WSJ: Obama’s Illusions About Post-Castro Cuba

Friday, April 22, 2016
By Dr. Jose Azel in The Wall Street Journal:

Obama’s Illusions About Post-Castro Cuba

A faux democratization will conceal the military’s grip on power through a dominant political party.

Fidel Castro, visibly weak and infirm at the close of the Cuban Communist Party Congress on Tuesday, spoke of his own mortality: “Soon I will turn 90 years old,” he said. “Never would such a thing have occurred to me and it’s not the outcome of any effort; it was fate’s whim. Soon I will be like everyone else. To all of us comes our turn.”

For the millions of Cubans who suffered for nearly five decades under Fidel’s brutal dictatorship, and those forced to flee their home and their families, his “turn” is long overdue. And sadly, when Fidel dies, his brother Raul, anointed in 2008 and “elected” again this week at the Communist Party Congress, will carry on as dictator while promoting the illusion of political change.

Under what I call a hegemonic party system, the emerging regime in Cuba will not rely on its revolutionary past or one man’s charisma, but on the institutionalization of a dominant political party, controlled by the military, designed to hold power in perpetuity. It will differ from Cuba’s current Leninist model in that some “opposition” parties will be tolerated. This opposition has no possibility of gaining power but suggests the false image of a totalitarian state in transition to democracy.

This image will serve the regime well in projecting political stability and giving potential investors greater confidence in the long-term survival of the regime. It provides investors with the convenient rationalization that their activities are helping advance a democratization process. It also channels the opposition’s energy into participating in a rigged political process. Instead of factions operating against the whole, they become uncompetitive proto parties that are made part of the whole, much as we saw in Mexico under seven decades of PRI rule.

The Cuban political transfiguration began in 2013 when Miguel Diaz-Canel was appointed first vice president of Cuba’s Council of State with the goal of grooming him as Raúl Castro’s successor. Mr. Diaz-Canel, a 56-year-old engineer with a military background, is portrayed as the young civilian face of the government. The mirage was reinforced by Raúl’s announcement that he will not seek the presidency of the National Assembly when his term expires in 2018.

In an address last year to the United Nations, President Obama placed his expectations for change in Cuba on diplomacy and commerce: “We continue to have differences with the Cuban government. We will continue to stand up for human rights. But we address these issues through diplomatic relations, and increased commerce, and people-to-people ties.”

The administration has failed to grasp that, with its help, the Cuban regime’s political trajectory will not follow a democratic path. It will crawl into a hegemonic party system that, as if following the length of a Möbius strip, always returns to its repressive origins.