The Plot Against The Castros
Two of Cuba's star politicians seem to have been a part of a conspiracy or a coup to overthrow Raúl Castro
From the magazine issue dated Mar 23, 2009
For years, two tidbits of conventional wisdom have dominated debates among Cubanologists (a tropical subspecies of former Kremlinologists). First, that Deputy Prime Minister and economic czar Carlos Lage has been in charge of running the island economy since the early '90s, and, despite differences of opinion regarding his performance, was seen as one of the most likely successors to Fidel Castro's brother and successor, Raúl. Second, that Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque was not only in charge of the international relations Fidel Castro took increasingly less interest in, but that he was something of a favorite son. Most observers, including several Latin American ex-presidents close to Castro, saw him as the heir apparent, once the caudillo's brother passed from the scene. So Raúl's decision to dump the two stars a fortnight ago is a major event in Cuba, and unlike previous purges, this one is clearly linked to Fidel Castro's succession, and may tell us a great deal about what lies ahead.
The problem, of course, is that, as in the Soviet Union when Stalin died, or in China after Mao's death, we don't really know what is going on. Yet there are solid reasons to believe that something along the following lines took place: for at least a month or so, Lage, Pérez Roque and others were apparently involved in a conspiracy, betrayal, coup or whatever term one prefers, to overthrow or displace Raúl from his position. In this endeavor, they recruited—or were recruited by—Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, who in turn tried to enlist the support of other Latin American leaders, starting with Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic, who refused to get involved.
Their reasons for wishing to unseat Rául were mainly turf and power, but they also feared that the leader was beginning to feel threatened by the reaction of the Cuban people to excessive economic and social deprivation, and after his brother's demise would be unable to control the flow of events. Consequently, he would accept a series of economic and political reforms to normalize relations with the United States, knowing full well that therein lay the only option for immediate improvement in Cubans' lives. They believed this to be a betrayal of the revolution, and the beginning of the end of its survival.
This would represent the latest of many anti-Castro intrigues since 1959. As usual, Castro (Raúl this time; before, both brothers) detected the plot almost before the plotters themselves. Raúl took the evidence collected by military intelligence to his ailing brother, and forced him to choose: stick with him and extend his support to the predetermined succession path, or back Lage and Pérez Roque and forsake Raúl. With evident disappointment in his old allies, the Comandante Máximo backed Raúl. Then Chávez was summoned to Havana to be placed before another devil's alternative: back off, while maintaining economic support for the island, or lose his Cuban security detail and intelligence apparatus, exposing himself to coups and assassination attempts from eventual Venezuelan replacements. He chose to stick with the Castros.
The day after their resignation, the two plotters were expelled from their other posts in disgrace. In a newspaper column Fidel accused them of harboring excessive "ambitions" fed by the "honey of power" and the "absence of sacrifice." He said they had reawakened the illusions of "foreign powers" regarding Cuba's future. More importantly, and enigmatically, he resorted to a baseball metaphor on the occasion of the World Baseball Classic to praise Dominicans for not participating (the team's plans had been unclear) and to claim that Chávez's baseball players, "as good and young" as they might be, were no match for "Cuba's seasoned all-stars."
When the conspirators were stripped of their titles, they published classic Stalinist mea culpa letters, acknowledging their "mistakes" (without saying what they were), and pledging loyalty to Fidel, Raúl and the revolution. Such behavior raises ominous questions. Pérez Roque was popular in Cuba; his youth, his humble origins, his combative nature all brought him closer to the people than most Cuban bureaucrats. Once Fidel is gone, will Raúl be able to "keep him down on the farm," if and when he claims to be Fidel's true heir? Will Raúl be able to pull off a rapprochement with Washington quickly enough to placate the restiveness his opponents could exploit? Or should he act to remove them from the scene, one way or another, before they return shrouded in glory?
Needless to say, none of this can be fully substantiated, and it is quite possible that, indeed, the entire affair might have now come to an end. Or, more probably, there will be a sequel: further persecution of the fallen idols, growing discontent in Cuba and increasing difficulties on the part of Raúl in managing the succession. It is worth remembering that Lenin, Stalin and Mao were all unable to control their successions, and they were neither fools nor choir children. There is scant reason to believe that Fidel, despite all his talent, will prove more successful.
Castañeda is a former foreign minister of Mexico, Global Distinguished Professor at New York University and a fellow at the New America Foundation.
Newsweek, Foreign Policy Magazine and Speculation as "Entertainment"
by Nelson P Valdés
Cuba-L Analysis (Albuquerque)
"I would rather tell seven lies than make one explanation.
- Mark Twain
"Even now you can see how there are attempts to distort what happens in the
world and what is the truth of what is going on in Cuba."
- Fidel Castro, April 4, 1959
On March 14, 2009 Newsweek magazine published an article ["The Plot Against
the Castros"] written by Jorge Castañeda. The article claimed to provide an
interpretation of the reasons for the March 3rd government changes in Cuba.
The author claimed,
"...for at least a month or so, Lage, Pérez Roque and others were apparently
involved in a conspiracy, betrayal, coup or whatever term one prefers, to
overthrow or displace Raúl from his position. In this endeavor, they
recruited-or were recruited by-Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, who in turn tried to
enlist the support of other Latin American leaders, starting with Leonel
Fernández of the Dominican Republic, who refused to get involved."
Castañeda, using his power of creative fiction wrote: "The day after their
resignation, the two plotters were expelled from their other posts in
disgrace. In a newspaper column Fidel accused them of harboring excessive
"ambitions" fed by the "honey of power" and the "absence of sacrifice." He
said they had reawakened the illusions of "foreign powers" regarding Cuba's
future. More importantly,and enigmatically, he resorted to a baseball
metaphor on the occasion of the World Baseball Classic to praise Dominicans
for not participating (the team's plans had been unclear) and to claim that
Chavez's baseball players, "as good and young" as they might be, were no
match for "Cuba's seasoned all-stars."
In his article Castañeda conflated Fidel Castro's comments about the
Baseball Classic with changes in the makeup of the Cuban cabinet. In the
process he even imagined the role of two Latin American presidents.
Within hours it was clear that the Newsweek piece was based on no evidence.
Jorge Castañeda had said as much 72 hours later, CNN fromMexico City quoted
him as saying, ""I have no evidence of it.". Yet, on March 18th in the
digital version of the Spanish newspaper El País he had a new article (La
ambigüedad de la victoria) where he repeated his speculation although
acknowledging he had nothing to back him up. In the new revised speculation
he mentioned Hugo Chavez but not the Dominican Republic president. of
course, the Venezuelan president denied the assertions. 
Over 67,000 web pages, blogs and printed media reproduced the claim that
there had been a plot against the government of Raul Castro; yet, only
18,000 web pages reported that the whole thing was not based on evidence.
When it comes to Cuba, anything goes as far as the mass media and numerous
academic institutions are concerned. Castañeda is at present a fellow at the
New America Foundation, which only shows that some "think tanks" are ready
to broadcast fantasy, falsehoods and anything else as long as some
ideological preconceptions are ratified.
The blogger Machetera, on March 17, decided to speculate on what is going on
"Inside Jorge Castañeda's feverish mind." And "just for fun" Machetera
ripped the Newsweek article apart, paragraph by paragraph.  Yet, another
"respectable" publication came to the rescue of the creative fiction writer
- Foreign Policy magazine - owned by the same company that produces
Newsweek. Joshua Keating, the editor of FP wrote on the blog the editors of
the magazine have:
"To be fair to Castañeda, "informed speculation" is probably the best we're
going to get in terms of Cuban political analysis at the moment. His theory
seems as good as any of the others (It is a bit strange that Chavez hasn't
publicly commented on any of this yet.) and at least it has the virtue of
Of course, all these assertions were the result of an overactive imagination
lacking the most basic professional ethics of commitment to truth, integrity
and intellectual honesty.
In the post-modern world truth, accuracy and method are of no consequence,
it seems. Infotainment now passes as foreign policy analysis. When
everything fails to justify political speculation, and hacks passing as
academics are caught in their lies; there is always the entertainment value
of lying. Or so, we are told.
 http://cuba-l.unm.edu/?nid=66877 and
 A Guide to Professional Ethics in Political Science, Second Edition,
revised 2008. http://www.apsanet.org/imgtest/ethicsguideweb.pdf