Cuba: After Raul's Purge, Questions

by Dan Aspan*
Special to iVoryTowerz

The recent shakeup of the Cuban government by President Raul Castro poses serious questions about the country’s future. Castro is 77 years old, and although he is not on his deathbed, his age likely limits the length of his stay power to a short term basis. The most peculiar aspect of the recent changes is that they involved the demotion of next-generation officials who could have been potential candidates to take over once the Castro regime ends. (Some thought that was not too far off, with Raul's more famous brother and Cuba's longtime ruler Fidel on his sickbed.) Fidel, who was close to the two men demoted by his brother Raul, says the men were too ambitious for the positions they held. Although the moves have no immediate impact on the direction of Cuba’s government, the long-term implications are major. Some analysts point out that most of Raul's high ranking advisors are about the same age as the current president. The demotion of the younger generation of leaders prevents any clear candidate(s) from emerging as a potential successor to Raul, and this uncertainty about Cuba's inevitable succession is causing tense uncertainty about the country's future.

This situation poses three potential consequences. The first is that any immediate or abrupt end to the Castro regime could be a disaster for Cuba. If the old leaders start dropping like flies, the people of Cuba are going to be scrambling for a source of stability and promise, which is non-existent right now. Secondly, the Cuban military, which currently serves Raul, would be the likely entity to produce a successor. As with any other country, the politics of power are great, and the chance of a series of violent and uncivil struggles is high (although it is not guaranteed). This type of struggle could have a devastating impact on Cuba's poor.

Finally, the lack of a clear successor for the Castros causes a wealth of uncertainty for future U.S. relations with Cuba. Although tensions have relaxed in recent months, that may all change once the Castros are gone. A new Cuban leader will be expected to assert himself against the influence of the United States, and that would naturally lead to more animosity. Cuba’s future is widely uncertain, and the possibility of a new era for the nation appears likely after the Castros. Whether that era will evoke an attitude of cooperation or hostility is the biggest question.

*Dan Aspan is the producer of Latinocast, a weekly podcast about Latin America.

For more background on Cuba, please also see:

(The photo of Cuba's President Raul Castro on a visit to Brazil is by Roosewelt Pinheiro of Agência Brasil, the Brazilian news agency, which allows the use of its photos through a Creative Commons license.)

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