Has Cuba Lost its Last Chance?

BUENOS AIRES – Raúl Castro’s consolidation of his position as successor to his brother Fidel confirms that his Cuba will give the military domestic hegemony, which makes any serious political or economic opening in the near future seemingly impossible. The Cuban Communist Party’s recent Sixth Congress reflected this, offering little new and rehashing a lot of the old.

Since ill health forced Fidel Castro to retire from Cuba’s leadership, Raúl has opened the doors to the military and pushed out even those civilians who had been his brother’s trusted associates. While Fidel wrote doctrinaire articles in the official press, the armed forces took over politics and production. Fidel’s appearance at the Party’s congress – an event full of political significance, because he has only rarely participated in public events since becoming sick in 2006 – seemed to confirm his support for this outcome.

We now know that the congress had been put off for 14 years, owing to deep divisions among Cuban leaders. The civilian group that was ousted wanted to adapt the “Chinese model” of gradual economic reforms initiated by the Party. Raúl and his military cronies, however, cornered Fidel and imposed their group’s criteria.

In Asian communism – as practiced in China and Vietnam, in particular – the Party leadership rotates periodically, and a civilian leadership controls the military. Systemic nepotism in the top political and military leadership exists only in North Korea.