What to expect next in Castro’s Cuba

Dr. Jaime Suchlicki at the Cuba Studies Institute:

Cuba: What to Expect

The Domestic Scene

The limited economic changes introduced by Gen. Raul Castro in Cuba encouraged some observers to proclaim the end of communism and the dismantling of the totalitarian system in the island.

Notwithstanding Raul Castro’s own statements that he was not elected to restore capitalism, these observers insist on their belief that economic reforms will be deepened and Cuba will march merrily into capitalism or at least a Chinese-style capitalism.

If the objectives of the Castro government were truly to move toward a market economy, it would not limit economic enterprises to some 181 individual activities, i.e. barbershops, shoe shinning, pizza parlors; to lease vacant lands to individual farmers to produce mostly subsistence agriculture; or to liberalize the real estate and auto markets. In addition, the onerous taxes, regulations, and license fees imposed on these activities are not conducive toward the development of free enterprises.

It is very difficult for Gen. Raul Castro to reject his brother’s legacy of political and economic centralization. Raul’s legitimacy is based on being Fidel’s heir. Any major move to reject Fidel’s “teachings” would create uncertainty among Cuba’s ruling elites – party and military. It could also increase instability as some would advocate rapid change, while others cling to more orthodox policies. Cubans could see this as an opportunity for mobilization, demanding faster reforms.

For Raul, the uncertainties of uncorking the genie’s reform bottle in Cuba are greater than keeping the lid on and moving cautiously. For the past five decades, political considerations have always dictated the economic decisions of the communist leadership in the island.

Raul is no Deng Xiaoping, Gorbachev or a pragmatist in military uniform.


The Foreign Dimension

Raul does not seem ready to provide meaningful and irreversible concessions for a long-term U.S.-Cuba normalization. Like his brother in the past, public statements and speeches are politically motivated and directed at audiences in Cuba, the U.S. and Europe. Avenues for serious negotiations have never been closed as evidenced by the recent diplomatic normalization under President Obama and migrations and anti-hijacking agreements between the United States and Cuba.

Raul is unwilling to renounce the support and close collaboration of countries like Venezuela, China, Iran, North Korea and Russia in exchange for an uncertain relationship with the United States. At a time that anti-Americanism is strong in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere, Raúl’s policies are more likely to remain closer to regimes that are not particularly friendly to the United States and that demand little from Cuban in return for generous aid.

Yet there is the strong belief in the United States that economic considerations could influence Cuban policy decisions, and that an economically deteriorating situation could force the Castro regime to move Cuba toward a market economy and eventually toward political reforms. This has not happened and is not likely to happen.

Read the entire piece HERE.