Cuba at the Close of 2017: Raul Castro’s Plan in Crisis

By Pedro Campos

General Raul Castro and Miguel Diaz Canel, the favorite to be designated to relieve him as president when he leaves office sometime in 2018.

HAVANA TIMES — General Raul Castro’s strategy to revive the Cuban economy had three fundamental pillars:

1- Some weak reforms to give the private economy and cooperatives certain abilities, but still subordinate to the State.

2- Continue with the Venezuelan oil imports and the Cuban exports of medical personnel to Venezuela and the ALBA states and other South American countries.

3- Improve relations with the US in order to get more money via remittances, tourism and markets, but without giving space to other exchanges that could affect the State’s control of the economy and society.

Between 2008 and 2018, some steps were made in this direction, but most have fallen apart in his hands.

1- The centralized and bureaucratic State system has itself stopped the “reforms” process from moving forward and it has become a caricature which has only created more opposition than support, because of the hope it initially created and then the obstacles it imposed.

2- Oil prices plummeted on the global market and Maduro’s mistaken policies in Venezuela have not only put Venezuelan oil exports to Cuba in crisis but the entire ALBA system on the brink, while the populist wave that was spreading through the South America demanding tens of thousands Cuban doctors whose fees were going to fatten up Castro’s coffers, has been losing ground in Argentina, Brazil and even Ecuador, provoking a significant decline in the number of doctors being sent.

3- The rapprochement process between the US and Cuban governments under Obama was put in crisis by Castrismo itself, which was terrified when the former US leader came to Cuba and it thought it could stop “people to people” relationships but maintain a significant increase in the tourist sector and markets, as they deemed fit. Then Trump arrived in office and there were the so-called “sonic attacks” against US diplomats that buried whatever was left of these plans.

His failed strategy

This is how Raul Castro has reached the final days of his time in office, when he himself had said he would step down in February 2018. Hurricane Irma has been just another excuse that he has capitalized on in the midst of this disaster, as an excuse for all the subjective baseless reasons given by Murillo and other Ministers to try and explain this dysfunctional plan, at last week’s brief session of the National Assembly of People’s Power (Parliament).

Fidel and Raul Castro at the National Assembly in 2013.  If the shoes were too big for Raul, you can just imagine how they’ll fit on Diaz-Canel or anyone else.  Foto:

In short, more excuses used for all signs of the General and his team’s incapacity to move the Cuban economy beyond crisis.

The two month extension to his presidency, announced on December 21 only indicates that the upper echelons in power reached the conclusion that Diaz-Canel, the named substitute, wasn’t ready to take on the position in the face of such a difficult situtation, whether that was what other people thought or even Diaz-Canel himself is not known.

Bear in mind that in this centralized vertical system, if the Head of the Council of Ministers and the State Council isn’t also the First Secretary of the Communist Party (as has been the case for a half century with Fidel and Raul Castro), he will be tied by his hands and feet when it comes to making any political decision. Maybe something will leak through a little later. Raul’s last trip to Santiago de Cuba and his close ties with the PCC’s First Secretary in this province, Lazaro Exposito, might have something to do with this.

In any case, what we do know for certain is that Castrismo has been stumbling about as a result of the country’s harsh financial situation, the State centered economy’s own obstacles and the combination of autocratic leadership, Stalinism and dynasty, with a dead “king” and the “noble, vassal and even servants” looking for opportunities and independence.

However no matter how you want to paint the picture, the reality is we are experiencing the last days of this injustice that they call “socialism” for convenience’s sake, which was really nothing more than a cult dictatorship in the most literal sense. Without the dictator who this system was designed by and for, it stops making sense; but his loyal followers are hellbent on upholding it contrary to what our reality demands and needs.

If the shoes were too big for Raul, you can just imagine how they’ll fit on Diaz-Canel or anyone else. Only a change in Cuba’s economic and political systems, which they haven’t wanted to do because they are so arrogant, could have ensured some continuity of Castrismo without Fidel.

However, they have lost a lot of time and many opportunities; it seems it’s too late. We are witnessing Castrismo’s last phase.

18 thoughts on “Cuba at the Close of 2017: Raul Castro’s Plan in Crisis

  • But then what? Will Cuba pursue a new and different form of socialism? Certainly many were debated between 1906 and 1923 before the Soviet Union created its model which Cuba emulated.

    Eastern Europe and Russia offer little by way of alternatives. Both made radical transformations to capitalism resulting in rich oligarchs, a small struggling middle class and vast numbers of poor and marginalized workers. A vertical hierarchy as you say, but simply of a different kind.

    China offers little, unless a capitalist economy run by a powerful, ridged state control system is what you want. It has the virtues of being nimble and able to pivot the entire country through its ‘command capitalist’ system. But it is repressive in its own ways and becoming more so every day.

    The original ‘soviets’ were workers counsels that were designed to put the means of production in the hands of the working class. Is this a future model for Cuba?

  • All cruelty springs from weakness.

  • A lot has actually changed since 2006. Not necessarily on planned course, just people doing what is needed to survive outside the system. The situation is similar to the unofficial market that existed in the latter stages of the Soviet Union before it collapsed. The Goverment is terrified of what happened to the Soviet Union. The problem is that not changing is not going to work either. They can move towards a China/Vietnam market with socialist controls or perish. By bet is reluctant adaptation and faster than most expect. It’s the only way to survive post Castro.

    This does not mean democracy or indivual freedom. But it does mean a different state ownership model, single currency and more of a legal structure of black market type operations.

  • What planet do you live in, Jeff? I have to support Moses’ statement because his facts are based on his life experience with family in Cuba, and I believe him more than you.

  • My facts are based on my experience living in a third world country for eight years; I left in time before there was the most violent military coup in that country’s history. Unless you have shared my experience, you should have understood of what I am trying to get across. BTW, I was born in another third world country that had several military coups. You must have been reading too many books with a political slant. Facts are based on personal experience, not assumptions. Perhaps, you didn’t hear about the recent military intervention in Zimbabwe, that was a fact!

  • I spy some simplistic, spluttering, right-wing, ideological, bluster……
    ‘the lower end of the Democrats in the U.S’ ??
    So do you think that the fascist sympathizing upper end of the G.O.P. is the way forward?
    That’s you think that’s gonna solve the decrepitude and misery of widespread synthetic opiate dependency in that ‘ol ‘rustbelt’ (aka ,the land that neo-liberalism left behind) ???

    Cuba certainly needs to do something to pull itself up.
    A marketisation of the economy such as seen in China, Vietnam?
    A more socialist (and therefore democratic) version of socialism as articulated by some of the ‘Cuban Opposition’ who contribute here?
    A multi party system and an evolution toward being one of the more successful examples of the type (such as the scandinavian countries)?

    It is possible, as the article suggests, that Cuba is going through the last phase of ‘Castrismo’?
    But whatever Cuba’s future is, let’s just hope it does not embrace the type of failed neo liberalist economic policies that have resulted in the abject ruin of parts of the USA.
    And lets hope that Cuba never ever has the embarrassment of being led by a regime sympathetic to fascism.

  • Medicine and medical equipment are EXEMPT from the embargo. Even if they were included, both China and Russia could sell the same eqipment to the Castros. So stop your whining. Are you a Castro Ministry of Propaganda troll “Jeff Putterman”?

  • No, not at all. Which of my facts have you in a bind?

  • And you made up your own facts?

  • Go ahead and ask. The answer is that Cuba doesn’t have the equipment because a big bully keeps them from being able to buy it. Stfu Moses.

  • And the problem with the US is that a good portion of its people blindly believe the capitalist nonsense. Otherwise, how can you explain a rich moron as president, and a new tax bill that does its best to snuff out the middle class?

  • Yes, with our new tax bill, it’s clear that Capitalism will save the world. If only for the very rich, like the mofos that subjected the Cuban people to repression and starvation when the Bush family had their say.

  • With all due respect, you made up all of the “facts” that support your assumptions.

  • Well written. The problem with Cuba is that a good portion of it’s people actually believe the socialist nonsense, not unlike the lower end of the Democrats in the U.S.. Like the East Germans, Cubans are a hard working and well educated–meaning indoctrinated–people. Even more frightening to those with the socialist bent are the folks in Miami whom they fear will run them over economically (they will), cancel state jobs and take back what was stolen from them (socialism is just organized theft via bureaucracy). That sets up a great class warfare argument for NOT being free. Unfortunately there was never a “West Cuba” where the locals could see a 1:1 comparison. Cuba ran out of “other’s people’s money” long ago now they are dependent on other people’s oil and handouts–for which Russia is a willing partner. Venezuela shows that absent a violent overthrow of the government nothing will ever unseat the socialist ideologues, don’t expect economic difficulties in Cuba to change anything–as this article suggests. Cuba has mastered frugality and we have stupidly allowed them hard currency wherein US Citizens (and others) are propping up the Government just as illegals prop up the Mexican economy–with remittances. The only hope is for some brave leader to make a change–unlikely. As North Korea and Cuba show when you win a cold war you need to finish the job or it will come back to haunt you.

  • It’s off-topic but I think it’s worth mentioning. A few days ago, a team a surgeons in Miami have agreed to volunteer their services to remove a basketball-sized tumor from the face of a 14-year old boy from Cuba. An US-based charitable organization will cover the more than $200,000 in surgical expenses. Does anyone need to ask why this surgery isn’t being done in Cuba?

  • What an excellent summation of Cuba’s current political affairs! I would simple add that since 2006 when Raul took over from Fidel, the housing and infrastructure deficit have continued to widen, record outmigration climbs each year, and the working population has continued to age. What may have worked if fully implemented in 2006 won’t begin to solve the problem today.

  • Without the Castro brothers, the Communist Party may lose control against the vehement opposition of the Cuban people. Like in many third world countries, the military is the only organized system that may have to intervene to prevent further bloodshed, and then we’ll see what will happen. I just hope that there will be sensible military leaders who will look at the situation realistically as happened recently in Zimbabwe; dogmatism does not put food on the table.

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