Cuba Without the Castro Brothers

Fidel and Raul Castro

What will happen in Cuba, in an imminent future, after Raul Castro passes away?

By Alejandro Armengol (Cubaencuentro)

HAVANA TIMES – A little over five years since Fidel Castro’s death, after the initial sobbing and rejoicing – temporary but much-needed reactions -, Cubans had to take something in. Right now, the years that have passed have done very little to define the scope of this death. Instead, another digression has been seen on the island and in the exile community, as if the wake was prolonged after the burial and starting a new life was an extension for the corpse.

Castro shaped the fate of far too many people’s lives for decades, which means that something so definitive like his death wasn’t going to be overlooked. But in reality, it has translated into a feeling of emptiness and impotence.

Up until about two decades ago, in Miami the idea that Castro would die lying on his bed was a very difficult idea to take in. But it slowly imposed itself.

In the final stage of his life, beyond the ravages of sickness, the onslaught of getting old and photos that showed clear physical decline, the fact that Castro was still making the rules of the game was always present, even in his obstinacy to death.

For people living on the island, getting used to his daily absence was a natural and timely phenomenon, in accordance with the generation one belonged to, and the following generations had to accept it.

Castro had been around for many Cubans’ lives. They lived and died without knowing any other ruler. This emotional burden hasn’t been easy to assimilate. Cries and sobbing, displays of sadness and joy, homages and acts of rejection were just about able to channel the great importance of this event.

In the exile community, two seemingly contradictory, but ultimately complimentary feelings have settled in, after the initial reaction. The first has to do with closing a chapter. The second with the end of a dream.

“No Castro, no problem,” was the favorite sticker in emigres’ cars, at one time. However, Castro lived long enough to prove that his physical demise wouldn’t be the end of his oppression: his departure from the world hasn’t been synonomous with a leap back in time, returning to 1950s Cuba.

Today, after his little brother’s departure from the presidency of the island and the highest command in the Cuban Communist Party’s Central Committee, there is very little hope of any real change. Cuba’s problems endure after the Castros.

People thought that excuses not to do things differently would run out with Fidel Castro’s death. Over decades in Cuba, people have learned to master the art of patience: a better future, a gradual change in living conditions, a providential trip abroad. For decades, there has also been an attitude of not taking risks, of believing in chance, of resigning oneself to indifference. None of this has changed after Fidel Castro’s physical disappearance.

It’s likely nothing will change in this regard after Raul Castro’s physical demise either. If leaving the country has meant for many Cubans reaching somewhere without his presence, there is a whole ‘nother bundle of emotions – defined by geography and history – that encapsulate feelings that go beyond their physical departure. Some have tried to turn the page and keep going, but it hasn’t been so easy for others. While they’d managed to banish the figure of “Comandante en Jefe” from their lives, the day he died, they had to contemplate, consciously or subconsciously, the alternative of forgetting this as quickly as possible or not. If they didn’t, this would end up being another frustration. Trying to represented greater hope, at least. For the more unfortunate, Fidel Castro will be dead for far too long.

What will happen after Raul passes away?

Another question, which is also based on emotion, but especially political and with everyday consequences is what will happen in Cuba, in an imminent future, after Fidel’s younger brother passes away?

This kind of palace death has set the expiry date on his life in the spotlight, and has fired hopes in Miami for a brief moment of street rejoicement. However, Fidel Castro’s death hasn’t meant the end of the feudal concept of time that has prevailed on the island for decadees. The eternity of the consecrated January 1st 1959 has still not come to an end. It’s rather just another game of trinkets: parades to an elephant cemetery, which is never about the bones.

There’s only room for so much hope in Fidelista Miami. In this regard, the two most important events for Miami in November 2016 – Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States and Castro’s death – managed to revive the dream, for a few months, of this city going back in time. However, reality has shown its face, both regarding Cuba and the US, and proven that a complete regression to the past is impossible.

Paraphrasing Sartre: with Castro dead, some emigres have found themselves forced to create him all over again: they need him to be everlasting, eternal, permanent in their lives. If they needed him alive before, to believe he was dead, then they clung to the idea that his physical demise would open up a chance to rip pages over an already non-existent calender – a paradox that has been repeated a thousand times over. On the island, beyond his constant presence in the alleged news media, the constant call for an eternal Castro or being in command has been nothing but a corner trick, local celebration or schoolyard party.

In Cuba, different realms of power are still being combined, which are often confused and were kept united in the figures of Fidel and Raul Castro: the military, politics, ideology and public administration. After both brothers left the day-to-day management of state affairs – one because he was sick and dead, and the other because he officially gave up his duties but not informally – has divided this structure of command, but this hasn’t meant it has fractured or been torn apart, it has rather spread out.

Key immediate changes after the biological passing of both Castro brothers will be the continuation of this process already underway. Understanding this course of action will save confusion about their passing over power. In Cuba, there is no inheritance of power, like in North Korea, nor is there is a generational transfer of power that forgets its origins. The key here is understanding that a new model has been established for years already, that subordinates ideology, politics and public administration to business power, but only in Cuban terms.

Thus, once Raul Castro passes away, the miliary will continue to be at the heart of the equation, which has already become the main economic power.


Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

7 thoughts on “Cuba Without the Castro Brothers

  • I am somewhat hopeful that Cubans will one day stand up for themselves and demand their civil and political rights. I really don’t understand why it has taken so long but maybe without a Castro alive, Cubans will shake off their fear of consequences and take to the streets to bring about change.

  • Muster Wiggin I glad you mentioned El Vedado just to tell you everything in El Vedado excluding the old Mansion s every single edification was built from 1945 to 1958. Except the Ice cream Parlo Coppelia and the Cuba pavilion in La Rampa 1966 and 1964 respectively. No even what the dictatorship calls Plaza De La Revolución was built after 1959 the Plaza was built in 1953 . Needless to talk about Centro Habana. So Vedado was built practically in 13 years image how much progres could have been done in 62 years in a free market and democratic society like the one you live.

  • Olgasintamales, your history and perspective are important. I too am no supporter of dictatorship, but my view is informed by a study of a wide range of history and reporting – not on what the Castros have said. My view also reflects about 13 visits over the last 10 years – not to resorts but staying in Vedado or Centro Havana. Every visit, things seemed to have improved and become more open. To both of us, I am sure, the recent repression is troubling and reflects a lack of trust in the people. I may be white, comfortably retired, but I love Cuba and the people that I have met. I want the best for all, but may have different ideas than you on how this might evolve.

  • I predict within the next few years, Vladimir Putin will be calling the shots in Cuba. He may already be coaching the Cuban leadership. After all, Cuba needs a sugar daddy to keep the country functioning and Venezuela isn’t really in the position to do that right now. This is just a theory.

  • Mr Wiggin, is not way that Cuba that in 1958 got better economy that Spain, and Belgium. (UN 1958) that was the 4th economy in the Western Hemisphere with a big middle class can big better that Cuba in 2021. Just look around Havana next time, all those buildings houses, museums, theater some of them stolen by your glorious dictatorship some in ruins today were built before 1959. So if the country were so bad why the revolution hasn’t built anything significant in the capital except the news Hotel’s fever because they have now thinking that ppl would go meanwhile the whole city us falling apart I was 9 years old when this horrible dictatorship took over my father works in Havana’s docks and my mother was a elementary school teacher and saving they were able to buy a new house despite the discrimination existing by then against blacks
    You learned the propaganda from the Castro’s lies and deception. Cuba was not a paradise but it was better that the actual circumstances.

  • I am guessing that this guy is saying things won’t change after Raul’s death, but albeit in the most long winded incoherent way ever devised.

  • In the article was the statement “. his departure from the world hasn’t been synonymous with a leap back in time, returning to 1950s Cuba.” Whether you approve of the Castros or not, there seems to be a growing blindness regarding the Batista years of the 50s. Widespread lack of access to education and illiteracy, opponents of the government being tortured or killed and dumped from cars on the streets of Havana, widespread underemployment with only a few months work at sugar plantations and poverty for the rest of the year. To move forward, you cannot forget the past or wish for the good life of the 50s that was not available to all. Cuba still has much room for improvement – but much has improved significantly for many.

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