Seven Years of Governing
Raul Castro: Seven Years of Governing / Ivan Garcia
Posted on September 4, 2013
Giving an accounting of their administration was never among the
priorities of the Castro brothers. The modern caudillos are considered
beyond good and evil.
Indeed, Fidel Castro managed the nation like a private bodega, with
outlandish economic plans, bypassing the state budget, bleeding its
finances, material resources and human lives sacrificed in civil wars in
Africa or subversive plans in America. To Raul Castro has fallen the
difficult task of saving and perpetuating the olive-green revolution.
It may seem a mission impossible. On July 31, 2006, Castro II inherited
a country in the red. The domestic economy was a real mess. In
bankruptcy and with a powerful cartel of corrupt bureaucrats pulling the
strings of domestic trade behind the scenes.
Cubans, exhausted and with no future, living from campaign to campaign.
The ideological factor was one of the keys of the bearded one. The
nation was mobilized and industry paralyzed to plant burro plantains in
the fields, to demand the return of Elián González and the release of
five spies imprisoned in the United States.
Cuba was the closest thing to an asylum. Fidel, historical leader of the
Revolution, transformed the continent’s third largest economy into a
Little or nothing worked well. Inefficient public transport and
unprofitable production. People went to work to lie around or steal. The
best, health and education, began to recede.
The Cubans were not or are not happy. There is no way to express
complaints publicly. The media is a caricature administered by the regime.
The solution of many, flee. In rubber rafts, as stowaways on a ship or
commercial aircraft. Hijacking a boat passenger or marrying a European
or Canadian gentleman or lady, three times their age.
The picture Comrade Raul had before his eyes on July 31, 2006, when his
brother handed over power, was very ugly. Cuba was broken. Shut down.
The Cubans were fourth-class citizens in their homeland. “Prohibited” is
the buzzword. We had no right to sell our homes and cars purchased after
1959. We could not stay in a good hotel and travel abroad; a commission
of the Ministry of the Interior had to approve your departure.
The General came in as a relief pitcher, although by the mid-90s,
military companies controlled 80% of the national economy through a
network in key sectors.
The differences between one management of the government and another
were glimpsed from the inception. Fidel Castro never learned to listen.
He ran the country like a military camp. Meteorologist one day, cattle
geneticist or national baseball coach others. He had no friends, only
sycophants and partners of convenience.
For the comandante, democracy was an aberration created by liberal
drunks . The people needed leaders of his stripe. After his studies at a
Jesuit school, he became an incorrigible egomaniac.
Raul is another thing. Communist in his heart, without much political
talent, likes teamwork and is a good listener. But it is a hard and pure
Juan Juan Almeida, the son of a guerrilla commander who lived in Raul
Castro’s home for a while, told me he came home from work, downed a shot
of vodka, and sat and chatted with his children and grandchildren.
His fondness for his family did not mean he liked the people. He
enlisted in the socialist youth and felt admiration for the Soviet
dictator Joseph Stalin.
In his office hung a painting of the Georgian butcher of inordinate
proportions. Those who suspected that Castro II would bury Real
Socialism and lead the island within the canons of Western democracy,
may have been wrong.
The timid economic reforms of the Raul Castro regime demonstrate the
fear of losing control. Everything is slow predictable and calculated.
The general dislike surprises.
He surrounded himself with a team of colonels and generals converted
into technocrats. Two of his trusted men, Abdel Yzquierdo, minister of
economy, and reform czar Marino Murillo are military men who now wear
spotless white guayabera, but years ago they worked in business
development management in the armed forces.
Before initiating his economic proposals, Raul Castro swept out the
barracks. All men loyal to his brother were retired discreetly, sent to
jail for corruption, or, in the cases of Carlos Lage and Felipe Pérez
Roque, dismissed dishonorably.
On July 26, 2007, Raul Castro publicly enumerated the financial problems
and warned that Cuba needed structural reforms. Soon after, in February
2008, he was elected president of the republic.
In April 2011 he was appointed first secretary of the Communist Party.
In its management he has introduced a dozen economic measures. According
to renowned economist Carlos Mesa-Lago, some reforms have been
structural and others nonstructural, because they do not change the
nature of the regime.
For Mesa-Lago, Castro II reforms are positive, but slow, face excessive
regulations and are insufficient. The ordinary people are of the same
mind as the Cuban economist.
Richard, selling pirated discs, applauds the sale of cars and homes.
“Cubans who have money can go sightseeing. The expansion of
self-employment and immigration reform are also positive. The downside
is that everything is designed so that those with a small business do
not accumulate a lot of money.”
Seven years later, there is a less ideological atmosphere in Cuba. The
tiresome speeches and campaigns have been minimized.
Politically, Raul Castro has moved few pieces. In 2010, after the death
on hunger strike of dissident Orlando Zapata, and then the marches of
the brave Ladies in White demanding the release of their husbands,
fathers or relatives, Castro II initiated a dialogue with the hierarchy
of the Cuban Catholic Church.
As a result, and thanks to the mediation of the Spanish Foreign Minister
Miguel Angel Moratinos, hundreds of political prisoners were released
and exiled. It was the only positive step. Because repression of dissent
has not stopped.
Right now, opponents Sonia Garro and her husband Ramón Muñoz have spent
a year and a half behind bars without a trial. They are in limbo, in
deplorable conditions. Nationwide beatings of dissidents have risen.
Countless arrests occur in a few hours. Surveillance and harassment of
independent journalists has continued.
In the summer of 2013, more than 400,000 Cubans earned a living without
the help of the state. With exaggerated taxes without a wholesale
market, the self-employed learn the ABCs of capitalism.
The citizenry has been loosened its tongue. It’s common to hear coarse
criticism against the regime in an old private taxi or at a bus stop.
After seven years under President Raul Castro, in Cuba there are things
that have changed. Others, such as low wages and the unification of a
single currency, should be addressed promptly by the regime.
But the future is still a dirty word. Without profound changes, the
country will continue to drift.
Photo from the blog Solución Cuba.
3 September 2013
Source: “Raul Castro: Seven Years of Governing / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba” –