Monday, August 27, 2012

On the Day After, Who Could Replace the Castros?

On the Day After, Who Could Replace the Castros? / Ivan Garcia
Ivan Garcia, Translator: Unstated

Some people in Cuba are already placing bets. Everyone knows that within
five to ten years power could change hands. The unknowns are whether the
successor will have the last name of Castro, and if the inefficient
political and economic system will be preserved.

Raúl Castro crafted a law limiting time in political office to two
five-year terms. If he were to apply this to himself, he would have to
retire from national politics in 2016. If one assumes his official rise
to power occurred in 2008, then his retirement would begin in 2018.

But autocrats often do not abide by their decrees. Rules are for others,
not for themselves. And many on the island believe that as long he is of
sound mind and enjoys good health the general will continue to rule the

Cubans like to prognosticate. And to bet. The underground lottery is a
popular pastime. For example, baseball fans are making predictions about
the World Classic in 2013. On questions of politics, however, they are
cowardly. Fidel Castro always considered it a crime to be politically
ambitious, and his subordinates were always careful about saying
anything that might be construed as a declaration of a future possible
presidential candidacy.

More than a few heads have rolled for coveting the throne.Roberto
Robaina, a former foreign minister, has become the owner of a successful
private restaurant. Others, such as Felipe Pérez Roque y Carlos Lage,
fell from grace and are now two obscure, low-level bureaucrats. In the
last Communist Party Congress, the younger Castro warned of the dearth
of young politicians and functionaries, and stated that, in the future,
no president would be able to rule for more than a decade.

An eighteen-person survey a group of well-informed people, who have
access to the internet and illegal cable antennae, believe that, if the
nation continues on its present course, Raúl himself will handpick the
next president.

Who might be the successors? Seven believe it will be Alejandro Castro,
coordinator of the secret services. He is young and has the Castro name,
which would allow for the continuation of the family dynasty. Four
believe the next president will be someone from Raúl's old guard and
point to Leopoldo Cintras Frías, minister of the armed forces.

Two of those surveyed think that, in a Cuba of the future, a military
junta will rule. Five believe that Mariela Castro, Lázaro Expósito,
Marino Murillo, Luis Alberto López-Callejas or Miguel Díaz Canel might
be president given their family ties or political affinities with Raúl

What would the political landscape look like? Those surveyed could not
even imagine, but speculated a bit and wagered some guesses. Nine felt
that, if Fidel Castro were no longer alive, the successor would opt for
a market economy and a strong government run by a committee with the
presidency rotating among its members.

They could craft a country with a democratic veneer like Russia. If the
United States negotiates, dialogs with and accepts whoever might be
Castro's successor—shielding itself from security concerns over illegal
immigration, terrorism and drug trafficking—it might prefer an
authoritarian government. It would not be overly concerned if such a
government discreetly violated individual freedoms, provided it
controlled its borders. This would be preferable to a weak or corrupt
democracy, which might turn the island into a giant raft or a fertile
ground for international narco-trafficking.

They also believe that Castro's successor would seek a relationship with
Washington that casts aside the Cold War diplomacy crafted by Fidel
Castro. Several of those interviewed felt that the United States would
not tolerate a "Castro light"government and would continue to press for
real democracy with the participation of all the political actors.

If it came to pass, which opposition politicians or dissident leaders
could govern the country the day after the Castros? Those surveyed felt
that, given the level of repression and lack of leadership, no one
figure stood outat the moment.

Some believe that Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas would have been a good
candidate, but after his unexpected death, they now favor Oscar Elías
Biscet. Others mention Manuel Cuesta Morúa because he has more
experience and a longer resumé than EliécerÁvila or Antonio Rodriles.

Although unknown by the general public, the blogger Yoani Sánchez was
mentioned by one person as a possible candidate. However, in an
extensive interview I did with Yoani, published in two parts—the first
in February, the second in September—she indicated she was neither an
opposition figure nor a dissident, and did not see herself in a
political role. She rejected it because she finds politics repulsive.

All eighteen of those surveyed think the opposition should focus its
work on the community and developing a viable, inclusive and coherent
political platform. They feel the future president of Cuba need not
necessarily be an opposition figure or someone tied to the current
regime. He or she could be an ordinary citizen, now walking among us,
who, at a given moment, could become a leading figure. Or a Cuban exile
with good political connections in the United States and to the
financial world. Someone brought up in a democratic and transparent
environment. Whichever version Cuba becomes after Castro, all agree that
the role Cuban exiles play will be fundamental.

Personally, I am leaning towards a woman, provided it is not Mariela
Castro or Aleida Guevara, who are too closely tied to the Castros. Cuba
is in need of the female soul. I would not mind if it were Miriam
Celaya, Laritza Diversent or Rosa María Payá. I am quite fed up with all
the chest thumping. There's been enough testosterone.

Photo: Rosa María Payá Acevedo, twenty-three years old, reading a few
wordsat Havana's Saviour of the World church on July 24, 2012during a
funeral mass for her father, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, shortly before his
internment at Cementerio de Colón. Taken from the blog, Razones de la
Palabra, Radio Netherlands.

August 26 2012

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