What Will be the Next Move?

Carrying out any sort of political analysis or political prediction in Cuba is almost like an Indiana Jones adventure.  The media does anything it can to misinform.  They barely extract any bit of information from those in power.  There is no way of getting any official statistics or facts.

When one is an independent journalist and the government does not approve of you, everything becomes much more difficult. Instinct and reading between the lines of official reports are common investigation methods.

Another way of trying to understand the reality of this island is if you have friends or sources who work for important organizations and they chose to whisper information into your ear.  It is already known that Cubans are extroverted.

Well, back to the point.  It is true that in Cuba something is moving.  For the first time in 51 years the Castro government has given in to a group like the Ladies in White.

The strategy used by those in power was a very interesting one. They pulled the letter of the Catholic Church out of their sleeve.  Using the church as a mediator and as a valid interlocutor has various interpretations.

They either pretend to win some time and sell the idea that the regime is willing negotiate certain political things, or in reality the economic crisis that has been plaguing us for 21 years, the decrease of foreign investments, and the empty treasury, are forcing the government of Havana to search for a negotiated exit with two heavy-weight actors: The United States and the European Union.

Castro, a charismatic statesman of unpredictable strategies, always confused Western politicians with his tricks.  Just ask Felipe Gonzalez, Carlos Solchaga, or Jimmy Carter.

When you think you have him cornered and without defenses, he pulls a card out of his sleeve as if he were a magician.  It turns out that this situation is different.  Since July 31, 2006, Fidel Castro has lost a large portion of power.

And it has not been the dissidence that has opened the breach.  It is the generals, those businessmen in the island who are ruled by his brother, who have taken over power.

Ever since the 1980’s, a portion of the military and intelligence sectors were allowed to establish certain businesses, and so started the beginning of the end for the monolithic rule of Castro I.

For years the generals have made money.  They have hidden bank accounts and have become corporate men.  They traded in their AK-47s for executive briefcases.  The word comrade was traded for the word sir.  And the rustic Soviet technology was exchanged for sophisticated first world equipment.

Those elite military men who control the few profitable businesses that function in Cuba prefer to drink Jack Daniels over our own rum.  After a while, they traded in their traditional guayaberas for very formal suits with silk ties.

They have converted themselves into cut-throat capitalists.  Their advisers studied marketing and speak about efficiency and profitability, costs and gains.  They also like to keep some dollars or euros under the mattress.

It is precisely those generals who are really in charge during this summer of 2010.  Fidel Castro is only a symbol.  Very heavy.  Perhaps the old guerrilla leader just pulls the strings of exterior politics.

But the economy is in the hands of the military.  And they want certain changes.  Nothing big, really.  Economic freedom for the people.  Firing a million workers in the inflated labor scene.  They want to give autonomy to small and medium companies.  They want to do away with the benefactor State.  They want to lighten the load.

The military favors some liberalizations in Cuba for the simple reason that it would be a much more effective way of staying in power.  They know that with hard-line and radical discourse, and with the huge crisis that faces the planet, business doesn’t work.

Internal peace is needed.  Developed countries do not need to condemn the island.  Then, they had to give in.  And they used the church.

It is also possible that a number of political prisoners may be released.  Not all of them.  The regime needs prisoners like spare change.  But it is the only way of keeping the determined Ladies in White calm.

The internal dissidence is not very worried about the generals who control the power.  For various reasons.  One of these reasons is that the opposition is deeply penetrated by the political police.

The other reason: they do not have a solid base within the population.  They also do not have brilliant or charismatic leaders.  That is why I think that the recent move by the Castros was conditioned by the pressure of a sector of the military.

What will be the next move?  If the money does not continue coming in and the international pressure does not stop, there will be new sacrificial moves. The Castros still hold some winning cards in their hands.

But the deteriorated economic situation, which has not had any possible solutions mapped out, the disgust of a wide portion of the population, the poor rule of the leaders, and the huge monstrous bureaucracy all have the Creole mandarins cornered.

This summer promises some interesting things. Raul Castro has been on the throne for two years and has only implemented cosmetic measures. The situation which the country faces needs an entire package of wide reforms, from top to bottom.

The generals look at Vietnam.  This Asian nation has achieved economic changes while maintaining its hard fist towards internal politics.  Of course, Cuba is not an interesting market like China or Vietnam.

If the European Union or the United States continue with their politics of closed borders and deaf ears and if they don’t ease up in response to the liberation of only a hand full of political prisoners, then the government will have to change its strategy.  This would most likely lead them to negotiate with a sector of the opposition.

The regime wants power and it needs financial oxygen.  It will everything in its power.  In politics, it’s all worth it.

Ivan Garcia

Translated by Raul G.