By Alvaro Vargas Llosa, excerpted from The Independent Institute:
WASHINGTON—Raul Castro has killed all hope that a transition to the rule of law and a market economy will start anytime soon in Cuba. The appointments he has made as well as his first speech as president and his televised conversation with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez indicate that self-preservation is Castro’s paramount objective even if he understands the need to shake up the moribund communist state.
Raul Castro has managed the armed forces with a greater efficiency than Fidel has managed the rest of the nation. Not surprisingly, Raul wants to bring the national economy to be run like his army. But I fail to understand how he can go from there to Chinese-style conversion to capitalism—much less to democracy—as so many observers are anticipating. If Cuba were to open its economy to an extent comparable to China’s, the Cuban government would risk losing control of the process very quickly. Raul Castro wants to guarantee the continuity of the revolution by making it more efficient, not to change its nature by turning capitalist.
That is why, even though Raul is believed to be resentful of the Venezuelan president’s interference in Cuban affairs and jealous of Chavez’s role as Fidel’s Latin American heir, the two talked on the day of Castro’s “inauguration.” The message was clear: the alliance will continue.
Could it be that the new president simply has no choice but to move very slowly while his brother is alive? It’s possible, but where is the evidence that 76-year-old Raul Castro, who has been a member of the Communist Party since 1953 and continues to live under the shadow of his brother, is the Cuban Gorbachev? So far, such talk can only be attributed to wishful thinking.
Read the rest of The Same Old Cuba here.