A year later, and the jeep is probably still in the shop

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Fidel Castro died a year ago. It was not a shock because there were serious rumors about his health all the time. Almost weekly there was a flash out of Miami that the old man had died.

During his funeral, a military vehicle (some sort of Soviet Jeep) took his remains to their final resting place.

Then the jeep broke down and several soldiers had to push it.

The “malfunctioning jeep” photo was so amazing that I had to triple check it to believe it.

And so Raul Castro was left all alone in power with a country that resembled that broken down jeep!

My friend Carlos Alberto Montaner, one of the best Cuban analysts around, recently wrote about Raul Castro’s Cuba and some of the challenges ahead.   (The full article was on Babalu yesterday…..it is very good)

Raul himself promised to leave in 2018 and has designated First Vice President Miguel Díaz Canel to formally take over.  However, don’t bet on that because an internal struggle is coming.

The first problem, as Carlos points out and everyone who goes to Cuba confirms, is that nobody believes in communism anymore in Cuba.  Everyone sees the failure, but a lot of people did not want to admit it when Fidel was around and probably fear saying it during Raul’s tenure.  As I heard a Cuban say, the only people who believe in communism in Cuba are the ones who are paid to read the news.

The second problem is that the post-Castro leaders will realize that there is no money, nor anyone willing to lend them any.  Yes, the Russians will help with debt structure but that’s in exchange for reopening an intelligence base near Havana. As for China, they want minerals or other resources and that’s the extent of their interest.

So I agree with Carlos that the new leadership faces two bad options:

1) a true political opening or multiparty elections that will dismantle the system in hopefully peaceful fashion; or;

2) holding on to a failed system that everybody knows does not work and may threaten the power structure.

The first option will bring the U.S. into the game and end the embargo. It will also encourage Cuban-Americans like me to play a part in reconstructing the country that the Castros wrecked. The second option is unsustainable because even the Russians and Chinese are not about to bail out Cuba.

It was customary for many of our parents to close their eyes around the Christmas dinner table and say something like “next year in Cuba”.    I feel that 2018 may just be that year!

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.