19/11/2015, by CLAS
Cuba at the Crossroads?
Cuban politics, economics and diplomacy are all at historic turning points. On 29 September 2015, the Centre for Research on Cuba’s annual seminar series began with a well-attended discussion by three of Cuba’s leading commentators and political experts (Rafael Hernández, political scientist and editor of the influential magazine Temas, Carlos Alzugaray, ex-diplomat and Cuba’s leading expert on foreign relations, and Arleen Rodríguez, well-known presenter of Cuban television’s regular Round Table discussion programme), on: ‘Cuba at the Crossroads?: What next?’
Between them they gave a more nuanced view than the usual media coverage, addressing the three crucial processes current in Cuba: Raúl Castro’s post-2008 economic ‘modernisation’ programme, the imminent generational change at the top, and the improvement in Cuban-US relations. On the economy, they all agreed that this was not wholesale privatisation, with red lines being drawn to protect state-control in key areas (e.g. the politically popular health and education sectors), but a return to pre-1967 conditions, when a more mixed economy operated. On generational change (given the certain retirement in 2018 of Castro and probably most, if not all, of the ‘historic’ generation of ex-guerrillas of 1959), they saw succession in the hands of a more pragmatic generation, aware of the need to balance prosperity with protection of the Revolution’s principles of equity.
As for US relations, they all agreed that caution was the watchword, not least because the post-1961 US economic embargo was still firmly in place, regardless of improved diplomatic relations and because the US government’s longstanding aim (in the embargo) of regime change was simply seeking new means. Moreover, they argued, several issues of contention for Cuba seemed unlikely to be settled for some time: the return to Cuba of Guantánamo Bay, millions of dollars’ worth of reparations to Cuba for the embargo’s damage and for years of US-based sabotage, and the repeal of the 1966 law which, uniquely allowing illegal Cuban immigrants the right to eventual US citizenship, meant a brain drain from Cuba and a massive loss of life. All three saw the future as uncertain and challenging.
Antoni Kapcia, Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies