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The recent 'elections' in Cuba and their implications for the immediate future

If Raúl Castro and his octogenarian cronies at the Political Bureau decide to retire, what will their successors do?

La Habana

Last Sunday another Castro electoral farce was held in which voters were summoned to "vote" for candidates for deputies to the National Assembly of Popular Power - candidates appointed by the Government-Party-State. 

In Cuba, where there is no freedom of expression, association, election or economic activity, the 605 candidates appointed by the central power to form part of the Parliament were declared deputies. They, in turn, will elect the new Council of State and its President, also designated by the central power. 

Thus, those designated by the central authority will be those who "elect" the new one.

These are not, therefore, democratic elections, but rather selections.

These selections, however, have generated greater expectations due to the impending change in the Presidency of the Council of State, given General Raúl Castro's announcement of his retirement, but everyone knows that the next President of the Council of State will be handpicked. 

He will assume command of a country with a constitution and a political organization devised for a dictatorship overseen by a caudillo, but now, with the first strongman dead, his successor will be succeeded by a designee (everything indicates that it will be the current vice-president Miguel Díaz Canel) without any charisma, unknown to the majority of the people, born after 1959, trained within the structure of the Communist Party and the Government, though without any epic achievements to boast of, and devoid of Castro's legendary aura.

This will all happen when the economy dealing in foreign currencies lies mostly in the hands of the FAR (Armed Forces), whose massive resources fail to positively impact the state sector, which continues to work with Cuban pesitos; and is also corroded by widespread corruption, all of which has left housing in shambles, along with food and public transport, while education and health falter due to deficient investments and the system's inability to accept policies other than salaried statehood.

This scenario is rounded out by a private sector and another emerging cooperative one, beleaguered by absurd regulations and excessive tax laws, thirsting for market opportunities that, if not created, could bolster but complicate the country's socioeconomic and political landscape.

With a view to the appointment of Raúl Castro's successor, there has already been evidence of divisions created by Raúl's regime after sacking from intermediate and high-level posts thousands of officials trained under Fidel, and the military's appropriation of the foreign-currency based economy.

All these contradictions could now become even more acute.

The new Government will, supposedly, be charged with implementing the agreements reached at the Seventh Congress of the PCC, as part of its "plan for the updating of socialism" and the perspective economic plan until 2030.

Because of all this, the most significant aspect of these selections is what will come next: the appointment of the Council of Ministers, which will seize the executive helm of the country and lay down new directives, as the National Assembly of Popular Power in Cuba has, until now, been a mere rubber stamper of the Government's decrees.

The formation of the new cabinet; the professional, human and political caliber of its members; and its first steps will reveal whether the new Government really has any intention of ushering in change. The National Assembly, which has hitherto supported Fidel and Raúl Castro, invariably, could become a forum featuring actual disagreements, as the factor that ensured "unanimity" died along with the caudillo.

If Raúl Castro and his octogenarian cronies at the Political Bureau decide to fade into the background to watch over, from there, the fulfillment of their legacy, their successors, in addition to facing these challenges, will face a great dilemma: to continue doing what has been done to date, to avoid clashes with the gerontocracy, and continue to sink the country and bear the responsibility for this; or begin to implement the profound democratic changes demanded by Cuba's obsolete economic, political and social structure, contravening the policies of its preceding regimes.

The immediate future of Cuba depends on how these contradictions play out, and that dilemma. 

The opposition and dissident community should prepare, integrate and institutionalize, forming a broad democratic front in order to play a catalytic role in favor of the most democratic positions in the face of the foreseeable power crises looming ahead, and to push for the creation of a scenario amenable to a new inclusive national consensus allowing them to influence future events.

When the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe sank into crisis, the opposition and dissidents were able to work on behalf of democracy to the extent that they were well organized, integrated, and enjoyed support, both international and domestic.

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