke? I don’t know. Raúl is 77, and very few people that old are capable of changing. His personality disorder fits perfectly within the broad syndrome of ‘‘co-dependency,’’ and shaking off those chains is not at all easy. Deep down, Cuba’s problem is closer to psychiatry than to politics. Perhaps it has always been thus.
©2008 Firmas Press