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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: Cuba and the Impossible Task of Miguel Díaz-Canel
"Finally, Díaz-Canel became the president of Cuba’s State Council," writes Latin American genius Carlos Alberto Montaner, as he analyzed what is most likely to happen next.

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

Finally, Díaz-Canel became the president of Cuba’s State Council.

In Cuba there is not a President of the Republic. Formally, Cuba has a parliamentary system. In fact, it is a one-party dictatorship, hitherto led with an iron hand by the Castros. Diaz-Canel does not have a lever to support his authority, except for the cautious trust that Raúl Castro–an 86-year-old man whose death Diaz-Canel secretly desires to be able to rule on his own–would grant him. The entire structure of power is in the hands of the raulistas (Raúl’s followers) and he knows it.

On Thursday April 19, Raúl retreated to the Cuban Communist Party, the only and unique pillar of the nation according to the fifth article of the Constitution. From there, he will carefully watch the performance of his successor, ready to eliminate him swiftly if he leaves the script. It is very uncomfortable to work with your real boss looking over your shoulder.

However, the Communist Party has never made any important decisions. It’s just a transmission belt of Castros’ orders and whims. Like the three monkeys of the Chinese fable: it has not seen, it has not heard, it has not thought. Even worse, there is a fourth monkey: it has not even known.

Raúl also controls the Parliament (the National Assembly of People’s Power) through Esteban Lazo, its president. Mariela, Raúl’s daughter, is one of the 605 assembly members known in Cuba as “the singing children of Havana” because of their amazingly fine tuning. They have never played a jarring note. Of these, 31 are members of the State Council, supposedly it is the Sanhedrin who has appointed Diaz-Canel and who can dismiss him easily.

However, the country’s real authority is in the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), purged by Raúl in 1989 for fear of a conspiracy. The FAR and the MININT have been filled with raulistas. Raúl Castro was Minister of the Armed Forces from 1959 until 2006, when his brother became seriously ill.

Raúl has formed and deformed the armed forces. He has appointed all the officers in command and filled them with privileges. He has even looked after the economic destiny of retired friends by assigning them to positions in the dollar area, which is the only habitable area.


As often happens with bosses, although everyone says they love him, there are many who hate him. That is why there is a photograph of Raúl giving a talk in a barracks while wearing an armored vest under his shirt. He has always been a distrustful and cautious person.

Raúl expects his successor to square the circle. Raúl wants him to maintain the system and fix or alleviate the problems of Cuban society. That’s impossible. The misery, the lack of productivity, the decadence and the despair of the Cubans are due, precisely, to the system. Nothing can be fixed if that insane asylum is kept.

Cubans want to be free to choose the movies, the books, the ideologies or the politicians that satisfy them. They even want the freedom to be apolitical and not have to repeat the revolutionary chatter imposed by a few dogmatic individuals. That’s what Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas said after he managed to escape from Cuba and was asked what was the best part of being exiled: “to show my own face for the first time,” he answered with a certain melancholy.

Cubans want to show their true faces. They want to be able to work in activities that allow them to live better, to eat what they want and not what the commissaries decide, to travel and see the world. Cuba is the only country in the world where doctors, teachers, engineers, any professional, do not live at least as middle class, unless they belong to the nucleus of power.

Today, in the economic field, those who receive remittances in dollars can live somewhat better, as well as those who rent rooms to foreigners in remodeled houses, the girls who prostitute themselves, some self-employed workers who use their old cars to drive tourists around, and the individuals who have obtained a license to operate family restaurants known as paladares.

That is, those who live and work in the dollar area are better off, but how many people have that privilege: 5 or 10% of a population of 11 million? The Cuban peso lacks purchasing power and 90% of the nation receive their salaries or their pensions in pesos. Raul Castro did not dare to face the problem, leaving Diaz-Canel the poisoned inheritance of unifying the currency.

How is that done? Floating the Cuban peso and liberalizing prices, which would create terrible inflation and economic chaos that would last between 18 and 24 months.

At that point, presumably, Raul will have died and suddenly the only source of real authority and personal loyalty will have disappeared. Then anything could happen. Then, Diaz-Canel might even show his true face.

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.

 

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