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On the Day After, Who Could Replace the Castros? / Ivan Garcia

Ivan Garcia, Translator: Unstated

Some people in Cuba are already placing bets. Everyone knows that within

five to ten years power could change hands. The unknowns are whether the

successor will have the last name of Castro, and if the inefficient

political and economic system will be preserved.

Raúl Castro crafted a law limiting time in political office to two

five-year terms. If he were to apply this to himself, he would have to

retire from national politics in 2016. If one assumes his official rise

to power occurred in 2008, then his retirement would begin in 2018.

But autocrats often do not abide by their decrees. Rules are for others,

not for themselves. And many on the island believe that as long he is of

sound mind and enjoys good the general will continue to rule the

nation.

Cubans like to prognosticate. And to bet. The underground lottery is a

popular pastime. For example, baseball fans are making predictions about

the World Classic in 2013. On questions of politics, however, they are

cowardly. always considered it a crime to be politically

ambitious, and his subordinates were always careful about saying

anything that might be construed as a declaration of a future possible

presidential candidacy.

More than a few heads have rolled for coveting the throne.Roberto

Robaina, a former foreign minister, has become the owner of a successful

private . Others, such as Felipe Pérez Roque y Carlos Lage,

fell from grace and are now two obscure, low-level bureaucrats. In the

last Communist Party Congress, the younger Castro warned of the dearth

of young politicians and functionaries, and stated that, in the future,

no would be able to rule for more than a decade.

An eighteen-person survey a group of well-informed people, who have

access to the and cable antennae, believe that, if the

nation continues on its present course, Raúl himself will handpick the

next president.

Who might be the successors? Seven believe it will be Alejandro Castro,

coordinator of the secret services. He is young and has the Castro name,

which would allow for the continuation of the family dynasty. Four

believe the next president will be someone from Raúl's old guard and

point to Leopoldo Cintras Frías, minister of the armed forces.

Two of those surveyed think that, in a Cuba of the future, a military

junta will rule. Five believe that Mariela Castro, Lázaro Expósito,

Marino Murillo, Luis Alberto López-Callejas or Miguel Díaz Canel might

be president given their family ties or political affinities with Raúl

Castro.

What would the political landscape look like? Those surveyed could not

even imagine, but speculated a bit and wagered some guesses. Nine felt

that, if Fidel Castro were no longer alive, the successor would opt for

a market and a strong government run by a committee with the

presidency rotating among its members.

They could craft a country with a democratic veneer like Russia. If the

United States negotiates, dialogs with and accepts whoever might be

Castro's successor—shielding itself from security concerns over illegal

immigration, terrorism and drug trafficking—it might prefer an

authoritarian government. It would not be overly concerned if such a

government discreetly violated individual freedoms, provided it

controlled its borders. This would be preferable to a weak or corrupt

democracy, which might turn the island into a giant raft or a fertile

ground for international narco-trafficking.

They also believe that Castro's successor would seek a relationship with

Washington that casts aside the Cold War diplomacy crafted by Fidel

Castro. Several of those interviewed felt that the United States would

not tolerate a "Castro light"government and would continue to press for

real democracy with the participation of all the political actors.

If it came to pass, which opposition politicians or leaders

could govern the country the day after the Castros? Those surveyed felt

that, given the level of repression and lack of leadership, no one

figure stood outat the moment.

Some believe that Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas would have been a good

candidate, but after his unexpected death, they now favor Oscar Elías

Biscet. Others mention Manuel Cuesta Morúa because he has more

experience and a longer resumé than EliécerÁvila or Antonio Rodriles.

Although unknown by the general public, the Yoani Sánchez was

mentioned by one person as a possible candidate. However, in an

extensive interview I did with Yoani, published in two parts—the first

in February, the second in September—she indicated she was neither an

opposition figure nor a dissident, and did not see herself in a

political role. She rejected it because she finds politics repulsive.

All eighteen of those surveyed think the opposition should focus its

work on the community and developing a viable, inclusive and coherent

political platform. They feel the future president of Cuba need not

necessarily be an opposition figure or someone tied to the current

regime. He or she could be an ordinary citizen, now walking among us,

who, at a given moment, could become a leading figure. Or a Cuban exile

with good political connections in the United States and to the

financial world. Someone brought up in a democratic and transparent

environment. Whichever version Cuba becomes after Castro, all agree that

the role Cuban exiles play will be fundamental.

Personally, I am leaning towards a woman, provided it is not Mariela

Castro or Aleida Guevara, who are too closely tied to the Castros. Cuba

is in need of the female soul. I would not mind if it were Miriam

Celaya, Laritza Diversent or Rosa María Payá. I am quite fed up with all

the chest thumping. There's been enough testosterone.

Photo: Rosa María Payá Acevedo, twenty-three years old, reading a few

wordsat Havana's Saviour of the World church on July 24, 2012during a

funeral mass for her father, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, shortly before his

internment at Cementerio de Colón. Taken from the , Razones de la

Palabra, Radio Netherlands.

August 26 2012

http://translatingcuba.com/on-the-day-after-who-could-replace-the-castros-ivan-garcia/

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