Cuba Under Raul
I had the pleasure of hearing Cuba specialist Brian Latell speak at the 2006 Raleigh Spy Conference. I found his views on how the ascension of Raul Castro to power will change the Cuban system to be quite interesting.
On Monday, Mr. Latell discussed this topic in the Wall Street Journal. According to him, Raul is trying to implement a form of Cuban glasnost and perestroika. Unfortunately, this openness will probably not apply to dissidents and democracy activists, including independent librarians:
On his watch, Raúl has broken some previously sacred crockery as well. He has admitted that Cuba's many problems are systemic. In his disarmingly accurate view, it is not the American embargo or "imperialism" that are the cause of problems on the island, as his brother always insisted, but rather the regime's own mistakes and mindsets. He has called on Cubans, especially the youth, to "debate fearlessly" and help devise solutions for the failures. Candid discussions at the grassroots level have proliferated.
Yet like his brother, Raúl has no intention of opening Cuba to free political speech or participation. While the number of Cubans willing to voice their discontent publicly is on the increase, so too is the brutality of government reprisals against would-be leaders of the dissident movement. By acknowledging state failures, Raúl is playing with fire, and if the lid is going to be kept on, those challenging the regime have to pay a price. As to his own future, in the leadership realignments he plans, he will probably move up one rank and assume command of the Communist Party as first secretary.