Human Rights in Cuba

Time To Change

December 2015
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Cuba’s “Democratic” Transition to the Perfect Dictatorship
Castros Set the Stage for Single-Party Hegemony to Live On

In memory of Jorge Valls.

For 71 years (1929 to 2000), the Institutional Revolutionary Party
(Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) held uninterrupted power in
Mexico. Academics describe this non-competitive electoral system as a
hegemonic party system. More colorfully, Peruvian Nobel Prize laureate
Mario Vargas Llosa labeled the Mexican government under the PRI “the
perfect dictatorship.” The Cuban version may be on the way.+

In a previous article, I advanced my analysis of how Cuban communism
would evolve, leaving in its wake military officers as agents of change.
I described a crooked economic scenario in which the generals would
mutate into the new “captains of industry” by orchestrating corrupt
privatizations of state-owned enterprises, much like Russia’s rigged
privatizations in the 1990s.+

That scenario requires the generals to introduce the illusion of
political change in order to confer the new regime a veneer of
legitimacy for the international community’s benefit. Enter
the Cuban hegemonic party system.+

Under a hegemonic party-based regime, authority does not rely on
revolutionary history or personal charisma, as has been the case in the
Castros’ Cuba. Rather, a dominant political party is institutionalized
in order to hold power in perpetuity. In the Cuban model, said party
will be under the military’s control.+

A hegemonic party system will differ from Cuba’s current Leninist model
only in that some political opposition parties will be tolerated as
window dressing. This opposition, of course, has no chance of gaining
power, but its existence conjures the false image of a totalitarian
state in transition to democracy.+

This image will serve the regime well in projecting political stability
and giving potential investors greater confidence in the regime’s
long-term survival. It provides investors the convenient rationalization
that their activities are helping advance a democratization process. It
also anesthetizes the population and channels the opposition’s energy
into participating in a rigged political process.+

For much of its history, the Mexican PRI used massive electoral fraud to
win every presidential election with margins of over 70 percent of the
vote. Its dominance was nearly absolute in all spheres of governance.
Presidential succession took place by dedazo (literally, the tap of the
finger), as the incumbent designated his successor, who was part of an
endemically corrupt government of cronies.+

Cuba’s political transformation began in 2013, when Miguel Diaz-Canel
was appointed first vice president of Cuba’s Council of State. The
international media immediately anointed him as Raúl Castro’s successor.
Diaz-Canel, a 55-year-old electronics engineer with a military
background, is portrayed as the government’s young, civilian face.+

The mirage was reinforced when Raúl Castro announced that he will not
seek to be nominated as president of the Council of State when his terms
expires in 2018.+

In sociology, the iron law of oligarchy holds that all organizations
succumb to rule by an elite. In Cuba, ’s highly personal
tyranny was recycled, and the result was his brother Raúl’s more
oligarchical dictatorship. In the Castros’ absence, the generals will
further restructure the model.+

A totalitarian, single-party system will become a hegemonic party
structure. Mindful of Mexican history, the generals will make sure that,
even in the long term, their arrangement does not produce a competitive
party as happened in Mexico with the National Action Party (PAN).+

In this chain of events, the opposition is co-opted so that it
participates in the transition. Instead of operating as factions against
the whole, they become a part of the whole as uncompetitive proto-parties.+

In his recent comments regarding Cuba at the United Nations, President
Barack Obama placed his expectations for change in Cuba on diplomacy and
commerce. “We continue to have differences with the Cuban government….
But we address these issues through diplomatic relations, and increased
commerce, and people-to-people ties.”+

But, as former Secretary of State Condoleezza noted, diplomacy
follows the facts on the ground, not the other way around. General
Castro has begun a process that is changing the facts on the ground with
one aim in mind: that our diplomatic and commercial initiatives only
serve to legitimize the regime’s continuation.+

The administration has failed to grasp that, with its help, the Cuban
regime will not follow a democratic path on its political trajectory. It
will crawl until it becomes a hegemonic party system. The regime always
returns to its repressive origins, as if it were following the length of
a Möbius strip.+

José Azel
Senior scholar at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at
the of Miami. Azel was a political exile from Cuba at the age
of 13 in 1961 and is the author of Mañana in Cuba. Follow @JoseAzel.

Source: Cuba’s “Democratic” Transition to the Perfect Dictatorship –

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