Lartiza Diversent, attorney and Director of the Legal Information Center, Cubalex
I don't believe that the regime's leadership is seeking to hand power over give way to the next generation. Raúl Castro simply does not like assuming the international responsibilities entailed by being the head of state. His body language, for example, at the Panama Summit, or during Obama's visit to Havana, revealed that he does not like cameras or journalists. He is not a strong speaker, and his speeches before the National Assembly are boring, with him reading his texts. He needs a figurehead, a fresher image to deal with the uncomfortable questions posed by the international press. He surely feels too old to be making a fool of himself, just as his brother did. Of the old guard in power, Raúl Castro is the only one who has had to make a fool of himself in public. This is the difference explaining why the rest of the 80-year-olds making up the PCC leadership have not taken a break and, unlike him, chosen to die at their posts.
Omar López Montenegro, Director of Human Rights at the National Cuban American Foundation
In reality, there is no handover of power in Cuba. Raúl Castro retains his position as the First Secretary of the Communist Party. Thus, de facto and de jure, according to Article 5 of the Socialist Constitution, he continues to rule over Cuban society. Raúl also retains his seat as a deputy in the National Assembly of Popular Power, which represents a permanent Sword of Damocles dangling over the heads of the other representatives during the sessions.
Let us also remember that the National Assembly only meets twice a year, so its decisions are always framed by others of the Party.
Thus, Raúl Castro continues to retain power in Cuba. The handover maneuver in the Council of State is mostly directed at the court of international public opinion, in an attempt to burnish the regime's image.
Juan Antonio Blanco, Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba
Raúl Castro is not leaving power. In any case, even if he were not the First Secretary of the PCC, as long as he lives and is not disqualified, he will be the leader of the elite that holds real power. Employing whatever methods are necessary, he will always strive to keep that elite intact.
Pedro Campos, former diplomat and analyst
Firstly, out of cowardice. He had the power and consensus to make real change, but avoided it.
I believe that there are three fundamental causes for this sham resignation, that are related to each other and mediated by that cowardice:
a) He knew that the Cuban economy was a disaster, what he inherited from his brother, and he did not want to be responsible for what would come next. He's no Gorbachev, or Yeltsin.
b) He tried to fix the phenomenon by making a centralized structure work. One devised for the caudillo, with reformist attempts that had been tried even under Fidel Castro, but always with many limitations and much opposition within the bureaucratic structures. More than once he complained that "they did not let him", presumably alluding to his brother, who remained alive, without an office but with the real power of his authority, forged over half a century.
He modified absurd regulations established by Fidel, took away his power, played dirty with Cases No.1 and No. 2, dismissed all the fidelistas, but never confronted him openly. He did not have the courage of a Nikita Khrushchev, for example, who criticized the cult of Stalin, ever after Fidel's death.
He can say that he made an attempt to fix the phenomenon, but because he was faithful to his brother, he did not want to go any further, or risk any more. He convinced himself that he couldn't fix the mess. He never made a real effort. They say that this was what his behavior was like back at Moncada and in the Sierra, where he opened the Second Front through a few skirmishes with the Army.
c) He left the work to others and structured central ideas at Congresses VI and VII that, if applied consistently, could foster the country's economic development – but not without abandoning the hypercentralization of the Castro model, and democratizing the economy (opening the door to private and cooperative work, and to investments, foreign and from Cubans abroad, with markets and free hiring). They could also lead, eventually, to some changes in the political system, all of which, it is known, will spawn expectations of unpredictable changes.
In short, he does not want to be responsible for the disaster or the change. His brother did it, he would say. "Let someone else come up with a solution. I made it through without ‘socialism’ falling and without betraying my brother. Whoever succeeds me can deal with the problem." I think it's a cowardly attitude.
Rafael Rojas, historian and essayist:
I believe that Raúl Castro began his second term in 2013 convinced that the best way to ensure the continuity of the Cuban regime was through a generational handover.
The decision to appoint Díaz Canal to the First Vice Presidency of the Councils of State and Ministers was a clear signal of that commitment. Unlike Fidel, who was determined to call the shots until the day he died, Raúl opted for a more institutional approach, although equally subordinated to perpetuation of power.
The problem is that, in Cuba, given the deep economic, social and political crisis that the country is suffering, the generational change is not enough to preserve the system. Reform is also necessary, beginning with constitutional reform, without the dynamics of change threatening the permanence of the regime.
I think that after the succession in April the demand for reform, within the political class itself, will grow.
Carlos Alberto Montaner, journalist and writer:
Because he is less irresponsible than Fidel and wants to leave to his family and friends a system capable of sustaining authority. He won’t pull it off, but he will try to.