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Posted November 13, 2007 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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Harvard International Review | By Jaime Suchlicki, Emilio Bacardi Moreau Distinguished Professor and Director, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami.

Fidel Castro is fighting his last battle—one that he cannot win. Death will not elude him. Cuba is witnessing the end of the Fidelista era and the beginning of a Raulista one. Now that power has passed into the hands of the younger brother, questions about Cuba’s future remain: What can Raul hope to accomplish within the existing socio-political and economic context of Cuba? More importantly, what options in domestic and foreign affairs are open to Cuba’s new leaders? What are the chances that they will be unable or unwilling to exercise any major options at all? Should they fear upsetting the multilevel balance of interests upon which a new government will depend?

Raul faces significant challenges: a non-productive economy highly dependent on Venezuela and other foreign sources, popular unrest, a need to maintain order and discipline among the population, and a need to increase productivity. Raul is critically dependant on the military. Lacking the charisma of his brother, he will also require the support of key party leaders and technocrats within the government bureaucracy.

Of paramount importance is the need for the Raul Castro regime to strike a balance between the need to improve the economy and maintaining political control. Too rapid economic reforms may lead to an unraveling of political control, a possibility feared by Raul, the military, and other allies keen on remaining in power. An initial solution may be to provide more consumer goods to the population, including food, but without any structural economic changes.

The stability of the regime is based primarily on the strength of its institutions. The armed forces are undoubtedly the most vital of the three “legs” on which the revolution stands. The other two, the Communist Party and the security apparatus, are under increased military supervision and serve to control, mobilize, socialize, and indoctrinate the population under increased military supervision. The organization and strength of the bureaucracy that has grown up around these institutions seem to assure the revolution’s continuity. A revolt against Raul Castro’s rule in the absence of large-scale outside intervention seems unlikely, especially as long as the Cuban armed forces remain loyal to him, which appears highly likely. Created by Raul Castro, they have developed a large measure of professionalism, are thoroughly integrated into the political system, and enjoy an important and trusted role in the general management and control of the economy. Today, more than 60 percent of major industries and enterprises are in the hands of current or former military officers.

However, opposition and dissident groups and projects have developed in the recent past. The best known is the Varela Project, which gathered more than 11,000 signatures to petition the National Assembly to amend Cuba’s laws and permit free elections. For the first time in more than four decades, large numbers of Cubans peacefully mobilized to petition the government. Fidel Castro’s response was swift and brutal. He held his own plebiscite to proclaim the permanent and unchanging communist nature of his regime and prohibit the National Assembly from considering such projects. This was followed by the arrest and sentencing to long jail terms of several dozen dissidents, journalists, and librarians, including many members of the Varela project.

While opposition and unhappiness have been growing in Cuba, the dissident groups are weak and usually infiltrated by Cuban state security. Without access to the media, which is totally state-controlled and constantly harassed by the police, these groups find it difficult to organize and operate. Many of their leaders have shown enormous courage in defying the regime. Yet, time and again, the security apparatus has discredited or destroyed them. They do not represent a major threat to the regime.

A consolidated Raul regime will most likely follow the policies of Fidel, offering few new substantive domestic or foreign policy initiatives. Any serious overtures to the US do not seem likely in the near future. Any pro-US action would mean the rejection of one of Fidel Castro’s main legacies: anti-Americanism. Pro-US action might create uncertainty within the Raul government, leading to friction and factionalism. It would require the weakening of Cuba’s anti-American alliance with radical regimes in Latin America, Iran, and Syria. From Cuba’s point of view, the United States has little to offer that is not already in Cuba: American tourists, which Raul neither wants nor needs, American investments which he fears may subvert his highly centralized and controlled economy, and products that he can buy cheaper from other countries. The United States does not have the ability to provide Cuba with the petroleum Venezuela is sending for little or no payment. Recognition by the United States may mean a great victory for Raul and the legitimization of his regime. Yet it’s a small prize when compared to the uncertainties that a Cuba-US relation may produce internally and externally among Cuba’s allies.

Raul is no Gorbachov or Deng Xiaoping. With his brother alive, and even when he is gone, he is not likely to institute major economic or political reforms. Forty-seven years as Minister of Defense has hardened him; he is more Stalinist than liberal reformer. Whether the Raulista era lasts a long period or not, Cubans seem destined to endure difficult times and a harsh military dictatorship. With increased military control, the transformation of the island into a democratic society will be difficult.


  1. Follow up post #1 added on November 13, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    This is a very thorough analysis, some fact and some opinion but worth a read. The question is… Can Raul manage change? Change of the magnitude needed in Cuba cannot easily be managed especially from a military man who has support from the old system.

    It’s like Dick Cheney running for the 2008 election saying “Vote for me is a vote for change”. Right!

    I have said it often here, Raul will not be able to manage Cuba after the announcement of Fidel’s death.

    A manager cannot manage change. Only a visionary leader can manage change.

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on November 13, 2007 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    “The unwillingness of Cubans to obey laws will be matched by their unwillingness to sacrifice and endure the difficult years that will follow the end of communism.” appears in the complete story by Jamie Suchlicki.

    I resent this comment as the author clearly does not have a real world understanding of the system and the harsh realities that Cubans faced after the Soviet collapse.

    Mr. Suchlicki needs to live and be a Cuban for a couple of months and then re-write this article. As far as American Cubans getting back their Cuban properties, forget about it and donate it to a good cause in the future. Cuba will never be able to pay you back, communism or not.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on November 13, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    He is an old school exile so he is not personally familiar with life on the island for decades.

    I’m sure he reads a lot about Cuba and talks with people but I would not say he is objective by any means.

    Cuba consulting services

  4. Follow up post #4 added on November 13, 2007 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    If Mr. Suchlick and others like him need to take a look at key issues why there is a deliberate stalemate fifty years later. They fail to mention that prior to communism and nationalizing industries, Fidel pleaded in Washington to Vice President Nixon for help with education and hospitalization reform. I say that there is an atmosphere of stalemate because many vested parties of influence stand to loose a great deal if Cuba is open for Americans. This will have an adverse affect on tourism and real estate in Florida as money is spent in Cuba not Florida. A conservative guess is that the economy of Florida could be affected by 10-20 %. The sooner we all understand all of the reasons for a stalemate, the sooner we can all help Cuba out of its own mess.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on November 13, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Shhh. That’s the dirty little secret. Also, people and organizations like Mr. Suchlicki and the ICCAS gets millions of dollars a year to “study” Cuba and write articles like this.

    Now what happens when there is no Fidel or Raul and Cuba is free? Right. No more US government funds to Miami people and organizations.

    What else goes away, the Cuban American power in Presidential elections.

    Many people will lose LOTS of money and power when Cuba is free.

    Shhh. No one dares to say that out loud except for us grin

    Cuba consulting services

  6. Follow up post #6 added on November 14, 2007 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    kind of sad isnt it .....

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