Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Raul Castro’s absurd hope: a socio-capitalistic system

Posted on Tuesday, 01.03.12

Raul Castro's absurd hope: a socio-capitalistic system

Another Jan. 1 passed. What's happening in Cuba 53 years after the
communist dictatorship was imposed? Some important things. Fidel, now
85, distanced from power by his age and his chronic ailments, no longer
commands. He has some moments of lucidity amid a spreading fog of
senility like the one that affects his two older siblings, Angelita (89)
and Ramón (87), still alive but demented.

While not dozing, Fidel entertains himself watching international
television and reading reports delivered to him by his aides. They treat
him reverently, as if he maintained some sort of real authority. It's
pure illusion. Every once in a while, some traveler spurred by some kind
of anthropological curiosity interrupts his lethargy, and the Maximum
Leader, with slurred speech and in a very low voice, which increases the
torture, inflicts upon him some badly put-together tales about the
Sierra Maestra or explains to him how the solution for hunger can be
found in the plantations of moringa, an abundant comestible plant he has
just discovered.

In melancholy tones, the Comandante warns that his brother Raúl is
disassembling his entire "revolutionary oeuvre," but sighs that he can
do nothing to stop it, although sometimes he phones some of his old
buddies to complain. They hate to listen to him. The ears of State
Security are very sensitive and any complicity, even though passive,
could be costly. They answer him with vague and evasive phrases that
won't compromise them. That's called "talking to the microphones." It is
the misery of the games of power.

Meanwhile, Raúl Castro continues the slow demolition of the disaster his
brother bequeathed to him. The opinion, summarized by a close aide on
condition of anonymity, is implacable: "Fidel engaged in politicking and
forgot how to govern." He goes on: Fidel "surrounded himself with
corrupt and incompetent acolytes who praised him constantly but mocked
him in private." The sentence that ends the man's diagnosis is very
harsh: "The country's biggest problem is not the American embargo but
the heritage of Fidelismo. Raúl should stand a few people before the
firing squad."

I don't know if history will absolve Fidel as he predicted 60 years ago,
but the Raulistas already have condemned him.

Raúl is not going to execute anyone. He was a bloodthirsty young man
but, at 80, old age and the influence of his daughter Mariela have led
him to moderation. To murder one's opponents is not well regarded these
days. Raúl has three objectives. First, to stay in power, along with his
military cronies. Second, to alleviate the amazing unproductivity of the
system. Third, to organize the transfer of authority so his own death
won't interrupt the dynasty's control.

The first and third objectives hinge on the second. Marx, who was wrong
about almost everything, was partly right when he said that the
relations of production generated the perceptions and therefore the
behaviors. Nobody in Cuba doubts that the country is a woeful disaster
from which millions of people want to flee. A few defenders of
collectivism remain. Raúl wants to tear the system apart but gradually,
in a controlled demolition.

That simply doesn't work, and they're finding it out. To create and lead
a free economic system is a contradiction. A successful market economy
is the product of a spontaneous order, not of the planning by a few
stale-minded bureaucrats. That is why the indices of farm production
continue to fall; that is why the micro-entrepreneurs who are authorized
to exist ("the self-employed ones," as they're called) discover how
difficult it is to move in a hostile economic environment, forever
dependent upon a clumsy government that is the sole provider of supplies
and credit.

On the other hand, the demand for civil liberties is growing. Cubans,
including those who support the dictatorship, want to be able to travel
freely. Almost everyone hoped that the hated "white card," or exit
permit, would be eliminated. Cubans living abroad thought that the need
for a visa to reenter their homeland would also be eliminated. But Raúl
refused. He's afraid.

He knows that communist regimes "collapse due to the stampede of fleeing
citizens," as journalist Juan Manuel Cao has phrased it. Raúl's absurd
and unreal hope is that a substantial improvement of living conditions
will lead Cubans to reconcile with the government and the hybrid
socio-capitalistic system led by a single party and ruled by an iron hand.

That will never happen. By now, he should know that.

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