14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 April 2021 — Raúl Castro has been getting his retirement ready for five years. He announced it in April 2016 when he warned that the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) would probably be “the last where the historical generation would be present.” Presumably, he is now feeling the temptation to bequeath to his successors some kind of political testament and the ideal setting to make it known will be the Congress, which will meet next week.
The Army general knows that all the large press agencies already have the main paragraphs of his obituary in advance. According to the ideological inclinations of each one, they will classify him as a nonconformist reformist or the continuator of a dictatorship. He also knows that his last appearance as the legitimate heir of the Castro regime may have the capacity to delay or advance the inevitable: change.
It is embarrassing that the immediate future of a nation is subject to the whims of a dictator who may try to tie everything up before retiring, but that is the harsh reality.
To delay what is clearly inescapable, all the retiring first secretary would need to demand from his successors is a firm commitment to “keep the flags of socialism flying high.” To advance it, to “anticipate the future,” as a poet would say, a slight hint by Raul would be enough to call for the completion of the reforms that he could not or did not know how to carry out.
Will he act as a leader or as his brother’s predecessor, as a statesman or as part of a family? He alone knows the answer
At the end of the Eighth Congress, he will be 45 days away from entering the venerable condition of a nonagenarian. Of the historical generation, he is the only one who has the ability to send a message that redefines the forces of power. With his death, the last specimen of the clan that has gripped the Island for more than half a century will be extinguished: his farewell would have to be a very well-played card.
Only Raúl Castro can bury the memory of the man who led the country to the abyss he is glancing at today. Will he act as a leader or as a brother to his predecessor, as a statesman or as part of a family? He alone knows the answer.
If, true to the family-man reputation that his minions have carved out for him, he wished to leave his biological descendants a country not to be ashamed of, Raúl Castro would have to choose to “open the cages,” as the peasants metaphorically refer to economic and political apertures.
If he is more committed to a sterile Numantine posture so that he is not blamed for the capitulation; if he is not willing to take responsibility and self-criticism for the accumulation of errors through which he accompanied his brother for decades; if he cares more about appearing on the last page of the past rather than starring on the first one of the future, then he will clench his fist and shout some well-worn slogan.
The silence in which he has locked himself since the last time we heard his voice heralds the continuity of his silence. The absence of a political will to clear the way for the changes demanded has a huge advantage: We won’t have to be grateful to him for it.
Translated by Norma Whiting
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.