By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – After Raul’s announcement in his latest speech in front of the National Assembly, him stepping down as the President of the State Council and Council of Ministers seems to be pretty much definite. Everything is pointing towards Miguel Diaz-Canel being named his successor, the First Vice-President who rose up to the highest ranks of Cuban politics thanks to the post-Fidel purge that took some of the system’s key figures out of the game.
While it is true that there were strong indications, during the first half of this year, that this transfer of power might not happen, his nomination today is clear. Ambiguous declarations by figures close to power, such as Mariela Castro, have predicted that there may be “surprises”. The Vice-President himself has made sure to come off as a “die-hard Communist” in the few public images that have leaked of him, in a clear move to create trust among the population. And added to his absence from national press, there has been a sudden and unprecedented appearance of the Castro family’s descendents, both Fidel’s and Raul’s children.
However, Diaz-Canel returned three months ago to make regular appearances in front of cameras and microphones, and nothing is coincidence in Cuba’s official journalism. And in recent weeks, his appearances have intensified quite overwhelmingly. They are sticking him in our heads through our eyes by shoving propaganda and subliminal messages in our faces!
And maybe he’ll become a better President or maybe worse, if that is really possible given our current situation. However, that isn’t the problem. The problem is our right to be able to nominate him or others and with those who do select him for such a high position in government.
Apparently, a Nomination Committee, made up of social leaders who are headed by those from the only allowed union, will make a selection before April 19th, based on individual interviews held with the future parliament members. However, without “electing” these same lawmakers, we already know that there is a “chosen one” and that it’s the Party’s Politburo who are deciding who this is, that’s no secret.
Raul will step down but that won’t mean he will leave power. He will continue to have power as the Head of the PCC, because he is giving up his administrative position but not his political one. Even so, it will still be an unprecedented event that hasn’t happened since 1976, as before the “institutionalization” different government roles were held by different leaders, but power was concentrated in the figure of Prime Minister Fidel Castro.
It was a long period of transition (16 years), a different time when the budding Revolution, still failing in nearly everything it tried to undertake in the economic sector, made great achievements in the social sector which represented a great hope for the masses. It was very different to this new era, where the disintegration of roles could slowly lead to the disintegration of power, especially when Nature itself is calling after the historic leaders. That would open up a possible rift for the change that Cuba so desperately needs.
But the Cuban people are no longer what they were; they don’t even have hope of things improving with the Revolution. Not even the Communist Party’s hardline members believe that the country will improve going down the route we currently are. Corruption and hypocrisy have irreversibly infected the leading class, at all levels, extrapolating the Cuban people on the whole. They put up a front of opportunist loyalty that they betray at the slighest bump in the road. Hope doesn’t prevail, the wish to emigrate does.
Low working wages and the State’s own high prices are deteriorating the values of the working, who are stealing resources or working hours, when there isn’t anything else. Social organizations, such as the CDR neighborhood defense committees, have stopped working and only exist in the state-controlled press and in the government’s own falsified statistics.
There is also a thriving private sector which is defenseless as it has no law to protect it. It operates by buying “diverted” resources and the corrupt mockery of a tax law that is directed at preventing them from developing, as they require a larger space in the economy. There is also a close and unprecedented relationship with Cuba’s emigres, as well as contact with the outside world via tourism, the internet and the latest opportunities to travel. And on the other hand, a civic society is slowly being forged which is gaining strength from every social sector, with a critical and balanced view of things.
It’s within this panorama that Raul will give up a part of his power to Diaz-Canel. I’m sure he will allow him to govern and be the visible face of the Cuban State. However, from his main seat in power, at the helm of the Communist Party, he will take Diaz-Canel’s actions into account and put a stop to any deviation away from the ironclad line they have outlined, while time allows him to.
There is just one last important link in the power chain that needs to be mentioned: the FAR. Raul is the Head of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces, which is a position that has no definite timeframe. Hypothetically-speaking, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces should be the President, like it is in many countries. However, it’s not clear that this power will go to Diaz-Canel as it involves a great deal of power.
In this case, Raul is the highest-ranking Cuban militaryman, who has never been given the title of “Retired”. As a last resort, his son, Alejandro Castro Espin, could replace him as the Minister of the FAR, in order to balance out the status quo. This would be a subtle way of confirming that this position will “go round and round” this circle of power in future ascensions.
Everything is speculation and that’s all we have because secrecy is an inalienable part of Cuban politics. And Cuban politics doesn’t rely on democracy or on the people’s vote, but mainly on the Communist Party’s strategies and its ruling elite. The pieces can fit a little better or a little less, but the Cuban political jigsaw has clearly been set up to protect the “continuity” of the current system. It will be the same old thing that has us stuck where we are and without any hopes for a brighter day.