Castro calls in sick, leaving his brother in command

What does all this mean for the future of Cuba? MSNBC’s Robert Windrem speculates:

Fidel Castro is not dead, but unlike other authoritarian regimes, Cuba already has the transition scoped out and the successor annointed: Raul Castro, the president’s younger brother and Cuba’s defense minister.

While there is often discussion and gossip both inside and outside Cuba about who among the next level of officials — Vice President Carlos Lage, Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon — might succeed Fidel Castro, U.S. officials insist that Raul Castro remains the key to any succession. In addition to being the constitutionally designated successor to his brother, the 75-year-old Raul Castro is viewed as a a reluctant leader, one who is “always the better administrator … a good manager, not a great thinker.”

In several wide-ranging interviews over the past decade, U.S. officials from both the diplomatic and intelligence services describe a Raul Castro regime as one having a “very very different character with a need for a support base,” a base that they say is already in place and is both extremely loyal to him and competent. In each case, officials would speak only in return for anonymity.

However, none of that takes away from that fact that he’s a Marxist:

A Raul Castro regime would not abandon the Marxist revolution — Raul Castro was a Marxist before his brother — but is likely to be more pragmatic at least on economic reforms. However, any transition from Fidel to Raul would also be marked by jockeying for power, to be Raul’s successor. Even before this recent crisis, Perez Roque was seen as trying to undermine Alarcon. Other such disputes would no doubt surface.

The streets of Miami might be filled with Cuban-Americans understandably delighted over the possibily that Fidel will either remain too sick to stay in power or die shortly, it remains to be seen what the reaction in Cuba will be to his brother Raul assuming the reins for the time being. I don’t mean to sound like a pessimist, but I don’t hold out much hope that a Raul Castro regime would be much different than a Fidel regime. But who knows? Maybe a Raul Castro regime would be the spark that lights the flame of revolution for new leadership in Cuba.

Time will tell.

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