Exploring the Role of Alejandro Castro in Cuba’s Future / Juan Juan Almeida

Alejandro Castro Espin, son of Raul Castro, in Panama

Juan Juan Almeida, 22 June 2015 — The prestigious agency Reuters is exploring the role that Alejandro Castro Espin could have as his father’s successor, drawing on three sources: a former CIA official who supports his views with experience studying a still-unknown family—their fears, habits, tastes, preferences, mores, and even the personality of each of its members; a former Cuban ambassador now living in Brussels in fear because one day he decided to provide refuge in the diplomatic residence to two of his grandchildren and a daughter married to a former Russian citizen who fled the armed conflict in Chechnya; and a Canadian historian who wrote a book about Raul Castro the strategist.

It is absurd to assume that Alejandro, just because he is Raul’s son and is a colonel, has the support of the military high command. It is like believing that Nicolae Ceausescu could have ruled indefinitely in Romania and then have been civilly succeeded by his beloved son Nicu.

I find it extremely disrespectful, or at least ill considered, to analyze the future role of a significant figure ignoring that he is Cuban; that he lives in Cuba; that our island is located in the area of influence of the United States; and that there is no doubt that although U.S. policy has erred on many occasions in its position with Cuba, the changes that will occur will be along Western lines. Cuba is not North Korea, geopolitically in the sphere of influence of Russia and China.

Alexander came to the fore long before December 17 but, despite his six-foot-two stature, he is a bland character, absolutely incompetent at communicating or commanding attention.

To compare the way Fidel Castro used his brother Raul with the way that Raul uses his son Alejandro, is to display a lack of intelligence, a total ignorance of national history.

Sure, Raul Castro inherited Fidel’s political base, but he participated in the attack on the Moncada Barracks, he went into exile, he journeyed on the yacht Granma, he was chief of the eastern guerrilla front in the Sierra Maestra Mountains and, although he was not highly educated, fifty years of practicing in the ruling elite of the Cuban dictatorship taught him the trade, or rather the art, of power.

The male heir of the Castros, as history tells, is not career military, let alone a combat veteran. He is not a member of the National Assembly nor of the Central Committee. They can do it, of course, but it won’t matter; the only way that Alexander could transcend his father would be through a pact with the future government, using it as a guarantee to protect the immunity of Raul and the family.

If the Cuban opposition continues doing what it has been doing, and if the government continues ruling as it has until now, the chances of a real political change in Cuba are minimal. But it is one thing to say that expectations are low, and quite another to admit that they are nonexistent.

In recent months, Raul Castro has been injuring his own political base, by slowing the adopted reforms and by his clear failure to manipulate the levers of power. Alejandro is more awkward still, his presence will suck the air out of the room among that group (ministers, military hierarchy and government officials) that now supports the power and will begin to destroy the appetite of tomorrow.

General Raul Castro may be unaware of the scholar Brian Latell, the professor Carlos Alzugaray, or the historian Hal Klepak, but it is certain that he knows exactly the limitations of each of his children, and also knows that to promote his son Alejandro as a possible successor, passing over so many other personalities with the same ambitions and better characteristics, would be counterproductive even for his own family.

In gathering information to write this note I spoke with a senior Cuban army officer and asked him about Alejandro. He replied: “Juan Juan, you surely know the famous Latin phrase cogito ergo sum. Well, the Cuban economist and historian Regino Boti said that in Cuba we use a freely paraphrased version of the French philosopher René Descartes’ ’I think, therefore I am’ and call it ’I command, therefore I know.’”

And that is Alejandro Castro, the argument taken to the absurd. So can the Fidel Castro model be repeated in Cuba? No.