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Castroist nepotism steadily spreads

The appointment of the new Personal Security Chief points to Cuba’s lack of institutional maturity and how the contradictions entailed by Fidel's model are increasingly egregious.

La Habana

Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro,alias "El Cangrejo" ("The Crab"), grandson of President/General Raúl Castro, has just been named Personal Security Chief, replacing General Humberto Omar Francis Pardo, one of the few holdovers from the old guard at the Ministry of the Interior (MININT).

"The Crab" is the son of Débora Castro Espín and Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, considered one of the economic czars of Armed Forces (FAR), and president of GAESA (the FAR's Business Administration Group), and director of the El Mariel Special Economic Zone.

The position of Personal Security Chief is quite low-profile in terms of its public visibility, nor does it figure prominently in the Party and Government’s hierarchy – at least officially. But any expert or scholar who knows how Cuba really works is aware that, under Fidel's model, characterized by despotism and nepotism, it is actually a post of the greatest significance, even more important than being a member of the Political Bureau, the secretary of a Province, the head of a department of the Central Committee, or the commanding general of one of the three armies.

He will head up the apparatus responsible for guaranteeing the life, security and comfort of the Cuban Government's top leaders; or, as they call themselves, "the historical leadership," and their close relatives in Cuba and abroad.

Some in the US believe that it is analogous to the Presidential Secret Service, charged with the security of the president, his family and former presidents. However, in the two countries the positions’ strategic importance to the system is decidedly different.

In the US a failure by the Secret Service that costs the life of the president or vice president would not mean the collapse of the entire American empire, because the president and his vice, while key and top-ranking figures in the political system, are not intrinsic or essential components of it, and far less are they pivotal to the economic system, which would remain intact.

However, in Cuba an event of this magnitude would have different implications, due to the leader's close identification with the country's history for over the past 60 years, and its political and economic system, and the absolute role played by the caudillo, whose cult of personality has permeated the nation and its national symbols.

In Cuba, the Communist Party (PCC), the National Assembly of Popular Power and the country's major institutions, including the Constitution itself, called "socialist," constitute a kind of Holy Trinity,  gods amongst the people, as the Party-Government-State serves exclusively the interests of the legendary leader and his determination to wield all power, perpetually.

It should come as no surprise that the commander-in-chief was the first secretary of the PCC, president of the Council of Ministers and president of the State Council as long as his health allowed, and only when this faltered did he turn over all his self-appointed positions to his brother, save for that of commander-in-chief. And it was he, despite his old age, who closed the last congress of the PCC, where all the regime's bigwigs gathered, so as to leave no doubts about who was in control over the entire political-economic governmental apparatus.

Everything in Cuba has been made in his image and likeness, and in accordance with his interests and considerations, from his momentous decision to install nuclear missiles in Cuba, to the color of school uniforms, to his macro and micro economic plans and social experiments, their costs being recorded and tracked in nothing but his mind.

Let us not forget the leader's extreme measures and their implications for all of Cuban society when he felt threatened by the potential joining of two lower-ranking figures back in 1989: General Ochoa, who was to take command of the Western Army, and Interior Minister José Abrantes. The former boasted great prestige and power within the FAR, while the latter was "contaminated" with the ideas of perestroika, going so far as to publicly state that Cuba ought to start thinking about implementing some sort of glasnost. An authentic witch hunt of reform sympathizers was unleashed, lasting several years, marginalizing, sacking or assigning to "other important tasks" thousands of officers, officials and specialists at the PCC, the Cuban Foreign Ministry, the MININT and MINFAR. This was a purification process worthy of Stalin; less strident and more "diplomatic," but no less effective.

Let nobody forget either the national commotion when the leader fell seriously ill in 2006, and its subsequent aftermath.

Here the leader’s disappearance would be devastating to Cuba's entire political-economic and social framework, which is structured based on his interests and absurd, megalomaniacal aspirations to dominate not just a country, or a region, but an entire age.

All Cuba’s high-ranking yes men, who have spent more than half a century praising him, subordinated to and defending fidelismo, know that without him there will be no way to sustain the whole scheme, propped up on pillars of  voluntarism, populism, foreign aid and his imagination.

These processes and appointments of family members and loyal lackeys to important positions , violating established mechanisms and rights, simply evidence the absence of any institutional maturity in Castro's Cuba, where the only way to be assigned important functions is through subordination and unconditional loyalty to the Boss, convincing him or one of his cohorts that one is useful. This "cadre policy" has not changed under Raúl.

And this is the cause of the overconcentration of power amassed in the hands of the FAR's generals, apparently controlled by the General and President, those closest to power, and up-and-comers loyal to Castro.

This is not the kind of normal generational transition that occurs in any democratic society, in which established institutions, a balance of power between parties, and the popular vote determine who holds public positions.

The perpetual replenishment of powerful posts, along with a shift from State-based monopolistic capitalism to corporate and private capitalism, under the guise of "modernization," is the plot the elite have devised to avert their eventual collapse and to maintain the "royal" family and its cronies in power after the historic leader's passing.

But such appointments, like that of "The Crab," or that of Alejandro Castro Espín, to centrally control the intelligence of all Cuba's special agencies, like a sort of National Security Council, this entailing a greater concentration of power, evidences how the contradictions inherent to Fidel’s model are growing more and more egregious. Now in its terminal phase, it is a structure that continues to exclude many other actors from the process.

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