Is Raul Castro in Hibernation Mode? / Iván García
Ivan Garcia, 11 April 2017 — Right now the most closely guarded secret
in Cuba is the protocols for succession of the nation’s president, army
general Raul Castro, after his retirement in February 2018.
I will tell you what is rumored among some officials close to the
tight-lipped team of advisers and influential relatives in the Council
A well-informed source claims, “The man is desperate to retire. He wants
to spend more time with his children and grandchildren and travel around
the world. He’s really going to retire. And it seems to me that he will
probably pass his job on to the first party secretary. He has always
preferred to be in the background.”
A technocrat with connections to powerful elites states, “The succession
is not happening at the best time but Raul is serious when he says he is
leaving. I have it on good authority that Miguel Diaz-Canel and his wife
Lis Cuesta, around whom the media has been creating a presidential image
in recent months, are studying English in depth and preparing to lead
A former personal security officials says, “Resources have been put at
Diaz-Canel’s disposal, the kind of communication technology and
logistical support that a president would have.”
Meanwhile, as the official media has been inundating us with reports of
economic successes and the alleged loyalty of the population to Raul
Castro and his deceased brother, the countdown to the succession continues.
There is only a little more than ten months until D-Day. At midnight on
February 24 the republic will presumably be governed by a civilian
president without the last name Castro.
One of the sources consulted for this article believes that “after his
own retirement, Raul will force the retirement of several longtime
revolutionary officials such as Jose Ramon Machado Ventura and Ramiro
Valdes.* His son Alejandro, who is a colonel in the Ministry of the
Interior, will retain a certain degree of power while his daughter
Mariela will continue promoting an image of tolerance towards
homosexuality but will no longer hold any really significant positions.
“The power behind the throne will be the military. Everything has been
arranged. There will be major economic changes. If the purchasing power
of the population does not increase, consumer spending will be
encouraged while the monetary and intellectual capital of the exile
community will be tapped.
“If not, Cuba will never get out of the swamp. Political exhaustion and
systemic failures have created conditions conducive to the emergence of
an acute social crisis whose outcome no one can predict. That is why
there will be changes.”
In Cuba, where the state press’s greatest strengths are saying nothing
and masking daily reality, rumors within the halls of power carry more
credibility than the official news.
Raul Castro is a perpetual schemer. Let the analyst or journalist who
foresaw the secret negotiations with the United States and the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations on December 17, 2014 raise his hand.
Prognosticating in such a secretive country can be disastrous but there
have been some signals. During the the monotone National Assembly’s 2015
legislative session a gradual rollback of Raul’s reforms began. And
Marino Murillo, the czar of these reforms, disappeared from official photos.
In response to the Venezuelan crisis, which led to cuts of 40% in fuel
imports, the economic initiatives promoted by Raul Castro came to an
Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba in March 2016 was the final straw. The
regime’s most conservative factions began changing the rules of the game.
While lacking the charisma or stature of his brother, Castro II has
proved to be more effective at putting together negotiating teams and
has had greater successes in foreign policy. They include reestablishing
diplomatic relations with the United States without having to make many
concessions in return, acting as mediator in the meeting in Havana
between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, facilitating the peace
agreement in Colombia and securing the cancellation of a considerable
portion of the nation’s financial debt.
His agricultural reforms have failed. People are still waiting for that
glass of milk he promised them in a speech given in Camaguey on July 26,
2007. On that day Raul Castro said, “We have to erase from our minds
this limit of seven years (the age at which Cuban children are no longer
entitled to receive a certain ration of milk). We are taking it from
seven to fifty. We have to produce enough so that everyone who wants it
can have a glass of milk.”
The Foreign Investment Law has not been able to attract the roughly 2.5
billion dollars expected annually. The sugar harvest and food production
have not gotten off the ground, requiring the regime to import more than
two billion dollars worth of food every year.
Except for tourism, the profitable foreign medical assistance program
and other international missions, and remittances from overseas, all
other exports and economic initiatives have decreased or not shown
Vital industrial sectors are not profitable and its equipment is
obsolete. Problems in housing, transportation and public service
shortages are overwhelming. The price of home internet service is
outrageous. Official silence has surrounded recent restrictions on the
sale of gasoline** while public speculation about a return to the
“Special Period” has not been discussed by the executive branch.
Raul Castro barely appears in the public anymore. Aside from attending
Fidel’s funeral in November 2016, presiding over parliament last
December and sporadic appearances at the Summits of the Caribbean and
the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, his presence is
He is governing in hibernation mode, on automatic pilot. There is no
word on currency reform. The vaunted Economic Guidelines, only 21% of
which have been carried out, seem to be dead in the water.
According to a former journalist who now lives in Miami and who dealt
closely with Raul in the late 1980s, his seemingly erratic behavior
could be interpreted in several ways.
“Raul is not doctrinaire like his brother. Nor does he leave tasks half
done like Fidel used to do. I supposed he has his hands full preparing
Diaz-Canal so he can finish the job and implement good, effective
reforms. I think Diaz-Canal will play an important role in Cub’s future.
Reporters should start lining up their canons now,” says the former
The sense on the street is that the island is going to hell. The outlook
does not look good. The future is a question mark. The pathways to
emigration are closing. And the average person’s salary remains a bad joke.
The optimists, who are in the minority, are praying the general has an
emergency plan in his desk drawer. The pessimists, who are in the
majority, believe that life in Cuba will go on as it has, whether under
Raul, Diaz-Canal or any other members of the Communist praetorian guard.
*Translator’s note: Vice-president of the Council of State and
governmental vice-president respectively.
** Though no public announcement has been made, as of April 1 sales of
so-called “special gasoline” have been restricted to tourists with
Source: Is Raul Castro in Hibernation Mode? / Iván García – Translating