Beware illusions about post-Castro Cuba


Under a hegemonic party system, the emerging regime in Cuba will not rely on its revolutionary past or one man’s charisma, but on the institutionalization of a dominant political party, controlled by the military, designed to hold power in perpetuity, says José Azel, a senior scholar at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, and the author of “Mañana in Cuba” (AuthorHouse, 2010). It will differ from Cuba’s current Leninist model in that some “opposition” parties will be tolerated. This opposition has no possibility of gaining power but suggests the false image of a totalitarian state in transition to democracy, he writes for The Wall Street Journal:

This image will serve the regime well in projecting political stability and giving potential investors greater confidence in the long-term survival of the regime. It provides investors with the convenient rationalization that their activities are helping advance a democratization process. It also channels the opposition’s energy into participating in a rigged political process. Instead of factions operating against the whole, they become uncompetitive proto parties that are made part of the whole, much as we saw in Mexico under seven decades of PRI rule.

Those at the top have been trained all their lives to regulate and control. The governing elites speak (at great length) in lifeless ideological jargon, David Brooks writes for The New York Times:

The current government slogan — not without haste, but without pause — suggests a steady reform process, but in fact the old people running this effort are halting and glacial. The world is changing Cuba faster than the Cuban state can cope….. It’s hard to be too optimistic about Cuba’s short-term future. The leaders are trying to square the mother of all circles — to have a rich society but without rich people; to have an entrepreneurial class but without losing the egalitarian solidarity; to have revolutionary socialism and also outside investment and growth, risk-taking and enterprise.

Cuba’s Communists are struggling with the contradiction of economic reform vs. ideology, or the inherent tensions between economic imperatives and political necessity, argues American University professor William M. LeoGrande.

Cuba wants normal relations with Washington to increase trade, tourism and investment, all of which are key to boosting economic growth,” he writes for World Politics Review. “But with engagement comes the political risk that Cubans may become less tolerant of poor economic performance—blamed for so many years on the U.S. embargo—or the state’s restrictions on civil liberties—blamed on the need for unity in the face of U.S. aggression.”

But Cubans do have a source of democratic national patriotism in the poet José Martí, Brooks adds:

I was amazed how much Martí’s name came up in conversation here and how little Fidel Castro’s did. …One foundation head told me: “When I’m depressed I try to read something Martí wrote. He’s a father who embraces you. I think he engages the best of Cuba.”….

He believed in an independent Cuba, a moderate and democratic political system with protections to tame capitalism. His love of Cuba caused him to love all Cubans. He spent much of his life trying to unite and reconcile them. “Absolute ideas must take relative forms if they are not to fail,” he wrote.


Mr. Azel is a senior scholar at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami, and the author of “Mañana in Cuba” (AuthorHouse, 2010).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email