Cuba without the Castro brothers?

Raul Castro said he will retire in 2018. O is still five more years for Raul and Fidel is still abound, but would you say that the Cuban regime can work without the Castros or some big changes are coming?

W. Alex SanchezResearch Fellow, Council on Hemispheric Affairs

First of all Cuba has a very mixed history when it comes to the types of government it has experienced.  Ranging from U.S.-appointed governors to provisional presidents that ruled for a few days and months, and military juntas such as the infamous Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban political experiment goes across the spectrum in terms of the types of governments that have ruled the island. The Castro brothers have ruled since the late 1950s, and the Cuban population has not known other types of governments or elections with more than one political party in decades. The recent parliamentary elections is a conflicting example of elections taking place, but where only one political party was on the ballot, eliminating multiple options for the population to choose from.

I think the Cuban government after the Castro’s will generally continue its policy of liberalizing the economy, relaxing migration laws and continue seeking for offshore oil deposits (which, if found, would be a game changer for the country). With that said, I also think that those currently in power do not want to give up control of the island, particularly the economy (individuals close to the government control casinos, hotels, restaurants etc). In other words, we may see more of the “old guard,” who are loyal to the Castro brothers, remain in power even after Raul steps down.

One critical issue to keep in mind is age, the Castros are in their 80s, and their allies are also of advanced age, so “big changes” in the upper echelons of the Cuban government will have to happen eventually. The question will be if individuals of the new generation, such as Miguel Diaz Canel, will apply pressure in the coming years to have more powers and occupy more influential positions in the government. With that said,  I do think that there could be a governmental crisis if some kind nepotism takes place and the Castros and their allies choose family members to succeed them (ie like in North Korea) rather choosing individuals based on merit/work performance.

Antoni KapciaProfessor of Latin American History, Director, Centre for Research on Cuba/Cuba Research Forum, University of Nottingham

Yes, it’s almost certain that Raul has 5 years more at the most (he’s more or less promised that), but Fidel is only ‘around’ in a very limited sense – he’s consulted but more as a matter of courtesy, as Raul is very clearly in charge, and the more so since yesterday’s changes in the Council of State. As for the system surviving them…. yes, as it was never as simple as personal control or loyalty, but a much more complex set and system of loyalties, support and so on. It’s already survived Fidel since 2007, without problems, and the succession looks to be in good hands.

Victor Bulmer-ThomasProfessor, Associate Fellow, Chatham House

Big changes have already come to Cuba since 2010. By Cuban standards, these changes have been quite radical. If this continues, it is quite possible that the system will survive after 2018 when neither of the Castros will be in power.

Wayne SmithDirector, Latin America Right & Security, Cuba Project, Center for International Policy

Yes, can work, and anyway that’s some years away.

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