Fidel Castro Steps Down, Raul Moves In

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[The myth…photograph by the New Centrist, Museo de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba.]

Fidel Castro has stepped down and handed the reigns of power to his brother, Raul. Reaction on the island and in the exile community has been mixed. What follows are selections from blogs and media reports. I’ll be writing more on this soon…

Willi Weissert, AP, “Cubans hope for shift towards capitalism.”

Fidel Castro spent nearly five decades railing against even the tiniest of capitalist reforms in the Western Hemisphere’s only communist country.

Now that he is stepping down, some Cubans are hoping his brother, Raul, will embrace free markets and more if he becomes president on Sunday — perhaps moving Cuba to something more like Vietnam or China, where communist leaders let markets largely rule their economies.

“China is a communist country, but the people are free to earn a lot and buy cars, cell phones,” said Alberto, who rolls cigars in a government factory for $15 a month. “Why can’t Cuban communism be like that?”

The answer could start to emerge Sunday when Cuba’s parliament meets to choose new leaders. While Raul Castro is likely to be named president, the choices for 30 other lawmakers on the Council of State, including his No. 2, could indicate how far the island’s supreme governing body is willing to go toward opening the economy.

Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami Herald, “History will never absolve Castro.

Raúl Castro will begin a cautious economic reform. What will the changes be?

First, more space for the self-employed workers, and the emergence of small, family-run private enterprises that can provide the services the state cannot furnish.

Second, the authorization for people to freely sell or buy houses and cars.

Third, permission for Cubans (athletes included) to leave the country and return.

No political reform is expected in the direction of democracy, but we may look forward to the gradual release of the prisoners of conscience and greater tolerance for the domestic dissidents, along with a more open environment within the Communist Party, so the comrades may better examine the myriad problems that afflict the country without being persecuted. It is also probable that Raúl will cancel the ”acts of repudiation” — violent pogroms against the opposition democrats — and renounce the climate of permanent international confrontation maintained by his brother since his first day in power. Raúl’s principal and secret objectives are to make peace with the United States and achieve a self-sufficient economy, without renouncing the single party.

Cubapolidata, “Exit, stage right.”

Fidel’s historic announcement, symbolically officiates and closes the chapter of succession that began shortly after his provisional resignation, on July 31, 2006 to the position of President of the State Council, which he left to his brother Defense Minister and First Vice-President Raul Castro Ruz.

Might we see Army General Raul Castro as Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party and Commander-in-Chief, Army Corps General Alvaro Lopez Miera as Defence Minister, Carlos Lage as President of the State Council and a new President of the National Assembly once the outcome is known of Cuba’s national Assembly’s “general election” which will be held on Sunday, February 24?

The political status quo remains in Cuba in the short-term, however, it remains to be seen what the political landscape will look like in a long-term period.

News coverage of the announcement: BBC, New York Times, Reuters, Miami Herald, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, AP, USA Today, ABC, El Pais.

Read more at Cubablog.

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[The reality…photograph by the New Centrist, El malecon de la Habana, Havana, Cuba.]

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One response »

  1. Like a lot of folks, any kind of change in one of the last remaining Communist nations brings with it hopes for real democratic change. Raul’s history doesn’t inspire me to believe he will do anything remotely liberal, but I also recognize that some of the biggest reforms to Communist societies in the past were made by dyed in the wool adherents. I will continue to hope.

    In related news, this is how CNN coached its anchors to treat the Castro’s resignation:

    “Please note Fidel did bring social reforms to Cuba – namely free education and universal health care, and racial integration. In addition to being criticized for oppressing human rights and freedom of speech.”

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