The “Horse’s Head” that Raul Castro Leaves Behind

Working. Photo: Juan Suarez

Sell it, eat it or bury it.

By Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — The new President, whoever he is, and everything seems to indicate that it will be current first vice-president Miguel Diaz Canel, will inherit what we Cubans call a great “horse’s head”, of a dead horse of course, from his predecessor.

Today, the situation to keep the Castros’ system in place is much worse than what Raul inherited. Venezuela can only help a little bit now and the international situation, particularly in the Americas, has become unfavorable towards the Cuban regime due to changes in government in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and the United States and in general, by the setback to the populist/paternalist/statist and anti-US wave which Chavism and the Foro de Sao Paulo nourished, with Castrism financing them in the background.

The recent Summit of the Americas held in Lima was testament to this.

Key problems which affect the population in the socio-economic order have been made worse: housing, food and transport. Healthcare and education are the Castros’ two greatest achievements, but they have also been seriously affected by cuts to social programs, changes in educational policy, the need to “hire out” doctors abroad, foreign debt repayments and making investments in tourism a priority to obtain hard currency.

The main reason for making the crisis worse has been the Castro’s insistence on upholding state property with semi-slave paid labor which discourages production and efficiency, while breeding corruption and resistance to allowing private forms of production, individual, cooperative and foreign investment.

In a nutshell, to free the country’s productive forces of their thousand and one “legal” and arbitrary obstacles which were born and developed from the ideological prejudices of Neo-Stalinism and the fear of the government losing a part of their economic and political power.

The most interesting thing about this situation is that statements made by top officials, as well as agreements reached during the last two PCC Congresses, suggest that the government is aware about this complex situation and has even gone so far as to outline the essence of solutions, but they have been unable to make these private modes of production effective.

And this might be the new president’s greatest challenge. Because with a dead “horse’s head”, he will have only has three options: to sell it, keep it and stuff his tummy with it or bury it.

The boy in red. Photo: Juan Suarez

Sell it? Another USSR or Chavista Venezuela willing to pay gold in exchange for trinkets can’t be seen in the horizon, and we also can’t see many people interested in investing their capital in a country where the private sector still has no security whatsoever, except for some Spanish slave-owners who aspire to recover their former colony by sharing the semi-slave abusive exploitation of Cuban tourism workers.

Keep hold of it and stuff his tummy with it? If Raul Castro, along with his brother, are the main ones responsible for this situation, and he decided to pass on the dead head to “the new generation” and he hasn’t wanted to bear the burden of his responsibility for this disaster with all of his historic commitment to the Moncada Movement, why will those who follow in his footsteps want to do this when they don’t have the same commitments to the Castro’s history?

Bury it? Burying the old hyper-centralized and rotten economic and political system and waiting for its tombstone, and then apply the already announced liberation of productive forces, opening up the economy and all of society in a reformist attempt which could well receive the Cuban people’s and international community’s majority support, seems to be the most intelligent and promising option right now.

However, this implies a great problem which lies at the heart of the Castro’s Statism: control of the economy in hard currency by the Army and its clear management in favor of interests linked to the militarymen who have received nice houses, better wages and also private forms of transport. The Generals who control this country believe they will have their backs covered if that’s the case.

So burying the “horse’s head” in Cuba will involve a conflict with the Military’s financial power, who up until now, seem to be willing to hold onto their monopolies given the fact that they are the ones who best understand the advantages of a market economy.

Will the new leaders be willing to make the changes they need to and challenge the Military’s and corrupt bureaucracy’s monopolies? Will there be a negotiation between civilians and militarymen which will ensure the financial power of the latter and allow a civil, public and independent economy to develop at the same time?

We will find out in upcoming months.