What will happen in Cuba?
What will happen in Cuba? / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on May 19, 2015
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana 16 May 2015 – On the back of a copy
of the I Ching were examples of questions about which one might consult
this Chinese. Should I marry X? Is this the time to take a trip to Y?
What will happen in Cuba? The readers of this copy from 43 years ago
have had time to find out for themselves who they ended up sharing their
lives with, or where they went on vacation. The situation for those of
us who asked the ominous book about the fate of the Island has been very
The question written on that cover has continued to haunt me, as it has
so many other Cubans. From restless foreigners who tried to practice
their Spanish and ended up wanting to know the nation’s destiny, to
foreign journalists, Cubanologists of all stripes, academics from
various disciplines, politicians and career diplomats, coming from
whatever part of the world. At one point or another our conversation
always slid into the question: What is going to happen in this country?
After 17 December 2014, the question picked up steam. Hypotheses about
possible scenarios are leaving behind the options of eternal immobility,
foreign invasion and social explosion. At the same time, gaining
credibility if the assumption that the driving force for change will
come from above, in a more or less controlled form and with the critical
approval of former foreign enemies. But anyone could predict that. What
is lacking is the details.
All indications are that on 24 February 2018, Cuba will unveil a
president elected under the rules of the new Electoral Law. The
characteristics of the person who holds this responsibility will be
determined in line with the democratic character of the new regulations.
If the current practice of a nominating committee that draws up a list
of candidates or deputies is maintained, if it continues to be
prohibited for candidates to present their programs, and if the current
method in which the National Assembly appoints the president of the
Council of State is prolonged, then the presidential chair will be
filled by someone designated by those in power.
If, on the other hand, the Electoral Law allows different political
groups to come to consensus on their own programmatic platforms, it
would be almost automatic that the candidate commissions would disappear
at all levels, and aspiring parliamentarians would compete for the
popular vote. In a scenario where the president is elected directly by
the voters, having the ability to choose between various candidates, one
would no longer have to wonder who was the favorite of those in power,
but rather who will the electorate prefer.
In the event that long-awaited political opening occurs, what would be
the presumed tendencies in competition and which would have greater
acceptance? It will depend on several factors. One part would be the
degree of freedom of expression and association implemented in the
country, as an indispensible complement to the effective functioning of
a new Electoral Law. Another part would be the crucial influence of the
level of exhaustion and the ability of the Communists to recycle
themselves; up to now, their position as the only party has made them,
for many years, “those preferred under the law.”
To be clear this formula should also consider access to the media and
the economic resources to finance political campaigns, where liberals,
social democrats, Christian democrats, green parties and even
annexationists would come to light.
The preceding paragraphs may be cataloged as political fiction, even
delusional optimism, but, even so, they are likely assumptions
long-term. But if we set aside the medium-term perspective, what will
happen in 2018 will depend on another event which continues to attract
little attention: the Seventh Communist Party Congress, which will be
held in April of next year.
“The Cuban Communists’ major event” could offer surprises, and one of
those would be the retirement of Raul Castro as head of the
organization. The First Party Conference, in January 2012, set out “to
define term limits depending on the features and complexities of each
position.” The document provides that “the key political and state
positions will be limited to a maximum of two five-year terms,” but does
not specify an age limit for remaining in office.
For this reason the General should leave the presidency in 2018 and,
although he might retain the right to have a second term as the First
Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), he could be expected to
decline a chance to be reelected, to avoid being found at the front of
the Party in his 90s, or even when he dies of old age.
If we give Raul Castro the benefit of the doubt and, what’s more, that
dose of responsibility and pragmatism attributed to him by his
supporters, in less than a year we could be hearing the name of who will
be “the Party’s candidate” to lead the nation in 2018. Miguel
Diaz-Canel, Bruno Rodriguez, Marino Murillo, or some almost unknown
provincial quasi picture? At least we can bet it will not be Jose Ramon
Machado Ventura, who has the sad reputation of keeping his foot on the
brake of reforms and who will leave for the same reasons and at the same
time as Raul Castro.
In July of 2006, Raul Castro “provisionally” replaced Fidel Castro when
the latter fell ill. No one could have predicted, then, everything the
younger brother was carrying in his wallet. It was hard to imagine such
a difference between two men of the same generation, with such similar
biographies, with so many shared faults and merits and with such similar
Thus, it would not be unwise to believe that whoever comes after Raul
could bring proposals with an even greater degree of difference, even if
he opens his term with promises of continuity and eternal loyalty to the
legacy of his ancestors. The novices who enter the relay will march in
the same direction laid out by Raul Castro, ready to recognize the laws
of market, but they could do so more deeply and much faster.
On 26 December 1986, at the closing session of the National Assembly of
People’s Power, Fidel Castro wrote for history the phrase, “Now we are
going to build socialism.” Thirty years later, the slogan could be
superseded by the idea of ”Now we are going to change socialism.”
In the 22 months between the Seventh Party Congress and the 2018
elections of 2018 it is possible that the most important changes in the
political landscape will occur, first the new Electoral Law that is the
key starting point of an as yet indecipherable plot, and second, and
even more important, a new Constitution of the Republic.
The new law of laws would have to start by eliminating or redrafting in
a less undemocratic way Article 5 of the current Constitution, which
charges the PCC with being “the highest leading force of society and the
State.” If this is not changed nothing essential has changed.
However, if something like this happens, then the figure who emerges as
a substitute for Raul Castro in the leadership of the PCC would not have
to be the next president of the nation, which does not mean that an
opponent of the regime would get the position. We begin to glimpse, at
least, a separation of powers.
In the management of our course blow winds to and from divergent
directions. The fatal attraction exercised in the first place by the
United States, where a major role is played by the economic interests of
those willing to “swindle” just about everyone to assure themselves a
piece of the pie, and, as a counterpoint a political class with an
approach of demanding the capitulation of the “Castro regime.” The
European Union has been playing with the Government with a complacent
attitude, perhaps with the illusion of extracting some commitments with
respect to human rights.
Russia and China, in their shared desire to position themselves in Latin
America, see in Cuba a promising base, but without the unwavering
ideological commitments of the Cold War years. In seeking clients for
their goods, they may find Brazil, Mexico and Colombia could be more
attractive, given their demographic volumes and the greater purchasing
power of their population of consumers.
Another aspect of the external nature of the variables of change is our
relations with Latin America, where we no longer even pretend to be “the
lighthouse that guides the continent.” From a center of subversion we
have become the site of talks to solve conflicts, while Venezuela, with
its oil subsidy program, has displaced us as a source of regional
influence. Nobody is interested in the Cuban model any more, clinging to
the past and corseted in a Marxist-Leninist ideology which they don’t
dare to renounce.
The detail is that almost nobody investigates is what do the people
want. “Ordinary Cubans” struggling to survive and smiling through their
teeth. If I were forced to offer my opinion, above what should be
understood as politically correct, I’d have no other choice but to say
that this is, sadly, the least determinate of all the pieces on the
board, although clearly it is the most important.
People will accept, between protests and applause, what finally happens.
Then, when we leave behind political illiteracy and ascend the steps as
empowered citizens, then it will make sense to answer the question of
what do we want. With this question in front of us we ultimately know
what will happen in Cuba. By then we won’t have to consult any oracle
and the challenges of the new reality will barely leave time to question
the I Ching.
Source: What will happen in Cuba? / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar |
Translating Cuba –