Cuba after the Castros
Díaz-Canel will succeed Castro in 2018 — or will he?
If Cuba were normal, the news reports from there in late February would have been the object of international ridicule: The 81-year-old president of a one-party state had been reelected for another five-year term, which, he says, will be his last. And to prove it, he named a successor, the first person in 54 years without the last name Castro-Ruz. (By the way, the Castros are the wealthiest family in Cuba by far, with a fortune estimated by Forbes Magazine to be in the billion-dollar range.)
And so, in his ninth decade on earth, Raul Castro will continue to preside over the diminishing economy, crumbling infrastructure, and shrinking population whose only hope is to live in another country. In the 1950s, before the rise to power of the Castro brothers, with their history of violence, destructive ideology, and class hatreds, Cuba ranked among the top three nations of the Western Hemisphere in practically all socioeconomic indicators, including infant mortality, doctors and hospital beds per capita, and protein consumption per capita.
Half a century later, Cuba is a pauper state, having survived mostly on handouts: hundreds of billions of dollars, first from the late, unlamented Soviet Union (for about 30 years, at approximately $5 billion per year) and, more recently, from Venezuela (for 14 years, at about the same annual amount). Partly as a result of gifting to Cuba such a high percentage of its potential income (over 110,000 barrels of oil a day), Venezuela itself is now experiencing the severe scarcities of food and medicine, accompanied by police repression, that Cubans recognize as the “achievements of the Revolution.”
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