14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 22 December 2017 — With the accumulated experience of six decades in power, Raúl Castro knows the political cost of breaching the latest and most widely disseminated of his promises: to leave the country’s presidency on 24 February 2018. Each day he prolongs his presence in that position goes against the schedule for a transfer of command that he has been preparing for years.
In a surprise although not unexpected gesture, the General has not shown any shame in blaming this change on Hurricane Irma, which allows him to spend two more months in the Island’s control room. He has done it through a legal “stunt,” which permits the Council of State to request from the National Assembly an extension of his functions.
However, the argument that this is necessary because of the damages left by the winds is weak in this case. Unlike the thousands of homes and state entities that suffered the scourge of Irma, the hurricane scarcely damaged the communication networks of the candidacy commissions, which according to the law are made up of individuals from the principal mass organizations.
On the other hand, since neither the State itself nor the Party are committed to the task of formulating a candidacy, they could dedicate themselves full-time to repairing the results of the disasters. Instead, the organizations that make up the candidacy commissions found they had plenty of time and resources to deal with the electoral issue.
The public explanation sketched on Thursday in Parliament is very implausible, like saying that Cuban fighter jets must be repaired in North Korea, as was alleged when the ship Chong Chon Gang, coming from Cuba, was discovered in Panama with a shipment of arms hidden in sugar.
Given the lack of credibility of the justification put forward for the current legislature of the National Assembly to be held over until 19 April 2018, one is simply left to speculate about the real reasons behind this decision. Some analysts see in this adjustment a clear signal that, at this point, the essential consensus to determine who will sit in the presidential chair has not yet been achieved.
The second, more generous speculation introduces the variant of making some amendments to the Electoral Law before the time comes when voters go to the polls to approve the candidacy of the new deputies, who, according to the current legislation, elect the Council of State, which in turn appoints the president.
Little can be done in the 54 days that Raúl Castro has been granted to prolong his formal presence in the highest offices of the nation; he is president of the Council of State and also of the Council of Ministers, as well as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and First Secretary of the Communist Party. The anguish that comes with handing over power on 24 February will be the same on 19 April. The serious economic crisis that the country is going through will not subside at that time and it is unlikely that an ally like Venezuela will recover and increase the oil supply.
Like one who has set a date to go to the altar and at the last minute is corroded by the temptation to leave his partner stranded, Raúl Castro is experiencing days of indecision and fear. He knows that no matter how neatly and perfectly tied up he may leave everything, power is exercised in such a personal way in an authoritarian regime that the heir, whomever it may be, will end up doing things his own way.
Some believe that Castro has not even decided to state the name of his successor, while others suggest that he has already chosen his relief player but he needs more time to convince the generals, the survivors of the historical generation or the new wolves of the litter who aspire to the position themselves.
This delay is nothing new in Castro’s career. The phrases he has most repeated since he formally assumed the presidency almost a decade ago include the words “gradual” and “step-by-step” as indispensable conditions for any reform or transformation. His hallmark has been delay, caution, and not daring to bring changes at a speed and depth that significantly impacts the lives of Cubans.
People have also become accustomed to the General not fulfilling his promises. Neither the modest glass of milk proclaimed in July 2007, nor the eradication of the marabou weed, nor the intent to make wages the main source of income, nor the elimination of the dual currency system have come to pass. Nor did he guarantee food production at affordable prices, nor the enactment of a new electoral law.
Tasks that remain pending for those who come to power next April.
Those who are placed in the highest positions after this long era of the Castros will not be to blame for the great disasters. They are not responsible for the executions of the first years of the process, they did not confiscate, they barely repressed, but neither will they enjoy that commitment of loyalty that peoples acquire with their redeemers or with those who present themselves as such.
The successors of Raúl Castro, no matter which group or clan they come from, will come to be treated by their constituents as equals. Nobody will chant their names in a square, they will not write poems or sing songs about them. They will have to govern without mystique, they will be forced to be transparent and efficient and worst of all, they will have to choose between rendering accounts or putting tanks in the streets.
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