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Floundering, Raúl and the old guard plot their calculated resignations

On the horizon there looms what could become a 'revolutionary situation': those at the top can no longer maintain control, and those at the bottom cannot take it any more.

La Habana

Since 2006 Raul Castro has been president of the Councils of State and of Ministers, and First Secretary of the PCC, first “acting” and then officially named. But he had been maneuvering ever since 1989, when he carried out a kind of coup d'état against Fidel, justified invoking Court Cases No. 1 and No. 2, installing his officers and cronies in all the important positions of the Party and the Government.

After 12 years since assuming formal control of the country, he will hand over the presidency to one of his yes-men, presumably Vice-president Miguel Díaz-Canel, who was born after 1959.

Now it has been announced that Machado Ventura, Ramiro Valdés and Guillermo García, the trio of octogenarians who, together with Raúl, are considered what remains of the “historic leadership” have just been decorated as heroes, which seems to augur their withdrawal from the most prominent positions of power.

In reality, what we are witnessing is a recognition of the entire Castroist cadre's inability to lead the country forward and, as "revolutionaries do not resign or commit suicide", they are now going to "democratically" hand over power ... to those they have designated.

In this way, they are seeking to distract attention from their orchestrated resignation precipitated by their own failure, after having milked the cow until the last drop, after which they will hand it over – emaciated, sick and dying – to their successors.

They do not do so as democrats who complete their terms and hand power over to a new elected official, but rather because their inability to carry the country forward has become painfully evident. Thus, they have decided to save face by ceding power, preferable to facing an eventual uprising within the regime, or by the people.

Then, from the back seats, they might even be capable of blaming their successors for the disaster wrought by almost 60 years of Castroism. But everything will have to be done very carefully, because a "salt pa'fuera" (get out of here) reaction could be triggered, which would open the door to the collapse of the neo-Stalinist model imposed by the Castro in Cuba, in the name of a socialism that never existed.

The general and his octogenarians will hand over a country worse off than when they took power: with a greater external debt, and in economic decline; suffering from greater instability in its energy supply (due to the disaster caused by Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela), with scheduled blackouts again, as during the "Special Period"; one in which the main institutions have lost prestige due to their inability to carry out the minimum economic and political reform necessary; and in which popular resistance, opposition and dissidence are on the rise, as is tension within the upper bureaucracy.

In reality, Raúl Castro changed nothing essential in the political economic model implemented by his brother, even though he had the opportunity to do so, and to initiate real reform.

He could have taken advantage of the restoration of relations with the Obama Administration, which showed a willingness to open up towards Cuba. There was a broad consensus in the country supporting this move, and he got people's hopes up, but the fear of generating "strange" dynamics that might threaten his power and render him a Cuban Gorbachev, and a traitor to his brother, meant that he only dismantled some "absurd measures" of the deceased leader, and projected the illusion of "changing everything without really changing anything."

The transfer could have come at the VI Congress of the PCC, but their reluctance to give up the perks of power prevented it; try to imagine Lage, Felipito and Valenciaga lounging in bed and savoring the moment.

Those stuck with the "dying cow" in their hands, Díaz-Canel, Murillo and the others, less committed to "the feats of Moncada and the Sierra, together with Fidel" will then have to undertake the changes that Raúl has been putting off, and begin a real process of economic and, eventually, political liberalization, which will put the country on a different track.

Everything could be a scheme hatched by the octogenarians, who preferred to withdraw while still having always been faithful to Castroism, and their successors, "authorized" to implement the reforms approved at the last congresses of the PCC. But if the former end up blaming the latter for the disaster caused by the Castro regime over the course of almost 60 years, the new leadership will have the opportunity to turn the tables and show that it was the old guard that was responsible, and they could feel emboldened to undertake change.

On the horizon there looms what could become a "revolutionary situation": those at the top cannot maintain control, and those at the bottom cannot take it anymore. Political activity across broad social sectors is growing. The necessary changes seem inevitable.

If for some reason the new leaders continue to cling to the ways of the ancien régime, then the solution - inevitable - could take a different turn.

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