Fidel quits, part II
Posted by That Other Mike on 20/02/2008
OK. More nuanced analysis (slightly) regarding Castro’s decision not to seek a further term as President of Council of State from the National Assembly of People’s Power.
My earlier post regarding it as the last act of the Cold War is perhaps an exaggerration, but it’s not far off it; aside from Cuba, North Korea is maybe the last remaining bastion of Cold War ideology. Even the USA, widely touted as the “victor”, has undergone something of a sea change in recent years regarding its ideology.
Castro’s decision to leave is not unexpected; he’s been in poor health for some time now, and rumours have been flying like… flies. Nor is his decision to hand power to his brother unexpected – Raúl Castro was involved in the Cuban revolution from the beginning, and assumed his brother’s powers in 2006.
The question is: what will be the upshot of this?
The answer is: we don’t really know.
Raúl Castro has always been something of a background figure during his brother’s Presidency; while some reports have him as influential in financial policy and other areas, he has remained largely out of the public eye during the interregnal period. His political views remain largely a mystery, although some commentators (who might perhaps be described as less than neutral – yes, that means you, WSJ editorial team) have claimed that he has engaged in persecution of certain political dissidents and gay Cubans. Whether this is true or not is not for me to say – while Fidel Castro has been known to act harshly towards political dissidents, his detractors aren’t exactly known for their truthfulness, either.
In speeches, Raúl has said that Fidel is “irreplaceable” and that a Communist system would remain in Cuba, no matter what. There are hints of his being a pragmatist, which could be the end of the blockade, should he allow a relaxation of Cuba’s hardline Communism.
This leaves me with mixed feelings, to be honest – while a detente between Cuban Communism and capitalism might well result in Cuba as a whole becoming richer, it is likely to follow the usual pattern. That is, a few people will become very rich and the rest will not see a great deal of positive improvement, although I hope that I am proved wrong in hte event of a relaxation.
On the other hand, it might well be more of the same – there are a number of countries in Latin America now which, while not Communist, are governed by sympathetic regimes. One of these being Venezuela, of course.
All of this is so much speculation, though, given how little we know about Raúl Castro at present. He may be a hardliner, determined to remain on the same course as his brother, or he may be a pragmatic reformer; only time will tell.