Tuesday, November 9, 2010

LPP Top News...

Surge of cholera feared in Haiti's crowded capital

A woman suffering from cholera symptoms is carried by a volunteer at the hospital in Archaie, Haiti, Monday Nov. 8, 2010.  After at least 20 people di AP – A woman suffering from cholera symptoms is carried by a volunteer at the hospital in Archaie, Haiti, …
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Health workers feared a surge of cholera cases in the shantytowns and muddy tent camps of Haiti's capital as suspected cases piled up Tuesday and a laboratory confirmed cases that originated in the overcrowded city.
Hundreds of people suffered the cholera symptoms of fever and diarrhea in hospitals and shacks built along the putrid waste canals of slums like Cite Soleil and Martissant.
At least 73 cholera cases had been confirmed among people living in Port-au-Prince, but nearly all those were infected outside the capital. Physicians with the aid group Doctors Without Borders reported seeing more than 200 city residents with severe symptoms at their facilities alone over the last three days.
Following Monday's confirmation that a 3-year-old boy from a tent camp near Cite Soleil had contracted the disease before Oct. 31 without leaving the capital, the Pan-American Health Organization said the epidemic's spread from river towns in the countryside to the nation's primary urban center was a dangeorus development.
At least two more capital-originated cases were confirmed Tuesday at the same hospital where the boy was treated.
Damage to Port-au-Prince's already miserable pre-earthquake sanitation and drinking water systems make the city "ripe for the rapid spread of cholera," Dr. Jon K. Andrus, the organization's deputy director, told reporters Tuesday.
Port-au-Prince is estimated to be home to between 2.5 million and 3 million people, about half of whom have been living in homeless encampments since the Jan. 12 earthquake ravaged the capital.
"We expect transmission to be extensive and we have to be prepared for it, there's no question," Andrus said. "We have to prepare for a large upsurge in numbers of cases and be prepared with supplies and human resources and everything that goes into a rapid response."
A confirmed case of cholera had never been seen in this Caribbean country before last month, when it suddenly killed several dozen people and spread across the agricultural heartland of the Artibonite Valley. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the strain is most similar to those found in South Asia, but no formal investigations have been done to learn how the disease arrived in Haiti.
It has killed more than 580 people and hospitalized more than 9,500, with confirmed cases across the entire northern two-thirds of the country. Dozens of cases are rumored throughout the south.
On Tuesday, Haiti's health ministry said the disease has become a threat to the entire nation of 10 million people.
"Now it is our duty as citizens to help solve this problem, which has gone from being an urgent humanitarian matter and gone to the level of national security," the ministry's executive director, Dr. Gabriel Timothee, said during a televised news conference.
The disease, primarily spread when infected fecal matter contaminates food or water, is preventable and treatable, mainly by rehydrating the sick with safe water mixed essentially with salt, sugar and potassium or intravenous fluids, and sometimes using basic antibiotics.
But decades of failing and often regressing infrastructure — wracked by political upheaval, unbalanced foreign trade, a 1990s embargo and natural disasters — have left millions of Haitians without access to clean water, sanitation or medical care.
Haitian and foreign aid workers continued campaigns to tell people to wash their hands, cook food thoroughly and take other precautions against the spread of cholera. Treatment centers were being set up across the capital to handle the expected rising case load.
But health officials said that cholera will be part of the Haitian landscape for a long time, taking its place among the other challenges in one of the world's most difficult places to live.
"We have to think about and plan for the long term," Andrus said. "The bacteria have a foothold in the rivers and the water system, so it will be there for a number of years."

Pentagon working to solve mystery missile launch

Mystery Missile Seen Off California Coast Play Video FOX News  – Mystery Missile Seen Off California Coast

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. officials are scrambling to explain a possible missile launch off the coast of Los Angeles, but a day after a vapor trail was caught on tape the incident remains a mystery, a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday.
The apparent missile launch was caught on tape by a KCBS news helicopter on Monday evening. Video shows a billowing contrail apparently rising from the water about 35 miles west of Los Angeles and north of Catalina Island. It is not clear whether it comes from land or sea.
"So far we've come up empty with any explanation," Colonel David Lapan told reporters. "We're talking to other parts of the U.S. government. We're doing everything we can to try to figure out if anybody has any knowledge of what this event may have been."
Robert Ellsworth, a former NATO ambassador and former deputy defense secretary, reviewed the video with KCBS and described the condensation trail as "pretty big" and not likely to be from a Tomahawk cruise missile.
Pentagon spokesman Lapan said it was still not clear what caused the contrail.
"It was clear from the video that there was some type of object traversing the skies that created a contrail," he said. "I don't know that anybody has evaluated it to determine exactly what it was."
He said the Missile Defense Agency, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), Northern Command, the Navy and Air Force all had been consulted.
"Sometimes we don't find these things out in a timely manner. But right now all indications are that it was not DOD involvement in this launch," Lapan said.
Ordinarily a sea launch would require several layers of notification to airmen and mariners and closure of air space in the area, he said. A commercial missile launch would require similar steps.
"None of that right now is evident," Lapan said, adding that there was no indication it was launched by an adversary.
"'Unexplained' is the best word to use right now until we can gather more information," Lapan said.
(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

It All Depends On What Your Definition of “Jihad” Is …

I've written an opinion piece at Chandler's Watch that is too lengthy to clutter Babalu's front page with a cross-post. Please follow the link to read in full. (Thanks)
The main job of a POTUS is to uphold and defend this nation's sovereignty, laws, and security by way of the US Constitution. The main goal of a POTUS is to inspire the people. If this man would put as much fervor and devotion into defending, supporting and encouraging the people he supposedly was elected to lead (the American people) we might not be in such bad shape on many levels. Instead he has spent the last two years kicking and dragging us down, impugning us, and apologizing for us. He has chosen to inspire no one but our enemies ...
Nobody, not even Pres. George W. Bush in the unsettling wake of 9-11-01, has parsed words with such deliberate finesse and care when it comes to Muslims/Islam than Obama has. As a matter of fact, while Bush allowed himself to be viewed an 'infidel' with a measured tolerance and attempted understanding of this ideology to avoid an all out clash, Obama seems so at ease ... so 'involved' when he speaks of Islam, especially when amongst Muslims ... A kinship, if you will. When you saw Bush he was unabashedly an infidel in their company. However, whenever we see/hear Obama in a Muslim setting it's as if he's a 'scout' returned home from the infidel hinterlands and he must assure the Muslim brethren that the to negate any connection between it and the multitude of terror attacks over the last 20 years. [...]

Cuba's 'Ladies in White' call for release of 13 prisoners Castro vowed to free...

Cuba's Ladies in White and other dissidents vowed Monday to take to the streets if the government does not soon release the 13 opponents it had promised to free from jail.
``If not, we will continue to fight in the streets for the freedom of all political prisoners,'' said Berta Soler, whose husband Angel Moya, one of the 13, is serving a 20-year sentence.
Havana dissident Martha Beatriz Roque told reporters that if the 13 are not freed soon there would be a mobilization of the ``opposition on the streets'' and ``a general movement in the prisons.''
The Raúl Castro government and Cuba's Catholic church were silent Monday on the continued imprisonment of the 13 dissidents after an informal deadline of Sunday passed.
They were the last of 52 dissidents that the Castro government had promised to free. The other 39 were released after they accepted exile in Spain.
Soler, a leader of the Ladies in White, who are all relatives of political prisoners, said the group tried but failed to talk Monday to Cardinal Jaime Ortega, whose office has made all the announcements on releases of political prisoners.
``We're trying to talk to the Cardinal, and nothing so far,'' Soler said by telephone from Havana. ``We are waiting, but we still have hope that they will be freed, as promised.''
Dissident Guillermo Fariñas issued but then withdrew a threat to resume a 134-day hunger strike, which had put him near death. It appears that hunger strike may have helped push Castro to agree to free the dissidents.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

Ted Nugent: The Castro Boys Are Punks

Tuesday, November 9, 2010
A great paragraph (in a very partisan article) from rock n' roll legend, Ted Nugent, in The Washington Times:

Freedom always crushes despots and voodoo punk-led oppression, tyranny and corruption. Far more often than not, those nations that are poor are run by corrupt, power-abusing, anti-freedom regimes that oppress and control their people. There is a reason why people from Cuba risk their lives in rickety boats to get to America and that no one from America, including Michael Moore, is trying to escape America for Cuba. The Castro boys are punks.

Castro Siphoning Off Foreign Aid

By Martin Barillas in EnerPub:

AIDS sufferers denied medication in Cuba
According to CubaNet.com, patients suffering from HIV/AIDS are being denied medications and required dietary supplements by the Cuban government. Robert Tailer, 44, of the town of San Juan y Martinez in Pinar del Rio province said that condoms and medicines donated by foreign charities is being siphoned off by the Castro regime.
Tailer asserts that foreign donations are actually being sold to the general public by Cuba's Comercio Interior, a state-run monopoly. He added that he has been denied a government ration card, and has not been able to buy either foods prescribed by his diet nor ordinary foods other Cubans eat. Said Tailer, "There are 40 of us AIDS patients in this situation in San Juan y Martinez."

Besides systematic torture and imprisonment of political opponents and democracy advocates, Cuba's communist government has long been known for official persecution and abuse of homosexuals.
Pinar del Rio is the western-most province of Cuba and once saw an influx of Filipinos who came to the island on Spanish galleons during colonial times.

Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America.
S: Capitol Hill Cubans 

The U.S. Library of Congress YouTube channel has several short films of the Spanish-American War (1898) from the Thomas A. Edison films catalog.
The film embedded in this post:
The troops are turning into the Prado from a side street, where stands a triumphal arch erected by the Cubans; but which Gen. Brooke, the Military Governor of Cuba, would not permit to be finished, as he allowed no demonstrations of any kind. The soldiers are the First Texas troops. The streets are crowded with people. Many typical Cubans are seen lounging in the foreground, with here and there a Spaniard, if one may judge by sour looks and solemn demeanor. The buildings are all low stone structures, with heavy barred windows, from which are displayed small Cuban flags. An excellent picture of life in Havana, New Year Day, 1899. Filmed January 1, 1899, in Havana, Cuba.
Reina Luisa Tamayo, mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo (who died on February 23rd, 2010 at the end of an 86-day hunger strike as a prisoner of conscience) was detained by the national police while heading to church and returned home today.
She was threatened by authorities with the application of Law 88 – For the Protection of National Independence and the Economy of Cuba (known as the “Gag Law”), which” provides for prison terms up to 20 years for those found guilty of passing information to the US government or looking for classified information.”
Banes, a town in eastern Cuba where Tamayo lives, is taken by the military, according to Yoani Sánchez on Twitter.
Pulitzer-Prize winning NYT reporter CJ Chivers has written The Gun, a new book on the history of the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle.
After leading the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro amassed stores of Soviet assault rifles and distributed engraved Kalashnikovs as gifts.
Cuba produced its own variant (AKM assault rifle) of the Kalashnikov. (Image: kalashnikov.guns.ru)
The first chapter of the book can be read on Amazon.com.
Also, Wired magazine has a three part piece by Chivers on how the AK-47 rewrote the rules of modern warfare.
(Image: Cuban troops holding an AKM assault rifle (AK-47 variant.) MilitaryPhotos.net.)

November 09, 2010

Gross will be tried, source tells blogger

Over at Along the Malecón, Tracey Eaton neatly updates the Alan Gross saga with a report that "a knowledgeable source in Havana told [him] he is convinced that Gross will be tried in Cuba."
(fot4) Eaton says he can't identify the source but quotes the person as saying that Gross "is not a hostage. He has a trial pending. This is about a violation of Cuban law that Cuba will not tolerate now or in the future."
The trial "will take place inexorably," the source told Eaton, and "will show that what [Gross] came to do in Cuba was illegal and is strongly punished by the law."
Delivering satellite communications equipment to Jewish social groups (Gross' explanation) may not sound very serious, but an Oct. 28 letter from the Departments of State and Justice to Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart acknowledged that Gross was also delivering matériel to "other marginalized groups," something the Cuban government could construe as seditious organizations.
Read our Nov. 5 blog item "No prisoner swap..."
–Renato Pérez Pizarro.

Cuban bishop is on a 4-day visit to Miami

Miami Auxiliary Bishop Felipe Estevez and the bishop of Santa Clara, (fot2)Cuba, Arturo González Amador, kicked off a high-profile four-day visit of Roman Catholic clergy from the island to South Florida on Monday afternoon with a press conference at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Coconut Grove.
Estevez introduced González as a liaison between the Cuban Catholic Church and Cubans outside the island and said this week's visit is intended to improve understanding and foster solidarity among the nation's churches.
The visit, which includes a Mass at St. Timothy's church in Kendall on Wednesday evening and a Mass at St. John the Apostle church in Hialeah on Wednesday night, will also include closed-door meetings with Archbishop Thomas Wenski and other Miami church leaders.
It comes amid rapidly improving relations between the island's communist regime and the church. Cuba opened its first seminary in 50 years last week outside Havana – Wenski attended the inauguration – and Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega has mediated in recent months to gain the release of dozens of Cuban political prisoners.
To read more, in The Miami Herald, click here. A related article can be accessed here.
Posted by Renato Perez at 11:42 AM in Religion, U.S.-Cuba relations
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S: Cuban Colada

LPP Archive...

The end of Communism? Cuba sweeps away egalitarian wages

Raul Castro's reforms continue with abolition of rule that labourers and surgeons earn the same

By Leonard Doyle in Washington

Friday, 13 June 2008

Raul Castro rejected party doctrine to boost the economy, which is suffering from the collapse of its sugar cane industry

Cuba took another leap away from Fidel Castro's creaky egalitarian model yesterday when it swept away the wage restraints that have kept surgeons and taxi drivers on much the same salaries for the past 50 years. The latest and most dramatic liberalisation by Raul Castro appears to be aimed at bringing to communist Cuba the Chinese-style economic reforms he admires so much. But the move falls far short of the political reforms that Cubans, both inside and out of the country, long for.
The new wage policy is the latest change by President Castro, who officially took over on 24 February but has been running the country since July 2006 when his older brother, Fidel, 81, suffered serious health problems.
Since February, Mr Castro, 77, has allowed Cubans to buy personal computers and mobile phones, rent cars and even stay overnight in hotels previously only accessible to foreigners, provided they can afford it.
He has shaken up the economy to pay farmers better and ease the impact of the world food crisis. He has commuted death sentences and released a handful of political prisoners. But his secret police have also broken up meetings of dissidents.
The decision to scrap one of the fundamental pillars of socialism, in place for the past 50 years, was revealed in an eye-popping item in the Communist Party newspaper, Granma, yesterday. In its deadpan style, Granma stated that "the socialist principle of distribution will be achieved wherein everyone earns in accordance with his contribution, in other words, pay in accordance with quality and quantity".
In remarks that will be astonishing to generations who have grown up on a diet of hardline Communist Party doctrine, Carlos Mateu, the deputy Labour minister, said in the article: "This [new] salary system should be seen as a tool to help obtain better results in output and services.
"Generally, there has been a tendency for people to earn the same, and that egalitarianism is not helpful. "That is something that we have to fix ... because if it is harmful to pay workers less than they deserve, it also is harmful to pay them what they have not earned."
The decision may reflect a need to keep a lid on civil unrest in the country. Food-price inflation has hit Cuba more than most, because so much of what the country consumes is imported. The nation's sugar industry is bankrupt and virtually all the chickens consumed in Cuba are imported from the United States But by sweeping away wage restraints, the authorities may now have to contend with social tensions caused by inequalities. The iron grip of the Communist Party over so many aspects of people's lives remains in place, as do the privileges accorded to the party elite, a source of great resentment in the country. The reforms could be risky, as the race for private wealth could unleash forces which prove too much for the Communist Party to contain.
The pace of change has been fast and furious since Mr Castro took over from his brother this year. Last month the authorities even said they were ending restrictions on sex-change operations. But while the changes have been popular, they are also seen as cosmetic, because Cubans are paid so badly.
The measure is part of the government's policy to get the moribund economy on the move again. The idea is to give people earning a typical salary of just $17 (£8.75) a month an incentive to work hard and make money. Cuban salaries are too low for families to survive on and are supplemented by a crude system of rationing.
Every Cuban family gets a single bar of soap a month, a portion of rice and "ground beef" that is more than 50 per cent soy. The ration system has given the Communist Party tight control over families, but it is widely abused and open to corruption.

I don't believe my eyes...

Cuba to Chart Economic Future at Party Congress

Cuba to decide economic future at crucial Communist Party meeting; 1st since 1997

Raul Castro, Hugo Chavez, Ricardo Cabrisas
Cuba's President Raul Castro, center, raises the arm of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez while... Expand
Communist Party leaders say Cuba should balance its budget, repay billions of dollars in debt and stop propping up failing state-run companies, according to a document being circulated ahead of a major summit designed to save this cash-strapped island from financial ruin.
The 32-page paper, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, was handed out to local party activists Monday during a speech by President Raul Castro, in which he announced that Cuba would hold a make-or-break Communist Party Congress next April.
The document also recommends ending an unusual dual-currency system and seeking new ways for individuals to buy and sell private property.
None of the proposals are new, but putting them together in one place makes clear that the scope of the congress will be nearly limitless — at least in terms of economic ideas.
The gathering, which last took place in 1997, is traditionally used to announce major policy changes. It is supposed to be held every five years, but has been delayed repeatedly as Cuba grappled with a change in leadership and a serious financial crisis.
There has been intense speculation that the future of former president Fidel Castro's role as Communist Party chief might also be discussed at the congress, though Raul Castro made no mention of his brother in his speech.
"The Sixth Party Congress will concentrate on a solution to our economic problems," Castro said.
The document, which is meant to outline areas for discussion — not solutions — gives a merciless assessment of Cuba's current economic situation, saying the country suffers from "inefficiency," a "lack of capacity in both production and infrastructure" and an aging population.
It says the country suffered greatly due to a 2003 decision to centralize control over foreign currency, with layers of bureaucracy that made it nearly impossible for state-run businesses to function.
The paper, titled "Guideline Project for Economic Policy," notes that inefficiency and incompetence have been exacerbated by simple bad luck.
Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro
Cuba's President Raul Castro, right, reacts while Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez speaks during a... Expand
From 1997 to 2009, the country lost $10 billion due to a drop in world prices of the products Cuba sells — including sugar, tobacco and nickel — and a hike in the prices of products it imports, such as oil and many basic foods. The document notes the island was hit by 16 hurricanes in that approximate period, causing another $20 billion in damage.
That's an enormous blow for a country with an annual gross domestic product thought to be about $40 billion.
Still the document makes clear that there will be no change in Cuba's one-party, socialist political system.
"Only socialism is capable of overcoming the current difficulties and preserving the victories of the revolution," the document reads.
The announcement of the party congress came at a celebration of the 10th anniversary of an economic pact under which Venezuela, which has become Cuba's most important patron, sends the island billions of dollars worth of oil every year.
Castro said that the meeting will "make fundamental decisions on how to modernize the Cuban economic model and adopt the paths for economic and social policy of the party and the revolution," and that preparations for it would begin immediately.
The Cuban leader was joined by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who vowed to continue supporting the Cuban revolution both economically and politically, as the two countries reaffirmed the pact for another decade.
Chavez praised Castro for having the vision to shake things up.
"Raul's courage in modernizing socialism must be recognized," he said, adding that his government would "accompany" the island going forward.
Since taking over from his ailing brother in 2006 — first temporarily, then permanently — Castro has pursued a series of major economic reforms. In September, Cuba announced it was laying off a half-million state workers while opening up new opportunities for citizens to start private businesses. Those layoffs are due to be completed by the end of March, just weeks ahead of the congress.

Raul Castro, Hugo Chavez
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, salutes toward reporters as Cuba's President Raul Castro... Expand
Castro also has begun to roll back the deep subsidies in food, utilities and public services on which Cubans have come to rely.
At 84, Fidel Castro remains leader of the Communist Party and is still referred to as "commander in chief." After four years out of the public eye, the revolutionary icon burst back on the scene in July and now makes frequent appearances to discuss world affairs, particularly his fear that a nuclear confrontation between the United States, Israel and Iran is inevitable.
Before his health took a turn for the better, many speculated Fidel would step down from his party position at the next party congress. He has not tipped his hand either way.
Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this report.

Rock and repression in Cuba

LPP Archive
Cuba after (Fidel) Castro
Prospects and Possibilities
The mechanisms of succession have been in place for some time both in terms of the formal system and the sociology of power.
The announcement that Cuban President Fidel Castro has temporarily ceded power to his brother General Raúl Castro has raised all manner of speculation about Cuba’s future. Actually, however, the mechanisms of succession have been in place for some time both in terms of the formal system and the sociology of power. While Raúl Castro lacks many of his brother’s formidable political qualities, he is not to be underestimated. While Cuba continues to suffer from the loss of its Soviet sponsor, to some degree its place has been taken by Venezuela. The United States has its own plans for a Cuban transition which does not include either of the Castro brothers, but in reality dares not to pursue its goals too vigorously for fear of a migration crisis. While the Cuban people are known to anticipate some sort of improvement after Fidel Castro has left the scene, their precise aspirations are vague and unknown, and no match for the efficiency and singlemindedness of the regime.

The Crisis
Resident Scholar Emeritus Mark Falcoff
Resident Scholar Emeritus Mark Falcoff
The announcement a few days ago by the Cuban government that President Fidel Castro had undergone emergency surgery for internal bleeding and was therefore temporarily transferring power to his brother Raúl has suddenly raised a series of interesting questions about the future of the regime on the island and its relations with the outside world, particularly the United States. If Cuba were--as it claims to be--a Communist state of a more or less "normal" kind, a health crisis on the part of its leader would not merit such intense media and political interest. In fact, however, the morbid fascination aroused by Fidel Castro’s illness underscores an inconvenient fact: in its later phases the Cuban regime has come to resemble to an embarrassing degree the patrimonial dictatorships which have often plagued small countries in the circum-Caribbean. On one hand, the most important institution in the country is now not the Communist party but the armed forces. On the other, the pyramid of political power is more or less coherent with the generational hierarchy of the ruling family. Also, until quite recently it has depended almost wholly upon unsavory arrangements with unscrupulous foreign investors.
That Fidel Castro himself is a larger than life figure in Cuba, and to some extent the world, cannot be denied. On the island he has made almost all the important decisions for a half-century. Although he has periodically talked about institutionalizing his revolution, it remains a largely personal affair. Witness the fact that over the years the dictator has brutally truncated the careers (and sometimes the lives) of others who could have a reasonable hope of succeeding him or at least of challenging his unquestioned power, starting with Huber Matos and ending most recently with General Armando Ochoa. Although there was much talk a decade ago of his grooming a younger generation to succeed him, little progress has been made along that line. The sudden emergence of Raúl Castro from under his brother’s shadow underscores this fact.
The Existing Succession Scenario
Fidel Castro’s decision to temporarily cede power to his brother cannot have been a surprise to ordinary Cubans or to anyone outside the country who has carefully followed developments over the last five years. At the level of institutions, Raúl is vice-president of the Council of State and also vice-president of the Cuban Communist party, so there can be no disputing his right to assume the reins of power in the event of his elder brother’s disappearance. But it is not merely a matter of paper constitutions: for years Raúl Castro has been steadily amassing economic and political power. He is minister of the armed forces and minister of the interior. The former is a particularly important portfolio because it places him at the apex of the tourist sector, one of the few productive sectors of the Cuban economy, which is run by the military. He has also been careful to place loyalists (raulistas) at the head of key ministries (sugar, transport, communication, higher education, basic industries) as well as the Central Bank, and in key positions in the Communist party and the National Assembly.
It is often said--with some reason--that Raúl Castro lacks the skills and assets which have made his elder brother such a successful politician. He is pejoratively referred to as the most charmless man in Cuba. Gruff and often abrasive, he is a poor public speaker, married to a harridan who as president of the Federation of Cuban Women is widely despised in Cuba. He lacks the glamour, the dash, the revolutionary cachet which characterized Fidel in his best years. He enjoys no important revolutionary legend of his own.
On the other hand, it is possible to underestimate his staying power, his organizational talents, and his realism. His only serious problem may be his health, which is reported to be precarious. At 75 he may not long survive his brother, and even now it is not impossible that he may predecease him. If the Cuban revolution is to remain a family affair before long it may well have to reach into the next generation, possibly to Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, Castro’s only legitimate child, a Soviet-trained physicist and former director of the Cuban Atomic Energy Agency. In the absence of both Fidel and Raúl the Cuban regime could morph into a more impersonal, "collective" style of leadership such as characterized the classical Communist regimes of Eastern Europe but such an eventuality requires a significant leap of imagination.
Cuba in the International Community
Whoever succeeds Fidel Castro must confront some difficult challenges. Cuba has been invented three times as a country--once as a Spanish colony, once as an American protectorate, finally as a member of what might be (generously) styled the Soviet Commonwealth of Nations (the only one of its members to enter voluntarily). In each of these three incarnations it enjoyed a profitable association with a major empire. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union Cuba has had to cobble together a series of relationships with other countries, none of which have fully replaced the $6 billion annual subsidy from Moscow.
New trade arrangements with China, the end to isolation in Latin America (including recent accession to MERCOSUR), the opening to European, Canadian and Latin American tourism, and most recently the favorable economic relationship with Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela have stanched some of the bleeding. On the other hand, it is fair to say that taken together these relationships have thus far failed to restore the modest living standards that prevailed before 1989. The regime has also suffered from a recent tightening of the U.S. embargo, virtually ending most travel between the United States and Cuba and drastically lowering the ceiling on remittances (which at some points in the recent past were Cuba’s principal source of foreign exchange).
Moreover, since 1990 Cuba’s capital plant has been in steady deterioration, witness the virtually collapse of the sugar industry, the country’s oldest and most important economic activity. Problematic relations with some foreign investors have caused cancellation of contracts or delays. New political uncertainties are bound to restrain foreign investors until it is clear either that Fidel Castro has returned to full exercise of power or that his brother has successfully established himself as a successor. In any case, much of the wave of foreign investment in the 1990s was driven by the presumption of an early end to the U.S. ban on tourist travel, an expectation which was run to ground by Castro’s shooting-down of three American planes and the enactment of the Helms-Burton Law (1996).
In surveying Cuba’s international situation probably the most important new development has been the emergence of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez as Fidel Castro’s closest friend and ally. He is reporting giving the island roughly 90,000 barrels of oil a day (of which the island consumes a little more than half, selling the rest on the world spot market for hard cash). In exchange the Cubans have been seconding doctors, teachers, sports trainers and intelligence and military officials to Venezuela to help Chávez consolidate his rule.
Chávez’s contribution to the survival of the Cuban regime has hardly been less significant. Following the end of the Soviet subsidy in the 1990s, when the country was on the bare edge of starvation, Raúl Castro is supposed to have convinced his brother to implement some modest economic reforms which would encourage greater agricultural production (and also allow a measure of self-employment). This earned him a reputation for pragmatism in the international press; some even now are suggesting that if he were to succeed his elder brother he would widen and deepen the reforms. However, many of the concessions to the market granted in the mid-90s have already been withdrawn, and the advent of the Venezuelan subsidy removes the last incentive to retain them.
Some now raise the question of whether Chávez’s economic largesse has not bought the Venezuelan strongman a seat at the table when Cuba’s political future must be decided. Probably such notions are exaggerated. The Cuban political and military elite most likely regard their Venezuelan counterparts as bumbling amateurs who need stern and disciplined guidance. Also, Cuba’s own sense of its national identity is far stronger than that of Venezuela, which lacks of a coherent heroic narrative of its own. Finally, Chávez, having come to power by the ballot box, lacks the mystique of a genuine revolutionary which would allow him a decisive or even a significant voice in Cuban government councils except under conditions of extreme emergency.
Prospects for Relations with the United States
To discuss political change in Cuba inevitably raises the question of the island’s future relationship with the United States. This is so for historic and geographic reasons, and also because the Cuban revolution has produced a politically significant, well organized and well financed diaspora centered in two states (Florida and New Jersey) rich in electoral votes in presidential races.
Without doubt this exile community has exercised an influence on U.S. Cuban policy far out of proportion to its numbers. (But it is also true, a fact frequently ignored by European and Latin American commentators, that the success of the exile lobby has rested to a large degree on a widespread public distaste in the United States for the Castro brothers and all their works.) The Cuban-American community has periodically leveraged this influence to strengthen the embargo and also, lately to force Washington to define the conditions under which it would recognize and assist any post-Castro regime. Helms-Burton, for example, specifically names both Fidel and Raúl Castro as individuals with whom the United States would refuse to deal under any circumstances. The latest example is the Cuban Transition Plan (2004) which supposedly sketches out the circumstances under which the United States would disperse $80 million to a post-Castro government. The fact that such plans might alarm ordinary Cubans (many of whom fear that the exiles are returning to seize their expropriated properties and take revenge on their former countrymen) seems lost on the exile leadership, which often seems tone-deaf to the vast cultural, racial and political changes that have taken place on the island since 1958. Needless to say, the Cuban government makes the most of the propaganda opportunities presented by such political theater.
In spite, however, of the public posture of the United States, if there were significant changes on the ground in Cuba the coalition which supported Helms-Burton in the first place would probably shatter into pieces as some elements sought to reposition themselves to take advantage of the new possibilities for investment. Even within the Cuban-American community there would be significant divisions. This much said, such changes are inconceivable if Fidel Castro returns to the helm, and probably unlikely in the event that his brother manages to successfully takes his place, if for no other reason than that the latter will be challenged to validate his right to succession and his revolutionary bona fides.
Although normalization of relations with the United States has been the stated goal of the Cuban government for some time--even to the point of it being its number one foreign policy priority--Fidel Castro himself has on more than one occasion spurned opportunities for improvement, most significantly in an effort made by Secretary of State Kissinger and Assistant Secretary William Rogers at the end of the Ford administration (1979-80). In some ways this is not to be wondered at; Castro’s revolutionary mystique depends to some degree on his adversarial relationship with the United States (which also pays off significant benefits at international organizations like the United Nations); to enter into a bourgeois "business as usual" relationship would undercut his own legend as an intransigent revolutionary. Also, given the official version of Cuban history (which actually predates Fidel Castro) the relationship between Cuba and the United States must everywhere and always be a zero-sum game.
It is very possible, in fact, that both sides of the Florida straits find the status quo to their liking. Cuba offers the United States no significant economic benefits--it is a small market populated by people who are deeply impoverished and likely to remain so. It has nothing the United States needs or wants. Exaggerated expectations by the agribusiness community are based on inaccurate extrapolations from the days when the U.S. took the entire Cuban sugar crop at a subsidized price. Even the prospects for tourism should be discounted for Cuba’s inadequate infrastructure and the competition represented by established venues with world-class accommodations like Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
Moreover, at this point the principal concern of Washington is bound to be uncontrolled migration flows. The present accords with Havana (1994) assure an orderly movement of roughly 20,000 persons a year to the United States and establish a mechanism for returning those who have fled illegally. An abrupt change of government in Cuba, or worse still, the collapse of authority, could lead to another migration crisis such as traumatized the state of Florida and much of the Southeastern United States in 1980.
This unspoken agenda probably puts any administration including this one implicitly at odds with elements of the Cuban exile community who evidently place regime change at the top of its list of priorities. In effect, at the center of U.S. policy is a deep contradiction--a desire for a political transformation in Cuba towards something more or less resembling Costa Rica, Chile or Uruguay, but an even greater fear of disorder. Under such circumstances immobility is the normal prescription.
It is a truism--confirmed by countless visitors to the island--that ordinary Cubans expect some sort of change after Fidel Castro leaves the scene. But of what this change should consist, whether an end to shortages, rationing, militia duty, substandard housing or merely the psychological state of war under which the country has lived for nearly a half-century, is unclear. Some observers believe that these expectations are so high that Raúl Castro will have no choice but to meet them at least partially or risk loss of authority and even power. But the Castro brothers have done so well with a combination of ideology, organization, gambling on a favorable international conjuncture, repression and the selective allocation of rewards that it would be surprising indeed either of them chose to abandon it now.

Mark Falcoff is the Resident Scholar Emeritus at AEI.