Cuba Libre? Not so Fast
By: Greg C. Reeson
A flurry of activity has erupted in the wake of Cuban leader Fidelâ€™s Castroâ€™s recent, though most likely temporary, surrender of power for the first time in nearly half a century of dictatorial rule. The Cuban-American population in Miami is celebrating in the streets, the White House has developed contingency plans in case the Cuban regime collapses, and Congress is readying legislation to assist with a transition to a democratic form of government. Even the U.S. Coast Guard is prepared to interdict any potential flood of refugees fleeing the island. But the idealistic hope that Cuba will soon be liberated from its Communist stranglehold is based more on fantasy than grounded in reality.
While it is normal to long for an orderly transition from a brutal autocracy to a free society in the event of the Cuban Presidentâ€™s demise, it is both sensible and practical to realize that the more likely scenario involves increased repression as the government cracks down on any political dissension, real or potential, while the country adjusts to life after Fidel.
As he prepared to undergo surgery for â€œsustainedâ€ intestinal bleeding, a condition the Cuban government says was brought on by stress resulting from a heavy work schedule, Fidel transferred the Presidency and the leadership of Cubaâ€™s Communist Party to his brother, Raul, the 75-year old Cuban Defense Minister who also serves as first vice president of the Council of State, Cubaâ€™s main governing establishment.
While Fidel is known the world over for his ironclad rule of Cuba, Raul Castro is reported to be even more radical and less tolerant of political opposition. Raul, who has taken a more public role recently, though not since the transfer of power, is a known political hardliner who joined a Communist youth group before the 1959 revolution that placed his brother at the helm of the island nation.
According to a 2001 Newsmax.com article by Miguel A. Faria, Raul personally supervised the execution of over one hundred police and military personnel of the deposed Batista government. He is known for his intense hatred of the United States and has been instrumental in suppressing the regimeâ€™s political opponents during the past forty-seven years.
As Fidelâ€™s designated No. 2 man and a leading member of the Cuban government, Raul has experimented with some market-style reforms of the Cuban economy and has expressed an interest in free-enterprise socialism, similar to the system in China. However, as private intelligence company Strategic Forecasting (STRATFOR) reports, he is likely to be even more authoritarian and repressive than his brother as he relies on his control of the military to make up for his lack of personal charisma and political ability.
In fact, reports are already surfacing that the Cuban military is repositioning its units throughout the country in what is probably a clear signal that dissension will not be tolerated and that action will be taken swiftly. Further reports indicate that the Cuban military has also started the process of mobilizing registered military-age males for compulsory service in support of the Communist government. According to STRATFOR, registration is mandatory for all men and remains in effect until age forty-five.
While many opponents of the Castro regime have been quoted in the media as saying the transfer of power has given them hope for a democratic Cuban society, the reality is that Raul Castro represents a continuation of the repressive dictatorship the Cuban people have suffered under since the 1959 revolution that ousted Fulgencio Batista. It is almost certain that Raul will take whatever repressive measures are necessary to maintain his grip on power. Those hoping for Cubaâ€™s freedom in the near-term should look beyond the government of Raul Castro.
Greg Reeson is a frequent contributor to The Land of the Free and Associated Content. His columns have appeared in several online and print publications, including The New Media Journal, The Veteranâ€™s Voice, The Washington Times, The American Chronicle, GOPUSA and Opinion Editorials.com.