Little change seen for Cuba even if Fidel Castro dies, UM panel says
By Madeline Baró Diaz
Posted January 12 2007
CORAL GABLES — Raúl Castro, Cuba's acting president, will remain out of
the spotlight after his brother's death but will maintain the system
Fidel Castro established, a panel of Cuba experts said Thursday.
"I'm not predicting that forever Cuba will remain the way it is, but for
the short-term, the foreseeable future, one, two, three years ahead, I
see significant repression, control of the population and very little
openness," said Jaime Suchlicki, director of the University of Miami's
Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.
Suchlicki made the remarks during a media briefing on Cuba's future at
the university's Casa Bacardi, the institute's headquarters. Other
University of Miami experts weighing in included Brian Latell, a Latin
American and Caribbean specialist and author; Andy Gomez, whose research
focuses on human values and attitudes in a post-Castro Cuba; Jorge
Piñón, an energy expert, and Eric Driggs, the institute's humanitarian
In July, an ailing Fidel Castro handed over power to his younger
brother. He has not been seen in public since the announcement and did
not attend his 80th birthday celebrations last month.
Suchlicki said there is little indication that Raúl Castro, 75, Cuba's
defense minister for almost five decades, will usher in major reforms.
"He is a ruthless military leader that for 47 years has run Cuba next to
his brother ? I don't anticipate Raúl becoming a reformer in his old
age," Suchlicki said.
Latell said Raúl Castro's governing style differs from his brother's. He
delegates authority and seeks a wide range of advice, including from
those who disagree with him, Latell said.
"He's going to lead collegially. He's going to share the stage," Latell
Since taking power, Raúl Castro has twice made overtures to negotiate
with the United States. Suchlicki said he did not think Raúl Castro was
serious about opening up a dialogue with the United States.
Latell said he thought Raúl Castro's offer was aimed at appeasing
segments of Cuba's population.
"I think reaching out to the United States is attractive to the majority
of Cubans. I think it appeals to them, especially their aspirations of
change," he said.
Several panelists said one danger for Raúl Castro's government is a
younger generation that does not have as strong a connection to the
Cuban Revolution and the Castro brothers as their parents did.
Gomez said that if Raúl Castro does not maintain control after Fidel
Castro's death, as many as a half-million Cubans could leave the island
by sea and head for the United States or other Caribbean countries.
"This is the group that most likely will want to leave the imprisoned
island if the opportunity rises," he said.
Madeline Baró Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-810-5007.