Maria Garriga | Register Staff
Brian Latell has followed Fidel Castro for four decades and now he’s following Fidel’s younger brother, Raul, the world’s longest serving defense minister.
Latell, a longtime Latin America specialist for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Intelligence Council, spoke to more than 100 people at Southern Connecticut State University’s Michael J. Adanti Student Center Wednesday to promote his book, “After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro’s Regime and Cuba’s Next Leader.”
Latell is now a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies.
“Castro will never return to power,” Latell said.
Following surgery for diverticulitis and declining health, Fidel Castro relinquished his authority to his brother July 31, 2006, giving Raul Castro control over the Cuban government, the Cuban Communist party and the military.
Cuba’s immediate future is Castro’s less charismatic brother, Latell said, and Raul Castro faces tough choices in the immediate future.
To stay in power, Raul, who will be 76 in June, must find a successor to the revolution he built with his brother. Moreover, he would have to find a way to re-engage younger generations in the revolutionary spirit and navigate Cuba’s path into the global economy, Latell said.
Lacking his brother’s magnetism and personal charisma, Raul Castro may be forced to open the Cuban economy up if he wants to retain power for even the next few years, Latell said.
“He can’t govern the people by giving them revolutionary circus. He will have to give them bread. Most Cubans in their 20s and early 30s don’t remember those glorious feats (of the revolution). They remember hardship.”
Despite the lengthy American embargo, Fidel Castro sent troops to topple two African dictatorships and replace them with political descendants of his own regime in Angola (in which Cuban troops fought well-armed South African troops) and Ethiopia in 1978.
Cuba’s economy tanked in the early 1990s after the former Soviet Union ended its economic support, but the Cuban regime pressed on, intervening in Nicaragua and Venezuela.
But Raul Castro’s path lies in economic policy, according to Latell, who expects Cuba to follow China’s example, by freeing up the economy while maintaining tight political control.
The panelists who spoke after Latell included Cuban exiles Frank Calzon, executive director of Center for a Free Cuba in Washington, D.C., and Celestino Heres of Connecticut, author of “The Reluctant Revolutionary,” who had joined Fidel Castro’s revolution and then turned against it. Heres narrowly escaped Cuba after confronting Fidel Castro on his hard line against the free press and democratic elections.
The exiles doubted economic change would flourish under Raul Castro.
“Cuba does not need the U.S. anymore. The Canadians, the Spanish, the French, all come to Cuba and spend hundreds of millions.”