Posted on Wednesday, 02.27.13
Cuba can't wait five more year for big changes
BY ANDY GOMEZ
Is Cuba really changing?
This past Sunday we witnessed what we had not heard one of the Castro
brothers say in almost 54 years: Come 2018 neither one of them will be
Raúl Castro announced to the Cuban National Assembly that this would be
his last term ruling Cuba. Watching him closely was his brother Fidel
who has become a symbol of the past.
A mostly under-the-radar faithful Communist Party leader by the name of
Miguel Diaz-Canel known for his managerial skills was selected as the
first vice president of the country and most likely the successor to
Since taking over power, Raúl Castro has named a number of party
faithful to key government positions. Most of them were born after the
start of the Cuban revolution. Many Cuba analysts, including me, would
agree that we underestimated Raúl Castro's management skills.
We all knew he did not have the charisma and leadership style needed to
succeed his brother Fidel. Yet he has proven to be a good strategist by
planning and selecting a new breed of Cuban leaders to follow him and Fidel.
In the months to come we will continue to see more changes and more
youthful people continue to be appointed to key positions in the
government. One big challenge this new cadre of leadership faces is how
to revive a moribund economy.
First up: They will have to create an infrastructure in order to
implement their economic reforms. In addition, they will have to
strengthen their business laws, banking system, justice system, business
environment, just to mention a few of the requirements to attract
foreign investment that's looking for stability not laws that change at
the whim of the Castros.
One very big challenge will be getting the military to loosen control of
most of the country's economic activities. This will be a challenge for
the "old guard" who have benefited from the spoils of the system now in
Putting people back to work in private enterprises will not be easy.
Meeting the population's basic needs will be crucial for any economic
reforms to succeed. However, Cubans have one of the highest literacy
rates in all of Latin America and a good entrepreneurial spirit.
The combination of both of these qualities will be very attractive to
future business investors in Cuba. There is no question that Cuba will
be very attractive to outsource business needs as well.
Going back to the point of how much Cuba is changing, Diaz-Canel and the
other new leaders will have to deal with a country where the majority of
the population does not believe in Marxist-Lennist doctrine. An
"advanced socialist state," as they call it, needs to be further defined.
How much power and influence will Raúl Castro give Diaz-Canel and others
remains a key question.
If history is right, I will say Diaz-Canel's authority will be very limited.
The country cannot wait five more years for major changes to take place.
Cuba and its upcoming leadership know that its major economic market is
90 miles to the north. Simple economic reforms without meaningful
political reforms will not be enough. The clock is ticking fast, but
Cuba seems to keep crawling instead of leaping forward.
Andy Gomez is a senior fellow at the Institute for Cuban and
Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami.