The jeep carrying Fidel Castro’s remains ran out of gas during a funeral procession. His “revolution,” however, ran out of gas decades before and to this day, is still stranded on the side of the road.
One year without Fidel
For more than a decade, from July 26, 2006 to Nov. 25, 2016, he lived with one foot in the grave.
It has been one year since Fidel’s death was announced. It seems like a century ago. For more than a decade, from July 26, 2006 to Nov. 25, 2016, he lived with one foot in the grave. That slow-motion agony was very useful to his brother Raúl. It served to fasten him to the presidential chair and allowed Cubans to adapt to his control while he gained power and surrounded himself with people he trusted.
Raúl is president because that’s what Fidel decided. He may have seemed a mediocre person to Fidel, without savvy and without charisma, but he was absolutely loyal, a virtue that paranoid people value far above all the others, so Fidel fabricated a biography for him to turn him into his shield bearer. He dragged him into the revolution. Made him commander. Made him defense minister. Made him vice president, and finally bequeathed to him the power, initiating the Castro dynasty.
Since then, Raúl has governed with his familial retinue. With his daughter Mariela, a restless and plain-speaking sexologist. With his son, Col. Alejandro Castro Espín, educated in the KGB’s intelligence schools. With his grandson and bodyguard Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, son of Deborah. With his son-in-law or former son-in-law (nobody knows if he’s still married to Deborah or if they divorced), Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, head of GAESA, the main holding of the Cuban chiefs of staff.
Those are the people who govern with Raúl, but they have three very serious problems. The most important is that very few believers in the system remain in Cuba. Sixty years of disaster are too many to stay faithful to that folly. Raúl himself lost his confidence in the system in the 1980s, when he sent many army officers to European centers to learn management and marketing techniques.
Why should the Cuban brass learn those disciplines well? To implement the “Military Capitalism of State,” Cuba’s only and devastating intellectual contribution to post-communism. The State reserves to itself the 2,500 midsize and major enterprises of the productive apparatus (hotels, banks, rum distilleries, breweries, cement factories, steel plants, ports and airports, etc.) directed by high-ranking military or former military officers. When these people cannot directly exploit an industry for lack of capital or expertise, they bring in a foreign partner to whom they promise ample profits, all the while watching him as if he were the worst of enemies.
Simultaneously, ordinary Cubans are barred from creating major businesses. They must limit themselves to running small places of service (restaurants), baking pizzas, frying croquettes or frying themselves driving taxis. They are forbidden to accumulate wealth or invest in new businesses, because the objective is not for entrepreneurial individuals to display their talent and keep the profits but to come up with the manual labor that the State cannot provide. In contrast with China, making money is a crime in Cuba. In other words, the worst of both worlds: statism controlled by the army brass and microcapitalism bound hands and feet.
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